Friday, October 7, 2011

Give Me Brains

Its been far too long despite my good intentions of having a busy research blog. The constant back and forth between Canada and New Zealand can certainly be disruptive. As much as it is an ideal situation, it also has it's downsides. Mainly, that you never really feel settled in one particular location. But I have seen enough people with blogs where strange connections have been made not to try this again. In addition, blogging is like watering your garden of motivation. It is also a great place to put my thoughts and ideas. 

This year has been pretty successful so far. I have managed to get the remaining publications out for my PhD.....two in the Journal of Fish Biology(1,2) and another in the Journal for Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. Another that I am collaborating on with Professor Jacqueline Webb at the University of Rhode Island has been submitted to the Journal of Experimental Biology. 

I am in Canada right now and am about to begin dissecting fish brains. We have specimens of several exotic and native species from Ontario. We are wanting to look at whether exotic species exhibit differences in their brain morphology compared to native species. More specifically do exotic species have enlarged regions of their brain dedicated to non-visual senses. Having the capability to 'see' without using vision would provide strong advantages when an introduced fish is trying to establish within a degraded turbid ecosystem where the use of vision is limited. Visual native species may be at a disadvantage in such a system, and may die out due to competition with better adapted exotic species (biotic factors), or simply be unable to find food due to an increase in turbidity (abiotic factors). This is a key question that needs further exploration - is it biotic or abiotic factors that matter? But first we must identify that the pattern exists. We can certainly see from our fieldwork in New Zealand that exotic species are more successful in turbid environments and other papers back this work up. 

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