2021 Life of the Mind
A wormy world: Summer research in fish parasitology at SUNY OneontaDuring the summer of 2021 four students – Gustavo Mendez, Hannah Whitcomb, Morgan Fleming and Emily Bulmer – assisted Florian Reyda with a variety of endeavors as part of the fish parasitology research program. Students were involved in both field work and laboratory work. A major focus was a study of the parasites of Oneida Lake fishes here in New York. Oneida Lake was the focus of a set of classic parasitological studies (Van Cleave & Mueller, 1932) that took place nearly 100 years ago. These studies are widely known within the field of fish parasitology (see Scholz & Choudhury, 2014) because they included descriptions of 33 new species of parasitic worms, from a diversity of fish species. Thus, Oneida Lake is the type locality (i.e., original place of discovery) for 33 species of parasitic worms—a truly remarkable number! Reyda and students conducted fish parasite survey of Oneida Lake fishes during the first half of the summer. The overall objective of that survey is to identify how many of the previously discovered 33 species of parasitic worms are still present today. They collected a diversity of fish from one particular stream, Chittenango Creek, but also examined a diversity of fish that were provided by colleagues at the Cornell Biological Field Station. Reyda and students also examined fish samples from Otsego Lake and Moe Pond—two water bodies that are accessible via the SUNY Oneonta Biological Field Station. In August, Reyda and three students traveled to Douglas Lake Michigan in order to sample fish parasites there. The specific objective was to collect two species of thorny-headed worms (acanthocephalans), from their type locality. One of those species, Octospinifer macilentus was the specific focus of one of the students in the lab, Claire Curtin. The survey work was an extra challenge because the main fish of interest, white sucker, were few and far between in the streams, and it took miles of stream walking with a backpack shocker in order to encounter enough white sucker to constitute a decent sample size. We obtained one of the two target species, but unfortunately not the one Claire needed for her project. In addition to field work, during summer students performed fish dissections in the lab and isolated parasites that they then prepared as permanent microscope slides. This aspect of the summer work is very important because it results in a set of study specimens that students can use for independent study projects during the upcoming academic year.