Temperamental snails and crazy hours:

 

In the final few weeks of the semester snails began laying rapidly once exposed to the increased temperatures inside our lab which is kept at approximately 23 degrees Celsius. However, snail laying occurred so rapidly in the first couple of days that I was not able to test the effects of mudsnails on substrate laying in a controlled setting. Despite this, I was able to make some observations about the mud snail laying in our aquaria. Mud snails preferred the glass walls of the container (an unnatural substrate) over all natural shell substrate at the bottom  of the aquarium. Additionally, when eelgrass was added to this aquarium mud snails did not lay on the grass, but eelgrass was added several days after the laying pulse. This experience served as a lesson for the importance of timing and scheduling in science, especially when working with living systems. If I had better prepared the experiment directly after the snails were collected, I may have been able to successfully run the experiment. As of now, the data from my summer research supports that mud snail laying preference for eelgrass is robust to changes in temperature and may not be greatly affected by climate change.

Research in the 11th hour: Snail Collecting and Egg Laying

 

With my student research grant I set out to test the inhibitory effects of mud snails on eelgrass in the context of climate change. Specifically, I wanted to see if mud snails change their oviposition preferences with increasing temperature. Two weeks ago my advisor and I went to Cape Charles on the eastern shore of VA to collect mud snails. While there, I noticed something interesting. Mud snails laid all over an oak leaf that fell into the intertidal. Mud snails typically show a strong preference for eelgrass which is an angiosperm. Because oak trees are also angiosperms it would be interesting to test if mud snails can distinguish between the two. After we returned from Cape Charles, we brought the snails into the lab and heated them up to warmer temperatures to cue their laying. Now I’ve set up a system to give mud snails the choice of a substrates and measure their laying preferences. I’m excited to measure to continue forward with this project during my last couple weeks at W&M.