Snail Lab Exposed
The Life and Times of the Snail Lab and its Friends
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A Day in the Life of the Infamous Snail Lab:
Every morning the Snail Lab comes in, iced coffee in hand, and filled with hope for today’s snail experiments- no matter how disheartening yesterday’s were… In an aquatic toxicology lab, one must be prepared for failure, or perhaps put more positively, for an experimental revision, on the daily.
The lab’s main focus is on the effects of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and industrial chemicals on freshwater and marine benthic invertebrate communities, particularly on the freshwater snails Physella gyrina, the marine mud snail, Ilyanassa obsoleta, tropical snail Nassarius vibex and several species of tadpole–including Wood Frogs and American Toads.
If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try and Try Again: Snail Assays
Beginning with a well-founded plan and literary references to boot, the Snail Lab came into the summer with dreams of interrupting a predator induced escape response with the tropical snails Nassarius vipex (prey) and Fasciolaria tulipa (predator) with SSRI type drugs. Nassarius has been recorded to produce a very distinctive flipping response in order to escape the predatory clutches of the Fasciolaria, unfortunately, the Snail Lab never saw it… Without an escape response to begin with, there was nothing to interrupt with the drugs- the experiment was a bust.
Without disappointment however, the snail lab pressed on, beginning a new assay involving a host of different freshwater snails and looking for the time the snails would reach the air-water interface (the point where water meets the air in any given body of water or lab controlled finger-bowl in this case). The snails were tested before and after treatment with Prozac, but to no avail. The drug did not seem to be having a true effect on this aspect of Snail Labs favorite critters.
Next up, the marine mud snail Ilyanassa obsoleta, freshly collected from the vibrant shores of Lewes, Delaware, were brought onto the scene. Testing for the time it took these snails to reach a deliciously aromatic muscle on the half-shell placed in a specifically designed contraption (see left), the Snail Lab hoped to be able to quantify the effect of antidepressants on the snails’ ability to locate food sources. But again, it was a no go.
Ever the optimists, the Snail Lab continued forward, redesigning the food-find experiment to involve a symmetrical, large finger bowl with a muscle delectably placed in the center and a host of tropical marine snails, Nassarius, as the stars of the moment. When drugged with Prozac at 10-6 concentration, there finally seemed to be some significant effects on the animals in question.
The Other Side of Snail Lab: Tadpoles!!
Despite common belief, the Snail Lab does not only work with snails – tadpoles are their friends too! This summer, the lab has supervised the growing of Wood Frogs and American Toads, tested their willingness to be startled, and measured their growth, all in the name of determining any potential effects of an anti-fouling chemical by the name of medetomidine.
This summer being the second round of experiments on Wood Frogs, and the Am
erican Toads being a welcome addition to past experiments, the Snail Lab gang has been having a hoppining’ time working with these critters. Being highly sensitive to chemical pollutants in their infantile stages, these tadpoles are the perfect model organisms for testing this newer, and potentially environmentally harmful chemical. Continuing with a similar setup as last summer, there are over 300set up in individual bowls for this summer’s experiments! Over 300! The tadpoles are separated into different concentrations of medetomidine and for different durations of time to test how the chemical will affect their development!
The Snail Lab recorded the tadpoles’ growth weekly using a common marker of tadpole development known as Gosner Stages. These allow the lab to quantify the differences in growth between the various sub-groups with different medetomidine concentrations. After metamorphosis is reached, however, the game changes – the tadpoles are now froglets. The Snail Lab then has to weigh the froglets and subsequently anesthetize them before preserving them, a process the lab refers to as “processing”. Following their processing, the froglets are removed from their preserving fluid and placed in an oven to evaporate any excess fluid. The remaining skin, bones, and tissue are what the Snail Lab weighs to get a dry mass of each of the fully metamorphosed tadpoles.
The Many Faces of the Snail Lab:
The Snail Lab’s resident Health Science major, Margot is the first person to ask if you ever need a recap on your anatomy lessons or need someone to type your blood. Margot can be found running laps around the competition as she races ahead of the pack at her Cross Country and Track meets or sipping her $4 bottle of kombucha (check your coupons folks!) out on Muss Beach with an Adirondack chair and the wind blowing through her perfectly curled hair. Margot has brought her love of exercise, the heartiness of any true New Englander, and a passion for her coffee to be as cold and black as her heart is not. Known for her killer playlists (peep her on Spotify @margotxoxo) and 20 minute 5k, Margot’s talents as a student, runner, and up-and-coming festival DJ are all but limitless.
Despite being a cat person, Emily loves working with the snails, almost as much as the tadpoles she views as her very own after changing the water in their containers so many times. Emily is the Snail Lab’s resident STEM scholar and food connoisseur – talk about getting a girl that can do both. Ask her about any restaurant within a fifty-mile radius of her hometown of Taneytown, MD, and she’ll be able togive you her honest opinion (except if it’s seafood). A rising sophomore and Biology and Environmental Science double major, you’ll never find someone as enthusiastic as Emily when they find an animal on the side of the road, whether it be a turtle or a kitten. Take a gander at her Apple Music and you’ll find a mix of old and new, rap and country, with an emphasis on Luke Bryan. Catch Emily feeding the animals in the Bio lounge fish tank, sporting her brand new Birkenstocks and contemplating if she should take a well-deserved nap before her shift at The Carriage House. And while you’re at it, make sure to check out her nature-inspired photography instagram @naturescopek. This girl truly does it all, folks.
After being a member of the Snail Lab for almost three years running, Olivia is an expert on all things invertebrate. She even knows how to fully disembowel a tadpole while keeping it alive! As a rising junior with a Biology and French double major, Olivia adds an exciting splash of culture to Professor Fong’s lab. She is truly an exemplary cross-disciplinary student. In her free time, Olivia likes to go online shopping for ankle length skirts that she will be able to wear in her upcoming study abroad trip to Senegal! However, at any given time, you can also find this trendy New Hampshire girl sampling the large selection of breakfast items at Ug Mug. If you ever need some singing lessons or even advice on managing seven different Instagram accounts at a time, Olivia is your girl. There is no doubt that Olivia’s well-rounded personality will help her thrive even after summer in the Snail Lab has concluded.
A pioneer in aquatic toxicology and dog enthusiast, Dr. Fong and his trusty golden retriever sidekick, Messi, enjoy frequenting small local Mexican restaurants (shout out to Tanya’s), casting a line at his top-secret fishing hot-spots, and avoiding mowing the lawn. Check out his some of his most recent work here.
Sounds of the Snail Lab: A Story Through Song
(all songs are property of the artist- not the Snail Lab)