Stickleblog

We are a group of scientists (including students, professors, and research fellows) who are dedicated to the study of the threespine stickleback. Based in the Foster/Baker lab at Clark University, we also study the fish in the field in both Canada and Alaska. Started in the summer of 2008, this blog details the lives of our researchers in the field and lab – doing collections, running trials, getting water samples, observing fish in the wild, talking to the locals… You name it!

Investigating Human-Induced Evolution: Is a shift in ecotype associated with greater variability?

After spending the past three weeks in various solutions (some rather toxic), sixty of the fish that we collected in Alaska this summer have undergone somewhat of a radical transformation                 These fish, … Continue reading

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My babies’ hearts are beating!

  Although I partook in the fertilization of hundreds (thousands?) of eggs while in Alaska, I did not get the opportunity to follow their growth closely. As part of a new project regarding potential plasticity of pelvic spine growth, I … Continue reading

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Pictures of sticklebabies!

Now that the feeding performance tests are over, our “sticklebabies” are moving on to bigger and better things. Miguel has taken a good chunk of the fry for his research and has started them on a special diet, each family … Continue reading

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Last day of testing!

Today marks the last day of feeding performance tests for the Alaskan fry! As of today, the 9 stickleback populations have each been tested 3 times. The last group that we received back in early June, consisting of the Willow, … Continue reading

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The Charmed Life

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Working and living with a small group of people can be draining, especially when you’re putting in the long hours that we are to try to find as many stickleback as possible. Luckily, a good crew [like ours] will make … Continue reading

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Swimming with Stickles

Newfoundland is an amazing place, and an amazing place to look for stickleback.  We found stickleback in most of the ponds we looked for them in, but one of my favorites was Western Brook Pond.  This location was a 3-kilometer … Continue reading

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We Seine in the Rain: The Beginnings of a Newfoundland Adventure

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Several packed days into this Newfoundland adventure, our team has already experienced a range of successes and emotions, from abject failure to thrilling triumph. Below are some tidbits and highlights from the trip so far! The All-star Crew: Jenna Kosmo: Rising … Continue reading

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Could we borrow a moment of your time and a quart jar of fish?

Quart jar of preserved fish from Kalmbach Lake, AK

Dear Alaskans, Though we may not be your typical neighbor, stopping by to request a cup of sugar, we mean no harm.  You see, gaining access to lakes is a peculiar business for us, since many are private with no … Continue reading

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Feeding our fragile fry

The feeding performance tests have begun! Last Friday Jenna, Kendall and I performed our first test on the Anchor River, Rabbit Slough and Resurrection Bay populations and this Wednesday we did our first test on the the Whale, Bear Paw … Continue reading

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Window seat: one last gift from Alaska

I had every intention of sleeping on my 9:25pm flight out of Anchorage to Minneapolis, but the mesmerizing views from my window seat caught my attention and refused to let go for quite some time. At first, my mind is … Continue reading

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A Stickleback Spectacle

Lynne Lake, with some of our team's snorkellers

“When you finally see what goes on underwater, you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the … Continue reading

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Are you a cub or a mama bear?

I was asked this question on one of the first days in Alaska. The logic behind the question was to see if I consider myself one of the faculty members running the trip or one of the students. Now that … Continue reading

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Alaska?!

“Do I want to go where?!” I thought incredulously as I held my phone to my ear, still in my towel. Well maybe it went more like “Whaa…Huuuh…Whaaa?”. I had heard my phone ring while brushing my teeth after having … Continue reading

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Baby Stickleback!

Stickleback embryos everywhere!  This week we got our first and second shipments of embryos from the folks up in Alaska.  We’ve been preparing for the arrival for some time now and we finally got the ball rolling.  We had to … Continue reading

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Pickled Stickles: How to catch the stickleback of your dreams

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Our second day in Alaska, we headed down to the Kenai (pronounced Key-nigh) Peninsula to collect some stickleback. The drive was stunning (as usual), and I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the mountains. The first lake we stopped at was … Continue reading

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Stickleback do not make nests in sand-filled plastic dishes!

Live, wild, behavior-doing stickles! We stopped at Rabbit Slough (an anadromous population we keep “stocked” in the lab), just to take a quick look, and there they were!  John spotted them in a flash.  My first thought was these fish are huge and make … Continue reading

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A New Start

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At long last, we’ve arrived in Alaska! Our weary crew has assembled from all parts of the globe (okay, several stateside locations) to study the threespine stickleback. The flight into Anchorage from Seattle is beautiful, especially because sun was still … Continue reading

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Up and Away: Journey to Alaska

Caught off guard by the phenomenal view

5/28 After catching three flights, one only by running through the Chicago airport, and 15 hours of travel, I was caught off guard by one of the most stunning views I have ever seen.  I may just be saying most … Continue reading

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Stickle-ventures in Alaska

I am lucky enough to have spent the past week in Alaska (and lucky enough to be spending one more week here!). I have explored the stunning lakes, mountains, wildlife, glaciers, and much more with a great crew from the … Continue reading

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Waiting for Moose

There are so many wonderful things about Alaska– the hundreds of majestic lakes, the breathtaking mountains, the thousands of brilliantly colored stickleback, but most important is the awe-inspiring moose. I have lived in Maine all my life and even so … Continue reading

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Life After Alaska

I spent three weeks in AK driving to lakes, emptying traps full of stickleback, fertilizing innumerable clutches of eggs by dissecting those stickleback, and then sending mass shipments of embryos back to our lab at Clark University (among other things). … Continue reading

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The Final Days in British Columbia

  A belated post this might be, but I felt it necessary to share with our readers the last days of the 2010 expedition to the north. After a week in Alaska, the strangest thing about British Columbia was that … Continue reading

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Being a Journey Across the Border

The Canadian border, that is. Team Animal Behavior departed for British Columbia on Tuesday night. The flights landed in Seattle at 5:30 AM, but there was no rest even then. The car had to be picked up (a monstrous Jeep, … Continue reading

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Going Rogue. Sort of.

After our fifth day in Alaska we are still not used to the lack of darkness! Our typical Alaskan day starts at eight in the morning, the sun just rising from its laze on the horizon; it never fully sets! … Continue reading

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Being an Expedition to Seward

Yesterday was an early start for the animal behavior group. We had a two and a half hour drive to Seward and Resurrection Bay planned to catch some fish! Along the way, we stopped many times to take pictures of … Continue reading

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The “Sunshine” Coast

Dianne and I arrived up in Alaska a few days ago, after two weeks with Justin and Shannon in British Colombia. It was absolutely beautiful there, despite rather dismal weather (Sunshine Coast? I think not.) It did put a damper … Continue reading

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Being a Tale of Success

A successful day for Team Animal Behavior! This was especially exciting after a washout yesterday. Our primary objective was to dive in Willow Lake to gather courting and parental males and observe color patterns on them. But with the wind … Continue reading

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On Stickleback & Socializing

As a certain mustache-ioed lab member recently put it: ”The problem with Alaska is there are too many Alaskans!” Miguel & I have been trapping for stickleback in the Mat-Su Valley for a week now and what strikes us is the … Continue reading

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Zombie Fish!

One of the most fascinating aspects of threespine stickleback biology I have learned about while here in Alaska is the parasitism of our wild-caught fish by Schistocephalus solidus. As I mentioned before, Dr. David Heins of Tulane University studies this … Continue reading

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I’m Leaving On A… Float Plane?

Much like Jeff last year, I got to go with Matt on his annual float plane trip with Scott Christy, a local pilot and very good friend to stickleback researchers in Alaska. You know how I mentioned before that seeing … Continue reading

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String of Bad Luck – But We Push On!

Time flies… I’ve been up here in the Great North for six weeks now, but it feels more like the blink of eye. On June 17th, Matt Wund, our lab’s postdoctoral research fellow flew up to our neck of the woods … Continue reading

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Did You Ever See A Stickleback Asking For His Money Back…?

On Wednesday, June 10th, Kat Shaw (you can read her field blog here)and Jeff Huenemoerder arrived for their summer field season in Alaska. Both study behavior of male threespine stickleback, so they are well-suited for collaborating in the field. Noffer (our Forester) took a turn … Continue reading

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Planet Earth

  Most of the wildlife that we are exposed to while we work in the field up here in south central Alaska is seen in fleeting glimpses. Long enough to scramble for a camera, take a few shaky shots, and … Continue reading

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In Which We Try Many Things and Only Sometimes Succeed

  This morning dawned a bit cooler due to the rain, but we made ourselves french toast on the camp stove and packed our tents without complaint. We planned to move down to Anchor River today, but only for one … Continue reading

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Rain and Roses

  Today has given us a new appreciation for how beautiful the weather has been up until now. When we woke up in our tents this morning we found that it had rained. No problem, we thought. The skies looked … Continue reading

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And Away We Go…

…down to the Kenai Peninsula. Some of you may remember my rather epic introduction to the world of threespine stickleback field collecting from last year when Lauren, Jana Loux-Turner, Sophie Valena, and I got to Alaska in mid-May and immediately … Continue reading

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The Dirty Kind of Clean

Lauren and I just got back from a three day camping trip. We spent Sunday night in the Nancy Lakes area (camping next to South Rolly Lake), and then Monday night up north in Talkeetna. this involved a lot of … Continue reading

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Brief Note.

Hello faithful readers of the Stickleblog! To keep everyone up to date – Lauren and I are heading out to South Rolly today for our first camping trip of the season. We will be back in a few days, so … Continue reading

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I’m Only Happy When It Rains…. (Not)

Well, we’ve had a spell of dreary weather out here–which makes the job no more difficult, just slightly less gleeful and photogenic. It started on Tuesday. Down in Point MacKenzie the sky was cloudless and bright and all a frolicking … Continue reading

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Sweet Lorraine

Things have just been going splendidly for us in the field so far. Case in point: I wore a tank top the entire day today. Why is this note-worthy? Two reasons. First, it was warm enough in MAY in Alaska … Continue reading

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In Which Rachel Really Appreciates Optometry

  We are impressed. Everything we catch is less than 6 inches long! Today I discovered the importance of leaning away from jars of formalin. As we were picking out gravid females at Rabbit Slough, a drop of the stuff … Continue reading

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“Hanging tough, staying hungry…”

Despite my jet lag (Lauren is lucky; she lives in Washington state so the plane ride was only a three hour hop north and a one hour time change for her), we managed to get a normal day’s work in … Continue reading

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It’s the Little Things, Really

  I can’t express the glee I felt in not having to make a full day’s pilgrimage from the east coast to south central Alaska for this year’s round of collecting. In addition, the half-full plane ride which allowed me … Continue reading

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North to Alaska: Take Two!

It was raining in Houston. The smell of wet pavement and warm humidity clogged the walkway to my seven hour Continental flight to Anchorage. Excited Texans bound for cruises and students bound for summer adventures in the wilderness pressed in … Continue reading

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Animal Behavior Gives Us Grief

Back in Massachusetts at Clark University… The trials continue – both literally and figuratively! John and Susan realized the other day that if anything were to happen to Dianne (Dianne Suggs, one of our PhD students) and she was unable … Continue reading

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Just Call Us “Team Discovery”

Lauren and I left late Tuesday afternoon (Moody Blues, anyone?) for a five day camping trip needed to trap in the Willow and Talkeetna areas of the Mat-Su. Most of the rest of the day passed in a blur of … Continue reading

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The View From Here

This weekend I went camping on the Kenai peninsula for four days with Lauren and Matt. We made collections and (the reason Matt and I went with Lauren) we made crosses in the field of a few populations down in … Continue reading

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Camping by the Numbers

Lauren, Anna and I spent 4 days camping on the Kenai Peninsula. Four bears, a golden eagle, 29 crosses (performed on a picnic table in high winds and 46-degree temperatures), a dozen or so trapping sites, hundreds of beautiful mountains, … Continue reading

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The. Best. Day. Ever.

Matt is off with the water quality girls today to Talkeetna. It’s a long drive and Jana and Sophie need to complete the water quality on at least three lakes while they’re up there. Matt is going because he needs … Continue reading

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North of Anchorage

Jana, Sophie and I went up about 3 hours north of Anchorage to take water quality samples from several lakes, as well as to trap fish at Trouble Lake. Trouble is a bit of trouble to get to, but reaching … Continue reading

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View from a Canoe

Things all get switched around from time to time. It’s nice for me, not being hooked into any one specific project because apparently I will get to experience them all! The water quality team has been having some trouble with … Continue reading

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I Went to Alaska and I Came Back Weird

So the fearsome foursome is back together for a day or two using Pewter to tote traps and one big red canoe about the Mat-Su. The specific things we did this day hardly matter. At this point, we are used … Continue reading

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Pup Lake and Yard Dogs

It’s Matt’s birthday! The “death” of June. It never gets old. Matt’s friend, Scott Christy, took him and Jeff up in a float plane today. Meanwhile, Lauren and Anna gave me a day off to write — so while they … Continue reading

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Friends In High Places

Scott Christy, a local pilot (and retired geologist, among other things) is a great friend to our lab, and is kind enough each summer to take us in search of stickleback in hard-to-reach places in his float plane. Today he … Continue reading

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One Long Day

What a day. Some of the days on the Kenai were long, but this day may have taken that cake for Lauren and me. I suppose it’s partially our fault for starting later than normal due to running errands, etc. … Continue reading

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Lassie, the Spruce Chicken

Really need to remember to put bug spray in the van! Lauren and I went to pick up our traps at Zero Lake today and nearly got eaten alive. We also got led down the trail by a spruce grouse … Continue reading

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Speaking “A-lab-skan”

Late last night, the other half of our lab group flew in. They are all here to mainly work in UAA’s lab, using fish caught in the area. Matt Wund is the lab’s postdoctoral research fellow. His work is based … Continue reading

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On Rabbits and Moose (Okay, Just One of Each..)

Here are some Alaskan pics I’ve taken so far. The top photo shows Anna and Jeff at Rabbit Slough. We saw the moose, 2nd photo below, at Whale Lake. He regarded us for a few minutes, and then plopped down … Continue reading

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Blame It On the Rain

The weather treated us surprisingly well when we were down on the Kenai. It was cold in the mornings and at night, but for the most part we had sunshine. Today it rained. All day. Not hard or anything, but … Continue reading

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Homeward Bound

So, yesterday we made some rune stones to help us make decisions. For example, the decision of who showered first when we got to our unit. I won that one. After pulling all our traps from the day previous, we … Continue reading

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The Shish-Kablog

This is our last night of camping. The UAA residence halls open tomorrow, so we’ll be traveling back to Anchorage and moving into our main unit tomorrow night. Met some people today at Encelewski Lake who know Rich King! It … Continue reading

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On the Road Again

As the title clearly states, another day of driving. Nothing terribly exciting until the end of the day when we left our Hidden Lake campsite and moved down to Ninilchik in order to trap farther south. – Rachel

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The Midnight Mud Attack of 2008!

Speaking of Skilak Road … We had quite the eventful night. After throwing all of our traps and picking up the water quality duo from their last lake, the four of us spent some time in the Soldotna McDonald’s charging … Continue reading

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Hazy Shade of Winter

Water quality girls still figuring things out. Today, I learned how to count and preserve fish in the field. It’s so crazy and amazing to actually see this fish in the wild after studying them for years in a classroom. … Continue reading

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On Trapping Lakes and Flagging Tapes

First day! Lauren taught me how to set traps in about two minutes while standing on the muskeg at Watson Lake. Muskeg is great stuff; generally, one can refer to it as bogland or marsh. It consists of sphagnum moss … Continue reading

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To the Kenai with a Keen Eye

I suspect that in the next couple of days, I am going to really appreciate that the grant money provided the four of us in these first two weeks was used to put us up in hotel for my first … Continue reading

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North to Alaska!

Scene: Dulles International Airport in the early afternoon of a rainy, spring day. The terminal is crowded with people chattering on their cell phones, eating sandwiches and drinking coffee. One girl sits, notebook in lap, smoothie in hand, writing and … Continue reading

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Coming Attractions (or … 4 Girls and a Van)

Coming soon: The tale of what it is like to camp for seven days on the Kenai Peninsula in late May, trapping fish and taking water quality samples daily. A harrowing experience of traveling in a van packed with equipment … Continue reading

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Plankton Sampling in a Parking Lot…

On May 13, the day of the group photo and celebration of Rachel Chock’s successful defense, a dry run (literally) of the plankton sampling routine for Alaskan lakes was played out in the Maywood parking lot next to the Lasry … Continue reading

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Preparing For Adventure

Students in the Foster-Baker lab are packing for field work in British Columbia and Alaska. One post-doc, four grad students, and five undergrads are gearing up to perform field work on threespine stickleback and their lake environments from mid-May through … Continue reading

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