Thursday, November 14, 2019
STIP Student Grace Loonam Investigates Unknown Invasive Species of Snails in Woodbridge, Virginia
It’s been very exciting to take part in research that allows me to experience lab-based research as well as fieldwork. The amount that I’ve learned in both settings is unreal (pro-tip: it’s a lot easier to find and collect snails at low tide), and the following picture was taken of me while collecting snails from a site on the Rappahannock for the second time, as we could hardly find anything the first time around.
In the lab, I’ve been measuring the size of all of the snails I collect, and dissecting them to examine their gonads for parasites. I also record the gender and number of babies (if applicable) of the mystery snails. One of the characteristics I find most interesting about these snails is that they are brooders, meaning that they have embryos in a brood chamber at varying stages of development.
At the beginning of the research, it was expected that the invasive snails would have comparably less parasites than the native snails, as they are not from the region and thus they are not always susceptible to the parasites or recognized as potential hosts. For the first two sites, this trend was observed, but the Rappahannock site yielded mystery snails that were parasitized with an organism that is native to the Northern Virginia region, which could suggest further implications of parasite spillover and spillback. I’m eager to analyze my results to see if some of these results can be observed, as there’s not much literature regarding mystery snails, and it will be exciting to see what this project can add to it.