What’s an Isopod, and What’s It Doing in That Shoebox? 

By Director Kathy

One of the benefits of being on sabbatical is that I can—yes—pursue my intellectual curiosity.

Blog Chris with BucketThat’s what happened to me one fine October day when I saw junior biology major Chris O’Mara walking across Quinnipiac’s manicured lawn with a bucket.  When I asked what he was doing, he said he was going to collect leaves for his isopods.

Naturally, I asked if I could come along and see.

And as an afterthought, I added, “What’s an isopod?”

Chris explained that they are small crustaceans—the ones I saw were from 4 to 12 millimeters long.  Turns out that the ones Chris cares for are informally called pillbugs, they like leaves, the lab is having a small crisis with the survival of one colony, and they live in plastic shoeboxes in Professor Dennis Richardson’s laboratory.Blog Chris with Bug

Chris is collecting the pillbugs to see if the species he and Richardson are finding are already known to inhabit Connecticut—they are working in collaboration with the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven.  Despite the loss of one colony, Chris is confident that he can get more and create an environment that meets their delicate tastes.  If you can call anything about pillbugs delicate, that is.  They are very interesting looking.  The one I saw was halfway through molting; it was two toned, kind of like a car that has had its hood replaced with one from an entirely different colored vehicle.

Professor Richardson and Chris have many other scientific plans up their sleeve as well.  For instance, Chris has been known to scheme spelunking in search of other animal species in Connecticut.  And he has plans to apply to Euroscholars for a unique research experience abroad next fall.

QUIP-RS-2015-Amanda-Ruggieri-1Other students are also doing nifty research with faculty on research grants. Thanks to Quinnipiac’s student research program, QUIP-RS, Amanda Ruggieri had a funded summer or research with Professor Alexandre de Lencastre. Together they investigated microRNAs and their impact on lifespan and stress response on Nematodes, in particular the microscopic roundworm, C. elegans.  Amanda also is enrolled in the 5-year Molecular and Cellular Biology Masters degree program. And during the past summer Lindsay Fruehauf volunteered in Professor Adrienne Betz’s neuroscience lab to understand the impact of anxiety medication on rats that had been exposed to stress.  Like Chris, Amanda and Lindsay are also considering the Euroscholars program.

If you are interested in Euroscholars or QUIP-RS click the links, and reach out to me (Kathy.Cooke@quinnipiac.edu) or Associate Dean Allan Smits (Allan.Smits@quinnipiac.edu) to learn more.

By the way, Chris also asked me if I wanted to hold one of the pillbugs.

And—naturally—I said yes.