“The eastern mud snail dramatically affects other species,” says Craig Plante, professor of biology. “I wanted to study the snails’ effect on microorganisms using modern technology, as the last studies were from the 1980s and are quite crude. Now with current technology, we can delve deeper into the biology of the snail.”

When Timara Vereen, an Honors College student double-majoring in biology and psychology and minoring in chemistry, saw the opportunity for the summer of 2021, her first instinct was that she might not be qualified.

“I knew I wanted to work in a lab, so I decided to take a chance and apply,” says Vereen, who was thrilled to be accepted for the project. “I learned that you just don’t know what’s possible until you try. I encourage everyone to put themselves out there and take advantage of opportunities.”

Together with Kristina Hill-Spanik, molecular core facility lab manager for the Department of Biology, Plante and Vereen began the arduous process of setting up 20 2-foot tall galvanized cages divided into units to study the snail’s impact on the ecosystem. They set up three different scenarios to study: one of snails doing what they do naturally, another without any snails and a third with 190 snails per study unit. They did all this while keeping close track of the tides.

Plante submitted an abstract to study the impact eastern mud snails have on benthic or sedimentary microalgae and bacteria. He wanted to discover what snails do to affect their community’s food and nutrition and the geochemical cycles. He received a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grant funded by the National Science Foundation and then searched for a student researcher to partner with him.

Fortunately, the College’s proximity to the mudflats at Grice Marine Lab made their work a little easier.

“Access is key to research,” says Plante. “Mudflats are a pretty physical endeavor. First, we had to determine how to transport the equipment out to the flats, and then we had to go out many times. Fortunately, at Grice, the mudflats were only 200 yards away from our office.”

To learn more about Timara’s mud snail research, check out the full story by Darcie Goodwin on The College Today