05 June 2014

The latest paper from the UTPA REU program

It took 1,017 days for the journal to publish the paper (that’s over two years), but one more paper has finally been published arising from student research supported by the UTPA REU. It’s nice to have one more addition to add to the “Success stories” on REU Bio website.

The lead author, Jessica Murph, is now pursuing a master’s degree in counseling.

Murph JH, Faulkes Z. 2013. Abundance and size of sand crabs, Lepidopa benedicti (Decapoda: Albuneidae), in South Texas. The Southwestern Naturalist 58(4): 431-434. DOI: 10.1894/0038-4909-58.4.431


Albuneid sand crabs are found in sandy beaches around the world, but little is known about the basic biology of any species in the family. We sampled sand crabs, Lepidopa benedicti, for 2 years at South Padre Island, Texas, at two locations: one developed site near the town, where recreational use is high and one undeveloped site away from the town, where recreational use is lower. We hypothesized that sand crabs would be less abundant and smaller at the developed site than at the undeveloped one. Densities were highest in summer and lowest in winter but did not differ between the two sites. There was no difference in size of individuals at the two locations. Females were significantly more common and larger than males. No ovigerous female was discovered at either location over 2 years of sampling. Individuals at South Padre Island are consistently smaller than those recorded from the northern Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, suggesting the region might have habitat that is low quality for the species.

23 October 2012

Still producing! New UTPA REU paper

Even though the REU program at UTPA officially ended at the end of summer in 2010, there is still work coming out from students who were in that program. The newest is a paper in Journal of Parasitology, co-authored by Ashley Longoria, who was in the second cohort of the program.

Fredensborg BL, Longoria AN. 2012. Increased surfacing behavior in longnose killifish infected by brain-encysting trematode. Journal of Parasitology 98(5): 899-903. DOI: 10.1645/GE-3170.1


Some parasites modify the behavior of intermediate hosts to increase the probability of transmission to the next host in their life cycle. In habitats where this is common, parasites play an important role in predator-prey links and food web dynamics. In this study we used laboratory observations to investigate the behavior of longnose killifish, Fundulus similis, that were naturally infected with metacercariae of the trematode, Euhaplorchis sp. A, from Laguna Madre, south Texas. In particular, we examined whether there was a relationship between the number of metacercariae lodged on the brain of the infected fish and behaviors that made the fish more conspicuous to avian final hosts. We also quantified the abundance and cercariae production of this parasite in its first intermediate snail host, Cerithidea pliculosa, and examined the seasonal variation of Euhaplorchis sp. A in F. similis. Our data demonstrated that Euhaplorchis sp. A affected the surfacing behavior of F. similis in an intensity-dependent manner. Fish with many infections spent longer time at the surface of the water than fish with few infections. Our data also show that Euhaplorchis sp. A is a common parasite in the first intermediate host and produces close to 4,000 cercariae m−2 day−1. Consequently 97% of all fish collected and necropsied were infected, with little seasonal variation in the mean abundance of the parasite. Based on our data, Euhaplorchis sp. A is likely important to predator-prey links in Gulf of Mexico estuary food webs, similar to the closely related Euhaplorchis californiensis in southern California. We expect that other closely related species elsewhere may have similar effects on other fish hosts, emphasizing the need for incorporating trophically transmitted parasites in estuarine food web studies.

17 March 2011

After the program

Here’s a quick update on some of the activities of our students since leaving the program.

Cassandra Rivas (2007-2008) and Amery Yang (2008-2009) are both pursuing graduate degrees.

Stephanie Jimenez (2008-2009) recently published a peer reviewed paper based on her REU work.

Jimenez SA, Faulkes Z. 2011. Can the parthenogenetic marbled crayfish Marmorkrebs compete with other crayfish species in fights? Journal of Ethology 29(1): 115-120. DOI: 10.1007/s10164-010-0232-2


The parthenogenetic marbled crayfish, Marmorkrebs, has no known wild population, but has been introduced into natural ecosystems in two continents. Interactions with native crayfish, particularly through fighting, could affect the ecological impact of Marmorkrebs introductions. Marmorkrebs have been characterized anecdotally as having low levels of aggression, which could mitigate their potential to compete with native species. We isolated Marmorkrebs and Louisiana red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii), then conducted size-matched intra- and interspecific pairings. Marmorkrebs were as likely to win a fight as P. clarkii, although contests between P. clarkii and Marmorkrebs were significantly faster to begin than contests between two Marmorkrebs. These results suggests that Marmorkrebs have the potential to compete with other species on the same level as P. clarkii, which is itself a highly successful introduced species around the world.

Keywords: aggression • crayfish • competition • invasive species • marbled crayfish • Marmorkrebs • Louisiana red swamp crayfish • Procambarus clarkii

17 April 2010

UTPA REU application for Summer 2010 now live

The UTPA REU application form is now available here. Some of the form material still needs to be updated, notably the application deadline! It's 3 May 2010. Currently, we are planning on recruiting one student for this summer.

05 April 2010

Kawaii is, perhaps, not the impression you want to make

More tips for applying to programs from Bug Girl’s Blog. Includes this classic piece of advice:

Do not print your cover letter for an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates on Hello Kitty paper.


Had it not also come with transcripts attached, I’d think some of you were just messing with me.

29 March 2010

Woods Hole REU

The institution: Marine Biological Laboratory

The program: Each undergraduate student will be placed in the laboratory of an MBL research scientist and fully participate in all laboratory exercises and activities. The program will provide a stipend of approximately $4,000 to each student, and room and board for 10 weeks. The program will run from 13 June through 21 August 2010.

Eligibility: Highly motivated rising sophomore and junior students.

Application deadline: 1 April 2010

More information: http://www.mbl.edu/education/courses/other_programs/reu.html

28 March 2010

Bioenergy REU

The institution: South Dakota State University

The program: This new interdisciplinary REU site will allow 10 undergraduate students in plant science, chemistry, biology or engineering to learn research skills and to participate in unique research experiences related to biofuels and bioenergy crops. The research projects are divided into three areas: feedstock development, environmental sustainability, and bioprocessing.
  • 31 May 31 - 6 August 2010
  • $460/week, paid on-campus housing, food allowance, travel expenses
  • US citizenship or permanent resident
  • Declared major related to the project of interest
  • Sophomore year completed by 31 May 2010
  • Interest in research in an multidisciplinary environment.
Application deadline: 15 April 2010

More information: Visit http://biomicro.sdstate.edu/reu_bioenergy or email Dr. Heike Bucking