Research leave has rolled around and again, it seems to follow family catastrophe. I *thought* we would be in Bergen, Norway right now but new elder care duties seriously cancelled that plan. So now I am local. Research Leave in Hamilton!!! At the end, it looks like COVID might have cancelled things anyways because I am not sure relocating in the middle of the largest wave of the pandemic would have been so attractive. Still, it was Norway and I am missing the sea.
My priority for research leave has always been to do something significant for my research program. For my first, I spent 13 months in Sweden and this was where I fist started doing behavioural research with fish. I also learned to experiment with primary hepatocytes, although this hasn’t been incorporated in my lab in the same way. That is mostly because the results of the experiments were a bit blah and unexciting for the compounds we were testing in hepatocyte culture. But the behavioural research is a different story. Now we have added in a suite of behavioural assays in different life stages. For juvenile and adults, we have used courtship, aggression, behavioural choice experiments with odorants and thermal preference tests. For larval fish, we now do a whole range of swimming (general swimming, light:dark response, thigmotaxis), startle responses and feeding behaviour. My year away pushed us in a new direction that has been rewarding.
So what is on the table this year? Planning is still an active process but one thing is for sure is that I have some training and planning to do. First, is training to work with human subjects as we have some projects that will cross into social sciences. The other major training need is to brush up on transcriptomics analyses and R so that we are better equipped for some of the new data we will be generating in the next few years. Second, is planning for both the lab and field for our perch embryo experiments. We learned so much from last year’s experiments and have to adjust. We will adjust the lab for better rearing protocols and really minimize some of the labour issues we encountered last year. We are adding new lights to help with feed training the larval fish too. We are also adjusting our field sites and I need to get new permits in place. This is really exciting and I already have new Windermere traps under construction with the engineering lab. I can’t wait for perch spawning.