Trapping #2

For the first week of trapping, we first retrieved some empty traps that were left in the field. We decided to be begin by making more traps first. We decided to make all pin style traps. Our first trapping site was close to the Population lab. We set out 9 traps. For the first few days of pre-baiting, due to disturbances by raccoons, the traps were flipped and 3 mice were trapped. During the trapping session we caught only one mouse. One of the traps we set out was actually ripped out of the ground stake and all, pins removed, trap dismantled, and dragged 10 yards through brush. This made us realize that staying in this location was not going to work out. This raccoon disturbance, along with the chances of depleting the population for winter trapping, forced us to move to trapping in woods near campus adjacent to Matoaka lake. This move was interesting because we did not know of there was a destructive raccoon in these woods. So before we officially started trapping, I set out 8 just Sherman traps to see if they would get disturbed. The next morning, I checked the traps and not only had the traps not been disturbed, but I had caught a mouse! So the area was looking promising. So we took out all the traps in the Population lab woods and brought them all to Matoaka woods. We started out on the other side of the woods from where I set out just the Sherman traps. We set down the traps with the raccoon deterrent tubes since they proved to catch mice and prevented the traps from being disturbed. The area was more open and seemed to hold a lot of deer. We also simultaneously ran just Sherman traps near the location where I did a practice run. We ran two trapping locations simultaneously from then on. After the first week of trapping in the two locations, we ran 2 sites in each location. We staggered the schedule to that we would move them at different days. At the peak of the trapping season, we ran upwards to 38 traps simultaneously at different staggered schedules. The tubes were used on one side of the woods and just Sherman traps were being used in the other side of the woods. We didn’t mix Shermans with the tubes because in case there was a raccoon, it wouldn’t try to continue trying to get inside the trap and possibly figure it out faster than if it was just tubes. By four sites at each side of the woods, we had started to run out of viable trapping locations. So we took out all of our traps from both locations So we decided to put just Sherman traps in one location located at a different trail. After placing 20 Sherman traps for one pre baiting night, we saw that there was a very clever raccoon in the spot where we were trapping. One trap was completely dismantled and all of the traps were disturbed. However, we also caught two mice in one night. So since it was an obviously good location, we decided to put the tubes there. 5 mice were caught in one night and six in total. We caught a total of 39 mice. Overall a good trapping season.

Trapping #1

Trapping is more of an art than a skill. One needs to understand certain principles about mouse behavior, about woodland wildlife, and a bit of common sense and intuitive understanding of the animal mind. I use small Sherman traps in this study. A biology grad student trapped with me throughout the trapping period. The procedure for trapping begins with a pre-baiting period. Pre-baiting sets the traps so that mice are able to go in and out of the traps without being captured. This allows the mice to become more familiar with the traps and go deeper and deeper inside. Also, mice tend to return to places that food was found previously. Pre-baiting is done for 3 nights. After the third night, the traps are set to trap and capture the mice. This trapping period is done for 4 nights. Three nights of pre-baiting and four nights of trapping constitutes the trapping week.

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Paradox of Research

“Nothing we do in lab applies to what is happening in the wild!” Dr. Heideman tells us the story of his Ph.D. lab PI exclaiming this very unsettling statement. This statement is unsettling not only because it claims to invalidate  what thousands of scientists are doing in labs around the world, but also conveys a stark reminder of the difficulty involved with our attempts to understand the world around us. Similar to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle where location and velocity can not be known at the same time, it seems that scientists are hard pressed when needing to both describe overarching principles of nature with the highly specific and complex mechanisms. This is because the overarching principles of nature are seen by observation of hundreds of variables interacting with each other. One variable defined and influenced by the others. However, to understand the specific mechanism of one variable, one must isolate it and investigate it without the interference of the other variables. But without the other variables acting on this one isolated variable, is this one isolated variable still reflect the variable that is being acted upon in the wild by hundreds of other variables? Because we can only study specific mechanisms by changing the object of investigation drastically from it’s original form, it is hard to know that what is going on in the wild is being reflected in the lab.

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Post #4: Perfusions

One needs to preserve brain tissue and cells in order to see neurons. To do this, we perfuse the mouse. A perfusion runs preservative solution through the mouse in order to keep the integrity of the brain cells as the tissue undergoes sectioning and immunocytochemistry. We run a solution called Zamboni’s fixative through the mouse to preserve tissue.  Although commonly  used for electron microscopy, Zamboni’s fixative is  a good general purpose fixative useful in preserving the brain tissue that we are examining. Zamboni, as we call it, is a phosphate buffered combination of paraformaldehyde and picric acid. It stabilizes cellular proteins without being destroyed by tissue fluids.

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Side Post: My experience at the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology Meeting in Atlanta

Hello everyone,

From June 23-26, seven research students (including myself) and our lab PI professor Heideman went to the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Firstly, I would highly recommend anyone thinking of a future in scientific research to attend a conference in their respective fields. Some experiences and realizations are positive and some are negative, but all proved to be crucial in my understanding of what it would mean to live as a scientific researcher.

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