Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Featured Student or Postdoc: Natalie Sopinka

Natalie Sopinka is a M.Sc. student in Sigal Balshine's lab at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario. Natalie was first introduced to the world of research as an undergrad studying African cichlids in Balshine’s lab. Compelled by the wonderful intersection of evolution, ecology, and animal behaviour, she went on to study the aggressive behaviour of round gobies as an undergrad research project. A summer was spent collecting round gobies in Hamilton Harbour; here she thoroughly enjoyed long, and sometimes rainy, summer days! With Ph.D. candidate Julie Marentette, they observed how round gobies compete with each other when contesting a shelter (an important resource for breeding and predator avoidance). Knowledge of round goby behaviour will hopefully aid in understanding how these fish tolerate living at high densities in the Great Lakes.

A growing interest in conversation biology led Natalie to study how exposure to aquatic pollutants influences male reproductive traits in fish for her M.Sc. research. This research focuses on round gobies from contaminated areas in Hamilton Harbour and plainfin midshipman from areas near pulp and paper mills in British Columbia. Data analyses have begun and she is excited to learn more about her systems and share the results!