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Cuttlefish and Co-ops: A Conversation with Marine Biology Major Gwendolyn McManus

Marine Biology student Gwendolyn McManus is co-author of a new paper in Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology examining behaviors of the Flamboyant Cuttlefish.

She chatted with our team recently about her work as a co-op at Marine Biological Laboratory that led to the publication, and her current projects.

What drew you to MBL’s Hanlon Lab for your co-op?

I chose the Hanlon lab because they studied cuttlefish camouflage, which I thought sounded interesting, but also because the job involved animal care, and because there was a possibility I could do some scientific illustration work, which is one of my hobbies. I did end up creating the illustrations that are featured in the paper, which was such a cool experience!

Since the lab studies primarily European cuttlefish (which aren’t found in the Americas), my co-op was much more lab-based than field-based. I did, however, go to the beach every week or two and spend a few hours shaking seaweed into plastic tubs to collect gammarid amphipods that we used to feed our youngest cuttlefish!

What was your favorite part of the work?

My favorite part of the work was getting to interact with the cuttlefish day-to-day. Our animals were very aware of the fact that humans = food, so they liked to come up to the surface when you approached and raise their eyes above the water just to see what was going on. All of them had different personalities and tendencies as well! By the end of my co-op, I got good at telling them apart, even in tanks with 3-4 identical animals.

What are you up to now, and what’s next?

I worked in the Hughes Lab at the Marine Science Center during my Spring 2020 co-op, and transitioned to virtual work after COVID.  I’m currently collaborating on a project to develop a video game that will teach students about the ecology of seagrass beds.  We’ve got a long way to go on the project, but it’s fun work!

I’m hoping to get my master’s degree with the Three Seas Program in 2021-22, and I haven’t decided exactly what to do after that. I really enjoy the intersection between science and art, so I can see myself ending up in research, conservation, or educational/awareness work of some kind.

 

Work Referenced:

Roger T. Hanlon, Gwendolyn McManus. Flamboyant cuttlefish behavior: Camouflage tactics and complex colorful reproductive behavior assessed during field studies at Lembeh Strait, IndonesiaJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 2020; 529: 151397 DOI: 10.1016/j.jembe.2020.151397

 

Marine Science Center