A quest into fish larvae olfaction

During this spring's break from classes I was fortunate enough to travel to the Laboratoire d'Océanographie de Villefranche in Villefranche-sur-Mer as part of this PUF program. While the trip began on Sunday with some sightseeing in the beautiful, postcard-esque city, we quickly got to work on Monday. My host, Dr. Jean-Olivier Irisson, had invited me there to continue work on two projects investigating the behavior of larval fishes.

The first two days were spent discussing the hardware and software used in conjunction with the Drifting In Situ Chamber (DISC), a Lagrangian observation system that records the behavior of marine larvae in their natural settings. Our first goal was finalize the design of our custom-engineered compass for the system, and our second goal was to plan the export of the data analysis software to a more user-friendly format.

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We took a break from this project on Wednesday when we travelled to Marseille and visited Dr. Emmanuel Villermaux, a Professor at the Université de Provence and Institut Universitaire de France. We had a very productive meeting planning an experiment to investigate the potential use of infotaxis in larval fishes. The hypothesis is that larvae may navigate to their settlement locations by coming into contact with discrete patches of advected odor and using the times and locations of these “hits” to infer the location of their homes.

Upon returning to Villefranche we continued development of software for the DISC, but spirits were especially high on Friday when Dr. Irisson's lab received a brand-new toy to be used by PhD student Robin Faillettaz : a Loligo swim tunnel. As I had previous experience with this instrument, I was able to provide some valuable information in setting up the chamber as well as suggestions for future use.

On Saturday I began my journey home, which was nearly derailed by a social movement that shut down the airport buses in the city of Nice. Fortunately, the kind people in Villefranche had taught me just enough French in my week's stay for me to find my way to the airport by other means. Now that I am home I am already looking forward to future opportunities to visit the beautiful country of France and continue my work with Dr. Irisson and Robin.

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