Science

More guppies on the preprint server

After my good experience with the first preprint publication, I recently uploaded my second preprint on the BioRxiv server. I am really excited to share these cool new findings, especially since this study almost did not happen.

BioRxiv

Fieldwork is always full of surprises, including flash floods (2018) and cars being stolen (2016). The year of this study (2017), we got stuck on Curacao because our airline was grounded (due to airplane safety concerns, we found out later). Curacao is a great island to spend some time, but it just lacked our favourite little fish: guppies. Luckily, we were able to get new flights and make it to Trinidad a couple of days later.

I love working with guppies, because they allow us to answer some very interesting questions about social living. Guppies live in rainforest streams and in the dry season they often end up in separate pools. These little fish thus naturally experience a variety of physical environments (pools) and social environments (the other fish in the pool). We take advantage of this natural system by trans-locating individual fish to different pools with different social compositions. Most animals would try to go back to their original environment, but for guppies experiencing new physical and social surroundings is just part of their ecology. That we can experimentally control their (social) environment is important, because it allows us to go beyond correlation and ask questions about causality, e.g. how does social composition influence individual foraging success?

To answer this question, we introduced individually marked wild guppies in single sex (male or female) or 50:50 sex compositions, to different pools and studied individuals’ social behavior and their ability to locate novel (experimentally introduced) food patches.

Lysanne_field
Me, being fascinated by guppies

Male guppies found fewer novel food patches in the absence of female guppies, while female patch discovery did not differ between single-sex or mixed compositions. We argue that these results were driven by sex-dependent mechanisms of social association: males reduced sociality when females were absent, while less social individuals found fewer patches. Females were, however, similarly social with or without males. Finally, males, but not females, preferred to join females over males at food patches.

Our study’s take-home message: for a more thorough understanding of social evolution, it is important to consider how individual (e.g. sex) and (sub)population-level traits (e.g. sex composition) interact in shaping the adaptive value of social living in the wild.

Maybe also: don’t fly with Insel Air.

Reference 
Snijders L, Kurvers R.H.J.M, Krause S., Tump A.N., Ramnarine I.W., Krause J. (2018) Females facilitate male patch discovery in a wild fish population. BioRxiv.

 

Science

New guppy publication: the background stories

I am very proud to share my latest publication in Nature Ecology Evolution (NEE). It is the first paper from my ‘guppy’ postdoc at the Leibniz-IGB. It is also the first time (I think) that a manuscript of mine got accepted by the first journal I sent it to, which is also nice for a change :-). Guppies were also the topic of my final year’s highschool science project o, which makes this publication extra special for me. Fish are amazing creatures and I am happy I get to share their stories.

Next to our scientific article, I wrote two background stories:

Social individuals find more food – IGB-website
Guppy_colour_SnijdersHow do you find food when the food is never exactly present at the same place or time? Wild guppies living in the rainforest of Trinidad are faced with this vital question every day. Looking at guppies, it turns out that there are a few keys to finding unpredictable food: being social and surrounding yourself with females. Read more

Being consistent in a dynamic environment: a guppy story – NEE-website
Sometimes things happen that can give you a whole new appreciation of the study system you are working with. For me this thing happened this year. Read more

If you are more of a visual person, I also made a little Youtube video.

The research article can be viewed for free, but please contact me, for example via ResearchGate, if you would like to have the PDF.

Reference
Snijders L, Kurvers RHJM, Krause S, Ramnarine IW, Krause J (2018). Individual- and population-level drivers of consistent foraging success across environments. Nature Ecology and Evolution.

 

Science

Fieldwork is not (just) about data collection

This weekend I came back from a three-week fieldtrip to Trinidad. We went there to collect behavioural data for our guppy research project. However, on the plane back I had some time to reflect on the past weeks and realized that fieldwork is about so much more than just collecting data points.

For me, I realized, fieldwork is about all the little big things that come along with it. For example, living closely with people who all contribute in their own unique ways: someone who plays the guitar in the evening, who bakes tasty tortillas for dinner, who makes funny jokes at the end of a hard working day or who takes the team on expeditions in search of remarkable birds, snakes, insects and spiders.

Its about the surprising new people you meet, which can result in eating ‘Guinness icecream’ and making Chinese dumplings while on a tropical island.

Its about seeing your entire fieldsite get flooded in about an hour and having to ‘survival’ your way out of the rainforest. And lying in a hammock shortly after.

Its about seeing all the other critters that occupy your fieldsite: the little greedy crab, the colourful jumpy lynx spider, the small vocal male frog (sometimes with tadpoles on its back), but also the forever annoying killifish and the hundreds of biting insects.

Its about getting to know a little patch of nature very well, but never completely. Its about learning about your study species by observing it in between the actual trials. Its about getting new exciting ideas for next year’s fieldtrip.

Its about all these things and so much more. So the next time you see the datapoints of a fieldstudy, remember that they are not just units of analysis, they are stories, experiences, insights and surprises as well. For me, each one is a reminder of why I love being a biologist.

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Ralf is doing some ‘in-situ’ behavioural tests
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On a birding expedition
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This is our fieldsite before the flooding
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This is our fieldsite during the flooding
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This is me after the flooding. Unfortunately the only moment I actually had time to enjoy the hammock 🙂

 

 

Science

Guppies on a preprint server

This week I submitted a manuscript to a preprint server for the first time. This is a bit scary because a preprint is not peer-reviewed and so is missing a ‘security check’, something that always makes me feel a bit more at ease when communicating my results [but see: http://thebrainissocool.com/2017/12/19/peer-review-is-not-all-that-is-cracked-up-to-be/%5D. However, I think preprint servers are a great idea, because you don’t have to wait for months before you can finally share your results and show people what you are working on. More importantly, preprint servers provide a way, for those interested, to read your findings without having to pass a pay-wall. A version of your study will thus always stay open-access. So, I put my fears (somewhat) aside and decided to submit my recent manuscript to BioRxiv, before submitting it to a scientific journal.

In the manuscript, we describe a field experiment with wild guppies in Trinidad by which we studied foraging success in the wild. We tested if foraging success in the wild differs consistently between individuals and if these differences can be explained by individual traits such as sex and social type, but also by population traits such as sex-ratio. I think the results are very exciting and also somewhat unexpected. If you would like to find out more, then please read the preprint on BioRxiv.

Guppies_BW_Snijders

 

 

 

 

Science

New job!

March 2017, I will start as a postdoc with the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, also known as IGB-Berlin. Supported by a 12-month IGB-fellowship, I will study the social network dynamics of guppies, both in the wild (Trinidad!) and in the lab.

I will keep you up to date with my experiences and findings in the field (and the lab) via my website. As a teaser, some pictures from last year’s field work in this beautiful country:


Want to know a bit more about the institute I will spend the next 12 months?

The Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) is a creative, lively and diverse place for conducting research and teaching. Scientists from a whole range of disciplines work under one roof at our Berlin and Neuglobsow sites. Hydrologists, chemists, physicists, microbiologists, limnologists, fish ecologists and fisheries biologists from all over the world investigate the fundamental processes governing rivers, lakes and wetlands, and join forces to develop measures conductive to sustainable water management. In the process, we think beyond individual disciplines and spatial boundaries. After all, it will only be possible to develop solutions to the major challenges of the future by taking an integrative research approach.