Spring Break!

Written by Amanda Franklin, Biology Ph.D. Candidate

Last week was spring break. And it is actually starting to feel like spring! The crocuses are coming up, the weather is getting warmer–slowly)–and the days are getting longer. It’s my favorite time of year. I love seeing the flowers everywhere and it’s nice to know winter is as far away as possible (I am not a fan of the cold!).

This spring break I did not leave Boston. Instead I used the break to catch up on work. I’m a grad student in the Biology department at Tufts and I research communication in stomatopods (mantis shrimp—pods for short). If you don’t already know, stomatopods are the coolest animals ever! They have the most complex vision that we know of and they punch so hard that they can break glass! Seriously, you should google them.

Anyway, back to spring break. I needed to get new pods in the lab. This means I spent my spring break cleaning up The ‘Pod (yes, I do call my lab that). I realise this doesn’t sound enthralling, but it was a nice change from all the writing I’ve been doing recently. In a way, it was therapeutic. I just tuned into my favourite radio station, Triple J – it’s an Aussie station, I highly recommend it–and cleaned until the room was fit for 24 pods to live in.

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Me, cleaning my heart out.

This took a long time. You won’t believe how dirty a saltwater room can get. I hadn’t properly cleaned The ‘Pod since November – the last time I got new pods in. There was salt coating everything and a thin layer of algal growth on anything that was within a tank. I don’t use any bleach or soaps because this could harm the next animals I put in the tank. So it was all grunt work.

I also had to repair some tanks. Each tank is divided into three compartments. This is so I can have three pods in each tank. Without the dividers, the pods would fight each other. But I also need water to flow throughout the entire tank for filtration and aeration. So there are holes cut into the dividers which are covered with flyscreen. Unfortunately pods enjoy breaking through these. So I had to stick many of these back on. I also had to put dividers in two new tanks because two old tanks had a leak.

Me, cleaning my heart out.

There are eight of these fly screen coverings in each of eight tanks. Lucky I didn’t have to repair every one!

After all this, I refilled all the tanks, checked all the filters and heaters were working and voila! I had a clean pod room. It did take me the entire week, but it’s worth the effort to keep the stomatopods happy!

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Sparkling clean! I didn’t take a ‘before’ photo so you’ll have to trust me, it’s MUCH better.

And this week I got a delivery of new pods! I have an excellent supplier, Keith, in Florida. He catches as many pods as I need and ships them overnight to Tufts. I have never had one die during transit when ordering from Keith. I am now a proud mum of dozens of stomatopods!

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Two new pods in the lab! The left is a female and the right is a male.

Even though I didn’t travel for my spring break. I made excellent progress on my research. It is nice to use the time when I don’t have teaching or mentoring commitments to get a lot of work done. Also, it means I can take some time off in the summer to explore national parks with my family when they visit from Australia!

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