Kelsi's PhD research is focused on the fluid dynamics of fish olfaction (how fish smell odor in the water). She is interested in the evolution and design of the diverse nasal morphologies (shape/structure) and the hydrodynamics (interaction with water) of the fish nose. Smell is an important sense in fishes and crucial for detecting predators, tracking prey, and finding mates. Research of this sensory system could lead to the design of a new, fish-inspired, underwater chemical sensor. Stay tuned for more updates as she researches this for the next few years,
Elasmobranchs (sharks, skates, rays) don't have a skeleton of bone like ours. Instead, they have skeletons made of cartilage- like your nose or your ear! Freshwater stingrays, found in the amazon basin in Brazil (Potamotrygon leopoldi) are known for consuming hard-shelled snails. How do these stingrays crunch down on such a tough food source with a "soft" skeleton? Turns out- this specialized feeding mode of consuming tough prey, called "durophagy" has evolved a few different times in sharks, rays and ratfish, all with skeletons made of cartilage. They have special adaptations that help them eat, including large jaws and jaw muscles, big crushing tooth plates and even supportive internal struts inside their jaws for reinforcement. My research was focused on the evolution of such a remarkable adaptation and the mechanics behind this feeding mode. Click below for my publication or read my easy-to-understand blog post in the "Featured Fish Facts" section.
Most boxfishes (ostraciids) are known for their box like shape with cornered edges called keels. This shape is ideal for maneuverability and allows for quick turns while maintaining stability. The lesser known deep water boxfishes (aracanids) have a different arrangement of keels, ornamentation, and their carapace (bony box) does not enclose their dorsal and anal fins so they are free to move laterally. By placing these fish in a water tunnel, we were able to measure the movements of their fins (kinematics), how fast they could swim for an extended period of time (critical swimming speeds), and their center of mass and buoyancy. We found that these boxfishes swim using a body caudal fin swimming mode, or by mainly using their tail. This is quite different from the ostaciids that swim using their median paired fins, Their swimming mode is most similar with carangiform swimming (like Tunas) but with significant differences. Aracanids have a much more oval shaped body, well developed ventral (underbelly) keels, wide caudal peduncles, wide tails and display a more substantial yawing motion. Click below to read the publication for more details.
Oysters aren't just tasty, they provide important habitat for many estuarine fishes. Unfortunately, oyster populations have severely declined due to overharvest by humans, disease and poor fishery management. However, efforts have been made to restore oyster habitat and coastal management has been building human-made reefs. Oyster larvae, called "spat" will grow and colonize on any hard structure. Concrete blocks and "reef balls" have been used as a new home for oysters to grow. As an undergraduate student, I studied whether fish would utilize this somewhat artificial habitat as much as a natural oyster reef. I found that the same number and species of fishes used these "artificial" reefs when compared to natural reefs. This is promising for management that we can restore habitat to have the same benefits to the surrounding critter community. Click below to read the full publication.
How do you go about discovering a new species of fish? Well, it turns out that new species are often hiding in museum collections- just waiting to be described! I discovered this new species of guitarfish from the gulf of California using comparative morphometric methods and by describing the discrete measurable traits that make them different. I also created a dichotomous key of guitarfishes of the Gulf of California to aid in their identification.