News Archive

Grants in Aid of Research Recipient Profile: Anika Wohlleben

October 12, 2021

Wohlleben_Image2Grant: $500 (Fall 2018)

Education level at time of the grant: PhD student

Project Description: In my work, I am taking advantage of the independent colonization of freshwater bodies by three-spine stickleback in Southcentral Alaska. Here, they first encounter Schistocephalus solidus, a trophically transmitted parasite that is not viable in marine environments. Some stickleback populations display persistently high parasite loads, some have consistently low parasite loads, and others exhibit extreme variations between years. With the timing of infection being of great importance in host–parasite systems, my goal was to investigate the timing of infection by S. solidus in four Alaskan stickleback populations that naturally differ in their infection rates.

With the help of Sigma Xi’s Grants in Aid of Research award, I was able to travel to Alaska in August 2019 with an undergraduate student to study the infection rates in recently hatched stickleback fish. We found that young-of-year stickleback harbored S. solidus parasites with infection rates (percent infected fish) varying between 10 percent and 20 percent in low-infection populations, and between 30 percent and 70 percent in high-infection populations. This work is an integral part of my PhD research and will inform future investigations on the topic.

How did the grant process or the project itself influence you as a scientist/researcher? The support provided through the grant paid for our travel to Alaska, where we were able to carry out the research. Organizing this trip has taught me a lot about the ins and outs of fieldwork, and I made valuable connections with different agencies (including the Alaska Department of Fish and Game) and other stakeholders in Alaska that will prove to be helpful in  the future.

Where are you now? I am still a PhD candidate at Clark University. Sadly, my two primary advisors both passed away earlier this year. Though losing two mentors and friends was hard, I have received amazing support from my new primary advisor who has helped guide me in generating many new connections with researchers in my field. 

Students may apply for Sigma Xi research grants by March 15 and October 1 annually at