COVID-19 is halting a lot of ecological research, especially projects which require field work or the use of specialized equipment. Luckily, even confined, it is still possible to study trophic networks from home. Even though I truly miss interacting with my lab mates every day, I can now work in my PJs and sing catchy pop songs out loud!
Studying trophic networks is determining who eats whom in a given system. My main focus is on the young polar cod (Boreogadus saida). This fish is at the centre of the food chain in the Arctic pelagic ecosystem and any change in its feeding habits may cascade throughout the whole food web.
The only way to know precisely what larval fish feeding preferences are is to look right inside their stomach. Using a binocular, I brought back from the lab to my home office (which was a real quest of its own), I dissect fish that can be no longer than 1 cm. I can let you imagine how small preys can be… They usually are not even 1 mm long! Because of that, it is a time-consuming task. Dissecting one larva can take over 5 days and require many cups of tea and coffee. Still, it is a really important process as a refine identification of preys will enable us to better predict what will happen within food webs in a rapidly changing Arctic.
By Pascale Caissy, 25/05/2020