9 Biology Alumni Co-Author Article in International Journal

Nine SUNY Oneonta alumni have co-authored an article describing five new species of tapeworms in Folia Parasitologica, a peer-reviewed, open-access, international journal covering all branches of animal parasitology.

The co-authors, all of whom were undergraduate biology majors at SUNY Oneonta, collaborated with Associate Professor of Biology Florian Reyda on the research over a period of six years.

In the article, titled, “A new genus of rhinebothriidean cestodes from batted elasmobranchs, with the description of five new species and two new combinations,” Reyda and a colleague describe a new genus (group of species) of tapeworm from stingrays. “Stillabothrium” is named for the tear-dropped shape of one of its features, the bothridia of its scolex (attachment structures). A total of five new species of tapeworms are described, each by different combinations of student co-authors and Reyda. In each case, students picked the names of the new species and prepared scientific illustrations of them.

One of the buzzwords in biology is biodiversity, or biological diversity,” said Reyda. “There are all these species and we have knowledge of a lot of them, but we’re always asking, ‘What species are still out there that humans have not yet discovered?’ The significance of this research is just simply filling in a major knowledge gap about the natural world.  We’re the first people to look at those worms.

Two of Reyda’s colleagues collected the parasite specimens in Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and Senegal and turned them over to him and his students for analysis. All of the work was done at the Biological Field Station on Otsego Lake, where the students also learned how to collect fish parasite specimens to gain a better understanding of the project.

The project was supported by a collaborative National Science Foundation grant on which Reyda was a participant, as well as by several student research grants funded by the SUNY Oneonta Foundation.

Several of the students presented their research at SUNY Oneonta’s Student Research & Creative Activity Day, as well as nationally at the annual meeting of the American Society of Parasitologists in Omaha, Neb.

At least two of the students caught the parasitology bug, so to speak, and are continuing to explore the field in graduate studies.

The Stillabothrium project, and indeed my entire experience working in the Reyda Lab, directly prepared me for where I am right now because I actually loved the research so much that I have continued to study the cestodes of sharks and rays for my master’s degree--as well as for my Ph.D.--here at the University of Kansas.  - Kaylee Herzog ‘14

Those who have pursued less-related paths said the skills they developed in the research lab have been extremely valuable.

“Now that I've returned to school, the skills I remember most are from my work as a researcher. I'm able to implement them in my methods for learning and when I have clinical practices,” said Illari Delgado ’15, who is studying radiation oncology at Upstate Medical University.  

“One of the most rewarding aspects of this project is the overall understanding of how my education became more than the sum of classes I took while I was in Oneonta,” said Danielle Wilsey ’14, who is finishing her last year in the Physician Assistant program at Stony Brook University. “It showed me how teamwork, communication and dedication to something is just as important as having good grades. It has also helped me for what I am doing today, because PAs always work as part of a team and need to communicate effectively, be dedicated to their patients and keep up to date in current research.”