Research ProjectParasites in our Backyard

Parasites in our Backyard

  • Intern looking for snails in a marsh

    Madison Miller, intern in the Marine Disease Ecology lab, looking for tiny snails in a local marsh. These snails are the first intermediate host of a worm parasite, also called a trematode.

  • Bopyrid isopod on shrimp gill

    A bopyrid isopod attached to the gill of a shrimp, which is a common site in the Rhode River. Photo Credit: Kristina Borst

  • Dermo disease in easter oyster

    The black dots are the parasite Perkinsus marinus, the agent of dermo disease that impacts eastern oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. Photo Credit: Katrina Lohan

Project Goal

To identify parasites that reside in the Rhode River, track yearly changes in diversity and abundance, and determine their impacts on ecosystem function, population dynamics, and trophic interactions.


We participate in multiple long-term surveys of communities in the Rhode River conducted by researchers at SERC. These include surveys of benthic and nearshore habitats and oyster beds. We screen animals (i.e., hosts) collected from these surveys (e.g., grass shrimp, mummichogs, blue crabs, clams) and record the prevalence, diversity, and abundance of parasites found in each animal. Additionally, we conduct lab and field experiments to understand the various impacts these parasites have on the Rhode River ecosystem.

Interns and volunteers interested in working with the Marine Disease Ecology Lab will have the opportunity to participate in these surveys. The fieldwork involves collecting hosts through seining, trawling, sediment cores, and water samples. Laboratory techniques typically include microscopic dissections and genetic methods. If you are interested in a summer internship to work on this project, please apply here. If you are interested in volunteering to work on this project, please apply here.


Katrina Lohan