How a Fish Lost (and Regained) Its Worm: Evolutionary Genetics of Host-parasite Interactions; Observing the Extremes of Antarctic Weather and Climate

“Wednesday Nite @ The Lab” Public Science Seminar

Wednesdays at 7pm CT

Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, 425 Henry Mall, Madison WI, 


Stream at


For 10 August 2022    

Hi WN@TL Fans,

Last week in Homer, Alaska, I had the pleasure of watching fishermen filet halibut and salmon with an alacrity far beyond my surgical skills.  It’s astonishing to watch the knife slide in behind the gills and glide down the backbone to the tail.  The slabs of flesh thus released can feed a family, or even more so, can fund a family.

Fileting a fish entails entrails, whether it’s halibut in Homer or bass in the Boundary Waters.  You get to see the viscera as they spill out and unroll on the cutting table. This becomes an opportunity to examine the stomachs to see what the fish have been eating.

On occasion, you also get to see what’s eating the fish—not bigger fish, but smaller critters:  parasites such as flukes and worms.  These cure me of any hankering for sushi.  When making a shore lunch, I am relieved to feel the fire under the griddle, and am grateful to have a generous layer of canola oil to fry up the filets along with any invertebrate hitchhikers that might be tagging along.

This week we get to hear more about how some fish and their parasites co-exist and co-evolve in the wild, and also learn how ingenious researchers such as Jesse Weber can study the genetics of this interplay using aquariums and Tupperware in the lab.




On August 10 Jesse Weber of the Department of Integrative Biology will speak on “How a Fish Lost (and Regained) Its Worm:  Evolutionary Genetics of Host-parasite Interactions.”

Description:  Marine threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) are highly susceptible to Schistocephalus solidus tapeworms, but freshwater populations across the globe have evolved to resist the parasite. Interestingly, freshwater fish in different areas evolved resistance via different mechanisms, and parasites evolved to counter the resistance of their local hosts.

We can replicate the parasite’s complex life cycle in the lab. This allows us to perform thousands of controlled exposures between host and parasite populations.  These experiments will enable us to pursue pivotal questions in parasitism, including: 

What genetic changes underlie host-parasite coevolution?  

How often are new genes or strategies deployed, instead of recycling existing variation?

How does gene flow among many populations impact the rate and trajectory of (co)evolution?



Explore More:


On August 17 Matthew Lazzara of Space Science & Engineering will speak on “Observing the Extremes of Antarctic Weather and Climate.”

Description:   Antarctica offers some of the most extreme weather and climate on planet Earth.  Its breathtaking views and vistas are balanced by extreme cold, strong winds, and storm-force conditions. This presentation reviews some of these extremes along with outlining some extraordinary weather events as captured by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Automatic Weather Station network, now in its 42nd year of operation. The trials and tribulations of maintaining such a network will be illustrated. The value of observations and data will be discussed including the debut of the Antarctic Meteorological Research and Data Center data repository, and a joint project between UW-Madison and Madison Area Technical College, with an ever-growing collection of Antarctic meteorological datasets. The culmination of these efforts provides observations of the extremes in weather and climate of the world’s southern-most continent.

Bio: Dr. Matthew A. Lazzara is a Senior Scientist and Research Meteorologist at the Antarctic Meteorological Research Center (AMRC), Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC), University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW–Madison). He is also a full-time faculty member and Department Chair of the Department of Physical Sciences in the School of Engineering, Science, and Mathematics at Madison Area Technical College. He is the Principal Investigator of the Antarctic Automatic Weather Station (AWS) Program and Antarctic Meteorological Research & Data Center Project that is a part of the United States Antarctic Program. He has worked on-site at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, and at UW–Madison from 1995 to the present, with 10 deployments to Antarctica. His areas of expertise include Antarctic meteorology and climate, satellite meteorology, education, and interactive meteorological processing systems. Dr. Lazzara is currently the President of the International Commission on Polar Meteorology.

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Hope to see you soon, in person or by zoom, at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab.

Tom ZinnenBiotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H

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Here are the components of the WN@TL User’s Guide

1. The live WN@TL seminar, every Wednesday night, 50 times a year, at 7pm CT in Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center and on Zoom at 

2. The WN@TL YouTube channel

3. WN@TL on the University Place broadcast channel of PBS Wisconsin 

4. WN@TL on the University Place website 


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