Austria to America: A Copepods Journey

June 03, 2024

By: Jeanne Smith

Ambre Placide

LSU is known for hosting several guest researchers from all across the world in different departments. Associate Professor Morgan Kelly in the Biological Sciences Department got the opportunity to co-supervise Ambre Placide, a student from Innsbruck University in Austria.

Placide received her undergraduate degree in Population of the Organism, Biology & Ecosystem. She received a master’s degree in Hydrosystems & Watershed. She shares research with Dr. Kelly in that they both study copepods and for the past year she has been joining their lab meetings over Zoom.

Copepods are small crustaceans usually found in freshwater. They can be used as biological markers for things like water quality, turbidity and pH. Now, here in person, Placide can collaborate with other members in Dr. Kelly’s lab about copepod research. She is researching alpine copepods, meaning above the tree line at 2200 meters, and their phenotypic characteristics coupled with their transcriptional plasticity and thermal stress.

“Analyzing DGE’s transcriptomes allows one to see the difference in genes that are being stressed," said Placide.

An interesting copepod she studies back in Austria is known for being photoreceptive. In the summer they turn red, and in the winter, they are more of a grey color. In the future, Placide would like to have a career combined with field and lab work like what she is studying now either in Germany or Canada. Both have research being done similar to what she is interested in. Upon her last week here at LSU and in Louisiana, she has had time to reflect on some of her favorite experiences.

“My favorite had to be going to New Orleans and trying gumbo," said Placide. "I also got to try crawfish, which was great. I love seafood. I also love the hospitality here. Everybody is so nice.”

She hopes to come back to the United States and visit both Chicago and San Francisco, as well as attend one or two football games in Tiger Stadium’s Death Valley. Although her time here was brief, Placide will continue collaborating with other labs working on her PhD for the next couple of years.