The Wahle Lab







Wahle Lab                                                                                                      



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2008 - Lobster Biology

  • Dates: July 7 - July 14, 2008

  • Cornell course number: BIOSM 312

  • 2 semester credits

Prerequisites: One full year of college level biology.


   This course is an introduction to the biology of the American lobster, Homarus americanus. The course will include an overview of this ecologically and economically important species, and it will cover several major topics in depth (see list below), taught by lobster biologists expert in the field. The course includes lecture, laboratory, discussion, and student projects and presentations, all in the natural field environment of Appledore Island. It is most appropriate for juniors and seniors with some upper-level biology courses, graduate students who work with lobsters or related animals, marine educators, and conservationists and managers.

   The course is taught on Appledore Island, in southern Maine, one of the Isles of Shoals about ten miles out in the Gulf of Maine. Appledore is a small (100 acre), isolated island that provides a rustic field environment without distractions. (See for additional information about Shoals Marine Laboratory and Appledore Island.) Students take only one intensive course at a time and students, faculty, and staff live and work together in close quarters. In many ways, it is an ideal teaching and learning environment that fosters much interaction, and students and faculty can get to know each other better than is typical on campus.

SML is dedicated to making this life-changing experience affordable for our students.

Financial aid applications are included in acceptance packets.

Apply on-line today via our web site at


JAN FACTOR, Professor of Biology at Purchase College, State University of NY will organize the course. He is a long-term Shoals faculty member and editor of the reference text Biology of the Lobster Homarus americanus (Academic Press, 1995). His interests include: the reproduction, life history, larval development, and metamorphosis of the American lobster; larval feeding behavior; structure and development of the digestive system and feeding apparatus; cellular immune defenses; and advanced microscopy. See for additional information

STAN COBB, Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of Rhode Island, has been involved with lobster research for 40 years. He has co-edited two books on lobster biology and management, including The Biology and Management of Lobsters (Academic Press, 1980). His recent interests include issues of crustacean early life history, recruitment, habitat ecology, and metapopulation dynamics. The interface among behavior, ecology, and management of the fishery has been a dominant research theme for his lab. At URI, Dr. Cobb taught courses such as Marine Biology, Animal Behavior, and Crustacean Ecology. Now retired, he is working on another book about lobsters. See for additional information.

RICK WAHLE, Senior Research Scientist at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, West Boothbay Harbor, Maine, is a lobster biologist and ecologist. His interests include: lobster larval settlement and recruitment; population dynamics and movements of older lobsters that have emerged from nurseries; population-level understanding of abundance; the influence of the ocean environment on changes in lobster populations. See for additional information.

WIN WATSON, Professor of Zoology at the University of New Hampshire, studies coastal, estuarine, and offshore lobsters. His interests include: neurobiology, physiology, and behavior; sensory perception and physiological responses to stimuli; bioacoustics; remote sensing of lobsters using video and ultrasonic tracking; the behavior of female lobsters carrying egg; monitoring the offshore lobster fishery. See for additional information.

ED FOYE is a third generation Isles of Shoals lobsterman with intimate knowledge of waters surrounding Appledore Island.

Course Overview

Life History

  • An overview of this important species.
  • Reproduction and life history stages.
  • Larval development and metamorphosis.
  • Larval behavior.
  • Experimental and observational laboratory work on larval swimming and feeding.
  • Influence of temperature on development of eggs, size at maturity, senescence, etc.
  • Behavioral and ecological ontogeny of lobsters as they transition from cryptic early benthic phase to wide-ranging adults.
  • Video observation of lobster shelter use and foraging behavior.

Sensory Input and Behavior

  • The link between sensory input and behavior.
  • What lobsters can sense and how.
  • Cardiac assay to determine response to various stimuli.
  • Lobster movements and the factors that influence them.
  • Biological rhythms.
  • Physiological and behavioral adaptations to living in an estuary.

Fishing Methods, Lobster Populations, and Management

  • Discussion of the lobster fishery.
  • Observations of fishing methods aboard a commercial lobster boat.
  • Data collection and analysis from the catch.
  • Determination of size at sexual maturity, and comparison with catch data.
  • Video monitoring of a trap to study lobster behavior in and around traps.
  • Use of traps and vent-less traps in studies of populations.
  • Management of the lobster fishery.
  • The links between lobster biology and effective management.
  • Development of forecasting tools for trends in lobster abundance.
  • Monitoring settlement and recruiting using settlement collectors.
  • The fate of year classes as they mature from hatch to catch, including how pre- and post-settlement processes influence patterns of lobster abundance.
  • Risk of mortality from surface (planktonic larvae) to bottom (benthic postlarvae).