When Assistant Professor of integrative science, Rod Beresford is not teaching and contributing to the day-to-day operation of Cape Breton University (specifically Unama’ki College), he spends his time conducting research on oysters in the Bras D’Or Lake. Rod obtained his MSc in Pathology from Dalhousie University and is currently enrolled in a PhD program focusing on the Multinucleated Spheroid X (MSX) oyster parasite that was found in the Bras d’Or Lakes in 2003.
Under a microscope the MSX parasite looks like a small, sphere with many nuclei and is completely harmless to people. This summer, Rod and his team will be researching and investigating the development of natural resistance to mortality from this parasite in the Bras d’Or. The researchers will be monitoring various oyster populations throughout the lake until next fall for mortality and disease status.
Due to the fact that the water salinity is below what would be considered normal for their typical environment, and yet they are able to thrive in some locations, the Bras D’Or is a very interesting place for oysters, providing researchers with unique opportunities to pursue basic research questions around this parasite that have been studied for decades. “With the new molecular tools available and different circumstances in the Bras d’Or, we’re hoping to make some significant progress on the big unknowns with this parasite, such as its life cycle,” says Rod.
Rod notes the expansion of interest and support for working with the oyster growers has been great. There has been an increase in the interest and effort with respect to re-establishing the Bras ‘Or oyster industry so that researchers may learn more about the parasite while working with other scientists locally, nationally, and internationally as well as community groups, institutions and regulators.
Having grown up in Glace Bay and living now in Westmount, Rod has spent his whole life near the ocean, and has always made an effort to see it daily. “Everyone loves to see, hear, and smell the ocean. I can walk to the shore of Sydney Harbor and look at the shells, the rocks, the crabs, and the other living things. It’s truly amazing what you can find in a short amount of time. If you take kids near the shore they will occupy themselves for hours – watching, playing and learning,” says Rod.
Rod feels very fondly about the ocean, commenting, “the ocean is how we are connected. There is always the potential for port development, but even beyond that, there will always be ships coming and going in and out of Sydney and in and around Cape Breton. It provides us with food, recreation, and so much more. Those are the things we see and can measure. For those of us living near the ocean, we often take for granted how powerful and amazing it really is. Raising awareness through events like World Oceans Day will hopefully bring greater appreciation and respect for our oceans and for what lives in and around it. The efforts at Àros Na Mara are amazing and they deserve so much credit for bringing this event to the Cape Breton stage for all to learn and enjoy.”