Monthly Archives: March 2016

A Summer with Gryllus firmus
adult male sand field cricket

Credit: Paul M. Choate, University of Florida.

This past summer, I was awarded an American Physiological Society Integrative Organismal Systems Physiology (APS IOSP) fellowship, which enabled me to perform 10 weeks of intense research at my home institution, Penn State University. During those 10 weeks, I got to delve deeper into what it means to be a true research scientist. I also learned the importance of networking, and being truthful in my own work.

During my summer fellowship, I worked in an entomology lab under my research mentor Dr. Ruud Schilder studying Gryllus firmus, a sand field cricket usually found throughout the southeastern U.S. In nature, this species usually exists as either a long winged or short winged morph1. My research project entailed the use of a respirometer setup (shown below), a device that can be used for studying metabolic rate in small animals to examine whether metabolic rates differ significantly during development of these two morphs. In other words, are long-winged morphs more energetically costly to produce than short-winged morphs? Our research is still ongoing, and I am extremely excited awaiting to see the results when completed.  Understanding metabolic rate in the cricket community is particularly important because it can tell us a lot about their reproductive power as well as specific differences in their energetic pursuits.

lab setup

Respirometer setup. Credit: Avril C, Schilder Research Lab

When we look at smaller animals in comparison to larger animals, it appears that the smaller animals’ tissues are more active than that of their larger counter parts1. What we are trying to figure out is if this general rule applies to size difference during cricket development as well (ontogeny). In other words, my research will hopefully lead to an answer of the following the questions: Are the tissues of smaller more immature crickets more active than fully matured crickets? Does metabolic rate vary across the two different morphs significantly, across age, or both?

I cannot thank the American Physiological Society enough for allowing me this opportunity. I hope other STEM students will take the initiative to do a program like this sometime throughout their undergraduate career. In our endless evolving world, we need more research scientists to unlock the key and take leadership. In closing, I want to leave readers with two questions:

  1. How important is scientific research in today’s society?
  2. In 10 years, do you see the research scientist profession growing significantly? Why or Why not?



  1. Zera, Anthony J., Jeffry Sall, and Kimberly Grudzinski. “Flight Muscle Polymorphism in the Cricket Gryllus Firmus: Muscle Characteristics and Their Influence on the Evolution of Flightlessness.” Physiol Biochem Zool Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 70.5 (1997): 519-29. Web.


Avril Cooper





Avril Cooper is a senior majoring in Biology at Penn State University. After graduation, she plans on pursuing a master’s degree in medical science and eventually going on to medical school.