"There are two kinds of readers. Those who have read the Lord of the Rings. And those who are going to."
There are two kinds of biologists. Those who have worked with stickleback. And those who are going to.
If you count yourself in the former category, we have good news. You can now buy stickleback through a non-profit center. The Stickleback Stock Center (aka Sticklestock) at the University of Connecticut provides eggs, juveniles, adults, cell cultures, and associated microbes for research and education. We can do microinjection of CRISPR so you don't have to. You can place orders here:
If you count yourself in the latter category, even better news: not only can you buy stickleback for research, but the sticklestock.com website provides detailed protocols to help you get started with husbandry, breeding, field work, lab work, spatial transcriptomics, and more, through our protocols page:
Our goal is to facilitate adoption of this useful research model organism, both by supplying animals (or tissues), and advice to ease the transition.
Why have a stock center? A number of reasons motivated us to start this initiative.
First, stickleback are highly seasonal animals that breed in mid-spring (depending on where you go). If you want embryos another time of year, you are out of luck. By offering a stock center we hope to provide a year-round source of samples.
Second, field work is expensive and time-consuming. You need flights, lodging, rental cars, permits, traps. You need to ship fish which can turn into a major hassle when crossing international borders. We typically do field work at just one location at a time (e.g., this summer I'll go to Vancouver Island for two weeks), which makes it hard to create crosses between geographically far-flung populations. A stock center provides a cost effective alternative, saving researchers time, expense, and reducing carbon footprints.
Third, when we study wild populations we are studying a moving target. For example, my lab has worked on Gosling Lake on Vancouver Island for 20 years now. During that time the population has seen a major evolutionary change leaving genome-wide alterations in allele frequencies, and large allele frequency change at the gene I care most about (spi1b). A stock center population may also evolve, adapting to culture enviroments in aquaria, but provides a stable genotype for future study. Moreover, multiple labs can readily study the sample genotypes facilitating collaboration and replication.
Fourth, we rarely have the option to work with populations that have genome sequences before we ever begin. The stock center plans to work primarily with populations where we already have some whole genome sequence data, or acquire some early on during culture. This allows us to offer our customers genotype-guided choices of populations to work with, an unusual opportunity for a wild vertebrate model system.
We hope the stock center grows and provides a sustained resource for stickleback researchers, current and future. If you are thinking of trying out stickleback research, get in touch! Only through sustained orders will we convince funding agencies that we have the capacity to become a self-sustaining program that can provide long-term support to the community.