Research Opportunities in my Lab

My lab examines learning and behavior in earthworms. Past research suggests that they are capable of both Pavlovian and instrumental learning; with the help of some dedicated students I am currently studying instrumental behavior (escape and avoidance).  Pavlovian learning will come eventually.

Most recently I’ve been developing shuttle boxes for the earthworms, here seen end-on in a temperature-controlled chamber.

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In the past we used locomotor responses in a running wheel as our behavioral measure:

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(24 hrs in 1 min – Lumbricus terrestris)

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(6 hrs of video collapsed into 1 min – Eisenia hortensis)

(Earthworms respond to light)

Our paper on escape and avoidance behavior in Eisenia hortensis is available here:

Paper describing the earthworm running wheel is here:

Paper on using earthworms for measuring speed of action potential is here:

Selected posters can be viewed here:

  • Earthworms in behavioral neuroscience (SfN 2010)
  • Automated detection of movement and location (Pavlovian 2012)
  • The Annelidometer: Automated monitoring of an earthworm’s position and movement (SfN 2012)
  • Running Wheel Escape Learning in the Earthworm (Pavlovian 2013)
  • MK-801 effect on escape behavior (Pavlovian 2014)
  • Earthworm running wheel (SfN 2015)

I’m also beginning to examine tardigrades. Here are some videos of these fascinating animals:

Current students:

  • Haley McQuown
  • Alexandra (Kiwi) Balcoff
  • Hunter Penrod
  • Kaitlyn Darling
  • Victoria Art


  • Griselda IƱiguez
  • Marlo Scholten
  • Bailee McGraw
  • Molly Bentley
  • Samantha Ely
  • Kate Sears
  • Brandon Johnson
  • Megan Wickens
  • Ashley Glenn
  • Emily Morlock
  • Holly Paxton
  • Melissa Baguzis
  • Elizabeth Renaud
  • Nicole Ferrara
  • Amanda Blaker
  • Charisa Giddings
  • Cindy Fast
  • Megan Anderson
  • David Goodyear
  • Christina Busuito
  • Amber Chenoweth
  • Heaher Linz
  • Melanie King
  • Julia Ogg

I spent many years studying emotional and learned behavior in rats, resulting in many papers and presentations that can be seen on my vita.


Students who are interested in gaining research experience and might want to work with earthworms should contact me.  To be seriously considered as a research partner, you should have completed PSY 101, BIO 195, and PSY/NEUR 241 (or at least one other Psychology Course from our List 2).  If you are planning to attend graduate school in neuroscience, animal learning, or a related field, have good grades, and can provide a strong recommendation from another faculty member (if I do not know you well), you will receive first consideration.  Space is limited.

Other Links to this Post

  1. Jeff Wilson » Earthworm Neurophysiology in the Works — December 10, 2010 @ 12:49 am

  2. Jeff Wilson » Recording Earthworm Movement — January 16, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

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