Showing posts from April, 2019

Tube city

Inside ESL. This place is Tube City! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I'd like to introduce you to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's Environmental Systems Laboratory. This building, located just a few hundred feet from the beach on the south shore of Cape Cod, is home to numerous experiments maintained by WHOI scientists, all the plumbing they require, and the dull roar you would expect from an uninsulated wooden building full of running seawater lines. I'm using the ESL facilities for an experiment using the slipper limpet, Crepidula fornicata , and in short, I will be spending a lot of time here this summer. Crepidula females in one of my experimental treatments. I set up my experiment in one corner of ESL, on a metallic rack with two seawater tables (in the foreground of the photo above). Thankfully, a technician was able to set up the rack and the seawater lines for me. My experimental design involves keeping female Crepidula fornicata at two d

Little Harbor

I was calf-deep in water, wearing jeans and thick rubber boots. The sunlight draped over my shoulders and reflected back up at my face from the shimmering surface below. To my left and to my right, I could see the faint black shadows of land surrounding Buzzards Bay, but in front of me was only the sea. It started out clear near my feet, then took the color of the sand in front of me, and finally deepened in shades of blue toward the horizon. I waded through the water, careful not to splash over the top of my boots. Beside me, I half-dragged, half-carried a 5-gallon bucket on the surface of the water. The mess of green algae in the bottom was already home to ~150 limpets, my catch for the day. Not a bad day at work!    My trip to the idyllic sand flat known as Little Harbor was motivated by a singular need for Crepidula fornicata . The little slipper limpet is common in New England and a great model species for experiments. I'm starting a new study now that it's spring

Biology megablaster

Scientists love acronyms. Every project, every technique, every fancy new invention needs a good acronym. In fact, I once saw a presentation by a fellow researcher who openly admitted that she had named her project what she did just to have a cool acronym for it. Today, I got to use a technique with one of the most powerful-sounding acronyms in all of science: BLAST. It stands for "Basic Local Alignment Search Tool," and it's used for matching DNA sequences. You enter your sequence into the website's search bar, select your parameters, and compare it to sequences in a database called GenBank. (I know, it's anti-climatic, but if it makes you feel any better, one of the parameter options is called "megablast.") This story is going to sound a lot more exciting if I add "blast" sounds to each sentence. Here we go: I sat down at my laptop with the DNA sequences from coral larvae and spat  I had collected with Hanny in Palau (blast!). I copied

Banana test

"We shall conquer the larvae. They may be small but shall not escape!" - an email from Hanny Alright, friends, so I got all the DNA that Hanny and I collected from young corals in Palau  sent off for sequencing . However, there are still a few samples left. In addition to tissue chips we collected from coral colonies (the DNA I just sent off), we had collected a  few coral larvae and young settlers called  spat . A coral spat on a terra cotta panel. The scale bar is in the bottom left, and as you can see, this settler is < 1 mm across. We don't have enough larvae and spat for a population-level genetic analysis, but we still want to get as much information as we can from the samples. By extracting the DNA from our larvae and spat, Hanny and I can identify them and see what species are dispersing and settling at each of our study sites. But that's just the thing - extracting DNA from larvae and spat is hard . There's so little tissue in a single indivi