Showing posts from August, 2022

That smooth curve

"Oh, it's beautiful!" I exclaimed, "look at that smooth curve!"  Beside me, Kharis was just as excited - although not quite as vocal. I pointed at the screen with both hands. A smooth fluorescence curve on the graph indicated that our sample contained DNA. "That means it worked!"  "No, yeah, I get it," Kharis nodded. "Cool." We were upstairs in a colleague's lab, using a fluorometer to measure the concentration and purity of DNA in some samples. Some of you might remember that I've struggled for a few years with methods for extracting DNA from larvae . The problem is that larvae are so small, a single individual doesn't have a lot of DNA. Any of the tried-and-true extraction methods I use for larger organisms don't really work well for larvae because they include wash steps. Of course, washing a sample is meant to carry away everything except the DNA, but a little bit inevitably gets lost with each step. When there


The Meyer-Kaiser lab, summer 2022: Kimberly, Kharis, Kirstin, and Kraken If I had to describe Kimberly in one word, it would be "persistent." Her determination to meet a goal honestly blows my mind. When I said something along those lines to Kimberly's mom today, she got this knowing look in her eyes that only mothers have and nodded, "Yep, that's who Kimberly is."  Kimberly joined my lab this summer through WHOI's internship program, and what a summer it has been. Her project was to analyze images from the Arctic seafloor and track changes in the invertebrate community over time. The project should have been straightforward - count some animals, do some statistics, learn about the Arctic. Or so I thought.  When a medical event forced Kimberly off campus, I honestly thought she would not come back. I even moved her research from my list of "projects underway" back to "future projects" on the whiteboard in my office. But Kimberly persi

The American Blue Economy

A few weeks ago, I was invited by Admiral Tim Gallaudet to participate as a guest on The American Blue Economy Podcast , which he hosts. If you're not familiar with the concept of the Blue Economy, it refers collectively to activities in the ocean or other major bodies of water like the Great Lakes, which support economic growth, improve livelihoods, and sustain the health of aquatic ecosystems. Admiral Gallaudet has spent his career in the Blue Economy, first as Oceanographer of the Navy, then as acting director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He regularly writes op-ed articles with well-informed and articulate positions on the importance of the ocean for the American economy and national defense . It was an incredible honor to be invited on his podcast, and now that the episode has been finalized, I'm excited to share it with you.  The episode I participated in was part of a sub-series called "Women Wavemakers," which highlights the r

Bench work.

 Believe it or not, I love bench work. That term refers to all the tasks that must be completed at a lab bench - microscopy, molecular biology, measuring concentrations, weighing things, and the list goes on. The past few weeks, I've been standing at my lab bench at least half the day to extract DNA from Porites lobata . PLOB (with a clam in the foreground). Photo by Kharis Schrage. You remember Porites , friends. It's the coral species that my team is  working on in Palau . Matthew, who spent the past several years working on a whole range of species in the Caribbean, uses four-letter abbreviations to refer to species: one letter for the genus and three letters for the species. So Porites lobata becomes PLOB. And you know what, a "plob" is kind of what Porites looks like. I've gotten pretty good at extracting DNA from Porites lobata the past few years. My collaborator, Sarah, calls my methodology "clutch" because the DNA comes out so clean. It's

The nuptial dance of the nereids

Invertebrates are awesome. In fact, if there was a "moral to the story" for this blog, that could very well be it. Today, I want to share a tale of some particularly awesome invertebrates. Their name is Nereis succinea . Nereid worms, for those of you who have not met them before, are wriggly little beasts. They're polychaetes, which means they're worms with myriad fringes down both sides of their bodies. They typically live in marine sediments and eat whatever they can get their jaws on. Those jaws, by the way, are freaking awesome. When a nereid eats, it everts its pharynx - in other words, it turns its throat inside-out. That pharynx can be surprisingly long, and it is armed with pinching jaws made from protein. I've held a nereid in my hand while it tried to bite me before - trust me, that experience was highly unnerving.  A hopeful Nereis succinea bachelor in my lab. Nereids also have fascinating reproduction, and that is what brought a researcher all the wa