“unknown crystal structures” will be referred to as disco balls from here on out
Since last we met:
I have been raising lots of chiton larvae. It is very rewarding to watch the larvae grow and develop, and acquire characteristics in a predictable and orderly fashion. Each time I raise a batch, I get a little bit better at it, in terms of keeping them alive and happy (?), and in terms of diligently keeping notes. It’s cool to read about this stuff, but it’s even cooler when you learn from your own experience ….that a day and a half after fertilization a tiny spherical bundle will hatch from the egg and swim around, the body will elongate, develop eyespots, girdle spicules, disco balls, and a foot. After about a week, it will stop swimming, settle onto a hard surface and transform into a bottom dwelling animal that crawls around.
I’ve been trying to get myself organized this week in terms of planning and preparing for the experiments I want to do on my larvae.
The very first question I hope to be able to answer is: What are the crystals made out of? So far we have come up with two procedures to investigate this: soaking larvae in Calcein and then viewing them using florescence microscopy, and performing the murexide test on extracted crystals.
Calcein is a substance that can be used to “tag” calcium inside an organism. If you soak animals in Calcein while they are forming structures that contain calcium, the dye gets incorporated into them and can be detected using florescence microscopy. I soaked my larvae in various concentrations of Calcein during the time I knew the structures were forming, and compared these treatments to a control. My findings are complicated by the fact that the disco balls exhibit autofluorescence. This means they glow brightly under the microscope whether they are treated with Calcein or not. This is a prime example of why controls are important! I have to process the images I took of the treatments and controls to see if there is any difference in the glowing with and without the treatment.
I also want to do a uric acid test on the crystals. There is a procedure called the murexide test that can be used for this (thank you gout). We are hoping to be able to suck the disco balls out of the animals and test the crystals. We have uric acid in the lab, so I am going to do a test with known uric acid to make sure the procedure works, and to see what a positive result looks like. We also have to get the crystals out… but we’ll talk about that next week.
Hi readers! My name is Christina Ellison and I am a Marine Biology major in my senior year at the University of Oregon. I was born in southern California, raised in Utah, and have lived, worked, and studied in Salt Lake City, Ojai, New York City and Eugene. I am also a painter, and sometimes a writer and a dancer. Whatever else I may be, I try to be a liver first. I strive to foster a sense of connectedness to the world around me, and to open myself to the wonder that is life, and death, and change, and beauty in all its many forms. I am fascinated by marine life and processes, and by living things in general. I can become interested in most things if given enough background, and as I develop my own understanding and find a way to put myself to work. My work as a student has inspired a deep appreciation for both the diversity and unity of living things, and for the scientific process. I am not only a student to the facts, but to the process by which we come to regard them as such. I think the scientific process is the pure spirit of curiosity with the moral responsibility and the discipline not to get attached to any theory or outcome, or in any case, not to let our hopes, or our biases, interfere with the conclusions we draw from honest work. Ultimately, it is the process that facilitates our understanding of, and thus our relationship to, the world around us. My interests in marine biology remain very broad. I am interested in ecology and organismal biology. I like learning about how bodies work, how they interface with their environments, and how interactions between individuals scale up to inform community structure. I have also recently become interested in the life history of marine organisms.