I fall deeper and deeper in love with this place and these people each week. Some of the highlights of week 5 were beach hoping and camping over the weekend, finding black turban snails (Tegula funebralis) and thinking they were some of the most beautiful snails I’d ever seen, and expanding the methods for my research.
Over the weekend I drove north of Charleston to the John Dellenback Sand Dunes, which were absolutely gorgeous. We hiked a few miles across the dunes to a secluded beach, where pieces of sand dollars were strewn for at least a mile, and where the sandy beach went so far left and right that I couldn’t see the ends. I also drove an hour and a half south of Charleston and stopped at countless beaches along the way. Again I was in awe with the diversity of the shores as well as the vibrantly colored wild flowers.
At one of the beaches I explored, I observed the assistance of black turban snails in “helping” one another flip back over if they were upside down. When I showed the video of what I saw to the other interns they all were shocked and ecstatic to see that these snails might be intentionally helping one another. This could be a coincidence or it could be altruistic.
In attempting my planned methods for my research; creating agar pellets and using MgCl to knock out the opalescent nudibranchs. I quickly realized that many experimental designs don’t go as planned. Ideally the agar pellets are going to test for chemical presences in the nudibranchs. By offering the juvenile crabs opalescent based pellets, I hope to see a trend in the consumption or lack of consumption of the pellets.
The second method i had planned to use was anesthetizing opalescent nudibranchs by placing them in diluted MgCl solution. Ideally this anesthetic would inhibit the nudibranchs use of muscles, and therefore the firing of stinging cells contained within their cerata. Anesthetizing has proved to be more difficult that I originally had thought since these delicate soft bodied animals seem to fall apart at the touch of a spoon when soaked in diluted MgCl.
Both of these methods are a work in progress, and a lot of fun to explore! Dr. Craig Young, OIMB Director and REU mentor, lent me a mortar and pestle which will help me with making my opalescent food pellets. He has offered his tools and interns (Kaitlyn B. and Nicole W.) to teach me the process of histology. I’m really looking forward to learning this new skill and taking a closer look at the cerata of Opalescent nudibranchs.
I had many conversations this week with mentors and peers that have opened up my mind to the many options I have to explore and better grasp how Opalescent nudibranchs defend themselves from one possible predator being juvenile crabs. This week ended with a fascinating and inspiring Dissertation presentation by Nicole Moss. She defended her Masters thesis which explored regeneration in Pilidium larvae, which are extremely tiny and nearly transparent babies of the ribbon worm Maculaura alaskensis. As daunting as the weekly seminars and periodic dissertations are, I leave feeling empowered and excited to be delving into the study of marine biology.
Many people will say that the best way to learn a new language is to immerse yourself into a community where that language is spoken. I’ve been at OIMB less than a week and already the amount of ideas, techniques, and information I’ve absorbed has exceeded my expectations, as though I am learning a new language to better grasp and comprehend science.