This week my lab was a hub of activity! Julie and Erica returned, but so did the graduate student, Reyn. James frequented the lab, inquiring about design elements for Aaron Galloway's new lab. And for our non-human lab occupants, the crabs were all shuffled around and reclassified; the isopods each ran through the y-maze three times.
Because the isopods ran through the maze, I now have data I was able to analyze. Since I have 33 isopods, I had to record 99 videos. That means I had to watch 99 videos, many twice. Most of my videos only required one viewing, making that part of the analysis process much faster than I was anticipating. Watching the videos was not a super exiting activity, though. It was exciting to complete my olfactory tests and I am ready to complete my visual tests, even though that means watching 99+ more videos.
I was hoping to be finished collecting some visual data this week, but the setbacks in my y-maze construction have pushed all my data collection farther than I had hoped. With the timeline of the REU program, I may plan on only performing various seaweed-inclusive visual tests, so that I will have complete data for my poster.
Next week, my dad, brother, and best friend are coming to visit me. They will miss my poster presentation, but they will get the chance to see my public outreach session at the Charleston Marine Life Center. I am excited to share my work with others!
This week was a long week. Both Erica and Julie were out for the entire week, so I had the entire lab to myself. Half of my mornings were spent testing water. I stole water from the crab lab and used it in the spectrophotometer and Frank to calculate the water's pH and total alkalinity. I managed to get the entire process—setting up to cleaning up—down to one hour and twenty minutes.
In my other time, I have been preparing my isopod experiments and taking care of our hundreds of crabs. The crabs are fed every other day, but they constantly molt; twice a day I remove the molts and remains of the eaten, freshly-molted crabs. Since implementing a feeding schedule, I've noticed that the crabs have become slightly less cannibalistic, but they still reliably eat each other.
My isopods have been put in isolation. There are 33 containers housing an isopod. I have found no effective way to get water to every container, so I must replace the water every other day. Changing 33 buckets of water takes a surprisingly long time, but it's easier than hooking up 33 hoses. Most of the isopods are doing fine in their new homes—one keeps escaping from his bucket and out to the bucket holder.
As far as the testing goes, I haven't been able to gather any data because my y-maze broke. I popped one of the laminar flow tubes off the maze, but it wasn't a big issue. I have been working with one of the maintenance men, James, to engineer better buckets for my seaweed. To do this, we had to pop off the back of my tubes for bigger nozzles and drill a few holes in some plastic tubs. Once the glue and sealant are dry, I can collect olfactory data.
Next week I will have my olfactory data and will start collecting visual data.
This week was a week full of exploration and learning. I was able to learn about several machines, processes, and software applications. It was a largely mild week, but an incredibly useful week.
Since we have so many crabs in the lab, we all had to do some research on Dungeness crab husbandry. Dungeness crabs are cannibalistic, but we need lots of crabs for our ocean acidification experiments and can't have them eat each other; Julie had some clam meat we could feed them, and we were given dried fish guts to make food pellets out of. We have yet to make the pellets, but the crabs love the clam meat. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop them from eating each other. After the crabs molt, they are super soft and squishy, and are an easy meal. Erica created a feeding and observation schedule to reduce their cannibalism as much as we can.
Aside from learning how vicious crabs can be, I learned more about how the automatic titrator and spectrophotometer work. The titrator—named Frank--has fancy, expensive software that it speaks to. From the software, we get all kinds of super precise measurements that we use to calculate the water's total alkalinity using a pre-made Excel file. The spectrophotometer is much less fancy but isn't less useful. By adding dye to our water sample, the spectrophotometer can help us calculate the pH of the water, based on how much light is able to pass through the sample. I've been told that I will have to use both machines extensively, so I am glad I have had this time to play around with random samples.
For my experiment, I have finally completed the scent-based setup of it; my laminar flow tube produces a laminar stream of water and my maze is leak-proof. I have all my isopods sitting in the halfway house, preparing for isolation. I need to solve some physics issues I have with my visual setups, but I can reliably test the isopods' olfaction next week.
Hopefully next week I can put some pictures of my experiment at work in my blog!
After being in Pennsylvania for a weekend, it was refreshing to go back to the Oregon coast. It was so hot and muggy on the east coast, so the clouds and wind were greatly appreciated. I visited my family and celebrated my sister's 5th birthday and my grandmother's 70th birthday.
It was nice to finally meet Erica; she's very nice and knowledgeable. So far, I have worked on using the spectrophotometer with her and tried to collect juvenile Dungeness crabs. Sadly, there weren't any crabs in the trap when we looked; we found one green crab, one fish, and one adult Dungeness crab. Mike Thomas, a graduate student in Alan Shanks' lab, sets up the traps and gave us around 300 juveniles that he trapped. Erica spent one morning sorting all the juveniles into separate size classes.
We had the day off for the 4th of July, which was nice, though I had just had four days off. The OIMB hosted a picnic at the beach to celebrate. The food was delicious and we all had fun hanging out, even though it was cloudy and sprinkling. That night I went out with a few others to watch the fireworks on the Coos Bay Boardwalk; it was a nice show, and people were lighting their own fireworks on the train tracks behind the boardwalk.
On Friday, my lab and Mike performed a beach seine. Our goal was to collect more Dungeness crabs for our lab and to experience some field work. The seine is a 100-foot-long net that we dragged into the water; we had to wear waders to do that.
I finally built a functional y-maze, but I am still working on building laminar flow tube to ensure water is coming into the maze evenly on both sides. I will have isopods and crabs wandering the corridor of my maze next week.
Time is flying! It's already the end of the second week of the program. The crab lab is almost ready for our Dungeness crabs (Metacarcinus magister). There are a few more programming issues that need to be resolved; after that, we can run the system, troubleshoot, and start the experiment. When the crabs are ready, we will be able to create three more of the exact same set-up. We will be able to have 96 crabs with four mixing tanks.
In the meantime, I have been sorting out what I want to do with my isopods (Pentidotea wosnesinkii). I was able to share my current ideas and receive helpful tips and considerations from my peers and program coordinators. I plan on monitoring the isopods' behaviors in relation to certain colors, but I also need to prove whether they are consciously choosing their location. As of right now, I have 4 different tests planned, but I may need more to fully understand their behavior. I have a few pet isopods in the lab that I play with to help me design my experiment.
I have been working with another REU Intern, Chris Carlson, to construct a Y-maze that can test isopod and green crab behaviors. Chris is also considering using our crab lab for his green crab experiment; it's been interesting designing extremely versatile equipment for both of us. Our crab containers have removable dividers to accommodate the size of green crabs and unsecured PVC tunnels for the crabs to hide in but can be taken out as necessary.
This week was largely exploratory and detail-oriented, aimed at finalizing preparations for our experiments. Next week I get to meet my lab partner, Erica, and test our apparatuses. I am hoping that everything works without any issues. I have a strong feeling that my preliminary y-maze will need some tweaking, but not a reworking.