It’s been a wild ride! Nine weeks have come and gone, and the experience has been life changing! The last week was still just as exciting as the first week. Now, it’s time for the final recap of my time here.
Monday was all about finishing any potential data collection I can get. By Monday morning at 9am, the posters were finalized, and they were printed out that day. Having my hard work and care be synthesized onto one poster was amazing, and I was proud of it! So most of Monday was all about finishing any potential data collection - my final plankton tow. I enjoyed looking out into the bay one last time, watching the beautiful coastal Oregonian fog roll by. Luckily, I did not run into the sea lions again, although I will miss them. Again, I found little to no cyprids to speak of, but I still filled my time preparing for the big poster session.
Tuesday continued the pattern that Monday set up. I was rereading all the papers I have accumulated over the summer, so that I could be as informed and educated as possible for Wednesday’s poster session. I also looked back on the calculations I’d done this summer to determine if there was any weird patterns or mistakes in my study, or in similar studies conducted by other labs. The day ended with our last professional development session, which was about our next steps after this internship! It was a fitting final presentation – searching for more experience and jobs. That night, before some of the other REU students had to travel back home, we all went out to dinner together to celebrate our time here. We went to eat some Thai food, swap stories, and discuss our plans for after this REU.
Wednesday was the big day! The morning was spent pouring over the math again and preparing the cafeteria for the symposium. As the hour approached, I could feel my nerves rise and bubble, but with the friendly encouragement of Richard, Nicole, and Tiffany, I found that my nerves were fizzling away. I tacked my poster onto the board, I dressed in my best clothes, and I presented my poster to the broader scientific community for two hours. The time flew by quickly! Many kinds of people saw my work, ranging from professors, to graduate students, to tourists and a county commissioner! By the end of the day, I was exhausted but proud of what I have accomplished. With the internship ending, I want to bring my poster, and my work, home with me to display at my desk in the museum!
Thursday was all about wrapping up. I discussed with Richard my plans for taking this project further, and I started to clean up the lab and my work space. I took down my poster and mailed it to my new apartment, and I cleaned out the fridge of any remaining dead specimens.
Friday was the final day. The morning was spent quietly cleaning up the rest of my lab space and then the rest of the day was spent in a long debriefing session. After the session, and packing my bags, I set out to Richard’s home, enjoying one last potluck before I go home.
It has been an honor working at OIMB. This experience has taught me so much, and the challenges, successes, and failures allowed me to grow as a person. I learned how to live and work in a place that was completely foreign to me, and I learned how to make mistakes. I learned a lot about science as a career path, about animals who live on the Oregonian coast, and what scientists are really like outside of the lab. I hope this blog series helped you learn a bit too! I would like to thank Richard Emlet for mentoring me this summer, Nicole Nakata for encouraging me, Maya Watts for guiding me, and my fellow REU students for supporting me. It’s been great, but for now, this is Savanna signing off.
This week went by fast! Time is running out before the big presentation day, and the week was mostly spent attempting to collect the last bits of data I wanted and perfecting my poster.
Monday was the start of the poster-making process. I had my data, and I knew what it said, but it was time to arrange all these ideas into one complete poster. I was given a basic template from the program, and it was up to me to write, design, and create the look of the poster from scratch. It was a fun process! Creating and designing a beautiful poster from scratch puts me into a Zen frame of mind. Other than trying to create my poster, I wanted to conduct another experiment while I was there. I wanted to see if the activity rates of my two species, Balanus glandula and Balanus crenatus, differed significantly. So, I tried to conduct a plankton tow for the day to collect my cyprid. Unfortunately, the surface water in the marina where I take my tows had an oily sheenl – perhaps from a boat bilge. Not wanting to give up, Richard and I hopped on a small boat and drove out into the bay, to do a tow away from the spill. It was a fun time, and even though I still did not get any cyprids, I drove a boat for the first time! I may have not done my experiment, but I did end up with a wonderful poster draft and a new, thrilling experience.
Tuesday was more of the same, with a twist! Tuesday was my birthday! Everyone in the REU program was extremely kind, especially my lab partner Tiffany, who gave me little presents throughout the day to celebrate. It was my first birthday without my triplet sisters, and everyone’s well wishes made what could have been a hard birthday immensely special. As for work that day, I continued my plans of trying to collect cyprids and work on my poster. That day, I ran into a special guest. While conducting my normal plankton tows out on the dock, I ran into a gang of sea lions. Now, being from Florida, the only aquatic mammals I’m familiar with are manatees and dolphins. So, seeing these large and impressive pinnipeds was a shock. It was even more shocking when the biggest male started to bark and yell at me aggressively. I couldn’t get around him to board the moored boat where I do my plankton tow! I tried using other docks, but they were populated by busy fishermen. Luckily, after a while, the marina officials scared the sea lions away, but even then, I could not find my cyprids. I am stuck in an eternal game of “where’s Walter”. The rest of my day was spent getting informative feedback on my poster, taking notes on where to improve.
After a celebratory birthday, on Wednesday, it was time to focus and work on editing my poster, taking all the advice I was given during the professional development session and incorporating it into my poster. The process was long, and it took up most of the day. But, by the end of the day, I had a draft I was proud of. I also had some time to do a few plankton tows, but out of all the tows conducted thus far, I only found a single cyprid, a solitary Balanus crenatus. Sometimes the tides are just like that. Nature can be unpredictable, and if you don’t plan for it carefully, you’ll be left creature-less, like me. That is, perhaps, my most valuable lesson coming out of my REU experience.
Thursday was more of the same. I was given some helpful feedback from Richard, and I was finally starting to pull my research together. The poster was starting to look great! It looked clean, professional, and even beautiful. It is the cumulation of this summer’s hard work into one neat package. I’ve learned a lot, and all my observations and discoveries were on one page. The specific gravities between the two species studied were not significantly different. Swimming speeds do not correlate to the specific gravities, the sinking rates of the two species did not differ, and B. glandula appears to prefer the top third of a water column compared to B. crenatus.
Friday is where all my work on the poster wraps up. I make my final edits, try to conduct another tow, and make sure everything is presentable for the next Wednesday, where I will present my poster to the scientific community. I’m nervous, but ready to show all my hard work!
This past week has certainly been interesting. The time was spent finishing up the last of my experiments and then synthesizing all my data into a fun museum exhibit, and an impressive poster. Along the way I learned quite a bit. For instance, behavioral studies are hard, and any scientist who can create a behavioral study is genius. Additionally, I learned that there is a lot of thought that goes into creating a great exhibit that communicates ideas efficiently to an audience.
Monday was all about problem solving the last experiment I was trying out. My last experiment involved watching cyprids under different wavelengths, or color, of light to determine if these animals behaved differently under each color of light. As it turns out, behavioral studies are difficult! Animals are complex creatures, and even seemingly simple animals like barnacle cyprids can be influenced by different environmental cues. My colored light set up was identical to my white light experiments. I had a tall rectangular tank sit under an iridescent lamp. The major change, however, is the use of different filters to create different colors of light. I used blue, green, yellow, and red light to see if the behavior in B. glandula changed compared to white light. The original plan had me study color response in both B. glandula and B. crenatus, but the week’s tides did not bring enough B. crenatus to make any statistically viable observations. So, I stuck to B. glandula!
Tuesday came around. The idea was simple. I would “throw a party” for my B. glandula. I would let one cyprid into the tall tank and watched them swim in the column under colored light for a minute. After that minute, I would mark where the cyprids were, much like my original white light study. However, some logistical issues arrived. I wanted to compare how one cyprid reacted under each light cue, but once that same cyprid was exposed to the 5th color, that cyprid will become so fatigued. It would be hard to determine if the cyprid was reacting to the color, or to its own low energy reserves. To add to the troubles, It was becoming harder and harder to watch the cyprids under the colored light. I was going blind! Never the less, I decided to forgo that aspect of my study to focus on writing and discussing my previous findings.
Wednesday was quite the day! It was a day devoted to a different type of creativity. After a fascinating professional development session at the Charleston Marine Life Center, I set to work creating a temporary exhibit to display for the public on Thursday. I live for this type of job. I love talking to people about science, and any chance to help inspire the next generation of scientists is a chance I want to take. I spent the morning drafting and creating my exhibit, excitingly drawing pictures, writing guides, and practicing my speech. I wanted to challenge visitors to find my cyprids within the tank and think critically on why they are finding these specimens in specific tank locations. I also wanted to give a general look into the life cycles of barnacles and what makes cyprid larvae so cool!
Thursday was an exciting day dedicated to working at the museum, explaining my research to visitors. I spent all morning preparing the exhibit, making sure that there were no typos in my information cards, my cyprids were alive and active, and all my equipment was up and running. In between set up times and presenting, I would sneak back to the lab and work on starting my poster and creating graphs of the data I collected, but eventually, it was time to present my research. The three hours went by so quickly, and it was so nice to talk about my project to the public. I worked very hard on my experiment, and seeing the public become fascinated with my little larvae was very rewarding.
On Friday we took a tour around the University of Oregon campus. It was a lovely tour conducted by OIMB’s own Sutherland. She was an excellent guide and showed the university’s biology department. I was amazed at the university’s immense funding! I thought that my home institution, the University of Florida, was well funded, but this blew UF out of the water! After our tour of the facilities, we spent a few hours at the local natural history museum. It was a small museum, and it lacked a lot of invertebrate zoology exhibits, but the exhibits they did have on display were amazing! My favorite exhibit demonstrated coevolution by showing the evolution of wolves and horses over time. It was fascinating to see so many different types of canids.
There’s only a few more weeks left here at OIMB, and its crunch time. I’m excited to start perfecting my poster and bundle my experience into one final project. Onwards to week eight!
Another week passed, and it’s been an exciting time! This week was very exploratory again and I learned a lot about trial-and-error and designing a new experiment from scratch. By the end of this week, I had set another experiment into motion, and I’m already collecting new data!
Before the week began, we had another field trip! On Saturday, we drove two and a half hours north to Newport to tour the Hatfield Marine Science Center and walk around the Oregon Coast Aquarium. The tour around Hatfield was great, if a bit short. The campus was huge! Far bigger than the quaint OIMB. However, I’ve noticed that there are tradeoffs involved with Hatfield. The campus may have more resources and better technology, but they must trade off a degree of freedom by getting more oversight from the university they are attached to, Oregon State University. OIMB may be smaller, but we have a lot of independence on this campus, which I like. Additionally, from what I can tell, the sense of community is much stronger at OIMB. I prefer campuses like this, especially being so far away from home! After Hatfield, it was time to roll on out to the Aquarium.
The Aquarium visit was short, but extremely fun! I saw so many animals that were native to the area. I saw jellyfish, seals, sea lions, and quite a few fish! All of them were so amazing in their own ways.
After that fun weekend, it was time to go back to work! Monday was all about observation. I collected some fresh cyprids from the ocean and I watched them swim in a tall tank. This was like what I have done in the first few weeks, but I added a new method. I had read a paper published in 1928 that describes how cyprids respond to light cues. Going off that paper, I devised a method to get cyprids of B. glandula and B. crenatus to swim. I sat the cyprids in the tank in total darkness for 20 seconds, then exposed them to light for a minute. After a minute, cyprids should start to swim towards the light. After my observations, I’ve noticed some interesting patterns. Cyprids of B. glandula tend to swim straight up towards the light and keep swimming until they hit the surface. Then the cyprids would hover around the uppermost region. Meanwhile, B. crenatus would mostly remain on the floor of the tank, rarely swimming upwards. Occasionally, some individuals of B. crenatus will swim up the water column, but they rarely get to the same heights as B. glandula.
Tuesday was all about turning these qualitative observations into quantitative data. My goal is to show, with numerical data, that the two cyprids exhibited different behaviors. I tossed around a few ideas on doing this. My original idea was to time how active a cyprid was in a minute of light exposure. Then, I would compare the proportion of time spent active between the two species. However, a logistical flaw came up with that idea; what is “active” behavior, and are the two species truly that different in activity? B. crenatus can be active, but they don’t necessarily move to any new place. B. glandula is very active, but they use that active energy to travel up the water column.
A new idea was to measure the location of the cyprid in a vertical water column after a minute. I have already seen, visually, that cyprids of B. glandula tend to gravitate towards the top of the water column and cyprids of B. crenatus tend to stay on the bottom. If I can section off the tall container into thirds, then I can score the areas of the container and create numerical data from their visual location. For instance, if a cyprid of B. crenatus was on the very bottom of the tank, touching the floor, then they get a “score” of 0. If a cyprid was hovering in the bottom third of the tank, they get a 1, if they hover in the middle, they get a 2, and if they hover in the top third of the water column, they get a 3. With this new plan in mind, I spent the rest of the day that Tuesday preparing a black bottom for the large container, just in case the cyprids are seeing a mirror that is being produced in the tank.
Wednesday was all about refining my methods. After a few attempts at looking at cyprids in a large tank, it quickly became apparent that it was going to be hard to see my cyprids swim. To rectify this, Richard and I decided to shrink the tank size down. To create better data, we decided to place pairs of cyprids into the smaller container, one B. glandula and one B. crenatus, to lessen the amount of visual chaos and to better link the data between the two species.
Thursday was a successful day. I went in to test my cyprid swimming behavior. I collected 10 cyprids of B. glandula and 10 cyprids of B. crenatus and paired the species up, so that each pair contained one of each species. Then, I placed the pair inside the tall water aquarium that was divided up into 3 vertical sections. Once in the tank, I had the pair become used to the dark for 20 seconds. At the end of those 20 seconds, I turned the light back on and exposed them to light for a minute. At the end of that minute, I marked where each member of the pair was. By the end of my 10 trials, I found that B. glandula overwhelmingly preferred to stay in the upper third of the water column, while B. crenatus tend to stay on the floor or the lower third of the column.
Now, I am changing my focus to see how the cyprids of the two species change their behavior in response to different colors of light. Next week looks fun, as I get to throw a rave for my cyprids!
Another week has gone by and it’s been hard work. This week was filled with problems and problem solving. My cyprids wouldn’t swim, the math couldn’t be worked out, and excel spreadsheets were looking chaotic. Admittedly, this week was rather frustrating, but that’s all a part of science. After all, creative problem solving is a vital skill in the sciences, and this week gave me plenty of practice. The thing is, even when you have a hard week full of “failures”, you still learn a great deal from those failures, and discover fun things along the way.
Before the week began, Richard noticed that there was a flaw in the equation we were originally using to determine the density of a cyprid. In the original equation, we assumed that a cyprid’s depth was equal to the cyprid’s width, and we found a long, complex equation that was created based on that assumption. Then, Richard discovered a paper published in 2014 that showed that the cyprid’s width was, in fact, much smaller than their depth. Our assumption appeared to be flawed. So, this started a long trial of trying to find the right formula to get the most accurate density. A wild goose chase of nerdy proportions.
I started the algebraic journey by remeasuring my cyprids. I had to carefully roll each specimen onto its belly to take an actual measurement of its width. Then, I spent the rest of the day finishing up my preliminary sinking and swimming trials for my B. glandula cyprids. Monday was all about measuring, brainstorming, and rocking my little cyprids.
Tuesday is where the real trials started. With all the raw data in front of me, Richard and I had to figure out the new mathematical equation to use. I decided to go right at the source. I reread the paper that pointed out the flaw in our previous assumption and method, and I tried calculating density using their mathematical formula, which was a modified version of the Stokes’ equation. The Stokes’ equation is an equation that helps describe motion in highly viscous fluids. Think honey when you think of a very viscous fluid. I spent that day mostly inputting the data, calculating the new densities of my cyprids. As it turns out, there is a 10-point difference between the excess densities calculated with the old and the new method and this accounts for about 25% of their weight in water. I spent the rest of the day working on that spreadsheet, and then taking some breaks to work on my poster. I find that taking breaks from left-brain activities, such as figuring out math, to do more right brain activities, like organizing and designing an awesome poster, keeps me focused and prevents frustration.
Then, Wednesday rolled around. I was ready to move on to conducting more trials with my other study species, B. crenatus. As it turns out, B. crenatus are a lot harder to work with than B. glandula. The first issue is with collecting my specimens. B. glandula are very common in plankton tows, and they’re relatively easy to spot and identify due to their characteristic golden color. B. crenatus are a bit less common, and their translucent coloration makes them hard to immediately spot. At least they have a large red compound eye that helps me spot them. I conducted a plankton tow on Wednesday and I could not find any B. crenatus. In the meanwhile, I continued working on my poster and organizing my data.
Thursday is where everything complicated even more! Richard generously conducted a plankton tow early in the morning, so we may find some more test subjects, and we were able to find cyprids of B. crenatus. Invigorated, I conducted my swimming trials, only to find that all but two of my cyprids refused to swim. At best, a cyprid of B. crenatus will swim in a loop, but not at a great enough distance to allow me to measure their speed like B. glandula. I could at least measure sinking rates for B. glandula. Their “laziness” does appear to support one of my hypotheses about the difference between swimming activity between the two species.
After measuring sinking rates and body size in my B. crenatus cyprids, it was time to wade back into the mathematical jungle once more. This time, Richard and I realized that the 2014 paper failed to take the orientation of the sinking cyprid into account, which could affect density calculations. Our current solution is to take the average of depth and width of each cyprid and place that average into the old equation. Now the plan is to rework the data into this new method and see where my experiment goes from there. As for my “lazy” cyprids, I am looking far back into the literature, with a paper published in 1928 that describes the behavior of cyprids under various forms of light. Hopefully there I can find insights that will inspire my cyprids to finally swim. If after all that effort, if my B. crenatus cyprids still won’t swim, then that can still tell me something important, that B. crenatus are far less active than B. glandula.
It’s been a long week, but with enough determination and cleverness, I am optimistic about the rest of my time here!
Another cold week has passed, and my project has made numerous leaps and bounds since last week. The weekend was uneventful, no field trips to embark on! I took the weekend to relax and read a bit more literature on cyprids. During the week, I cemented my project plans and methods of action. Additionally, this week was all about learning how to present ideas properly as a scientist.
On Monday, I spent most of my day writing and improving my proposal. Richard and I discussed how I should continue with my project idea of studying buoyancy in cyprids, but frame it around answering a question, or a proposed explanation, that was raised in a study conducted by Richard Grosberg in 1982. There, he found that cyprids of Balanus glandula were found higher up in the water column compared to those of Balanus crenatus. He suggested that these differences in distribution might be caused by greater buoyancy in B. glandula or higher sinking rates in B. crenatus. He also suggested that B. glandula simply may be more active swimmers than B. crenatus, which could explain their placement in the water column.
My project address these points – buoyancy and swimming activity. Using a tank with very stable seawater (temperature-regulated water column set to around 54 degrees F), I will time how fast they sink. I will also time active cyprids to see how fast they swim. Then I will also observe cyprids and quantify how active they are. My project requires a lot of patience and focus, but with a steady hand, and a whole lot of coffee, I think I can do it! The rest of the day on Monday was spent setting up my special tank, so that the sinking cyprids won’t get any extra help or hindrance from convection currents.
My cyprid sink and swim tank! The outer tank, covered with insulating Styrofoam, keeps the internal cylindrical tank at a temperature of 54 degrees F. This is so that convection currents do not form in the cylindrical tank. The light at the top of the tank encourages active cyprids to swim and allows me to see my specimens.
On Tuesday, I collected fresh specimens of my two cyprid species with a plankton tow. I got a bunch of B. glandula, but B. crenatus was much less common. I practiced my proposed methods. I dropped a few individuals of B. glandula into my tank and watched them sink down, using my phone’s stopwatch app to measure the time it takes for them to sink two centimeters. I took two successive measurements of them sinking down two centimeters. It was hard to get them to sink in a way that wasn’t aided by the push of my pipette, but after some practice, I could gently drip them into my chamber and measure their descent.
On Wednesday, I discovered some issues in my project. These mostly involved the swimming tests. My original project idea was to perform sink and swim tests on the same individual, so that I can compare the two categories. However, I am no Doctor Doolittle. I could not make individuals of B. glandula perform both behaviors. Some individuals will only sink, some individuals will only swim. If I had more time and patience, I could wait for that special individual that would sink and swim in a reasonable time span, but my time here is limited. I had to do the two tests on different individuals.
With that issue resolved, I turned my focus to sinking my B. glandula cyprids for the rest of the week. I tried setting up a camera with an excellent zoom lens to help monitor the action, but unfortunately the fog building up on the outer tank was too much. By the end of the day Wednesday, I was able to sink and photograph five members of B. glandula for analysis. By the end of the week, I should have 10 members sunk, and have enough data to start running some analysis on buoyancy, or in this case, specific gravity, on B. glandula.
Another week as come and gone here at OIMB, and a lot has happened since writing my post last Thursday. Over the past weekend, all the interns and Maya joined with the other biology interns working at University of Oregon (in Eugene) to go camping and tide pooling at nearby Sunset Bay Park. It has been a long time since I’ve done any camping, and I’ve never gone tide pooling on the west coast before, so both experiences were fresh and new to me! The night spent in the tent was thrilling and cold, but ultimately restful.
The next day, early in the morning, we left to go to Cape Arago for the tide pools. That trip was amazing! The morning was cold and dark. Even though I was armed with boots and a delicate sense of balance, I still almost fell on my rear while exploring the pools of water hidden within the rocks during low tide. Inside these hidden habitats were purple sea urchins, various species of hermit crabs, some porcelain crabs, various anemones, and even an extremely large chiton! A chiton is a type of primitive mollusk, and this large specimen was called the gumboot chiton, and it happens to be the largest chiton species in the world! During the tidepool walk, we trekked higher up the rocks to get a better look at barnacles, oysters, and urchin dugouts. The view and the animals were amazing. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live as an urchin among those rocks full time!
During my work week, I hit a major snag in my previous barnacle cyprid project. After discussing it with Richard, I realized that my project idea wasn’t as feasible as I initially thought. Conducting microscopic surgery on a miniscule part of an already tiny organism would be too hard for me to accomplish during my time here at OIMB, and my other methods of staining and filming that body part also fell through. However, Richard suggested that I watched my various cyprid species swim around in a tall swimming tank. These observations, as well as a lot of reading of previous literature, helped give me a new project idea that was still related to cyprid anatomy and locomotion. I want to study the connections between locomotion and buoyancy of the various barnacle cyprid species that occur this time of year. Where this project will go specifically is still up in the air, but a newer, more feasible project has been chosen.
This past Monday, to work towards my new project idea, I read quite a bit of research on cyprid swimming behavior and cyprid distribution along the American west coast. Then, on Tuesday, I spent the day collecting cyprids of Balanus glandula and Balanus crenatus and then sat in front of the tank and watched them swim.
B. glandula swam beautifully in the tank for me, but B. crenatus was a lot less active for me. B. glandula swam up towards the light that shined on the surface of the swimming tank, and they swam in a chugging motion up to the surface of the water column. A lot of their motion involves a brief burst of speed up the water column, followed by brief sinking motion, then another burst upwards. B. glandula touched the surface of the water but would almost never break through the boundary between air and water. They would then sink down towards the middle of the water column, repeating the motion again. For B. crenatus, it was much harder getting them to swim. They would either ride a convection current up the water column, sink down to the bottom of the container, or hover with a jump-sink motion in the middle of the water column. More work needs to be done to measure their swimming speed, sinking rates, and buoyancy and to observe their swimming behavior to understand their overall distribution in the water column.
Hello everyone! It’s been about a week since my last blog post, and a lot has happened. Over the weekend, Richard, our sea captain Knute, and Richard’s graduate students Nicole and MacKenna took all the REU students on a trip to dredge for sea creatures on the R/V Pluteus. We started our journey early in the morning and the ride was rough and nauseating for practically everyone on board. After some time, and a lot of fortitude, we were able to collect many different fascinating creatures! We collected some sea cucumbers and peanut worms, enough to start a big and slimy salad! We also found basket stars, various crab and shrimp species, and some cockles. The dredging was hard work, but ultimately an exciting experience! The ride back to shore was even more nauseating, but after some fresh air, and an even fresher slaps of seawater to the face, I managed to keep down my breakfast.
During my week in the lab, I had the main goal of practicing and perfecting my proposed methods of research, as well as prepare to write my proposal. At this time, I found that to study the functional morphology of the furcal rami, I needed to understand how to induce swimming behavior in my study cyprids. After doing some research using Eleanor Lamont’s master’s thesis, I learned that I can make cyprid larvae swim by manipulating light. Cyprids display positive phototaxis, which means that they have a behavioral tendency to swim towards sources of light. So, if I shine light upon my study animal, I can easily encourage them to swim for my observations.
Next, I wanted to see how feasible it is to remove the furcal rami and still have the organism live from the taxing surgery. I conducted trial-upon-trial and eventually I decided that I currently do not have the tools or skills needed to remove the tiny furcal rami from the animal. What I could do, however, is safely remove the setae from that area of the animal and revive it. It takes an extremely steady hand to conduct this microsurgery. Its going to take many more attempts to remove setae, followed by revivals, to determine the feasibility of this procedure. If I can continuously remove the setae from the animals, then I will film their swimming behaviors with a high-speed video camera. A standard microscope camera (30 frames/s) is not quick enough to resolve the extremely fast thoracic appendages and the furcal rami.
Finally, during my week in the lab, I attempted to study the musculature found within the caudal rami of the cyprid larva. The first try was simple. We removed the entire thorax from the organism and examined it on a microscope under polarized light. After a while of fiddling around with the settings, Richard and I saw some muscle bands leading from the thorax to the caudal rami. After confirming the presence of the muscle bands, we decided to try to stain the creature to see the neurons of the thorax. We used a common staining chemical called methylene blue in order highlight the neurons found within the thorax of the cyprid. Staining is an imprecise science, it’s quite difficult to gauge how long an animal, or part of an animal, should sit in the solution for full staining power. After quite a bit of trial and error, I figured that letting the thorax of the cyprid soak for four hours was enough time for the dye to bind to the neurons. However, after all that trial and error, I still couldn’t see the nerves well enough. So, my new plan is to remove the limbs individually and try to see their nerves. Science is all about the process of failing millions of times until you get the one right solution. All I can do is focus on the small victories and try harder next time. So onward to next week!
Hello! My name is Savanna Cabrera, and this is my first blog entry for my summer at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology’s research experience for undergraduates program. Here at the OIMB, I hope to learn more about the day-to-day life and work that a marine biologist, or zoologist, does while conducting my own independent research project. Before I start to describe my first exciting week here at OIMB, let me introduce myself properly.
I am an upcoming fourth-year zoology Major from the University of Florida who is experiencing the beauty of the Pacific Northwest for the first time. I am in love with zoology as a topic, with some of my favorite animals being arthropods, wolves, lions, and tardigrades! In fact, sometimes in my free time, when I am not playing videogames or writing novels, I help raise orphaned, abandoned, and abused wolf pups!
This summer, however, is dedicated to invertebrate organisms, particularly arthropods. I am fascinated by their anatomy, evolution, and development. Because I was so interested in arthropods (and other sister taxa, that is, relatives of the arthropods) I decided to apply to the OIMB’s summer research program out of a desire to learn more about the fascinating, yet cryptic world of marine arthropods.
The man patiently mentoring me through this program is Dr. Richard Emlet, a professor and researcher here at the marine station. He has graciously offered to mentor me and teach me methods that will enable me to become a better researcher, scientist, and student. I hope that during this program, he can train me to a point where I become a more confident and competent scientist, who has the ability and the fortitude to continue higher education.
As of right now, Dr. Emlet and I have the idea of studying the function of an appendage found on a certain stage of barnacle larvae, specifically the stage called the cyprid larva. Near the rear of the animal is a pair of biramous, or forked, appendages called the furcal rami. The furcal rami have been described anatomically by many scientists, but I found that there is little to no data on the function of this appendage. Is it a paddle? A rudder? A feather duster? All three? I want to spend my summer trying to get closer to this answer, and Dr. Emlet assisted me this week in moving closer to this goal. He taught me how to perform a plankton tow, how to culture algae to feed specimens, how to use microscope photography and videography equipment, and how to properly read and analyze scientific papers. I especially enjoyed my time using the video equipment. It reminded me of when I was a child, using my mom’s camcorder to create stop-motion animation, but in this case, I am attempting to answer a question, rather than being a nuisance to my mother.
This first week has already been such a growing experience. I am full of anxiety and concerns about my performance during this program, but with the patient guidance of Dr. Emlet, our grad student coordinator Nicole, and our education program coordinator Maya, I have faith that my summer here at OIMB will be the learning experience of a lifetime!