Effects of Oil on Plankton Communities: Update

Hi everyone! I’ve been working with Dr. Buskey and his lab for four weeks, and my research is really starting to come together. We will be setting up experimental trials with natural populations of plankton, exposing them to oil and oil mixed with dispersant, and observing what changes occur in the plankton populations. So far, I’ve been doing practice runs, to get used to the instruments and techniques that I’ll be using to analyze my data. In the coming weeks, I will take two 10mL samples from each of 6 experimental treatments, and analyze them under the microscope and by using FlowCam techniques. The FlowCam is an instrument that allows us to take pictures of the plankton in a sample, and get an estimate of the abundance and make-up of plankton populations. This will allow us to determine which plankton species are declining in response to oil and dispersant, and which plankton species proliferate or are unaffected. We hope to use this data to determine the effects of oil spills and dispersants on natural plankton populations.

So far, we’ve run into a few obstacles with experimental design and execution. One problem we’ve faced is that the plankton we originally intended to study, Prorocentrum, hasn’t appeared in any of the preliminary samples we took, most likely due to the low salinity of the estuary due to the rainfall. Due to this, we’ve had to widen our gaze slightly to look at the local plankton communities as a whole. We’ve also run into some difficulty interpreting data from the flow cytometer, another instrument we will be using, but with help from some of the faculty, we’re beginning to get better at interpreting the data.

Thank you for reading, and check back for more updates on the REU program and my research!

 

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