It’s hard to believe that this is the last blog post for the 2015 REU program. This summer has flown by, and I can’t believe that we are giving our final presentations in just a few days. For the past week, I’ve been compiling the results from my experiments. My experiment consisted of three experiments, two using nearshore water and one using offshore water. The nearshore water was exposed to 20 μL L-1 and 50 μL L-1 of crude oil, and the offshore water was exposed to 50 μL L-1 of crude oil. The 20 μL L-1 experiment showed little difference in total cell counts between the three treatments. The number of diatoms in each treatment varied slightly, but the number of dinoflagellates and ciliates were relatively stable. All three plankton types did grow over time, in all three treatments. The 50 μL L-1 experiment showed much more difference over time. The diatom and total population counts varied greatly between the three treatments, while the dinoflagellate and ciliate populations once again remained quite stable. The diatom and total populations did show significant differences later on, but this could be due to the small number of samples that we used. Our results indicate that diatoms seem to be the most affected by the presence of oil and/or dispersant, while dinoflagellates remain stable despite being exposed to oil and dispersant.
The offshore treatment had much less drastic results. There were high numbers of diatoms initially, but they quickly dropped. The ciliate counts were very low and dropped to nothing, while the diatoms and dinoflagellates recovered slightly towards the end of the experiment. I also used flow cytometry to analyze the samples from all three experiments. One interesting result from the flow cytometry was the presence of a sub-population of nanoplankton in the last two days of both nearshore experiments. This population also appeared to contain chlorophyll, so we believe that it is some kind of autotrophic nanoplankton that either flourishes in the presence of oil, or whose predators cannot tolerate oil.
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This summer has been an incredible experience, and I am so thankful that I was able to work at UTMSI. To any future students who are considering applying to this or any REU program: I highly encourage you to do it. It provides a wonderful opportunity to work with established researchers on a variety of topics. The faculty and staff here at UTMSI have been so nice and helpful, and they genuinely care about exposing us to research and the various aspects of being a researcher. Living in Port Aransas has been a wonderful experience. I really hope that any potential REU applicants reading this consider applying to UTMSI’s program. You won’t regret it.