Captain’s Log: Update on Phytoplankton Research

Hello everybody! It has now been about a month living in Port Aransas and working in Dr. Zhanfei Liu’s lab. I must say that I am having the greatest summer of my life here. I’ve met and became great friends with the other interns, faculty, and graduate advisers. The atmosphere here is very positive and I feel like I can accomplish any goals and milestones on my project and potential career.

I have now developed a protocol for what I want to do with my research. My overarching question is, “Is there a definite spatial and temporal distribution of phytoplankton and nutrients between the San Antonio, Lavaca, Mission-Aransas, and Nueces rivers?”. My hypothesis is that distribution of phytoplankton and nutrients increases at lower latitudes. There have already been major weather events such as flooding earlier this year. Each river may vary in nutrient and pigment concentrations after this weather event due to the size and spread of their corresponding watersheds. Furthermore, I predict that the San Antonio river will have the greatest amount of diversity and nutrient concentration within its community structure due to its enormous length and watershed size encompassing many towns and cities. I also predict that pigment composition will be its highest in all rivers during the summer season.

 

Extraction of pigments from GF/F filters using acetone

Extraction of pigments from GF/F filters using acetone

Extracts are loaded in this sample holder.

Extracts are loaded in this sample holder.

Analysis of pigment types and concentrations are achieved through instrumental analysis via HPLC

  Analysis of pigment types and concentrations are achieved through instrumental analysis via HPLC

Peaks on the data spreadsheet indicate a certain pigment and its relative concentration

Peaks on the data spreadsheet indicate a certain pigment and its relative concentration

Science!

Science!

Summer 2016 Phytoplankton community profiles will be created via HPLC analyzed pigment composition of the river samples.  These will then be graphed and coupled with analyzed data from fall 2015, winter 2016, and spring 2016 to determine a pattern, if any, between seasons, latitude, and nutrient concentrations of the five rivers.  Diversity and dominant species of phytoplankton communities will be calculated using Shannon-Weiner Diversity Index and Simpson’s Dominance Index.  Similarity between the five rivers will be analyzed using Bray-Curtis Index.

I have already analyzed pigment samples from fall 2015 to spring 2016. My next task is to go and sample the five rivers within the first week of July. After all nutrient and pigment samples have been ran, I will then process and integrate the metadata! I’m so excited about the this research and I think I will find something pretty interesting about these rivers! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for future blog posts! 🙂

 

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