C1V1 = C2V2 (And other fun stuff too!)

My title is the chemical formula for diluting solutions. Why, you may ask? It’s because I am trying to make myself remember it any way I can, I use it all the time and every day I forget. My mentor must be very tired of repeating it to me!
My project, which is finding a way to separate phytoplankton from every other particle in seawater, has taken some twists and turns. Let’s just say we’re taking the scenic route and we’re walking before we can run. Between cracking the perfects solutions for the gradients, the gradient maker, and plankton tows, our samples weren’t separating as we had predicted. But, we haven’t given up, we attempted many alternatives, like changing the solutions and the gradients; we decided to make steps and even small cushions of different densities, to see what would pass through and what wouldn’t.
Other things we tried were multiple staining, to see our sample clearly, in which we stained a sample with two dyes and our phytoplankton cells emitted fluorescence in one color (blue), while detritus was another. And our last alternative was attempting to use the gradients with cultures (non-wild samples). It helped us to see where common species of the area would be found in the gradient. We are now getting ready to re-test our wild samples with the gradients, with new information about phytoplankton. I’m excited to see our wild samples with fresh eyes!
While it hasn’t been all work and no play, I’ve grown a lot closer to the other REU students; we’re like a little family, there’s no one else I would’ve wanted to have this experience with. We’ve done a lot of fun things, like movie nights, we visited the Texas State Aquarium, go the beach (of course), and we went to Six Flags! That day was amazing! Also, another REU program came to visit from UT Austin (the big campus) and we got to hear a little about their projects studying climate change, in many different approaches, which was very interesting. I met another student from the University of Puerto Rico from the other program, and it meant a lot to me that I could speak Spanish and someone understood me! We had a bonfire on the beach and we went on the RV Katy (boat) and did a plankton tow, mud grab and otter trawls! In which we saw a lot of organisms, like brittle stars, even a squid and a baby shark!
I’m very thankful for this REU program as it gives us a lot of experiences and information, such as seminars and discussions about grad schools and other projects, so we learn a little from everyone! Port Aransas has something special that I’ve grown to really appreciate, as well as the Marine Science Institute. Can’t wait to see what’s in store in the other half of this program!

Posted in student projects

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