“That’s All, Folks!”

Well, I’ve reached the end of my ten weeks and the REUisMe program, I’ve had the time of my life! I’ve learned so much in the academic and personal aspects, I’m extremely happy I came here and that I had the opportunity to experience research up close and personal. I am extremely thankful to Dr. Deana Erdner, director of the program and my mentor for choosing me to be a part of this experience. My fellow REUs already feel like family. I think that this program also has opened my eyes to a lot of opportunities in the marine science field and I’m excited to see what else I can learn and the new chances I’ll have to explore new areas of this field, being graduate school and other opportunities. I’ve really had experience of a lifetime being here in Port Aransas, having fun with my roommates/REUs and working on my project!
Speaking of my project; here’s my abstract, so that you can see what I’ve worked in these 10 weeks!
How to Clean Phytoplankton: A Guide to Natural Sample Separation
‘Phytoplankton interact closely with bacteria, both those free in the water and those that are closely associated with the phytoplankton cells themselves. Most of our knowledge about phytoplankton-bacteria interactions come from culture studies, and we do not know if this reflects what happens in nature. The few studies focusing on natural attached bacteria, have examined “particle attached” bacteria in general. This is due to methodological limitations, as the easiest and most efficient way to collect enough biomass is to use filters of different sizes to separate “free” bacteria (most often defined at the 2µm. This project focuses on designing a method to separate phytoplankton from other particles in a natural sample of seawater.
Our method is based upon two previously published studies that used density gradient centrifugation to separate phytoplankton cells and cysts. We created linear density gradients using a cell-friendly colloidal silica solution (Percoll) and a high osmotic strength buffer system (sucrose). To get an understanding of where phytoplankton would sediment on the gradients, we tested cultures of 9 different phytoplankton species (3 diatoms, 3 dinoflagellates, 3 other). Cultures showed that different groups and species have different yet characteristic sedimentation properties. We also tested a mock field sample, and it proved that interactions with other species in the sample don’t affect sedimentation behavior. When separating wild samples, the dominant species behaved as expected based on the culture results. Most input samples contained detritus, but when the gradient fractions were examined, they were clear of detritus and dominated by diatoms. Our recommendation for optimizing this kind of separation is to target a natural bloom (preferably dinoflagellates), in fairly clear waters. This project’s ultimate goal is to produce phytoplankton-only samples to study wild phytoplankton-bacteria interactions, but the project has multiple applications in the phytoplankton field.’

Thanks to everyone who was a part of this project and all those who made this summer one to remember forever! 🙂

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