The lab recently attended the 45th annual Benthic Ecology Meeting located in Portland, Maine. This meeting occurs yearly allowing scientists to exchange information on benthic ecosystems and to encourage the next generation of benthic biologists.
Stacy presented an oral presentation on her newly published paper Unconscious uncoupling: invasion of novel habitats disrupts haploid-diploid life cycles.
Paige and Sarah presented their research at the poster session.
Paige's poster was titled Are introduced populations of the seaweed Gracilaria vermiculophylla more resistant to herbivores than native populations? A test of post invasion adaptation.
Sarah presented The Role of Heat Tolerance in the Invasive Success of the Red Seaweed Gracilaria vermiculophylla
The Science Spotlight team stopped by the Sotka lab today and found Sarah and Paige who had just finished cleaning up in the wetlab. It turns out, sometimes things in science don't always go as planned- and a lot of times there isn't a plan, because you just don't know. In this case, raising and growing Gracilaria in a lab meant that at some point, some of these specimens might "kick the bucket", quite literally. Much of the Gracilaria residing in the wetlab had died off and as of yesterday, the Sotka lab was down from 48 buckets housing algae to 22. This is neither a positive or a negative necessarily, just the natural flow of events in a lab over time as experiments and research goes on. Despite the death of some specimens, Sarah is wrapping up one last experiment with the Gracilaria collected in Japan.
Follow up with our blog this week as we discuss a potential theory for the wetlab Gracilaria mortality!
The Sotka Lab members have been VERY busy building a tank storage set up for the different live samples that will arrive from Japan. Paige and Lauren helped Stacy construct these bucket structures with filters below.
The first experiment I ran showed no difference between the wounded and the unwounded seaweeds. I decided to do the experiment again but only run it for 24 hours instead of 48, and I put the samples in the dark so that the amphipods would feed faster. I also cut off the tips of all the seaweed before I wounded them or not.
During the first experiment I was trying to see if the whole seaweed turned on chemical defenses to make itself not tasty to the herbivores; this time, I was seeing if the wounding would effect just a small part of the tip. Both times, however, there were not significant differences between the wounded and unwounded seaweeds.
Next, I am going to run another experiment where I either wound or do not wound the tissue, but then I'm going to freeze the seaweeds and grind them up and feed them to the herbivores. It's possible that the seaweeds, when left alive and in water with the amphipods, stop putting out their chemical defenses after a short period of time. If I freeze the tissue right after I grind it, I'm hoping it will freeze the chemical defense the seaweed is putting off. I'll let you know the results I get!
This week I've been busy collecting many samples of Gracilaria and running feeding assays. When Gracilaria is grazed on by herbivores, it turns on a defense full of chemicals that make the herbivores not want to eat it anymore. I want to find out whether or not all parts of a plant turn on these chemical defenses when it's grazed on by herbivores or if only the nearest part of the plant turns on the chemical defense. I took multiple individuals of Gracilaria and ground the tip of a plant (which is similar to an herbivore eating that tip!). I then put a piece from this ground area of seaweed in a container with a piece of seaweed that wasn't next to the part that was ground. I then put an amphipod called Ampithoe valida (they look like tiny green bugs that live in the ocean) in the containers to see whether the amphipod will eat the ground seaweed or the unground seaweed. I will be checking the results tomorrow! I predict that the amphipods will eat the seaweed that was unground because I think the chemical defenses won't be turned on where I didn't grind the seaweed and that the pieces that were ground won't taste good because the chemical defenses will be turned on!
I've been collecting two different generalist herbivores that we are going to use in feeding experiments with Gracilaria vermiculophylla to see if the the herbivores like eating the seaweed or are repelled by it. One of them is an amphipod called Ampithoe valida, and the other is an invasive isopod called Synidotea laevidorsalis. We are unsure whether or not the isopod eats the Gracilaria so we will be running trials after we collect enough herbivores. Right now the cultures of the animals are in my house and living in a small, makeshift aquarium!
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Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum
40 Patriots Point Rd.
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
40 Patriots Point Rd.
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464