Passing the Hump & Phenotypic Plasticity

Hej hej!

Hard to believe, but with the passing of January I’m now more than half way through my academic year abroad. Absolute craziness if you ask me. I’ve begun making a list of places I want to see and things I want to do within the next four months. Visiting my old stomping grounds in London, checking out the Berlin wall, and sightseeing in Dublin are currently residing at the top of said list, but I suppose only time will tell what I manage to fit in. And of course, wherever I manage to go I will clearly be reporting it back to y’all.

As for the realm of academia, I am currently in my third week of Aquatic Ecology. At the moment, I am working in a group with three others on a poster presentation regarding the topic of phenotypic plasticity.

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Gonyostomum semen

More specifically, we are analyzing the results from a light intensity experiment using the nuisance algae Gonyostomum semen. Why nuisance you might ask, well that would be because of its ability to form large blooms in humic lakes, combined with the fact that it secretes itch-inducing mucus strands. Nice, right? Our experiment was fairly simple. Six samples of G. semen were grown under high light conditions (white light), while six others were grown under low light conditions (red light). Half way through the culturing time, three samples from each light treatment were swapped. The samples were all left to grow for an additional week before we were ready to put them under the microscope, and what a microscope it was! We had predicted to see a change in G. semen cell size as a direct result of the light treatment it was exposed to. So, for this, we needed to look at cell surface area. The microscope we were given access to had a camera attached, and it was directly linked to a computer that allowed us to take photos of individual cells from each of the 12 samples. C-O-O-L! Since we were working with live samples, a few of these little guys made us work for their photo, but by the end of the day we had managed to get photos of approximately 25 cells from each sample…which is a total of 300 individual cells!

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Measuring lengths and widths of G. semen.

Once the photos were all captured, we then used the same computer software to measure the length and width of each cell. These measurements were later used to calculate area, which was the variable we wanted to run our analysis on. When all was said and done, we saw a significant difference between the light treatments, illustrating that G. semen are phenotypically plastic organisms. All that remains is for us to edit and format our poster, which will be presented on Wednesday.

Sorry to nerd out on everyone once again. But, if I remember correctly, the deadline to apply for exchange studies though the CIE is on the approach. Therefore, I wanted to give a good example of the type of project that can be completed, during your bachelor studies, here at Lund University. I highly recommend this school to anyone looking to get some early research experience. Seriously, I have been able to super beef up my CV thanks to all the field and lab work I’ve been completing since arriving here.

Until next time!

Abby

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