It's been a week now, so I think it's safe to finally say that we successfully transported live chitons back to Alabama and they are established in our aquarium. These animals will be the ones we try to spawn later this year to study development!
We know that in the wild, chitons tend to find a special rock and use it as a "home", returning to it after each night of feeding to spend the day sheltered in their spot. We thought that our chitons would perhaps each find a "home" rock in the tank, and remain relatively stationary.
They don't. Not visible: the three other chitons *inside* the protein skimmer.
But so far my morning headcounts (headvalve counts?) have stayed consistent, so here's hoping they don't stray too far. I have looked into screening the top if needed.
I just got back from about three weeks in Florida, two weeks of which were spent at Fort Pierce's Smithsonian Marine Station and in the Florida Keys. The marine lab was a wonderful place to be, full of welcoming scientists who were admirably tolerant of our team's buckets and buckets (and buckets!) of sand samples.
We were looking specifically for nematodes with our collaborator Ashleigh Smythe. I learned so much about a group that I had previously overlooked, and even attempted to key a couple out. If you've never tried to key out a nematode, make sure you have a brilliant nematologist with you to make it fun instead of impossible. I even now have a favorite group, the Stilbonematidae, which have an incredible ability to "farm" bacteria on their own bodies for food! They are, and I use this word quite seriously despite the fact that I'm describing a nematode, BEAUTIFUL. Definitely look up some SEM images - they look like an intricate braid.
We also SCUBA dived for sand samples in the Florida Keys, and of course collected chitons! I also got to hold a sea hare, find kinorhynchs and gnathostomulids, meet some microscopic sipunculids, and saw my first pycnogonid (sea spider). What a trip!
The Lerner-Gray Memorial Fund helps young researchers fund new ideas. I'm happy to share that my research proposal was funded!
I'll be traveling down to the Florida Keys to collect Fuzzy Chitons, and now will get to bring some home alive with the goal of spawning them in captivity and characterizing their development, especially relating to the radula. As a landlocked marine biologist living in the heart of Alabama, I can't wait to see the ocean again. Thank you Lerner-Gray!
... does anybody know what romantic music I should be playing to my fishtank?
I'm excited to share that I received a $1000 grant from the Western Society of Malacologists!
This grant will cover laboratory expenses for an expansion of my project looking at the mineralization of the radula in chitons. Specifically, it will enable me to compare transcriptomes from the radulae of four additional species, all from the West Coast.
The Pacific Northwest is a haven of chiton diversity, with some beautiful species! I'll be able to use samples collected at Friday Harbor Laboratories to learn more about what in this process is conserved between even very unrelated chiton species.
And now, I have some RNA extractions to do!
UA undergraduates can take Asma Hatoum-Aslan's amazing Phage Discovery class, and now we're using the GRIDION to sequence the genomes of the phages they discover. It's a wonderful chance to introduce the latest technology to students, and has the added benefit of getting them sequencing data in only 48 hours! We started the run yesterday, and we already have several fragments that are likely to be entire genomes in single pieces!
BITMaB2: Benthic Invertebrate Taxonomy, Metagenomics and Bioinformatics
The workshop consisted of a bioinformatics portion in which we all learned QIIME2 and taxonomy sessions in the lab. Highlights: I was reunited with my favorite Phylum, the Kinorhyncha and learned more about them from experts, I saw my first live gnathostomulid, and many of us are keeping in touch moving forward, so collaboration potentials are high!
SICB2018 was great! I presented the poster below, Kevin also presented a poster, and I made many new science connections. Favorite talks included robots, phylogenetic techniques and critiques, and at one point a chainsaw.