Some Last Thoughts

While it is true that I left lab a few weeks ago, it is not true that the work relating to my different projects is over. In fact, one could say that we are just getting started. What we were looking for was something compelling but we have not yet found it. In the fall, I think the lab will do some reflection in terms of which projects are worth our while to pursue and which are not. It takes time along with trial and error to achieve these answers.

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The effects of methyl mercury on spatial memory in zebra finches: Weeks 8-10

The last two weeks of my summer research were spent mainly retesting birds, entering all the data into an excel spreadsheet, and learning the procedure to preserve the brains of the zebra finches we tested. This research is studying two components: the birds spatial memory, and the structure and immunochemistry of their hippocampus, which is the structure believed to be responsible for spatial memory in avian species. The main goal of the research was to tie the effects that mercury has on spatial memory and the hippocampus together, in order to see if it negatively affects both their performance and the structural integrity of their hippocampus. During these last two weeks, Neil and I learned the process for preserving the brains of the zebra finches so they can be studied for this at a later date. My partner Neil Huckstep plans to take these brains back to his lab at Virginia Tech in order to study them more in depth. While I learned the basic procedure for preserving them, my partner is going to be the one actually preforming the procedure next week since I am leaving this coming Friday.

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The effects of methyl-mercury on spatial memory in zebra finches – Week 6-8

During these weeks of my summer research, I had begun to run the mercury-dosed birds through the spatial memory test. I had to be careful any biases I had about the outcome of their trials wouldn’t affect how I tested them, because the goal of my research is to determine if there actually is a difference between the spatial memory capabilities of mercury-dosed birds compared to normal ones. Since I predicted that their capabilities would be decreased, I had to be wary of whether or not I was biased about the way I recorded data, as experimenter bias could make me interpret the results I get in a way that is beneficial to me. Thankfully however, I had the feeling that I was being as objective as a possibly could, and it helped that the data I’m collecting for this particular spatial memory test is pretty objective with little room for bias affecting it.

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