Sampling James River Rockpool system in Belle Isle

My summer research is focused on how genetic difference can affect species competition strength. My experimental organisms are zooplankton. The first step of the preparation work is to get genetic different zooplankton from James river rockpool system located in Belle Isle. The ideal focal species for my competition experiment is Daphnia pulex, which is a well studied species with all of its genome sequenced, and one other zooplankton species with relative large body size. Finding them is the tricky part. No one has looked into the zooplankton in Belle Isle rockpool system before. My professor and I had no idea what species we can find there. We were hoping to find Daphnia pulex and to choose the second focal species base on what we can find.

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At Last, (Some) Success!

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been working to improve my protocols and technique, specifically transfection and fixation, since I had been having problems with seeing healthy cells expressing GFP on the microscope slides. I’d also had a few issues with cell confluency, getting low cell counts when using the hemocytometer to make the calculations for seeding new six-well plates. But as of a few days ago, it appears that we have mainly fixed our protocol issues! The slides we fixed on Monday have plenty of healthy cells, and we can see the expected expression of GFP as well. We were also having some problems with actually seeing neurites in the PC12 cells when they had been stimulated with NGF. After increasing the concentration of NGF for stimulation, however, this problem appears to have been solved as well since we’re seeing cells with neurites on the slides. This, along with speeding up the work pace and quickly replacing the liquid covering the cells during fixation to avoid drying the cells out, has finally resulted in our best-looking trial yet. Limiting the number of washes with formaldehyde and D-PBS has also appeared to help. There appear to be a lot of cells on the slides, so it’ll be interesting to score the slides and find out how the different DNA plasmids affected PC12 cell morphology and neurite formation.

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7/25 Coal Plant Project Update

This summer, I am working on a research project for a Postdoctoral Fellow in the ENSP program at William & Mary. She gave me the task to collect data relating to the geostrategy behind coal plants in the United States, as she looked into the economic implications.

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