Last blog

This summer has come to the end and I had a great time doing research on campus. I have successfully found the zooplankton I need from James River rockpool system in Richmond. Now my zooplankton are happy and alive in my lab occupying over one hundred beakers. I also developed a two-week sampling routine with my professor to sample 34 rockpool. I will then identifying and record all the species present in each pool and generate a presence/ absence data sheet. We can monitor the community assembly of these pools through time with the data.

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Combo: the mediun that keeps zooplankton happy

The preparation for my common garden experiment for zooplankton Daphnia pulex and Simocephalus vetulus is going well. To make sure my beloved cute zooplankton can stay very happy during my experiment and ever after, my professor and I decided to make a favorable and standardized medium for them. Combo medium is our choice. It is composed of 25 chemicals and is proved to support both algae and zooplankton culture well. As my professor said, “Combo lab is fancy lab”. This medium will make our lab a cool lab while my pulex babies thrive in it.  I’m very glad to report that our first batch of Combo made my pulex very happy.

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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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Evolutionary divergence in competition strength

Competition is an important mechanism for understanding how species compete for resources and coexist, and is also an important process to understand biodiversity in nature. However, the traits that determine the outcome of interspecific competition are often assumed to be constant for each species. Many studies have shown rapid evolution in traits that can influence competition, but no study to date has quantified whether the strength of competition between two species is a heritable trait. My proposed summer research project will measure the strength of competition between two freshwater zooplankton species and quantify how much of this trait is heritable from one generation to the next. I plan to extend the results of the summer research project to a broader honors thesis project, which will determine how the spatial proximity of rock pools on the James River (Richmond, VA) influences (i) competition between zooplankton species and (ii) regional coexistence and biodiversity patterns in this natural system.

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