Seven days, Population eight, and Nine Ball

In the lab this week, I continued to transfer beads for my first cycle of evolution this summer. I was really impressed with myself because I managed to go the entire week without dropping a bead. It can be so difficult at times to get the beads out of the glass tubes, to wash them, and then put in the microcentrifuge tubes without dropping one or messing up at a single step. I am typically holding my breath the entire time because I am so anxious about it. This is such a huge accomplish for me and am glad that I have the opportunity to document this eternally. Other than my project, this week I helped out Dr. Murphy with some of her ongoing projects. I learned how to streak and made YPD glycerol plates.

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Defrosting, Detours, and a Debrief on Evolution

Last week was my first week of summer research. I was actually very excited to come back to campus. Relaxing at home is wonderful and much needed after finals, but with all the time in the world on my hands I started to get a little antsy. At the end of the semester, I paused my experiment by storing my yeast populations in glycerol and freezing them. Freezing the yeast puts them in a dormant state. When I returned for the summer, I knew I would be able to start exactly where I left off. For the first couple of days, all I did was prepare myself to start evolving again by getting all my equipment ready. I grow the yeast in glass tubes filled with evolution medium, basically sugar water. I spent a good portion of Monday autoclaving (sterilizing) and washing old tubes, making evolution medium and filling up clean tubes with it. At the beginning of last week, all but one of the autoclaves in the ISC was broken, so it was quite an adventure having to go back and forth to the third floor to get all my work done.

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And in Conclusion…the work must go on!

I’ve been back in America for precisely a week and I’m already missing the familiarity of both my apartment and my office in Edinburgh. Yet despite the thousands of miles of separation, I am still tied to my temporary home by my work, because my plane ticket did not put a stopper in it. The survey was sent out and now we are waiting for the answers to roll in so that I can analyze them, summarize them, and then finally, complete the paper I started in June. While the summer research is, obviously, limited to the summer months, the research I was lucky to be a part of will definitely continue in to autumn. It makes me feel like my work isn’t just a summer fling, so to speak, but something that is part of the real world; research that isn’t just a part of my small academic bubble, but something that affects other peoples’ lives. I can’t wait for the final answers to come in and to be able to analyze them, but even now, just a few weeks away from the summer research presentations, I really feel like I’ve been a part of something different, and I’ve learnt so many interesting things as well as multiple new skills. It’s been an amazing summer and I hope to not only do something similar next summer, but potentially something similar with the rest of my life.

Conclusion

The goal for this summer was to have sampling, DNA extraction, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), and fragment analysis sent off (to be later analyzed) completed on all 400 of the subsamples. Sampling and DNA extraction were finished. PCR unfortunately was not, delaying fragment analysis as well. Though the PCR protocol was developed during spring semester of 2017, new primers and a host of other problems made this step tricky. The first batch sent off for analysis came back blank, requiring adjusting of the protocol and the second had nebulous results. A delay in shipment meant that only 3 of the 7 primers were available for much of the summer. However, all extractions were completed successfully, and in the last remaining weeks of July, PCR was done on all 400 of the plants for 3 of the primers. All PCR products were shipped off for fragment analysis. Training began on using a fragment analysis software, so once results do come back, analysis will be smoother.

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The Final Post: Concluding my research, but not my promotion of ecotherapy

Alongside my research with Dr. Ibes at the Parks Research Lab, I have been interning for Wildrock Nature Playscape, a non-profit in Crozet, Virginia. Via this internship, I will be leading an ecotherapy retreat for college students. The goal of this retreat is to teach college students what ecotherapy is, and then help them plan an ecotherapy initiative on their college campus. For more information, please contact me at dcspitz@email.wm.edu, as William & Mary students are welcome on this retreat. Most major schools in Virginia will eventually feature an ecotherapy initiative on their campus. Thus, my research at the Parks Research Lab this summer has aided me in promoting ecotherapy to others.

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