SEA Currents: Woods Hole Partnership Education Program
Poster session and first lightening talk at WHOI-Redfield
Over the past 5 weeks I engaged in research under the mentorship of Heidi Sosik and Stace Beaulieu. The project I was working on is captioned “Assessing the temporal relationship between morphotype and genotype for ciliate data from the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory”.
Ciliates are microscopic, unicellular, eukaryotic-protists that are characterized by the presence of hair-like structure (cilia) that are found on or around these organisms. The primary function of these cilia is to aid in locomotion. Traditional techniques that are used to study and preserve these protists are insufficient and often damage their delicate structures. The ImageFlow Cytobot (IFCB) is a technology that combines microscopy with flow cytometry which allows us to study ciliates in situ. The IFCB, however has its own limitations— it only captures organisms that have either recently eaten chlorophyll containing organisms (herbivores) or those that sequester chloroplast, from its photosynthetic-endosymbionts (mixotrophs). As a result, the current abundance data for ciliate communities are often underestimated. A recent modification to the IFCB (IFCB-S) incorporates a stain that fluoresces on a common property to all live cells hypothesized to capture better estimates of the entire ciliate community. Additionally, because of the presence of cryptic species within this group of organisms, taxonomic identification by morphology, solely, also skews the total abundance of ciliates in a community.
I looked through ~3 million images and manually annotated ciliate images (IFCB and IFCB-S) from an ecosystem monitoring survey cruise in the Chesapeake Bay area, on NOAA R/V Pisces, from Nov 4- 19, 2014. I conducted a comparative analysis of three ciliate- specific datasets: 1) IFCB images from Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory (MVCO), 2) Pisces Cruise data and 3) MVCO sequence data from two time-points (within cruise). My results elucidated: 1) IFCB-S produced a higher abundance of ciliates than the traditional IFCB, 2) Genetic overlap indicates higher species richness and 3) we observed ciliates that haven’t been observed at MVCO in over an eleven-year time series.
My project culminated in a lighting talk and a poster session at WHOI-Redfield on August 4, 2017. I have had experience presenting a poster before, but the lighting talk was rather new and ‘different’ for me. It was a challenge to condense so many exciting details and present them in a 2 minute, 2 slide presentation. Nonetheless, I travailed and my next lightening talk will be much better, I hope!