Saturday, January 28, 2012

More Samples!

As soon as I returned from ScienceOnline2012 #scio12, I drove to Virginia to pick up shellfish samples from Chesapeake Bay.  I drove up and back on Monday, and chatted with my collaborator at the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences while there.  He was able to collect oysters, hard clams, soft clams, and stout razor clams from their experimental plots for me.  I was missing soft clams and stout razor clams, so I'm very excited and grateful! 

What a week!  Seems like I wasn't quite as prepared for #scio12 as I hoped...  I spent a lot of time trying to catch up on teaching emails, lesson plans, meeting with students who registered late, and trying to catch up on my readings for Science Education class.  I'm still catching up on my SciEd work, but isn't playing catch-up the life of a grad student?  I'm taking the morning to blog and do some post-#scio12 wrap up.  We have to keep inspired and engaged by doing the things that bring us fulfillment and joy.

I have those shellfish in the freezer in our necropsy lab now, and I've started the tissue extraction process.  I had to spend some time cleaning and organizing this past week, so I wasn't able to get to the DNA extraction.  That's on the schedule for this weekend.  The necropsy lab is used by numerous people in at least two labs, is bereft of a formal "lab manager", and is often a mess.  Quite honestly, I think it stays a mess because we all feel like no one else will take the time to keep it clean or keep our samples safe.  The last time I was in there, there were fish scales still stuck to the dissection table.  It makes me worry about using that area to remove tissue samples that will be used for DNA extraction.  So I cleaned and prepared the small hood and wet lab area in our lab to work in...and that is a much nicer set up anyway.  I also decided that it would be best to store my frozen samples in small containers in the freezer.  I had them in plastic storage bags on a shelf, and with all the other fish and misc samples in the freezers, it just didn't seem like the best choice.  So I now feel much better about my sample storage and work area.

All in all, it felt like a nicely productive week.  This weekend I must finish prepping my samples so that I can start the DNA extraction process on Monday.  And next...sequencing! 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

And Finally...Research!

I realized that it's been a year since I posted anything on this blog!  I find it really hard to manage all my commitments in grad school along with social media and networking.  Technologies change all the time...sometimes in good ways and sometimes in bad ways...but all of these changes require a learning curve.  I've just linked my blogspot account with G+, which might actually help streamline social networking and blogging.  We shall see!  I've also decided that I want to use SaveOurSharks as a personalized research blog for this moment in my life.  I'm hoping that if blog posts go out to all my friends in my ScienceOnline circle (see #scio12), perhaps I'll feel more supported and encouraged in my research...and also responsible to them at the same time...  Posting will be a built-in, self-created, self-reporting mechanism to keep my friends updated on my research and also spur me to keep up with my research schedule.

So where am I at this moment?

Thesis Proposal Defense: Done! August 2011

Sample Collection:
  • North Carolina shellfish samples: Almost Done!
  • Chesapeake Bay shellfish samples: Collected but died.  :(  New sample collection: In Progress
DNA Extraction:
  • North Carolina shellfish: DNA extracted and in storage! Turned out beautifully!
COI Primers: Ordered!

Working On:
I have to acquire some more shellfish samples from NC and Chesapeake Bay.  Hopefully I'll have the Chesapeake samples this week or early next week.  Hope to have the primers early this week.  Soon as those arrive, then I'm off to sequencing!

Feel free to comment, ask questions, and ask me how I'm me stay motivated, please!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Posts from the Field...

My good friend Ryan, a MS student working on dietary habits of blacknose sharks, is currently doing research in the Keys. As he does not have internet connection in the evenings, he's sending me mini-blog posts in the form of texts. Hopefully we'll have photos soon!

Thursday, January 20th:
RF: Just blew trailor tire.
Me: Oh no! Everyone ok?
RF: Yeah.
Me: Okay, good. Back on the road yet?
(Attempted to send me a pic of the blowout)
Hours later:
RF: Yeah, it's an epic blowout.
Me: Still fixing it?

Hours later...
RF: Back on the road.
Me: Oh My Gosh! That took hours!

Later that evening:
Me: Where are you?
RF: Mile 161 on FL turnpike
And then...
RF: 83 miles outside of Miami...

Friday, January 21st:
Me: Where are you? How's it going?
RF: 2 immature great hammerheads, a scallop (scalloped hammerhead), and a silky.
Me: w00t!
RF: So other than starting the day with a bit of a cold and losing my voice by the end of the day, it was great! Seas were 2-3 ft and crystal clear.

Later that evening:
Me: I'm sorry you're not feeling well, even though you had a great day...
RF: It's okay. I don't feel too bad--it's just my vocal chords.
Me: Okay, that's at least good. :) Wish I was there...
Me: Are you staying on the boat or on land?
RF: Land at KML

Sunday, January 22nd:
RF: So yesterday (Saturday) we caught a lot of nurses (nurse sharks) and my voice began coming back. A bit choppy. We snagged a line of lobster traps...took 4 hrs to pull in. Got 2 mokkarans, a mature male blacknose, a small silky, and large bull that got off at the boat.

Later Sunday evening:
RF: God such a long day! I need a massage.
Me: I'm sorry. Good day though?
RF: For the most part. We lost gear but caught animals.
Me: What? Really?
RF: Yup. Got hung up.
Me: Longlines? What did you catch?
RF: Yup. Blacknose, Nurse, Blacktip.

I will post more as I hear from him...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Through the Lurking Grass...

In today's Adventures Through the Lurking Grass, your heroine found herself analyzing more hours of seagrass video...and again, wishing she was in the field today...snorkeling, identifying seagrass species, and counting percent cover in quadrats...

The good news is that your noble heroine also completed two transects of seagrass footage, so she accomplished her quest! (Well, for this week at least...)

Through the Lurking Grass...

In this week's Adventures "Through the Lurking Grass"...!

This summer my research and field work involve acoustically mapping seagrass beds, ground-truthing the acoustic data by snorkeling and measuring the seagrass found in 1 square meter quadrats, identifying seagrass samples to verify species identification, pressing and preserving seagrass for our own little herbarium, and analyzing seagrass video.

"Through the Lurking Grass" posts will follow your heroine as she reflects on her seagrass adventures in coastal North Carolina...

This past week one piece of our equipment had to be sent back to the manufacturer for repairs. We had grand plans of field work for last week and part of this week, but that is all on hold until we hear back from the manufacturer and have our equipment back. So, I'm focusing on seagrass video analysis this week.

For our collaborators at NOAA, we identify the presence or absence of seagrass species in the video at the 1st frame of every 3rd second in the video. We have also started adding an estimate of the percent cover at that frame, and I'm "quartering" my television screen (in my mind) in order to get an estimate of 25, 50, 75, or 100% cover. That estimate really just gives us a very general idea of how much seagrass is in the viewing area of the video camera during that 1st frame of the second...which we can use to cross-reference with our acoustic data in order to further ground-truth our acoustic results. All this is important, because it is necessary to confirm and cross-check data from one method with another.

In this week's Adventures "Through the Lurking Grass," your heroine is spending her week analyzing the video transects...and today she wished to be in the water, snorkeling, seeing the images on the television screen through her own eyes...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

News from Providence...

We're having a great time at the Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists/American Elasmobranch Society meeting so far. But first, here's the news from Providence...all social and very little science.

Tuesday, July 6 we explored the city a bit...found College Hill...drank some amazing iced teas... I met up with some of my friends from past meetings, the previously-mentioned GIANTS in the shark world. That was wonderful, because it's really been years since I've seen them.

We realized that the majority of the conference events on Wednesday were actually business meetings for the various we decided to tag along with Dr. Rulifson and Jen in order to see some of the countryside. We went to Newport RI for lunch and a stroll...and then on to Kingston for a meeting with research partners... Newport is a beautiful town, very old, with well-restored buildings, quaint shops, waterside restaurants, and amazing seafood. We met up with Chuck for the meeting and then had drinks and dinner at the Mews Pub. What a great place...great food, excellent beer selection, fantastic atmosphere. (We will be back there for the World Cup Championship match, for sure.) I had the most amazing lobsta mac & cheese! My friend Sean would love it. I do not have a pic of the mac & cheese, but I did however have my photo taken with the delicious clam chowder I had at The Black Pearl in Newport. I've been conducting a survey of clam chowders throughout the East Coast. (So far, the chowders in Maine are winning...) The Black Pearl tavern is such a perfect slice of a 19th century port town that I'm surprised they didn't film Persuasion there.

We arrived back in Providence in the evening, met up with other graduate student friends, and went out for drinks. I must explain, before I get further into blogging through this conference, that Shark People Drink. They know how to have a good time. We went to Trinity Pub, which is another great little spot in Providence. Ran into other friends, made new friends, and thoroughly enjoyed the coffee stout.

I will take this moment to explain that I am extraordinarily good at networking. I own it. Within 5 minutes of being at Trinity, I met another awesome graduate student doing cownose ray work, and we had a great little discussion about the controversy over population size. I met his advisor, who was on my "Must Meet" list, followed by so many other really terrific graduate students and post-docs. After that night, I already had so much good information and perspective about my project that even if I don't learn anything else this meeting, it was already a success! I'm owning the quote that my good friend DNLee passed on to me: "I'm *&^#* Brilliant!"

Stay tuned...more to follow!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

American Elasmobranch Society!

I'm currently at the American Elasmobranch Society meeting in Providence, Rhode Island. Elasmobranch includes sharks, skates, and rays, but for the sake of these blog entrees, I'll use shark to mean all elasmobranchs. It makes life easier. This is a meeting where shark people get together and discuss their research! The AES meeting is also held in conjunction with the Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, so it gets to be a pretty big conference. 1500 attendees are expected. I'll be here through July 13th, and oral presentations run from July 8-12. It feels like there are more and more shark talks every's terrific!

Of course, keep in mind that the World Cup finals are also during this time period, so I'll definitely be taking some breaks to watch the finals matches... Go Netherlands!

The first AES meeting I ever attended was in 2002 in Kansas City. I knew nothing about shark research, my undergrad degree was in History & Theatre, but I knew I wanted a change in fields. I showed up at the conference as a general attendee, sat through some fish morphology and taxonomy talks, and made my way to the shark talks... I met a couple graduate students and then a Mote Marine Lab researcher, who took me and another pre-graduate student under his wing... He introduced us to other scientists, professors, and graduate students. He's now a professor at a university in Florida with his own lab. He's a fantastic mentor...and hooked me on shark reproduction with a talk on "Why (clasper) Size Does Matter."

I met so many great people at the first meeting who continued to support and mentor me, and met up with them 5 years later in St. Louis. Now it's been 3 more years, and I get to catch up with all the GIANTS in the shark world, whom I am honoured to call my friends. How wonderful and wild life is...

I've been hanging out in the lobby, stalking the arrival of my shark guys, who are slowly showing up... So I'm going to go network and catch up! Stay tuned...