Hey everybody! I've been reading your posts and I think that we all have awesome research projects we get to be a part of this summer! My name is Karyn and I am a COSEE PRIME intern at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB) campus in Charleston, OR. I have been a student at Portland Community College for the past couple of years and hopefully I will be co-admitting with Portland State University in the Fall. I plan on becoming a medical doctor and eventually I want to be a part of research and development and help improve modern medicine. This internship really appealed to my desire to experience research. Also, I have always been intrigued by the vast diversity of marine life and so I'm excited to learn more about marine science this summer.
My project this summer will be investigating wound healing in invertebrate larvae. I'm working with George von Dassow (Senior Research Associate for OIMB, University of Oregon). My project will basically involve me shooting at some cells on sand dollar larvae (called echinopluteus) with a laser creating a wound, and then following the larvae over a couple of weeks to investigate how the cells around the wound react to heal the wound. I'm really excited about this project and find the regenerative abilities of echinoderms quite fascinating!
In the beginning of the week we went out on the boat and dredged for sand dollars. This was my first time ever on a boat like this out on the ocean, so I was excited but a little nervous. I was asked if I get sea sick, but since I had never gone out on a boat I didn't know. Well the day we went out it was particularly rough, and I learned in the worst possible way that yes I do get sea sick. So rest assured the next time we go out on a boat I will take something for sea sickness before I step on the boat! However, I did have a good time on the boat before I got sick, and hopefully I'll get to experience the trip again when it's less rough out.
The rest of the week was spent simply getting acquainted with the equipment and also watching the development of the sand dollar (Dendraster excentricus) from fertilized egg to larva stage. I actually got to watch cell division right before my eyes as I watched through the microscope. It was really fun to watch. Nature is awesome! I have also learned to take pictures of the specimens under the microscope using a special microscope camera. This will be very helpful when following the wounded larvae over time and is a good way to document the activity of the cells around the wound.
Here is one of our sand dollars. George actually described this one as one of the largest sand dollar he's ever seen. I had never seen a live sand dollar before so this was a trip! I still get mesmerized by all the tiny little spines all across the the sand dollar's body. They can really move those spines fast! Now that we got a ton of sand dollars from the ocean, we can use these sand dollars to spawn eggs and sperm so we can fertilize the eggs and use the larvae that grow from them. Each morning we inject a sand dollar with potassium chloride which causes its gonads to spit out all its eggs if it's a female or sperm if it's a male. We collect the sperm or eggs in a beaker and work with them from there. We have to do this every morning because the eggs are only good for about 12 hours. What I think is really interesting is that we can't tell the difference between a male or a female by just looking at the sand dollar. We have to inject it with the potassium chloride and then find out if it spits out eggs or sperm to find out the sex of the sand dollar!