My name is Lauren Ramos and I am an undergraduate research assistant in the Bracken-Grissom lab. I have been involved in the lab since Fall 2014 and in my time I have been involved in two projects. The first project focused on Caribbean Caridean Shrimp (CCS) species that are endemic to anchialine environments on the Bahamian island of San Salvador. The second project focuses on my involvement with project DEEPEND (Deep Pelagic Nekton Dynamics of the Gulf of Mexico).
Project: CCS Fall 2014 - Spring 2016
I started being an intern for the Bracken-Grissom lab after I was recruited from Heather’s Invertebrate Zoology course. Initially, I was learning how to digest tissue and extract DNA from Barbouria shrimp (Fig. 1). In the summer of 2015, I accompanied my mentor, Robb Ditter, to the island of San Salvador to collect specimens for 3 weeks. We resided at the Gerace Research Center during our time. Everyday we bushwhacked throughout the island to the *anchialine caves and pools scattered throughout the island.
Figure 1: Barbouria cubensis
We collected and preserved specimens of Barbouria cubensis, Parhippolyte sterreri (Figure 2), and a species of Naushonia that has not been entirely described by other researchers (Figure 3).
Figure 2: Parhippolyte sterreri Figure 3: Naushonia
Robb and I constructed 2 tanks prior to our departure to house the collected live shrimp. It was constructed it to mimic the shrimps’ natural environments. The live specimens that were brought back were divided amongst the tanks. Tank 1 accommodates Naushonia and Parhippolyte sterreri and Tank 2 accommodates Parhippolyte sterreri and Barbouria cubensis. The shrimp currently live and thrive in their new enclosures. In Fall 2015, **zoea were present in Tank 1 (Figure 4). My project for Spring 2015 consisted of genetically identifying the mitochondrial genes of the zoea to see if the Naushonia or Parhippolyte sterreri have been successfully procreating in the tanks. My methods included DNA
extraction, PCRs, and electrophoresis gels. Our results were not what we expected: the zoea matched with neither of the 2 species. It was a relative closest to that of a hermit crab. Although the results did not match our expectations, it is still incredible to see how genetics can be used to gain validation on unknown or questionable aspects about decapod species and their larval forms.
*anchialine – a landlocked body of water with an underground connection to the ocean
**zoea – the larval form of a variety of crustaceans
Figure 4: Zoea
Project: DEEPEND Summer 2016
My main focus for the Bracken-Grissom lab now is working on project DEEPEND to study the effects of the Deep-water BP Oil spill that took place in 2010. I am a part of a team that barcodes the specimens collected from the DEEPEND collection cruises. Barcoding is the process of extracting and sequencing mitochondrial sections of the DNA for each specimen, which will be utilized for unique barcodes for accurate species identification. It is very common occurrence for species to look physically identical, but are genetically different species at the molecular level. With this information, we can more easily identify which species are more impacted by the oil spill. The crustacean families I will be barcoding
are: Pasiphaeidae, Penaeidae, Sergestidae, and Solenoceridae. As another part of this project, I along with the other interns will work to extract tissue/DNA and record metadata from the specimens collected from the most recent DEEPEND cruise.