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Flavored potato chips for algae? Fatty acids in amphipods? UAB Antarctica team’s yummy experiments continue!

Posted Mar 16 2012 11:55am
This is the latest email update from UAB Antarctica Team member Maggie Amsler

Greetings from Palmer Station!

The Ocean Acidification rig is almost running as UAB doctoral candidates Julie Schram and Kate Schoenrock tweak software, CO2 bubble rate, etc. Jim (McClintock, Ph.D., co-leader), Chuck (Amsler, Ph.D., co-leader) and I now turn to independent projects and most of them involve amphipods.

Amphipods rule my life again !

Jim has been sorting through diver collected algae for specific amphipods to amass and freeze for a future study on fatty acids in amphipods and their host alga. The analysis will be done once we return to the UAB Department of Biology and it will be determined if amphipods are what they eat, which is algae.

Chuck and I retrieved an algal experiment that had spent the winter months anchored to the bottom of one of our dive sites. Chuck will do feeding assays with those algae, which, by design, are dead! Or at least better be as they were placed there dead! The question is will our favorite lab rat/amphipod ‘Gondo’ (pictured above) feed on dead algae as much as they feed on live algae? And in turn how much do amphipods contribute to nutrient recycling by feeding on decaying algae? Stay tuned.

I have resumed my amphipod work on the red spiny Paradex (pictured left). This is one very unusual amphipod in that it chows down on one of the most heavily chemically defended algae down here. Paradex does not have the personality of the frenetic, almost spastic Gondo, but I appreciate its Zen-like mellowness as it yoga- wraps fronds of the pretty, but toxic to most red alga about its spiny-body. The four day long Paradex experiment required monitoring every 6 hours and kept me from a stunning moonlight night but I am here first for science after all.

Potato chips for algae!

Today Chuck and Kate began deploying an experiment of her design that involves securing small squares of plexiglass at various depths underwater and at different locations. The squares have been treated with various coatings derived from different species of coralline algae – sort of like coating potato chips with different flavorings like ranch, spicy, barbeque. These plexi squares will be left out in the water until next year to see what critters or algae have or have not settled on the various algal flavored squares.

I do hope your northerly days are warmer than Palmer’s and drier than southern Chile ( currently swamped by torrential rain ) and that at least your showers bring on fragrant and colorful spring blooms! And of course sure n’ begorrah – Happy St. Paddy’s to you!

Slainte!

Maggie Amsler
Currently at Palmer Station, Antarctica
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