This Is It!

Well, this is it folks! My year as an Oregon Sea Grant scholar has come to a close. Between my last blog and now, I have made great strides in my work.

First off, the chemostat works beautifully! After many false starts, George is finally functioning as it should, readjusting the pH of the culture vessel by bubbling the media with CO2 gas. The LabVIEW program monitors and regulates everything, and I am going to write a function into it that will allow it to send a warning to my phone when something goes wrong, any time of the day or night (I’m not sure if I should be excited about this…).

Aided by my intrepid undergraduate intern, Maria, I ran an experiment this summer to test the effect that a range of pHs would have on saxitoxin production of A. catenella. I compiled growth data, PAM fluorescence data, ran numerous reactive oxygen species (ROS) assays to determine the level of physiological stress in the dinoflagellates, and ran an intracellular saxitoxin ELISA assay. I plan to do the extracellular ELISA in the very near future.

I am still in the process of data processing, statistical analysis, finishing the other ELISAs, doing back-up lab work, etc. However, I can tell you that my preliminary data processing seems to indicate that my original hypotheses are correct: stress induced by low pH is linked with increased saxitoxin production in A. catenella.

For the actual results – well, you’ll just have to read the papers.

I’ve learned a lot this year, and seen much work come to fruition that may not have been possible without this scholarship. I’m very blessed to have had the opportunity and ability to do this research. If the new Malouf scholars have as much fun as I did this year, they will count themselves lucky to be scientists. :)

The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of… Bubbling?

NOTE – This entry was meant for posting in May. Please forgive the late entry.


Happy Spring! When the flowers bloom… and so do the phytoplankton. :) 

I am in the rhythm of chemostat building and am proud to announce the creation of a necessary portion of my chemostat system: the Conditioning Electronically-Operated Relay Grouping (GEORG – “Sound of Music,” anyone?), affectionately known as “George.”

George was built over the course of two 16-hour days and boasts six independently-controlled solid-state relays. These relays will act as switches that will control the solenoid valves on the pneumatic manifold. In short, George will allow me to control the amount of CO2 gas that will be bubbled into the system to control the pH of the chemostat system.

A feature of George that I am particularly pleased with came from a suggestion that a family member made to “idiot-proof” the system. Thus, I customized George’s DB15 ports and Molex connectors so that they cannot be mixed up or connected to the wrong connector (which would render the system temporarily useless), or ports (which would short circuit poor George and cause a major setback – and possible a small fire).

But before I get too excited – George must be thoroughly tested and connected to both the pneumatic manifold and the Labview program – which is still in the de-bugging phase.

This has been an intense month as I build George and finish up the preliminary pH experiments on Alexandrium catenella. I have also been going through the process to select an undergraduate intern to help me this summer. I am excited, as this will be my first experience mentoring. I have narrowed the field to four possible interns, and will make my final decision this week.