The Grice aquarium room is designated for holding living organisms. College of Charleston faculty, staff and students use these marine specimens for teaching and research. Recently, several improvements were made to increase the room’s safety and functionality. All the air lines have been replaced and the workbenches have been painted. The electrical services have been upgraded to include additional circuits and emergency outlets. A notification system was installed to alert staff members of emergency power outages.
On April 23, 2009, several GPMB Students were inducted into Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, at the annual banquet and awards ceremony. According to Dr. Robert T. Dillon, Jr., “Sigma Xi may be best known here locally as the main sponsor for the annual “Darwin Week” and for sponsoring presentation awards at the annual MUSC Student Research Day, GPMB Student Research Colloquium and the Citadel’s Student Research Presentation Day. The organization provides excellent opportunities for professional networking among scientific institutions in the Charleston area and offers solid evidence of professional involvement for graduate students as they move into the next stage of their careers.”
In a recent issue of the journal Science, a team of scientists, including College of Charleston biogeochemist Dr. Peter Lee, described a novel ecosystem in which a microbial community had managed to survive for over a million years in the absence of sunlight and oxygen. The authors believe that as sea levels decreased and glaciers began to advance across Antarctica pockets of seawater became trapped in the McMurdo Dry Valleys and were sealed off from the atmosphere and sunlight by the advancing glaciers. Unlike most subglacial lakes in Antarctica that are totally inaccessible without drilling equipment, this subglacial lake periodically discharges through the Taylor Glacier at a location known as Blood Falls. Using a combination of classical “wet chemistry” methods, modern molecular and genetic techniques, stable isotope analyses and thermodynamic modeling, the team of scientists examined this discharge and found that the surviving microorganisms had adapted to use sulfate andiron compounds as their source of energy but in an unusual way. Normally when microbes use sulfate for energy, they produce hydrogen sulfide (the compound that causes the characteristic smell of salt marshes) as the end product. But in this case, they stopped short of producing hydrogen sulfide and instead used the sulfate as a “catalyst” to derive their energy from iron minerals mobilized from the glacier’s bedrock. These findings provide insight into how life may have survived periods of Neoproterozoic glaciations (“Snowball Earth” events) when some scientists believe that the Earth was entombed in ice. The authors also suggest that similar ecosystems may provide a “refuge” for life in other inhospitable environments, such as Mars and the Jovian moon Europa. Articles can be viewed below:
Karen K. Martien, Dave Gregovich, Mark V. Bravington, André E. Punt, Allan E. Strand, David A. Tallmon, and Barbara L. Taylor recently published an article titled “TOSSM: an R package for assessing performance of genetic analytical methods in a management context” in Molecular Ecology Resources.
Abstract: TOSSM (Testing of Spatial Structure Methods) is a package for testing the performance of genetic analytical methods in a management context. In the tossm package, any method developed to detect population genetic structure can be combined with a mechanism for creating management units (MUs) based on the genetic analysis. The resulting Boundary-Setting Algorithm (BSA) dictates harvest boundaries with a genetic basis. These BSAs can be evaluated with respect to how well the MUs they define meet management objectives.
Dr. Natasha Sharp recently joined the Burnett Lab as a postdoctoral researcher and will be further investigating the effects of low dissolved oxygen (hypoxia) and elevated carbon dioxide (hypercapnic hypoxia) on the immune defense of shrimp and blue crab. These animals frequently experience these conditions in the shallow coastal waters they inhabit. Originally from New Zealand, she moved to the USA to complete her doctorate under the guidance of Marius Brouwer at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, University of Southern Mississippi. Her dissertation assessed the effects of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) on blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) hemocytes. Her research focused on the changes in hemocyte number as well as cytological effects and differential gene expression.