Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bring it on Algae!

MONDAY - 4/25
After an enjoyable Easter weekend filled with delicious food, friends and family, we prepared ourselves for a week of labs and lectures about algae. Monday began with the second lecture on brown algae where we learned about the morphologies of a variety of species including sacs, tubes, cylinders, crusts, and blades. Included in the lecture was a special life cycle where the species had two adult forms that were identical genetically but differed in morphologies. Following lecture, we found ourselves in lab practicing our microscope skills and discerning the difference between species based on macroscopic and microscopic differences. We used this information for our species profiles. After our process, we repeated the process with some red algaes. Did you know that red algaes are eaten by many cultures on every continent on our world? They are even used in a variety of cosmetics! After breaking for supper, some of us gathered in the lab for a review on green, brown, and simple red algae. Annette walked around to different tanks reciting the scientific names of the various taxa.

TUESDAY - 4/26
Our day started with part two of the red algae lectures. For this day, Annette taught us about the morphology and life history of red algaes. She helped us review some of the aspects of algae anatomy that tripped us up during our lab sessions including how to determine if the algae are multiaxial or uniaxial. That night found us beginning to work on our group projects. This project had the class divided into nine groups with each group assigned a particular algae morphology. For example, there were the coralline algaes, small brown algaes, and finely branched red axes. Each group was responsible for identify all their specimens and creating informational cards for four to six of their species to teach the rest of the class. This also involved creating Powerpoint slide cards that showed how to differentiate between two similar looking taxa.

 WEDNESDAY - 4/27 
Wednesday began with coffee and donuts at 10 AM, just like every morning should start! The majority of the day was committed to completing our group projects and preparing for our presentations that evening. Walking into the lab at 7 pm, we were greeted by treats provided by Annette and nine stations of slides and specimens. Annette explained to us that one of each group would remain at each station while the rest were allowed to roam, and then we switched after one hour. She and Margot each graded half of the room. Each person at the individual stations explained their own taxa to other students roaming around and asking questions. We all came to realize that the project led us to memorize the various species we had learned about in lecture and lab.

Thursday brought our final lecture. This lecture, however, brought a more personal point of view to the topic of algae because it covered Annette’s graduate work. The focus of this lecture was mainly on the effects of desiccation and herbivory of limpets on Mazzaella parksii, a common intertidal algae. It was explained to us that desiccation increases with elevation and herbivory decreases with elevation. The results showed that tetrasporophytes were more susceptible to desiccation, whereas gametophyte blades could grow in desiccation as they could hold more water, therefore outlasting the desiccation. Limpets were the focus of Annette’s herbivory studies. After many experiments, she found that the limpets preferred gametophytes over tetrasporophytes, thus increasing the relative abundance of the tetrasporophytes. In conclusion, tetrasporophytes were found more at lower elevations and near wave-exposed regions, thus being more susceptible to desiccation. Gametophytes, however, were found at higher elevations in protected areas, and therefore were preferred by limpets for grazing. The rest of day consisted of reviewing and studying for the exams that were to come the following day.

FRIDAY - 4/29
The end of the algae section was now upon us. The section had been long but our knowledge about algae was so great that it had seeped into our dreams! At 10 AM, we had our lab practical which consisted of twenty stations of various algae specimens. At each station, we answered questions about the scientific names, morphologies, and life histories of the specimens provided. Following the completion of our lab practical, we had a two hour break to eat lunch and cram as much last-minute information before the lecture final. After the completion of the lecture final, the sun greeted us for some games of volleyball and basketball, and Margot and Annette joined us!

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