Bioscience Rhthyms of Life

Visit the Bioscience Club page for information on club activities.

May 11, 2012
This week, students finalized their newt presentation that they will be giving next week in the Biosciences program. They also spent time helping Holly Reynolds prepare things her participation in the KS Envirothon competition, as well as preparing for their final.

May 4, 2012
Besides continuing to learn about the historical research conducted on the eastern newt, in preparation for a presentation that students will be giving, students also took some time to enhance their knowledge of turtle biology. On Wednesday, students learned how to bait and set turtle traps which we deployed at the Overland Park Arboretum in their large pond to the west of their educational center. Students set a total of three traps using beef trimmings and canned cream corn for bait. On Thursday, we met Mr. Ollig’s Zoology afternoon zoology class from Blue Valley North to teach them about the process of turtle trapping. 

After a brief discussion, we check our traps and discovered we had caught 11 turtles of four distinct species, which included 1 Painted Turtles, 2 Musk Turtles, 3 Sliders, and 5 Snapping Turtles. One trap was empty while one only had spanning turtles, and the third had representation of all four species. This observation generated hypotheses as to why this may be so. As en extension, we temporarily handled each individual captured collecting data on the carapace length, mass, gender (if possible), and each turtle’s shell margin was notched with a wood file to give them a unique mark. It is our hope to continue and expand our trapping at the arboretum and begin to collect longitudinal data on the population.

April 27, 2012
This week students began to prepare for a power point presentation of their newt research in their time between other activities.  On Tuesday, we also traveled to the Deana Rose Farmstead and completed a forty minute ethogram on three of the goats, collecting data on each animal’s behavior every fifteen seconds. This practice ethogram provoked a number of questions and hypotheses regarding goats.  Interestingly, students noticed that just before a goat lies down they appear always to scratch the ground with their forepaws. 

On Wednesday, we spent time at the Kansas City Zoo completing a second ethogram study observing chimpanzees. Being that their enclosure was much larger and quite vegetated, it proved more difficult to keep track of particular individuals.  It was also initially more difficult to recognize differences between chimps that would allow one to distinguish them from the others. Dafina and Patty spent enough time lounging around before us at the end of our stay that we may be able to distinguish them in the future.

April 20, 2012
The highlight of this week was our tour of the Ecotoxicology section of Bayer Crop Science. Chris Bannerman, introduced students to the general work of the Bayer facility as well as the specific research conducted in ecotoxicology. We learned the about the governmental bodies that regulate the industry and the specific protocols used to test for the variety of effects that chemical herbicides and pesticides can have on the model organisms that they use. Model organisms include algae, duckweed, daphnia, fathead minnows, African clawed frogs, bob white quail, and chickens. The stringent guidelines that their research is held to, gave us a better appreciation and respect for the development of 21st century chemicals relative to those created during the dawn of industrial chemistry.

April 13, 2012
This was a full week for our environmentally minded students, as we continued to explore aquatic ecosystems from different perspectives. At the beginning of the week, students created their own field guides to the common stream and pond invertebrates using a collection of study specimens we have in the laboratory.  Student also learned to identify and distinguish the four most common families of fish found in the state of Kansas. 

On Wednesday, we completed our April newt survey at our study site in Miami County. Since the ranch hand was off site, we had the added burden of having to walk into and out of the site from the main gravel road which required close to an hour of walking with buckets and other supplies in tow. We had a successful sampling and collected close to ten previously marked individuals.  On Friday, we return to the KC Zoo to meet with a zoo keeper who helps run a project responsible for rehabilitating mussel populations in the Missouri and Kansas. Many native mussel species are on the decline and at the zoo they have developed novel methods for raising breeding and raising mussel for later release.

April 6, 2012
This week, students continued their exploration of aquatic environments. On Monday, we visited the Kansas Biological Survey in Lawrence, KS, where students met with researcher in the aquatics division. We learned about the techniques they use in collecting samples and identifying invertebrates and fish, as well as determining the chemical makeup of water samples, and assaying of environmental DNA from water.  When we returned to our lab, we then completed an activity where students created their own field guide to common stream and pond invertebrates and fish in the area. They used samples that had been collected and preserved from previous years. Soon, we will get back into the real environment and see what we can find. On Friday, we visited the KC Zoo for a second time, getting a behind the scenes view of the conservation work they are doing to help maintain and expand populations of the Wyoming Toad, considered extinct in the wild, and by some to be the most endangered amphibian on Earth.

March 30, 2012
This week, students continued working on our research project with the newts, while continuing to learn about our local amphibians.  On Monday, we completed our March survey at the newt pond, and spent two later class periods determining their gender, lengths, masses, spot pattern, toe clipping specimens and taking their pictures as well.  The students collected more than one hundred specimens so this was quite a chore.  We now have data from over three hundred individuals.  On Friday, we visited the KC Zoo for the first time.  We were hosted by the Debra Ryder and Kelly Martin, who direct and work for the educational outreach wing.  While there, we were introduced to the history of the zoo, the biologically related careers at the zoo, and an observational assay of animal behavior called an “ethogram”.  On later visits, students will use their knowledge of ethograms to collect behavioral information one of the species at the zoo.

March 23, 2012
This week, students have been developing their knowledge of amphibians, studying their anatomy, physiology, and natural history. After learning about these organisms in general, and those that are known to live in Johnson County, student spent two days in the field surveying at our district’s Wilderness Science Center, where they observed five species of amphibians.  Species observed included the boreal chorus frog, plains leopard frog, northern cricket frog, bullfrog, and American toad. Calls from all but the northern cricket frog and bullfrog were heard, and eggs of the boreal chorus frog and plains leopard frog were witnessed.  Students also witnessed a northern water snake, and a few interesting invertebrates. We had hoped to complete our monthly survey of newts at our study site in Miami County but the incessant rains of last week precluded such a trip.

March 9, 2012
During this shortened week, students completed a few odds-and-ends before the end of the quarter, and took their midterm exam covering content and skills learned this quarter.

March 2, 2012
This week students completed work with newts and sea urchins. The first half of the week, students surveyed our newt pond study site in Miami County capturing over 50 specimens. We brought them back and processed them collecting standard natural history data.  Specimens were returned to their pond before the snow began to fall at the end of the week.  Otherwise, students revisited sea urchin embryology with our second batch of sea urchins. This time we staged rounds of fertilization a bit better so that we were able to observe a greater diversity of early embryonic stages. Since the Johnson County Crime Lab will not be open for public tours after their open house today, these students also participated in the open house with the Machinery of Life students.

February 24, 2012
This week students began to expand their knowledge of inheritance and traits by gaining some molecular skills.  More specifically, they extracted DNA from their own check cells, amplified DNA from these samples using PCR, running their DNA products using gel electrophoresis, finally visualizing the stained samples.  The analysis of this activity will run into next week but the DNA they are examining is a gene that produces a protein associated with the sensation of bitterness.  Once students have analyzed their own genotype, they will make predictions about their ability to sense a particular bitter taste, which they will then physically test.  The students have enjoyed learning some of the molecular skills generally reserved for our more molecular course.

February 17, 2012
This week, students completed their analysis of their replication of Thomas Hunt Morgan’s wild-type female and white-eyed male fruit fly cross, and its reciprocal cross as well.  Students were able to determine that fruit fly eye color is a sex-linked trait.  They also attempted to prepare fruit fly polytene chromosomes a second time.  Finally, students began their exploration of early development through observations of fertilization and early cleavage stages using sea urchins.  Students injected male and female urchins with a potassium chloride solution causing their release of sperm and eggs.  Gametes were then brought together in a Petri dish and observed under the microscope.  If the sea urchins survive the weekend, we will supplement these observations during the following week.

February 10, 2012
Students continued with two lines of research this week. First, they began their collection of data from two parental crosses involving the two combinations of male and females wild-type (red-eyed) and white-eyed flies. One of these crosses was first conducted by Nobel laureate Thomas Hunt Morgan in the early 1900’s, from which he deduced the mechanism of sex-linked inheritance. The segregated offspring of these parental crosses have demonstrated this pattern of nicely inheritance, which students deduced on their own.  In order to fully understand this type of inheritance pattern, they have been setting up new cultures for breeding offspring from this first generation. Though unsuccessful at this point, students have also been attempting to dissect away the salivary glands of fruit fly larvae in order to stain, squash, and observe the polytene chromosomes which they contain. Unlike most chromosomes these are quite large and show specific banding patterns which were used in the development of the first physical maps of the location of particular genes.

February 3, 2012
This week, students participated in a quite a diversity of activities. The week started and ended with week continuing explorations with drosophila fruit flies. On the front end, we analyzed our chromatography of fruit fly eye pigments in an effort to better understand the metabolic pathways associated with the production of eye color in these organisms. Through comparing the observable pigments in wild type flies with white, brown, sepia, vermillion, and scarlet eye color mutants, they were able to discern the fact that two distinct metabolic pathways are involved in the production of eye color. More specifically, they discovered the pteridine (red pigment) and ommochrome (brown pigment) pathways, and now have a better understanding of how a mutation in a single gene can result in the loss of enzymatic function, and thus change the phenotype of an organism in a significant manner.  We also made our first observations of zebrafish embryos with much thanks given to the efforts of some of our research students who have begun to get our population breeding again. 

In order to take advantage of this wonderful winter weather, we travelled to our salamander research site in Miami County to complete our first ever survey for newts in the month of February. We were successful on two counts. In the first case, this semester’s students demonstrated great first-time skill at moving around in waders in our muddy pond, and in the second case they proved that they can capture newts.  In fact, they successfully seined up 11 individuals which were brought back to our laboratories for further observations. We collected both males and females, some of the males already appearing to be in breeding condition. After collecting standard measurements on these captured individuals we returned to our fruit flies to maintain the wild-type/white-eyed crosses that we set up at the end of last week, and to begin our dissections of their salivary glands in an the hope of staining and observing their polytene chromosomes.

January 27, 2012
This week students continued work with our drosophila fruit flies.  They observed eggs hypothesizing the function of their dorsal appendages, and observed the stages of larval development in apple juice agar.  They also took stock of the amounts of each stage of fly in the mutant vials they had previously prepared so that we could better gauge when we would have our largest population of adult flies hatching from their pupa.  For those that don’t know, in order to successfully use fruit flies in studying inheritance patterns it is necessary that one can acquire adult female flies that haven’t yet mated with the males that cohabitate their vials.  In order to collect such females, one must segregate them within approximately 8 hours of hatching.  Being that there is a 24 time frame between class periods, we could not use the standard method of clearing the vials the day before we needed our flies.  Interestingly enough we had read that the pupal meal, the mecomium, can be visualized as a greenish spot on the abdomen through the non-hardened cuticle of recently hatched flies. 

So, with this knowledge in hand, we identified potential candidates with this characteristic (there were no images that we could find on the web) and had images of them verified by Dr. Susan Abmayr, a researcher at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.  With confidence, we have now set up our first crosses modeling the wild-type and white-eyed cross performed by Nobel Laureate, Thomas Hunt Morgan that led to the discovery of sex-linked traits.  We look forward to analyzing the data from our crosses and setting up other crosses to inquire about the mutant traits that we have in our collections. At the end of the week, we used chromatography techniques to separate the eye pigments from a number of our eye color mutant in an effort to hypothesize the relationships between the metabolic pathways and enzymes responsible for these mutants and the genes that underlie their production. Besides these experiences with flies, these students, along with the rest of the Bioscience Strand, collaborated with the science teachers at Lakewood Middle School in helping to judge and give constructive feedback to their students who have completed science fair projects.

January 20, 2012
This week we have continued our exploration of fruit fly life cycles and genetics.  We had our first discussions of the experimental works of Mendel and Morgan that have led to our modern conceptions of the gene and the chromosome theory of inheritance, respectively.  With regards to laboratory activities, we have begun to explore the diversity of drosophila mutants that we have in the labs.  Each student is responsible for becoming an expert on 5-7 particular mutant phenotypes which they will share with the rest of the group in the near future.  We have also prepared agar plates for the observation of fruit fly eggs and larval stages so that we are more familiar with the life cycle of the fruit fly. In the last case, we decided to be a bit experimental and prepared plate with and without a little dab of yeast paste.  Those plates with the dab of yeast show a significantly greater number of eggs laid with the yeasty plates having approximately 70 eggs on average, relative to 7 eggs on average for the bare plates (a full order of magnitude – looks significant to me).  This has us wondering, what could yeast be producing egg laying behavior?

January 13, 2012
This week students became familiar with the basic laboratory skills associated with the maintenance of drosophila fruit fly cultures. Students learned how to successfully use our CO2 anesthetizing equipment, setup and take images of fruit flies using our dissecting microscopes and laptop computers, and subculture flies which involved preparing food and labels for vials that the flies would be housed in. They have also begun their examination of individual flies, learning how to distinguish males from females. Besides these laboratory activities, students began their reading of the supplemental book, Time, Love, and Memory, by the science writer Jonathan Weiner. We learned about the earliest of experiments conducted by Seymour Benzer in his quest to discover the genes underlying behavior. Specifically, we discussed the choice chamber apparatus that Benzer created to identify fly mutants that didn’t demonstrate the typical attraction to light.

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