Developing genomic resources for ecological and evolutionary studies of Rice Creek isopods (Summer 2013)
What is the focus of your research and why is it important?
The focus of our research consisted of two things: First, to test whether Wolbachia affects T. rathkei the same as it affects other species of terrestrial isopods. T. rathkei is a species of isopods that is commonly founded at Rice Creek Field Station. Wolbachia is a microscopic parasite that affects its host in many ways, among them includes altering the development of male organisms and causes them to develop as females. This parasite is found in a lot of organisms, including many other orders of organisms in the arthropoda phylum. We can understand more of other organisms in the same phylum by studying Wolbachia in T. rathkei. Since little research has been done on T. rathkei, or terrestrial isopods as a whole, we are hoping to be the first researchers to create a genome for this species, and create preliminary data for further study
Second, to find the sex linked genes in T. rathkei. The sex genes of T. rathkei are still relatively young on the evolutionary scale comparing to humans. By studying the sex linked genes of T. rathkei, we hope to understand more about the evolution of human's sex linked genes.
What have you learned about conducting research?
One of the most important things I have learned about conducting research is to not be frustrated when the results aren't what you expected. A lot of it is done with trial and error, especially when you don't have much preliminary data to work with.
Describe a memorable research experience at Rice Creek Field Station.
One of the most memorable research experiences I had at Rice Creek Field Station was laying down potato traps for collecting isopods. Before we started using them, I had trouble finding enough isopod samples to take back to the lab to do DNA extractions, since I had to look for them under branches or leaves on the forest floor. I collected more samples from the first time we used potato traps than the entire first two weeks of my research. The relief I felt was incomparable
Where did you grow up and how did you become interested in science?
I grew up in a small village in China until I was 11 years old. Science was not a subject of emphasis in my school's curriculum; our focus was on math, Chinese language, and English. When my family moved to Buffalo in 5th grade, I did not speak English and I did terrible in school, and science was my worst subject. However, the study of biomes in science grabbed my attention, and watching discovery and national geographic were part of my daily routine to help me learn English. I became really interested in working with animals someday when I was in middle school and that is all I wanted to do ever since.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to become either a animal researcher and maybe emphasize in marsupials, but I am not sure, or become an animal caretaker at an animal rescue or zoo. But I am not really sure. This research experience definitely built a strong foundation for me for the future.
Isopod that was the focus of this study.