Where are you from, and what is your role in Extreme 2004?
am a third-year Ph.D. student at the University of Oregon.
My role on the ship, as part of the science crew, will be to assist in the collection
of Alvinella pompejana (the
Pompeii worm) and
to run experiments to learn more about how this animal interacts
with and adapts to its changing environment.
What questions are you trying to answer and why?
Pompeii worms live in tubes that are built on the sides of hydrothermal
vents. This means that they are surrounded by swiftly changing environmental
conditions, including high temperatures, high levels of hydrogen sulfide,
and low oxygen. I have been using cDNA microarrays (a microscope slide containing
small spots of several thousand genes) to examine, at the molecular level,
how the Pompeii worm deals with its environment. I am especially interested
in heat-shock genes, which are present in most animals -- including
the Pompeii worm -- and
become turned "on" when an animal is exposed to high
the past, we have not been able to take an experimental approach
to understanding how the Pompeii worm functions in its natural
environment because it was thought that they could not be brought
to the surface alive. The deep sea is an environment of high
pressure so when animals are brought to the surface, where
there is only atmospheric pressure, it can damage their tissues.
Recent work has shown that if you put Pompeii worms
back at deep - sea
pressure, they are actually still alive and will become active
again! We're going to try some experiments
first to see if we can re-pressurize worms at the surface and
keep them alive and active. If this works, we hope to put them
at different temperatures and compare gene expression of these
animals to some of the information we have for worms taken
directly from the vents. This will hopefully help us understand
more about the temperatures the Pompeii worm experiences in
its natural environment.
Why is this research important? What are the benefits?
By examining the gene expression in the Pompeii worm, we hope to gain
more insight about the biology of this organism at the molecular level.
Hopefully, with what we discover with Alvinella -- which lives
in an extreme environment compared to many other species -- we may
begin to understand more about how animals become adapted to different
environmental conditions and the molecular mechanisms that allow the
Pompeii worm to live at such high temperatures compared to other animals.
What is your background and what lured you into marine science/education?
always been interested in the ocean, but growing up in Colorado,
there weren't many opportunities to study it firsthand. As
an undergraduate at Colorado State University in biology,
I took an internship at the Seward Sea-Life Center in Seward,
Alaska. There, I helped researchers study the behavioral and
physiological effects of telemetry (tracking) devices used
after rehabilitation efforts to track sea birds. I also helped
with rehabilitation of marine mammals (like otters and baby
seals), as well as feeding and cleaning lots of different marine
invertebrates and fish at the center.
I discovered that I loved working with marine animals while
working there because even though I spent a lot of time cleaning
up after them, I enjoyed every minute of it!
graduating with a B.S. in general biology,
I moved to Monterey, California, and began working as a laboratory
technician at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station.
There, I worked with scientists on several projects looking
at the effects of environmental stress — such as hypoxia (low
oxygen), high or low temperature, and changes in salinity —
on marine animals. My two years at Hopkins helped me realize
that I wished to continue to learn about how marine animals
interact with their environments.
After beginning my Ph.D. at the University of Oregon, I decided that I wanted to use molecular biology to try and understand those interactions. Drs. Eric Johnson and Andy Berglund introduced me to the Pompeii worm microarray project because of my interest in animals and the environments they live in. We are collaborating with Dr. Craig Cary and his group, who work on the important bacteria living on the Pompeii worm's back.