Decolonize DNA Day

On April 24th, 2020 I watched Keolu Fox, a Kānaka Maoli Genome Scientist and Assistant Professor partake in an inspiring Twitter “talk”. His Twitter talk discussed the unethical use of remains in order to become published or to make a couple bucks. The world’s use of technology in this day and age has resulted in more and more bones being dug up and studied. Fox argues that the “bone rush” is unethical because indigenous peoples remains are being exposed and put into “dust-filled” drawers. He suggests creating the first “biocolonial black list”, which would contain all the researches who have been published through the unethical treatment of human remains. Overall, it was an interesting Twitter talk to attend because I have never thought about this before. The dead do not have a voice, so who will speak for them?

My Human Hero

When asked who my hero is, my mind automatically goes to my mom. Obviously I love my mom but my admiration goes further than just the classic mother–daughter relationship. To start off, my mom is an amazing mother to me and my five siblings. Yes, there is six of us. Six kids meaning six different personalities that my mom has to deal with on a daily basis. Because there are so many of us kids, my mom decided to stay at home and make caring us her full-time job while my dad was out working aa the president of his own company. My mom isn’t a hero because she was a stay-at-mom, it was what came after that which made my admirations solidify. In 2009, my parents got a divorce and my mom was suddenly faced with the question of what she was going to do for a career. She had been a stay-at-home mom for 23 years so she hadn’t thought much about careers, resumes, cover letters for over two decades. My moms last real job was over 20 years ago, she didn’t even know where to start when looking for jobs. One thing she did know was that she had a passion for caring for others.

After decades of taking care of my siblings and I, she decided she wanted to continue with others who need help. After doing some research, she decided to become a licensed nursing assistant despite having no traditional experience in the field. Her passion for taking care of others who can’t take care of themselves is inspiring. You would think that after years of taking care of her own family she would like to take a break and focus on something else but she kept going. It has been over five years now that she has been working as an LNA and she shows no sign of stopping and in fact loves her job and the clients she takes care of. I strive to be as self-less as her. She was faced with an unexpected situation and she handled it with grace. If I end up being just a little like her, ,i’d feel lucky.

My Digital Identity

When asked “What is Digital Identity?” my mind immediately goes to social media and I feel as though others might do the same. At this point in time, many peoples lives are spent online whether it’s shopping or posting about your recent trip to Florida. Whether we like it or not, everyone has a digital identity. As of right now, my digital identity is fairly strong. I have various social medias including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and they are updated frequently. Aside from social media, I also use various ancestry sites as I am interested in my family history and creating my family tree. I would consider the social media aspect standard for other 20 year olds as well as middle-aged people.

Although this is what my digital footprint looks like now, it’s not necessarily what I would prefer it to look like years from now. In the future I would like my digital identity to be smaller. In my opinion, social media is primarily used to “brag” or put on a show for likes. Unfortunately, connecting with others and staying in touch is no longer the main point of social media like it used to be. I feel this is true with Facebook and Instagram the most. I don’t enjoy scrolling through my various feeds anymore because it feels fake. As far as I’m concerned, people who want to stay in touch will, even if i’m not online 24/7.

As for my digital footprint it is definitely large. I didn’t have access to a smartphone until I was 16 years old so I wasn’t really on social media but I definitely enjoyed my time on the computer playing different “arcade” games. When thinking about a digital foot print, I almost think of an ecological footprint as in what have you done in the past that contributes to what you are doing currently, Hopefully in the future, I will have less of a digital footprint/identity and more of an “in the moment” identity.

Just the Beginning

As I come closer and closer to graduating the anxiety for post-graduation plans becomes greater. Ever since I graduated high school I have had a general plan for what I will do after graduation. This is mainly because my dad doesn’t want to pay for my education if I have absolutely no idea what I want to do. When trying to create a plan to present to my dad, I went to one of my favorite teachers for advice. She told me to think of what interests me. If i were to choose any class I enjoy and don’t mind going to what would it be? Right away I knew that it was biology, specifically human biology. I was and still am fascinated with the human body and how complex it is. I then thought about careers that would involve the human body. Luckily, I live in Southern New Hampshire so I have access to a few local technical schools. So with that in mind, I decided I wanted to get a BA in biology and once I graduate, attend NHTI for its Diagnostic Sonography program with the hopes of becoming an obstetric ultrasound technician,

As this plan slowly becomes a reality, my fear grows. I am afraid that I wont like the program or maybe that I won’t even be accepted. If either of those things were to occur, then my plan that i’ve had for the past 3 years would be derailed and I would feel lost. Although these fears linger, I am still very excited. I feel like my time here at Keene State has been broad in the classes that I am taking so I am eager to start taking classes that are more specialized to what I actually want to do. As of right now, I am very ready to move on from Keene State College to hopefully start the ultrasound program.

Career Pathway: What’s Next???

Tobacco Hornworm: Memory Ability With A Food Source

By Abbey Audesse and Maiah Jones

Background and Significance: 

It’s well known that diet has an overall influence on the fitness of an organism. Humans have the ability to localize specific, nutrient rich foods and retain for later use, but do other organisms do the same thing? Male moths, and other species, have the ability to utilize the pheromones emitted by females to find a mate (Grunbaum and Willis). Throughout the lifetime of a moth, they carry this cognitive ability to recognize the pheromones emitted and determine what they are. At the School of Biological and Molecular Sciences, they explored the possible role of cell survival through metamorphosis as a mechanism of the persistence of memory (Ray 1). We would like to dive deeper into the aspect of memory within our study.

Insects undergo a metamorphosis experience, changing their complete morphology, actions, and lifestyle (Blackiston and Casey). During pupation, extreme lysis, neurogenesis, and reorganization of tissues all occur (Ray 1). We want to test the ability of memory and how it is stored throughout a species developmental periods. Moths and butterflies transform from crawling little creatures to fully winged adults. A phenomenon called ‘chemical legacy’ is the connection between the larval stage and adult stage in which exposures can be carried to (Blackiston and Casey). If aspects such as odour and host plant can be recognized from prior experience, food should be memory as well. In our study, we hope to identify if food preference can be a chemical legacy. If associated behavior from the larval stage, through the pupal stage, and into the adult is possible, then food preference should remain the same. 


Objective, Hypothesis and Prediction

The objective of this experiment is to test whether or not the Tobacco Hornworm, over the course of pupating, is capable of recognizing from past experience. We would like to test the ability to acknowledge previously exposed food sources. 

The specific hypothesis to be tested is:

If the Tobacco Hornworm is presented with two food sources, it will choose the one that it has had prior experience with. 

Our prediction includes: 

The Tobacco Hornworm will choose a food source it has had prior experience with.

Methods:
Studied Species
The Tobacco Hornworm or the Manduca Sexta is a commonly known pest in various parts of the world. This species of caterpillar is referred to as a “hornworm” because of its green worm-like body and the horn on its posterior. The tobacco hornworm is known as a pest for its diet consists of plants from the Solanaceae family. This family includes crops such as tobacco, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants (M. Byron et al). This diet of plants from this family plays a significant role in the biology of the tobacco hornworm. Plants in the Solanaceae family contain steroidal and triterpenoid glycosides, which are chemical compounds that can have an influence on food preference (M. Byron et al). When in the larval stage, these caterpillars can cause major damage to plants by eating all of the leaves off or the actual vegetable. We will be taking the full vegetables out of the picture and utilizing only the leaves. 

Housing/Diet
The tobacco hornworms lifespan lasts from 30 days to 50 days. Since we are managing food, we want to minimize the variety of foods it comes in contact with. We will start with hornworm eggs and feed them the ‘ready to use hornworm diet’ food. The larvae will receive constant light to increase the time of the stage. It will take around three days of the eggs to hatch and we will then start testing and observations. Once the larvae are 2 cm long they will be moved into separate plastic containers with a hole and wire covering for ventilation. The hornworms will have access to leaves and small branches to climb on. These branches will be in a small amount of water so that they don’t dry up. The hornworms will have access to food, and it will be different for each enclosure. Each enclosure will be exactly the same in regards to size and layout. The amount of food, temperature, and humidity will remain the same throughout.

Experimental Design:
In order to test if the tobacco hornworms will choose a food it has had prior experience with, we will have to create replicates. There will be a total of three enclosures held within the science center. In one enclosure, 5 tobacco hornworms will only be consuming a diet of a tomato plant, or Lycopersicon esculentum. In another enclosure, 5 tobacco hornworms will only be consuming a diet of a potato plant, or Solanum tuberosum. The third will be our control, contain 5 tobacco hornworms that have access to both a tomato and a potato plant. We will let the tobacco hornworms become accustomed to their particular diets. After pupating, we will be presented with moths. Due to moths laying eggs around 3-4 days after hatching, we will have to observe quickly. During the pupation stage we will transfer a different food source into the enclosures, keeping out control the same. For example, the hornworms with the tomato plant will be introduced to potato plants and vise versa. This way we will be able to observe whether or not the moths will prefer a food that it has prior experience with or if it will go for the newly introduced food. We will observe them eating for all three days to collect data on how many of the moths continued eating their pre pupating diet. We do not want to start the cycle over again unless necessary. Therefore, when we have completed the observations we will freeze the moths for 48 hours and dispose of them. 

Example of enclosure for eggs/larvae stage: 

Image from Carolina Biological Supply Co. 

Data Analysis
Within our study we will run data analysis on the number of moths that either ate or did not eat the pre recognized food. We will use a two tailed t-test to do this. We will also create a bar graph to visually display the number that used memory to choose a food source. 

References Cited
Blackiston DJ, Silva Casey E, Weiss MR (2008) Retention of Memory through Metamorphosis: Can a Moth Remember What It Learned As a Caterpillar? PLoS ONE 3(3): e1736. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0001736
Byron, Morgan A, and Jennifer L Gillett-Kaufman. “Featured Creatures.” Tobacco Hornworm, Manduca Sexta (Linnaeus); Tomato Hornworm, Manduca
Quinquemaculata (Haworth), 2017, entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/field/tobacco_hornworm.htm.
Grünbaum, Daniel, and Mark A Willis. “Spatial Memory-Based Behaviors for Public Library of Science. “Can Moths Or Butterflies Remember What They Learned As Caterpillars?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 March 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080304200858.htm>.
“Living Organism Care Guide: Hornworms.” Carolina Biological Supply, https://www.carolina.com/teacher-resources/Interactive/living-organism-care-guide-hornworms/tr10510.tr.
Locating Sources of Odor Plumes.” Movement Ecology, vol. 3, no. 1, Apr. 2015, doi:10.1186/s40462-015-0037-6.

Resources Required
3 Plastic storage container
About 20 Manduca s. Eggs
Water
Potato Plant
Ready ro use hornworm diet
Tomato Plant
Heated light source
Wire (to cover hole for vent)
Branches



Isopod Lab

By Abbey Audesse and Calum Yule

Hypothesis:  Isopods prefer moist soil over dry soil.

Prediction(s):   If terrestrial isopods prefer moist soil over dry soil, then they will spend more time in moist soil than dry soil during a given period of observation. If several levels of moisture are used in the experiment with an increasing difference in moisture level, then an increase in time spent on the moist side of the container will also be observed in accordance with moisture level. The isopods should spend more time in the higher moisture levels.

Methods:  This experiment involves the simple linear regression model. In this experiment there were six sample groups, of differing moisture levels in the soil. Each sample had a cup, filled halfway with lightly compacted peat moss, with half of the surface of the moss moistened with a known amount of water. Sample 1 has 1mL of water poured on the surface, Sample 2 has 2mL, and so on to Sample 6 with 6mL of water. For each sample, five isopods (placed individually for each replicate) were placed directly on the centre of the soil, with its central axis parallel to the dividing line between the moist and dry sides of the cup so as to account for moving towards one side or another due to the isopod’s facing. After giving the isopod enough time to unroll itself and begin to move, a timer was set for 2 minutes and a stopwatch activated whenever the isopod walked onto the moist side of the cup. If the isopod walked back onto the dry side, the stopwatch was halted until it returned to the moist side. The amount of time (in seconds) that an isopod spent on the moist side of each sample was recorded, with each sample having a different isopod to account for fatigue in repeated experiments involving just one isopod.

Results:

Moisture Level (mL)Time points



Mean time (s) spent in moist side of cup







1034283.4
2162115171817.4
3282323252725.2
4303127292728.8
5504245494846.8
6384842464644

Our predictions were correct in that the more moisture in the soil, the more time will be spent on it in comparison to drier soil. Our experiment used a One-Way ANOVA t-test, with p<0.01 and F-stat of 162.7. Thus, the data collected indicates a significant relationship between moisture level and the time spent on either side of the cup. As seen by the graph above, R^2=.93 which is a significant correlation between the two variables.

Cricket Ethogram

Individual Behaviors:
Jumping – Using legs to push itself off the ground
Resting – There is no motion in any part of the cricket, this could last for seconds or minutes
Feeding – Used mouth and other parts of body to consume small chunks of cat food
Climbing – The crickets would use their legs to climb the side of the Dixie cup
Moving Antennae – The crickets would move one or both of the antennae while resting
Walking – The crickets would use their legs to get from point A to point B
Drinking – The crickets would stick their upper body parts into the damp sand to drink
Cannibilism – One of the crickets was consuming a cricket that died

Questions:
1. Are individual behaviors different if both males and females are placed together?
2. Do crickets prefer eating other crickets, even if there is another food source available?

Hypotheses:
1. Male and female cricket behaviors will differ when in a enclosure together, versus when they are separated by gender
2. Crickets will eat a more “normal” food source before eating other crickets

Predictions (for hypothesis #2):
1. If crickets are presented with both “normal” food and also dead crickets then the crickets will eat the “normal” food before eating the dead crickets
2. If a crickets only food source is other dead crickets, then the cricket will consume the dead crickets in order to stay alive

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