Monday, February 28, 2005

Is an intern's work ever done? God I hope so... Alt. Title I'm going to be a Photoshop Wiz when this is all over

Part of being an intern is getting to do all the boring, mundane stuff that would otherwise bog down the researchers (whee). I accept that. It's still important work that needs to get done. But by god can it get mind-blowingly boring! Case in point... for the colorblind research... we had 16 checkerboard substrates and 10 experimental animals. Yours truly also got to run the black and white control experiments on each animal just to get a baseline for each one's disruptive pattern.

Each experiment ran for 30 minutes, with the camera recording 1 second every 30 seconds. That's 60 "images". Alex, the Portuguese PhD student gets to go through all those tapes and choose the 10 best images to import into jpegs. Are you keeping track? Ok, now I take those images, copy and paste the cuttlefish out of the substrate and onto a white background and save it to a new file with a random number name so Alex and Lydia can grade it without bias to animal or substrate. Not to mention adjusting the lighting or contrast if the image came out too dark or out of focus which often happened. So if you've been crunching numbers, and I know you have, admit it, that's 16 substrates x 10 animals x 10 images per animals = 1600. Oh, don't forget another 90 from the control (since an animal died), so 1690 images to format in total. SIIIGGGGGHHHHH.

Anyway, here's an example of my work. Try to contain yourself.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Cuttlefish Torture Chamber... I mean, experimental tank

Here is where all of these hours (and yes, literally hours) of video capture occur.

The reason it takes so long is because we need to give the cuttlefish time to acclimate to its new surroundings which are understandingly very stressful: bright lights, unnatural checkboard substrate, big thing which follows its every movement (the camera, not me). Each cuttlefish is different and reacts differently. Some acclimate quickly and settle quickly. Some are slower to settle. Some seem to sleep through the whole experiment and some almost seem like they are twiddling their thumbs, er, their arms. Some just seem to like to ink and piss you off. Each one is an individual.

Friday, February 25, 2005

It's not easying seeing green

As I mentioned before, the current big project that we're working on right now deals with whether or not cuttlefish are colorblind. The current data supports that they have only one visual pigment that allows them to see in shades of green. In order to test this, Lydia constructed 18 checkerboard substrates in which a green checker remained constant and the intensity of the other checker varied from white to black. At some point, the intensity of the gray match that of the green. It is believed that the cuttlefish would not be able to distinguish this substrate from the others. And so far, that's what the data appears to indicate. The way we tell this is by lots and lots of video data :P It is already known that cuttlefish put on a disruptive pattern on a high contrast substrate.

If the substrate is uniform, or they perceive it to be, then the pattern will be as well.

Here is a sample of what we have been seeing which seems to indicate that cuttlefish are indeed colorblind.

At Substrate 1, white and green, which is a high contrast substrate, a disruptive pattern is shown.

At Substrate 8, in which the intensity of the gray and green are match, a uniform pattern is shown.

At Substrate 16, black and green which also happens to be the highest contrast substrate besides black and white, a strong disruptive is shown.

This study also gave insight onto the contrast detection of Sepia officinalis. It would be expected that since they appear to be colorblind, they would have very good contrast detection to enable such remarkable camouflage abilities. However, it appears to be only around 20%.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The end of my first week

I began Friday with quite an interesting surprise, and of course I left my camera at home so I have no photographic documentation so show. I was checking on the cuttlefish and came upon two who at first glace appeared to be mating as S. officinalis mate head-to-head.

However, it turns out this was a deadly embrace instead of an amorous one. One cuttlefish decided it just couldn't deal with having another one giving it the eye, and on an empty stomach no less. All cephalopods can be cannibalists, as one discovered the hard way.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Week 1, Day 4

The cephalopods in the lab eat a variety of food such as capelin, herring, and squid, depending on what's on hand. When it was time to prepare some more, I decided to do it myself, as after all, I'm the one responsible for them during my internship. The menu for today consisted of capelin.

I discovered the joys of preparing this savory dish for the cephalopods, of which there are none, at least not for me. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it though.

Dr. Hanlon held a lab meeting in the afternoon to discuss current research projects and future ideas for projects, which include the reflective properties of skin,the abilities to control the "whiteness" of skin through leucophores, the evocation of the mottled pattern, and the testing for colorblindess in Sepia officinalis. He went over where everyone was and where everyone needed to be in their respective responsibilities. Even I was given some tasks to complete, which mainly include helping Lydia and Alex (a graduate student) with their projects by running experiments and collecting data. Lydia plans on continuing a study into testing colorblindness by using blue and yellow checkerboard substrates and Alex is working with the ontogentic development of the disruptive pattern.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Week 1, Day 3

In addition to my daily duties, I was able to help feed the cod housed in the tank room.

The cod we have are huge, about the size of large dogs, although I hear they get up to six feet long. They are also quite attractive fish, with very pretty leopard spots.

The rest of the day was spent looking for and making the necessary materials to get a new lab set up completed so I can begin doing experiments with the cuttlefish.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Week 1, Day 2

Husbandry is a part of my daily schedule. I've been told to think of the cuttlefish as mine :) The group you see below is just a small sampling of the nearly 90 cuttlefish we have, most of which are juveniles.

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We also have 6 octopuses (2 different species), but they spent a lot of their time hiding. The one in the picture is the largest one we have and is an Octopus bimaculoides. As you can see, we have to take measures to ensure its incarceration. Otherwise, they'll find their way out and will eventually be found wandering around if they're lucky and dead if they're not.

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One of the great things about interning at MBL is that there are frequently guest speakers presenting new and interesting research. I was able to attend a talk by Dr. Tyrone Hayes from Berkeley. He's doing research on the endocrine effects of the herbicide atrazine on frogs, and subsequently, the people who are exposed to it- which is basically everyone. For more information on Dr. Hayes and his research, go here.

The rest of the day was uneventful, as first weeks usually are. They typically require a lot of paperwork, lab safety videos (you gotta love those shots of people "accidentally" drinking out of beakers and pipetting by mouth), and rummaging through equipment wondering where the previous intern left that ac adapter.