February update- making a home at USC

The lab has moved to USC and we’re slowly getting up and running. Ken Nealson has graciously provided us with temporary space in his laboratory. We’ve figured out how to order things, located most of the light switches, gone through our safety trainings, and even have wet lab operations going again. Mike and Alex went on the SPOT cruise last week (look for an upcoming blog post on that) and began our first high-throughput cultivation experiment with surface and DCM water. Those are incubating as I write, and the new isolates will inaugurate our USC Culture Collection (US3C for convenience). Jordan, Mike, and Celeste have also been sequencing genomes with our Oxford Nanopore MinION for the last couple weeks, generating a deluge of new As, Ts, Cs, and Gs. We’re watching as the lab space comes together, which is an exciting process.

It’s also an El Niño season, so southern California has been a bit wetter than usual. However, snow in the San Gabriel mountains makes a magnificent backdrop for Los Angeles. And El Niño is roughly translated by some in SoCal to mean “great surf.” I was at UCSD during the 1997-1998 El Niño season, and I remember watching Black’s at triple overhead from the safety of the cliffs. I also remember getting bounced off the bottom after taking a big set on the head at Boomer’s in La Jolla…but that’s a story for a different time.

Blacks. Photo: McGuinness (https://www.surfer.com/el-ninos-relentless-perfection/)

For now, I’ll just leave you with a sunrise photo from the USC quad a few weeks ago.

Sampling at the Calcasieu Jetties

On Monday, January 15th, I got to join Celeste on a sampling trip to Calcasieu Jetties in Cameron, Louisiana. This was my first time going on a sampling trip since joining the Thrash Lab. While it was quite a cold morning, it was still a fun time. There were some beautiful views along the way of Louisiana’s marshes.

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View of the marshes

Once we got to the sampling site, Celeste had the joy of wading out into the cold water and collecting.  At least it was a beautiful morning with the sun shining down and bright blue skies.

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The sampling site

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Celeste striking a victory pose after collecting the water sample

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Celeste filtering the sample

The purpose of this trip was to obtain a water sample for the mCURE sections of introductory biology lab. Using this sample, the students will learn high throughput cultivation protocols used in the Thrash Lab. I’m happy to have been able to help with the fieldwork and hope that the students enjoy learning about what our lab does.

The Microbes of the Mississippi River – A Rowing Adventure for Science

For the past four months a crew of four rowers and four shore crew members with OAR Northwest, a not-for-profit adventure education organization, have been on a journey of a lifetime on the Mississippi River. After over 100 days of rowing, the crew has traveled from the headwaters of the River in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. They arrived in Baton Rouge on November 16, 2016 and spent a few days visiting LSU and talking to students about their journey.

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After months on the Mississippi River, OAR Northwest rowers Audra and Calli arrived in Baton Rouge. Researchers at LSU met the rowers near the new bridge to retrieve water samples the rowers had collected for analysis of microbe DNA. Photo by Dawn Jenkins.

Just as the state of Louisiana has a special connection with the “Mighty” Mississippi River, the OAR Northwest rowing crew has a special connection with LSU. This is the second OAR Northwest Mississippi River adventure during which rowers have collected water samples for Dr. Cameron Thrash, an assistant professor in the LSU Biological Sciences department. Cameron’s research focuses on relationships between microorganisms and biogeochemical cycles, particularly in marine systems. Thanks to a relationship with the OAR Northwest team that started when founder Jordan Hanssen met Cameron’s family in Washington, and which has developed into an ongoing citizen science project, the Thrash lab is now building a complete microbial “map” of the Mississippi river…

See more from Paige Jarreau and me about this amazing project at The Pursuit LSU College of Science Blog HERE.

Sampling the Mississippi River Delta

Mike and I went on a sampling trip Tuesday (1/12/16) to the Mississippi Delta (“The Birdfoot”) near Buras, LA. This was my first sampling trip ever with the Thrash lab, and I must say that it was a great experience! We headed out loaded up with our equipment and coffee, and ended up with a fantastic view of  the sunrise at the edge of Lake Pontchartrain. Sadly, the picture does not come close to the beauty of  our actual view.

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Sunrise at the edge of Lake Pontchartrain

At the site, Mike waded out into the water to collect the sample while I got to hang back and enjoy the scenery. It was a great day to be outdoors with cool air and the sun shining.

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Our view from the dock

 

Some pelicans that didn't seem to mind us
Some pelicans that didn’t seem to mind us

 

Mike taking YSI readings
Mike taking YSI readings

 

Mike filtering a water sample
Mike filtering a water sample

Overall, I really enjoyed my sampling adventure with Mike. This trip was a part of our 3 year study of the coastline to characterize the microbial population of the Louisiana coast in conjunction with adding microbes to our Louisiana State culture collection (LSUCC) from the Gulf of Mexico. I’m hopeful that we will isolate some novel organisms from this and future trips. Not all undergraduates are lucky enough to be a part of a lab that allows us to be out in the field for data collection, so I’m grateful to Dr. Thrash and Mike for the opportunity!

 

Ending the first Diel sampling set


Enjoy some time pictures from time points 0200 and 0600 as we completed our 24 hour survey at the C transect site. The video I have uploaded is of the Platform and its fog horn that sounds every 20 seconds or so. Its a real joy to work and sleep to.

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The sunrise at 0600 this morning. To be cheesy #nofilter

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Sunrise on the Northern Gulf of Mexico after our last CTD cast

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The rain has come back on our way to the 2nd 24 hour survey site