Hard to believe but this tiny bottle contains genetic information that will allow us to characterize the diversity of the microbial community at Station ALOHA. This was the final product from 5 days of sampling and many hours filtering, extracting, priming, amplifying and pipetting! We took water samples from the surface of the water all the way through the water column. We are interested in determining the diversity of microbial organisms at Station Aloha. We used PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to amplify pieces of DNA across several orders of magnitude. Each sample received a specific primer which serves as "tag" so we can link the microbial community to a depth and time of day they were collected. Primers are short DNA fragments that contain sequences complementary to the target region along the DNA polymerase. We checked to see whether the PCR generated the anticipated DNA fragments (sometimes called amplicons) using a process called agarose gel electrophoresis, which separates the PCR products based on size. A DNA ladder containing DNA fragments of known sizes is run alongside the PCR products. Once we determined that the PCR worked for each sample we then conducted a procedure that pooled all of the samples together and we ended up with one small bottle. It is truly mind blowing to consider how much data and information is contained in such a small volume!
Sarah Q. Foster
Sarah is a 2nd year Ph.D. student in the Fulweiler Lab. This blog documents her experience taking a summer course "Microbial Oceanography: From genome to biome" at C-MORE at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.