Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cell Culturing with Liz

mad scientist? liz working on cultures

The past couple of days in the lab have been dedicated to culturing. This means spending 2 – 3 days transferring each type of algae to new medium, thus supplying it with enough nutrients for another 3 – 6 weeks of survival.  Cultures need to be aerated in order to ensure that each organism gets a fair shot at the light and to ensure that bacteria won’t be able to feed off of dead culture.

just some of species of algae in the culture bank

Marine and freshwater species are cultured, of both flagellates (remember, algae with flagella to help it get around, and diatoms (those with the hard armored exterior, composed of silica). There were a few other types of algae that will be culture tomorrow as well: cyanobacteria, epiphytes, as well as cryptophytes. The classification of all the different species still eludes me and I will be wikipeda-ing the heck out of all these terms this evening.

                 algae (optical microscope)       algae (scanning electron microscope)

An example of a growth medium that is commonly used by many of the organisms is called L1. It involves taking sterile sea water from the reef near Orpheus Island (where Elise collected her coral samples!) The reason seawater is used from this area is because there is no contamination by runoff near largely populated areas, lets say like Townsville. Into this then goes .5mL of a vitamin solution, and 1mL of each of the following: trace metals, phophate, nitrate, and silica. Interestingly, only the diatoms use the silica to make their glass armor and if it isn’t used it starts to form sheets. This growth media can be stored until needed for culturing.
silica sheets

So all of this might not sound too hard (and once you get the gist of it, really it isn’t) but try learning all of this from Stan with his kiwi accent. At one point he asked me to get the white tips from the next room, so I brought him the white box of pipette tips and he laughed at me!  “Tape! The white tape, I said” he goes… I’m telling you it’s like I’m in my very own episode of Flight of the Conchords.
Hello, my name is Brit (Brett). You’ve got to just watch the show.  J


  1. I hope you contacted my friends Pip and Paul. Pip is a Kiwi as well.

  2. Silica sheets... I sleep on silica sheets with a 4000 thread count!

    Sounds pretty amazin'... go catch some crown of thorns...


  3. If you don't have access to 'sterile' seawater, is it possible to boil water from say....Long Island Sound? Or is a person better off making 'synthetic' seawater like Instant Ocean? I'm hoping to do yeast cell culture in the Fall, but my back-up plan is to maybe try algae, since we have a new orbital incubator coming!