Sunday, July 11, 2010

Elise at the Lab

I am working with Dominique M. McCowan a PHD student at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland , Australia.  Dominique is researching rapid and reliable estimates of zooxanthellae densities obtained using decalcified corals and fixed area of sample tissue.  Quantification of zooxanthellae densities in tissues of reef-building corals aids in the assessment of the extent and severity of coral bleaching. 
Dominique is a student under Dr. Morgan Pratchett.  She is an excellent researcher and has taught me so much about coral research.  We recently went to Orpheus Island to collect some samples of Pocillopora damicornis and I will begin replicating her research.  Orpheus Island is an island dedicated to research about coral. It is about 2 hours from Townsville and you have to take a 45 minute ferry to get there.  I finally had a chance to drive on the wrong side of the road!  It was strange and I kept on accidentally putting my windshield wipers on instead of my turning signal.  It was a beautiful ride and the smell of sweet sugar cane burning filled the air as we drove to the ferry.  Students live there for months at a time.  Luckily I only stayed there for a few days while Dominique and I free dived and collected samples of coral.  The reef was amazing.  We were snorkeling with huge Manta Rays and dolphins.  There were many kinds of reef fish and endless new coral reefs to look at.  We lost track of time for a while and realized we were in the water for 3 hours.  Collecting the samples was hard.  We had to hold our breath and dive down to the bottom of the reef where Dominique tagged corals.  It was about 8 or 9 feet.  We then took a hammer and flat instrument and hammered off a branch.  We then filled up the sample jars with sea water until we returned to the lab to put them in Formalin.   Lab work will begin tomorrow and I will spend many endless hours counting cells under a microscope.  Field work is so much more exciting.  But research isn’t always exciting but always necessary and extremely important.  This research will help broaden my horizon with reef research so I can bring it back to the classroom.  


  1. This is great stuff you guys. Keep it coming. It's amazing how much stuff you guys have done already in your short time there. I love the pics too. The "Campus" picture is funny. It's just a field. I guess you're trying to tell us there isn't much there huh? And, are you guys really walking 10 miles to the lab every day?!?!?! It's unbelievable that you still go running after that. You guys are going to be in amazing shape. Keep up the good work. Pam

  2. Wow all this in just 2 weeks? Plus running? You make me feel like a slacker. Fabulous clams and fab blog. I look forward to following your adventures!

  3. It is just a big field. But we love it. Yes, we are walking ten miles everywhere.

    Jen, you are the best! Wait until you see the artwork here on campus.

  4. Pam I am just exaggerating everything is quite spread out but not quite 10 miles. We must walk at least a few miles a day for sure.