Summer student Josi has been working with Dr Anne Jungblut on the Museum's cyanobacteria collections. She shares her experience of working in the lab with some very chilly samples.
My name is Josi and I'm in the middle of a summer studentship here at the Museum. I have been working with Dr Anne Jungblut on her cyanobacteria project and would love to share what I've been doing over the last several weeks at the Museum.
My summer project is supported by funding from the British Phycological Society, which focuses on research on microalgae, seaweeds, cyanobacteria etc. The society supports research projects through grants and has a biannual publication called The Phycologist.
One of my responsibilities over the summer has been to take care of the cyanobacteria in Anne's cyanobacteria culture collection. In the lab, biological samples, or cultures, need to grow in conditions similar to their natural habitats. This keeps them alive and allows us to carry out experiments even when the organisms have been removed from their orginal sites. For example, some of the cyanobacteria samples were collected during Antarctic expeditions featured on this blog and they are now kept in growth chambers here at the Museum.
Growth chamber for Antarctic cyanobacteria.
In the photo, you can see one of these growth chambers or illuminators with each cyanobacteria sample on its separate media place. The bright light on the inside of the door always stays on - it allows the cyanobacteria to carry out photosynthesis. I think of this illuminator as a "cyanobacteria garden" where we wait for the samples to grow. As these cyanobacteria are used to growing under Antarctic conditions, they are quite hardy! But every half year or so the cyanobacteria need to be re-cultured. This process of transferring cells to new medium provides them with fresh nutrients to grow.
I also used light microscopy to figure out if the samples are uni-algal - whether they are only one cyanobacterium morphotype or still a mixture of cyanobacteria. This is important because we can only use them for DNA characerisation when they are unialgal.