Week 3 was as grand as could be!

From: Osinski, Brianna
Sent: Sunday, June 22, 2014 12:23 AM
To: White, Peter S
Subject: Week 3 was as grand as could be!

Hello Dr. White,
So, my 3rd week here included many more fascinating talks. My favorite one was given by a man named Barrett Klein who made the robotic frogs that we are using to conduct some of our experiments. He is a phenomenal artist and just as impressive a scientist. His talk was about the decreasing trend in the amount of images (graphs, tables, photos, and illustrations) in scientific articles over the past 80 or so years. It was shocking to see the nose dive in the amount of images (a trend which was beautifully illustrated by multiple graphs in his talk). A few hypotheses were time constraints, funding, a desire to seem more scientific and less like a National Geographic article, etc. There were counters to each hypothesis, but it was still a fascinating trend and even if the root cause, if but one single cause exists, cannot be parsed out by this study, the study will at least serve the function of making people aware of this trend and will hopefully remind scientists and publishers alike of the efficacy of well-used images.

My lab mate, Caitlin, and I got to use the robo-frogs for some of our experiments this week. They are even cooler in action! The vocal sacs actually function. They are made of catheters, spray painted to look like the real thing, which are inflated by an automatic syringe. There are a few kinks, occasionally a catheter will pop and sometimes a female will land on the robo-frog and the force of the inflation will throw her off, but, the females are always fine and not as phased as one might expect upon witnessing a fellow frog exploding before their eyes. Also, since these experiments are testing the female’s visual senses, we need to do everything in the dark so now we need to crawl around our sound chamber where we run the phonotaxis and try to re-capture the females based on the sound of where they are plopping as they jump away. We have rigged up some walkie-talkies too so whoever is watching the live-feed from the chamber can give the person inside some vague directions. It’s actually quite fun (especially given our addition of code names, you can’t use a walkie-talkie without a code name!) and I feel as though it gives a more sporting chance to our frogs.

The amazing genetics discovery of the week was flash gels! Usually, to do gel electrophoresis for DNA analysis you need to make the gel yourself, dye the DNA you want to see, run an electrical current through the gel, and wait while the DNA fragments slowly move down the gel. Then, to analyze it, you need to take a picture of the gel using a special light and camera in order to see the actual DNA bands and not just a blurry line of dye smeared down a gel block. WELL, with the flash gel, the gel is pre-made AND it has a built in light so you can watch the DNA migrate in real time rather than the dye. You can also hook up the gel holding apparatus to your computer so you can record the whole thing. Whoa!!!

Also, noteworthy sightings of the week:Brianna plant

-A juvenile fer de lance slithering quickly away from my left boot.

-A wolf spider eating a Tungara! My friend and I got to watch as the spider was paralyzing the frog before dragging it off. Such a powerful sight.

-Capuchins running through the trees outside the window of our lab.

-A Cat-Eyed snake eating a Tungara (it’s been a rough week for those little guys!)

Have a splendid week,

Brianna 🙂

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  1. By Letters from Panama, Summer 2014 – OURblog on July 29, 2014 at 1:32 pm

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