Aylesworth Scholar Highlight: Ashley Reaume Explores the Hidden World of Plankton Utilizing Metabarcoding – Fin Serve

Reaume accumulating water and plankton samples at Guana Tolomato Matanzas Nationwide Estuarine Analysis Reserve. Picture by Ashley Reaume.

When gazing up on the towering bushes, it’s straightforward to understand them as the only “lungs of Earth”. Nonetheless, microscopic marine plankton additionally play an important function in oxygen manufacturing. Phytoplankton, regardless of their dimension, contribute to roughly half of Earth’s oxygen provide. Very like vegetation, they make the most of photosynthesis to harness the solar’s power, changing it into important oxygen whereas absorbing carbon dioxide.

To assist us perceive the dynamics between plankton and water high quality,  Ashley Reaume, a Ph.D. candidate in integrative biology on the College of Central Florida, is diving into the microscopic world of plankton. Using superior methods like DNA metabarcoding alongside water sampling, Reaume has launched into a yearlong examine inside the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Nationwide Estuarine Analysis Reserve (GTMNERR) close to St. Augustine, Florida. Her analysis goals to disclose patterns in plankton neighborhood composition and their response to various water high quality. 

“Plankton, usually used as bioindicators of water high quality, reply quickly to environmental disturbances, making them essential for understanding ecosystem well being,” says Reaume. 

Her analysis includes sampling at ten completely different websites throughout the GTMNERR over a 12 months to seize the dynamic adjustments in plankton communities throughout completely different seasons and environmental circumstances. Utilizing DNA metabarcoding know-how, the info collected guarantees to supply insights into how these communities reply to pure and anthropogenic adjustments.

Reaume importing samples on the MiSeq to be sequenced for the primary time. Picture by Ashley Reaume.

Increasing the Attain of DNA Metabarcoding Throughout Numerous Fields

Reaume’s analysis enhances our understanding of marine ecosystem dynamics and explores the potential of DNA sequencing know-how. DNA metabarcoding is a revolutionary molecular approach that enhances our means to check biodiversity. By analyzing DNA from environmental samples, researchers can precisely determine species current in every space. 

“By utilizing bioinformatics, we are able to determine the species from which the pattern got here, just like how a barcode works at a retailer. To us, the sequences may look the identical, however to the pc, they’re completely different. It analyzes a small a part of the genetic sequence to determine the goal organisms,” says Reaume. 

For Reaume’s analysis, DNA metabarcoding offers deeper sampling and better species decision, essential for understanding the complicated dynamics of plankton communities. 

 “Many individuals see it as a brand-new instrument, however its growth has been gradual for the reason that creation of DNA sequencing. Over the previous decade or two, I’ve seen its rising adoption by administration businesses because it turns into extra user-friendly. Being on the forefront of this science and witnessing its evolution all through my profession has been fascinating.”

Nonetheless in style the approach is, there isn’t any official or standardized approach for implementing DNA metabarcoding in estuarine environments, that are distinctive, due to the completely different water mixing and turbidity. To handle this, Reaume devoted the primary chapter of her dissertation to a methodological examine, evaluating completely different DNA extraction kits to find out essentially the most environment friendly and cost-effective method for estuarine samples.

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