Shark Lab

Why so many vials: research prep with Edward

Edward is a PSRC intern and SJSU undergraduate studying marine biology at MLML

Today Paul was out (and will be until mid-August), but we kept busy prepping vials for several PSRC projects, including MLML grad student Melissa’s thesis work.

The entire day we spent organizing colored vials by numbering them 0-100 and filling them with a general amount of ethanol solution.

So why so many vials and why fill them with ethanol?

Melissa is working on an age-growth project based off of Paul’s sharks being collected from the Southern Indian Ocean. Granted in science, having a lot of replicates is important for running statistics on data. The larger sample size you have the less likely you’ll have crazy data points that may throw the whole data. In other words, this prevents data from looking bad or biased in many ways. (This is why science requires so much work sometimes).

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Ethanol is an organic solvent. Believe it or not water isn’t the best preservative for dead matter. Also ethanol creates a harsh environment for bacteria and fungi. You don’t want bacteria and fungi eating away your tissue of interest. You lose your tissue sample you lose your data point. Not good! Ethanol is also handy in desiccating tissues as well.

What kind of tissues are we looking for?

Tissues make up organs and bones. Whenever we study sharks, its important to get samples of those organs. (Sharks have a cartilaginous skeleton). What Melissa is doing is she needs samples of vertebrae in order to measure the age of the shark. Aging sharks is measured on their rings on the vertebrae…very much similar to trees and bivalves! These rings can be observed on a scanning electron microscope, a more powerful microscopy.

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