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Student, Biology Professor Collaborate To Present Unique Research Project

April 8, 2010  
 Filed in Research

Elizabeth McGuire '10 and Associate Professor of Biology Jim Welch

Springfield, Ohio – Elizabeth McGuire, class of 2010 from Springfield, Ohio, needed to complete a directed research project for her minor in marine science and was unable to afford the time or the expense of a trip to the Duke Marine Lab semester or the Bahamas summer field study.

To make it possible for McGuire to work on the project, Associate Professor of Biology Jim Welch collected specimens at Ward’s Creek in Beaufort, N.C. McGuire then worked on the project on Wittenberg’s campus throughout spring semester of her junior year.

Her problem: three species of fiddler crabs co-occur on the East coast of the United States. As adults, they occupy different habitats based on sediment grain size and salinity. At Ward’s Creek in Beaufort, N.C., the adult fiddler crab population is exclusively U. minax. McGuire’s challenge was to discover whether that occurred by selective settlement by larvae or random settlement of all three species followed by post-settlement mortality.

“We extracted DNA from the specimens using a multiplex polymerase chain reaction technique developed by Dr. Welch,” McGuire explained. “After some practice, we were able to manage up to 24 at a time.”

This product was then placed in a gelatinous substance and subjected to ultra violet light to determine the species of the fiddler crab larvae.

“If settlement is random, then we expect the species distribution of the settlers to reflect the distribution in the plankton,” McGuire said. “However, if selective settlement is occurring then the settlers should be primarily U. minax. We found larvae of all three species in the plankton, but all settlers identified were U. minax. This indicates that U. minax settles selectively at Ward’s Creek.”

McGuire presented her research titled “Fiddler Crab Larval Settlement at Ward’s Creek in Beaufort, N.C.” at the Benthic Ecology Meeting at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in March.

“It was an awesome experience,” McGuire said. “We had a really long day of research presentations from 8 a.m.to 5:30 p.m., and the poster session and a film festival of current marine research. I met and socialized with Wittenberg alumni who have similar interests to mine, and was introduced to people who will be involved with my next career objectives.”

McGuire’s research was supported by National Science Foundation Research Opportunity Awards and by Wittenberg University Faculty Research Fund Board grants.

“I would not have been able to do my project without their generous support,” McGuire said.

Written By: Phyllis Eberts
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