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July Updates: Open Meeting this Friday, Summer Interns, and Transitions
A huge program updates from CALeDNA Director Rachel Meyer
July meeting is this Friday 11AM PDT, welcoming new summer interns, and grand updates on new research projects
We hope you had an excellent Fourth of July weekend. Let us know how your summer is going at our open monthly meeting this Friday July 9th at 11AM PDT via Zoom. We’re already sizzling with in-person activities, presentations, and news.
The CALeDNA Summer Research Institute, supported by Bob Wayne and Beth Shapiro’s HHMI Professors Grant, ran at the end of June with eight undergraduate scholars at UCSC and four scholars at UCLA. The intensive training was led once again by eSIE postdocs Kim Ballare, Chloé Orland, and Maura Palacios Mejia, with additional teaching help from Sarah Crump, Suzanne Lipton, Anna Worth, and Colin Fairbairn. They covered everything from the typical questions we have when we probe eDNA and ancient DNA to the entire metabarcoding lab workflow and even some sequence analysis in R. Preparing scholars for a summer of research is also our time to update protocols and re-calibrate ourselves, and we’ll be uploading new documents to our Protocols page.
Having graduated the Summer Research Institute, the interns are already in the thick of field work and lab work. We are happy to have not only CALeDNA summer interns supported through HHMI in the lab, but also students from the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars program, the UCSC Research Mentoring Internship, and from the CAMINO internship. The Doris Duke team is working with Rachel Meyer and Kristy Kroeker camped in beautiful Tomales Bay overnight to sample sediments from seagrass beds. They are asking about the ecosystem services provided by seagrass beds to oyster farmers. Their hypothesis is that the seagrass beds filter out harmful bacteria such as Enterococcus.
Next week we’re officially starting fieldwork for a third eDNA research project with Erin Hestir’s lab at UC Merced. We started collaborating with this remote sensing heavy hitter and other fantastic engineers by investigating the drivers of biodiversity in eDNA along the Russian River, and then the Oneto-Denier floodplain. Now we are adding to that a study to measure the impacts of the invasive water primrose in the California Delta with eDNA. Erin’s lab is also helping us analyze hyperspectral data to correlate with CALeDNA sample data from Cedar Creek in Minnesota. If you are interested in helping to collect samples for these projects, please get in touch with us!
CALeDNA lab technician Anna Worth is training intern Michael Paquia to help work on our new Cooperative Agreement with the National Parks Service to develop and test eDNA qPCR and metabarcoding primers for aquatic invasive species surveys. We’ve been sending CALeDNA kits to NPS in Hawaii, Alaska, Washington and Oregon. Never seen people so happy to be trying to wring DNA from lava rock. We are thrilled to be serving the Parks!
UCLA HHMI eSIE postdoc Maura Palacios Mejia recently gave a presentation for Conservation Conversations on eDNA that you can watch HERE. Her Kelp Magic: Marine Storytelling Series continues today at 12PM PDT with Emma Akmakdjian. She and Miroslava also shared their work on the LA River at the California Water Quality Molecular Methods Working Group meeting last week.
At that meeting, we were struck to learn that the LA River may be where kayaking events will take place during the upcoming LA Olympics, and people are interested in monitoring the river for viruses such as SARS-COV-2. Well, thanks to our POuR project funded by Metabolic Studio, we have deep frozen collection of nearly 400 LA River samples during the peak waves of the pandemic that they can use as controls. Like all of the samples that make it back to our freezers, CALeDNA tubes are public research resources that you can check out for your own work. We’re curious to hear your thoughts on how you think these samples could be useful in the future.
Our collections are part of the Global Genome Biodiversity Network who are building out infrastructure to sort through physical environmental collections based on metabarcoding results. Rachel Meyer just learned she will be serving on the GGBN Executive Committee from 2022-2026, so expect occasional updates on their progress in this newsletter as well.
Finally – and this is big news – we congratulate our fearless Miroslava Munguia Ramos for accepting a position as an interpretive park ranger with the National Park Service at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area! As an undergraduate, Miro started working with CALeDNA in 2017 through UC Davis SEEDS and was a summer intern processing samples from our first community science collections. Once she graduated from Davis, she joined UCLA as the CALeDNA project manager on Bob Wayne’s lab when Rachel moved to UCSC to start up a northern headquarter. She served as the Project Director for Protecting Our River, which we are now completing. For that project, Miro led virtual bioblitzes, curated all samples, ran outreach events, co-led a workshop, worked with K-12 educators to develop DNA and biodiversity learning modules, mentored undergraduates, kept the lab running and maintained our social media. I’m so absolutely thrilled to see her bring her diverse skills and passion for outreach to the Parks. Miro, not far away, will still be involved in CALeDNA and in the POuR project wrap-up, but it will take a village and an eon to replenish the energy she gave to the CALeDNA program and all its collaborators.
Thanks for reading our updates, and please share your own with us this Friday at our monthly meeting.
UC Santa Cruz