Just last week Ed Theriot (my advisor) said: Siberian diatoms may not be as tough as Siberian people. He referred to the pretty bad state of the phytoplankton cultures we had recently received from Irkutsk State University.
The isolates didn’t look that well upon arrival, and that was obviously cause for some concern. We need monoclonal cultures, started from a single cell, for both genetic and physiological experiments we are to perform. To get these cultures, we spent a couple of months in Bolshie Koty collecting and isolating phytoplankton from the lake. We tried giving the diatom cells a few different types of media (nutrient cocktails), a variety of temperature regimes and all the culturing voodoo I could think of. Still at the end of two months it didn’t look that promising. Not many isolates had grown and the ones that did were at very low cell numbers (weedy species aside). It became even more concerning when we learned that due to some customs issues, our cultures could not be shipped immediately. We ended up waiting almost two months until they finally arrived at UT Austin a week or so back.
Fast forward until this afternoon, and the picture is not as grim. Going though the dozens of isolates of the endemic Aulacoseira baicalensis, the famous under ice diatom, I noticed the familiar long chains packed with chloroplasts. Several of the cultures, made it through a trip to Moscow and back to Irkutsk, and then made it again through Moscow and across the Atlantic, before arriving still alive at our lab! Perhaps, at least some Siberian diatoms are tough enough for the inconsiderate treatment we put them trough.