Like many graduate students, my break is packed with lab work and field trips, one of which is our summer sampling trip to Lake Baikal! So, when UT Austin’s Spring semester ended mid May, I loaded up my trucklet with sampling bottles, coolers and plankton nets, and I hit the road, heading North to the Great Lakes.
My first summer goal: to catch the end of the Great Lakes Spring diatom bloom.
This trip was quite different from our upcoming travel to Lake Baikal (I was camping in my trucklet, I ate pasties, I drove 4,500 miles through weather and tornado warnings listening to a lot of NPR), but Lake Baikal and the Great Lakes as water bodies have important similarities. Most important to me, is the fact that they harbor closely related species from the same diatom genus despite being on opposite sides of the world.
Of the many Lake Baikal endemic diatoms that we are collecting population genetic data from for the dimensions grant, two are in the genus Aulacoseira (A. baicalensis and A. skvortzowii). From molecular phylogenetic analyses, we believe that A. baicalensis and A. skvortzowii are most closely related to A. islandica; the three species form a clade (Edgar and Theriot 2004). Lucky for me, A. islandica lives in the Great Lakes and I could go get it.
I’m happy to report that my first summer goal is completed, I caught the spring bloom and brought back and have data from A. islandica along with a few other Aulacoseira species that are abundant in the Spring plankton.
Why did I do it? Population genetic data from other Aulacoseira, particularly a diatom as closely related to the Baikal endemics as A. islandica, will enhance the reach of our Baikal data. Data from my Great Lakes samples will allow us to investigate patterns of genetic diversity between endemic and non-endemic diatoms in the genus Aulacoseira from a comparative framework. This is in addition to the patterns we’re investigating in the endemic and non-endemic diatoms from many genera that we are studying in Lake Baikal.
My next goal: to catch the summer diatom bloom in Lake Baikal. Fingers crossed!
Edgar, S. M. and E. C. Theriot. 2004. Phylogeny of Aulacoseira (Bacillariophyta) Based on Molecules and Morphology. Journal of Phycology 40:772–788.