After a very busy teaching semester, summer has finally arrived in Ithaca… albeit it’s been up and down with the weather!
At the end of May, the lab was happy to celebrate with (but sad to see leave!) Jameson (Jay) Crandell, who completed his studies at Cornell and will be moving to pursue a PhD in Microbiology at Yale this fall. Jay joined the lab in Spring 2020 – at the start of the Pandemic – and has amassed considerable experience with epidemiology, molecular biology, microbiology. He was the recipient of the Microbiology Outstanding TA award this last spring – a wonderful mentor to others in the lab, his classes, and the community more widely. Jay did an honors thesis on the tissue tropism of the Apostichopus californicus (giant Pacific sea cucumber) flavivirus, and has contributed significantly to our understanding of this most bizarre virus. His strong dedication to lab work and supporting others, including efforts in DE&I and STEM, is made all the more impressive by the fact that he was a colleagiate athlete (and NCAA finalist in diving). The team is excited to see where Jay’s journey continues in grad school and beyond!
This summer the lab has thinned considerably. Ricardo and Katie are doing internships elsewhere in marine science. Ashley is working through the summer to continue her project on the biochemistry of sea cucumbers as they relate to its flavivirus. Jordan is working computationally to analyze microbiomes associated with sea cucumbers in context of organic matter amendment. The results on that front are proving very interesting indeed. Not only is sea cucumber health correlated to bacterial productivity in surrounding waters (yet microorganisms on their surfaces are less active than in overlying waters), but there is some evidence that microbial activity leaves physiological markers in sea cucumber tissues, and that these relate to flavivirus load. We’re continuing to explore how water column and animal surface microbiology influences viral dynamics. Next up for the project will be to examine how primary productivity influences animal viruses – stay tuned for upcoming trip reports from the field.
The team is also pursuing work on the ongoing Diadema mass mortality in the Caribbean. While the condition appears to have left some sites after an initial burst of mortality, at others, e.g. Puerto Rico, it appears to be slowly spreading – and all eyes are on pristine sites to see when/if it appears. The lab is currently investigating viral and microbiome composition, along with urchin transcriptomics, to see what’s different between animals that are starting to show disease signs (symptoms) and those which are not affected between multiple sites. This work is being performed in collaboration with a wide network of researchers in many countries. The aim of this project, currently supported by the Atkinson Center for Sustainable Futures, is not just to find a bug, but also to facilitate collaborations and provide resources and support / training to scientists not currently focused on microbiology or in areas lacking resources to perform this work. Whatever data we generate – which belongs to the countries, investigators and institutions that collaborate on sample collection – will be of wide interest and utility.
So summer is off to a great start! Happy Pride!