August 9, 2005
I "wuassed out" and didn't go back to New Market today. It would have been my last day in the field, and seining over all that trash and oyster shell seemed really daunting. I kept picturing a small gash that would have me septicemic by nightfall-so, overall, no regrets.
I spent the morning with Dr. Paul Gross, the head of the Genomics section, who is a professor at the Medical College of South Carolina. He is very proud of Hollings, the "newest and best marine lab", and of the cooperative work that is done here. Genomics doesn't really lend itself to a "quick and dirty" explanation, but I'll try. Anything I get right is because Paul is such a good "splainer"; mistakes are entirely my fault.
Marine organisms (or sometimes just organs or tissues) are mushed and processed and turned into a gene display of all the available genes. Genes that are "always on" or genes that are "never on" don't get picked for the micro-array. Therefore, a micro-array is a snapshot of whatever genes are being expressed at a particular point in time. Organisms are subjected to stressors one at a time or in combinations, and the consequent micro-arrays are compared to "normal" conditions. Stressors, including various pollutants, low oxygen, antibiotics, etc., can be tracked for the progression of change. Presently, shrimp, oysters, killifish, and dolphins are being studied, with more to follow. Eventually these micro-arrays could be predictors for disease of organisms and health of the habitat. Human transfer of using micro-arrays of genomes includes diagnosis of disease, assessing damage of health problems, designing drug protocols, etc. Absolutely incredible!
The equipment for gene separation, "picking", enhancing, and displaying the micro-arrays is very, very, VERY expensive. I thought they would have researchers standing in line to work here, but apparently there's just not a lot of grant money available for this research, and the experiments are really big-ticket. What a shame!
I helped Anne get ready for the creek sampling (gathering equipment and sampling collection materials, readying the sonde, fixing water bottles, and packing the truck, etc.) and put together some reports for a meeting tomorrow. Full schedule tomorrow of meetings and appointments.