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Invertebrate Zoology Lab

Dr. Abigail Kula’s Invertebrate Zoology class were able to get their hands on some real life organisms in the lab the past several weeks. The class conducted a lab observing various types of organisms from a particular fresh water environment.

Dr. Kula was able to further elaborate on the experiment:

Over spring break ten pounds of fresh, live material straight from Monterey Bay, Calif., kelp forests arrived at the Mount. The holdfast part of the kelp which holds the seaweed to the rocky substrate is home to a huge diversity of invertebrate organisms.

Over two lab periods students in Invertebrate Zoology sorted through the specimens (which lived in a saltwater aquarium in Science 304) and sorted the specimens into 34 different “morphospecies” – our best guesses at what is probably separate species based on their different external morphology. (Some species had over 100 individuals!).

We used the broad groups of arthropods (hermit crabs, shrimp, isopods, crabs), molluscs (snails), annelids (worms) and echinoderms (sea stars). As we sorted the specimens, students used our new dissecting scope with a camera to document the species and write a short description. We also saved one individual of each species as part of a synoptic collection.

After all the sorting, students calculated several measures of biodiversity. Comparing groups, we found that the arthropods had the highest diversity. We calculated an overall diversity measure, and later this semester, we will compare it to diversity found at sites around campus. Stay tuned!

Dr. Kula was not the only one to weigh in on the most recent lab, Emily Bientz (C’18) said, “I really liked that we had our own little ecosystem to work with. I really liked that from our lab we could make predictions about the species and the amount of species in the Monterey Bay, overall I liked the hands on approach to an aquatic ecosystem.”

Additionally, Latoya McGlorthan (C’17) noted, “I thought it was interesting and exciting to see the amount of diversity kelp holdfasts hold. We frequently hear about how diverse the environment is but it’s different experiencing it for yourself.” It is wonderful to see students taking advantage of the many opportunities the School of Natural Science and Mathematics has to offer.