This March, Tabor students will once again have the opportunity to spend one of two weeks on the campus of Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. MBL is a premier research institute affiliated with the University of Chicago and a regular partner with Tabor Marine Science. Our marine science students have assisted in data collection for some of their research projects, and have enjoyed visits from their scientists to our campus to learn about their research and methods. Another benefit of our partnership is having access to their newly created High School Discovery Courses held on their campus in Woods Hole. This is the second year Tabor students have been invited to MBL to study, this time with a choice of two courses at MBL.
Exploring microbiomes of marine organisms with DNA sequencing
Students will be introduced to the fundamentals of microbiome science through a combination of lectures, group discussions, laboratory work, and computer exercises. The course will focus on the microbial communities that are found associated with marine model organisms. Students will design a sample collection scheme, collect environmental and host samples, record metadata, extract DNA and construct sequencing libraries using the polymerase chain reaction. They will learn to use online bioinformatics tools for DNA sequence characterization and microbial community composition analysis.
The microbiome is the community of microorganisms that inhabit a particular environment or their collected genomes. Microbiome research, especially of human microbiomes, is a new and significant aspect of biology and medicine. In this course, the students will investigate the host-associated microbiomes of marine model animals in the MBL's Marine Resources Center. Students will learn to use state-of-the-art molecular techniques to identify the microorganisms, assess their relative abundance, and compare the microbiomes from different hosts. Course faculty are the MBL's director of research, David Mark Welch and senior scientist Hilary Morrison. Additional lectures and exercises will be provided by senior scientist Mitchell Sogin, Lisa Abbo (MBL's veterinarian), William Reznikoff, and others.
Lectures will introduce the basics of DNA and genomics, experimental design, aquatic animal health, marine microorganismal diversity, molecular biological techniques including the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and DNA sequencing, and phylogenetics (the 'tree of life'). Some lectures will go into more depth regarding ongoing microbiome research (the human microbiome; the census of 'deep life'). Hands-on exercises will include collecting water and tissue samples, microscopy, DNA extraction, PCR, and DNA visualization by gel electrophoresis. We plan to include computational analysis of sequence data appropriate to the students' abilities. By the end of the course, the students should have gained an understanding of how an organism's microbiome develops and how the host and microbiome interact.
Anatomy and Development of Marine Vertebrates and Invertebrates
The course focuses on the anatomy, development, and physiology of various animals, with an emphasis on marine species. It incorporates many aspects unique to the MBL, including working with local marine organisms, learning advanced microscopy and imaging techniques, and exploring cephalopod husbandry and research. Course faculty include MBL’s Director, Nipam Patel, and MBL’s Veterinarian, Lisa Abbo. Additional lectures will be given by MBL’s manager of cephalopod operations, Bret Grasse, the manager of the Marine Resources Center, Dave Remsen, and resident coral scientist Loretta Roberson.
The course begins with students learning about lab animals and how to build support systems to care for aquatic animals, a vital part of any research endeavor. Students will check-in each day with their animals and their tank systems to assess water quality and health. They will then move on to learning about the anatomy of a range of marine species including finfish, elasmobranchs, crustaceans, cephalopods, coral, and other invertebrates through dissection and imaging. The focus will be on major organ systems such as the nervous system, musculature, digestive system, and reproductive system, and the important contributions made by comparative anatomical studies. A mixture of hands-on work and lectures in methods for physical exams, anesthesia, and diagnostic sample collection gives them an understanding of basic anatomy, disease, and health monitoring.
The students will also learn how the major organ systems develop during embryogenesis, with the opportunity to create time-lapse videos of embryos, and collect their own confocal microscope data to create 3D reconstructions of embryonic structures in a variety of species at different stages of development. This will allow them to learn how current research scientists aim to understand how organs form during normal development, and how errors in this process lead to various birth defects.
The opportunity to take these classes is reserved for only four high schools in the U.S. We are enormously lucky to have access to these scientists as they work to increase interest in marine science and the oceans among high school-age students. Taught at a very high level, this residential program is perfect for those eager to study marine science or biology in college. Students were invited this week to make an application for the coursework. Please contact Jay Cassista, Director of Tabor Marine Science, to learn more. The courses run concurrently over the two weeks of our spring break.