Monday, March 3, 2014

Ben LaBelle's Internship, Spring 2014 - Part 3

Hey everyone,

I thought you might like to see a little more of what the sorting process looks like here in the lab. First, the sample starts out looking something like this, lots of mud and organisms in a jar filled with formalin and seawater. Now all we have to do is separate the animals from the mud.

To start that process, the sample is emptied into a sieve and rinsed with clean water to remove as much of the fine clay particles as possible.

Once the clay has been removed, the sample is stained with rose bengal. This stain turns the organisms in the sample a bright red color, but leaves the sediment uncolored, making it easier to sort the sample.

The samples are stained overnight before being rinsed again to remove any unused stain from the sample. The samples are then placed into petri dishes for sorting under the microscope. Each sorter has their own system that they prefer to use to ensure that all the organisms are sorted out of a sample. I prefer to use a very large dish with small gridlines added to the back so I can spread out the sample and systematically search line by line for organisms.

Any organisms that are found are sorted into major groups and placed into small, labeled glass vials to be further identified by Arvind.

Once the sample has been fully sorted, the remaining sediment is placed into a small jar for storage.

Here’s what a pre and post sorting sample look like side by side. As you can see, a lot of the sediment is washed away during the rinsing process making the sorting process much easier. It’s still a lot of work to sort the organisms out of the sand, shell pieces, and clay balls that are left over, but it’s certainly easier than trying to find copepods and polychaetes in a giant jar full of mud!

Posted By:
Ben LaBelle, Florida State University

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