With only two weeks of research left for me and many of my student collaborators, we are working on wrapping up our work for the summer to get it ready for presentation and publication. A large portion of this work has consisted of manually fixing and confirming gene annotations of complete mitochondrial genomes. Johnson and I have been working to assemble and annotate the mitochondrial genomes of Octocorallia, while Natasha and Brooks have focused on Hexacorallia. We are finishing up our annotation revisions so we will be submitting our sequences to GenBank soon. We also will be using the protein coding genes that we have annotated to build a phylogenetic tree based on mitochondrial data. Johnson and I will be comparing the tree built off of mitochondrial genes to a tree built from nuclear data as a way to compare the methods and what they tell us about the history and relationships of Octocorallia.
I’ve spent much of my time in the lab this summer working on DNA Barcoding for coral samples collected from the Northern Gulf of Mexico. These barcodes contribute to a project funded by the NOAA RESTORE Act that asseses the Population Connectivity of Deepwater Corals in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Since the target species of the project have all been characterized with DNA barcodes, we can use the sequencing technique as a way to confirm the species of the samples. I have focused on sequencing the mitochondrial genes MutS for Callogorgia samples and COI for Paramuricea biscaya. Thus far, I have confirmed the morphological identification of all of the samples I have sequenced. I have also identified the different haplotypes of Callogorgia and Paramuricea and will continue to analyze how these haplotypes are distributed spatially across the northern Gulf of Mexico.
I have also had the opportunity to mentor and work with two high school students in the lab this summer who have helped me with DNA barcoding. Justin has helped me with the barcoding for the target specimens in the RESTORE project, while Ana has sequenced the mitochondrial gene MutS for samples collected from the same locations whose species identifications are unknown.
Overall, I am astonished by how much I have learned in one summer, and have a lot of excitement as I analyze the results of our work and get to see how it contributed to larger projects.
UCE Project Team
All things Anthozoa, Evolution and Ecology
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