As week 9 comes to a close so does my research project. Since the last time I blogged my project has taken some interesting turns. As a refresher I am studying the population genetics of Hyles lineata, a pollinator moth that is widespread across the Americas. My initial plan to use DNA from museum samples did not go as hoped, and so the focus of my project went into further exploring the genetic structure of Hyles lineata in the southwestern United States. I was able to amplify and sequence a 605bp region of the mitochondrial gene COI from 31 larva/ova samples. The day I got the results back was by far the most exciting day of the internship. By adding 9 additional sequences of Hyles lineata found online from South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. I was able to compare the sequences and discover 19 different haplotypes (different genetic sequences). The most interesting thing about the data was the fact that individuals from South America shared the same genetic sequence as two individuals from Utah and Nevada. There were also populations with multiple individuals who all had different unique sequences. Although the data is preliminary I can infer that there is high genetic diversity and gene flow in many of these populations.
So what does this all mean though? And why do we care? Understanding the genetics of this species allows us to better understand the behavior and population structure of Hyles lineata. If this species is in fact one large interbreeding population, this means these individuals are traveling and breeding with others from different populations miles apart. Chances are they are also transferring pollen with them, bridging the gap between fragmented populations of plants. The exchange of this genetic material is important to maintaining genetic diversity.
Although it is the end of the summer and I only have one week left I am excited for the future of the project. We plan to collect samples from New Mexico and Arizona as well as sequence 94 additional samples to add to the initial populations. With this data we will be able to confirm the haplotype diversity and genetic structure of this species, and help understand their mutual interactions with plants.
Throughout the summer I have also greatly enjoyed the time spent mentoring my college first student Nina Kucher! She has been studying the germination of Onagraceae seeds, and has found some interesting results. It has been a pleasure to see the progression of her project and growth as a young scientist.
I want to thank everyone for reading and following my research this summer! I have had a amazing time at the garden as well as living in Chicago. I would like to thank my mentors Rick Overson and Tania Jogesh for all of their support and guidance throughout this project; it has been such a pleasure working with you both. I also want to thank Krissa Skogen and Jeremie Fant for supporting and inspiring my project. I have learned so much from all of you, and for that I am so grateful. Lastly I want to thank my fellow interns for all the memories and being there through all the commutes and adventures! I will miss you guys!
CBG REU 2014 Forever