My Kind of Town, Chicago Is

Growing up in Minneapolis, I’ve visited Chicago a fair share of times. When I was offered this internship at the Chicago Botanic Gardens, I was thrilled for the chance spend a summer living in one of my favorite cities and conducting genetics research. Exploring Chicago has not disappointed, but research at the Gardens has far exceeded my expectations. In this post, I’ll be summarizing my scientific research at CBG.

My favorite running route passes directly by
the iconic Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park.

My project analyzes genetic diversity in different populations of Clarkia concinna and Clarkia breweri, both members of the Onagraceae family. Our goal is to determine the effectiveness of different pollinators in delivering genetically-diverse pollen to plants. We believe that pollinators may influence population trends of genetic diversity and inbreeding.

Since my research this summer is exclusively in the genetics lab, I am using previously-collected plant and seed tissue. Field work included pollinator observation and collection of plant and seed tissue, all conducted across California. To determine genetic diversity within populations, we look at the number of paternal plants (basically, plant dads) involved in successful reproduction. Collecting the maternal plant (plant mom) provides direct access to its DNA. Later, we will germinate the seeds produced by these plants and analyze their DNA. Using the maternal DNA data, we can “cancel out” the genetic material which the progeny inherited from the mom. We will then look at the DNA that remains to determine how many paternal plants contributed pollen.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) plates are
convenient for running many samples at once, even
though it takes a while to set up.

So far, I have been learning the procedures for genetic extractions, primer trials with polymerase chain reactions, and microsatellite analysis with the Beckman machine. I am grateful for the “reference sheets” we have, because these techniques have a lot of steps! After a few times, though, it becomes second-hand. In the next few weeks, I will be analyzing the DNA of maternal lines as well as developing a protocol for seed germination. I anticipate that the pace of my project will continue to pick up, especially once I get new tissues and seeds mid-July. I’ll be back on the blog for another update around then!

Lab Rule: Always rub Mac (character from Chicken Run movie)
for luck before running the Beckman!