Research and Teaching Continues for Tiny Earth Lab Team

Tuesday, Apr 21, 2020

Story by FAU Associate Scientist, Diane Baronas-Lowell, Ph.D.

Upon FAU’s transition to remote working on March 16, 2020, due to COVID-19, our  Tiny Earth team kicked into high gear to preserve the efforts of our teaching labs and team this far in the semester. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (March 16 through March 18), Amy Donne (Tiny Earth Lab Manager), Thomas Mersch (Tiny Earth Teaching Assistant), Satima Visitdesotrakul (Tiny Earth Teaching Assistant), Alexis Martin (Tiny Earth Teaching Assistant) and Diane Baronas-Lowell (Tiny Earth Partner Instructor) ran all of the Tiny Earth teaching lab students' polymerase chain reactions (PCR) (over 250 reactions) on eighteen gels. These PCR reactions amplified the DNA from the 16S rRNA gene for purposes of identifying the students’ bacteria. The PCR reactions with good quality were sent to the DNA Analysis Facility on Science Hill at Yale University for DNA sequencing on Wednesday, March 18. Our PCR reactions were sequenced before Yale’s DNA Analysis Facility closed at 5:00 pm on Friday, March 20! These 16S rRNA gene DNA sequences will be used in our online bioinformatics labs during the week of April 6 for the students to identify the genera of their antibiotic-producing bacteria.

Also, during this frantic time immediately after the transition to remote working was announced by FAU, Amy, Thomas, Satima, and Diane preserved all of the antibiotic-producing bacteria from the Tiny Earth teaching lab students and team in glycerol stocks at -80o C. By doing so, these bacteria can be further studied for their antibiotic properties. This added 368 antibiotic-producing bacteria to our collection, bringing our total number of antibiotic-producing bacteria, since Fall 2016, to 1,392 at FAU.

Since turning to remote instruction, Tiny Earth Teaching Assistants (TAs) posted on-line lectures with relevant videos for labs 9, 10 and 11. TAs hold their office hours on-line using Canvas conference tools and both TAs and Tiny Earth-directed independent research (DIR) students hold online Canvas conferences during the lab meeting times. The Tiny Earth Team continues to meet by Zoom conferences.

Tiny Earth teaching lab students will practice their final presentations virtually with graduate research consultants (also known as GRCs, which are funded by FAU’s Office for Undergraduate Research and Inquiry) and the teaching lab students will present their data through video conference during the last week of lab, as usual. As we wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to pass, we continue to consider the next global health crisis, antibiotic-resistant bacteria!

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