The function of education

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically –  MLK, Jr.

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This summer I had the special opportunity to attend the Strategies and Techniques for Analyzing Microbial Population Structure (STAMPS) course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The focus of the course was to learn a variety of strategies for analyzing next-generation DNA sequences. These strategies included how to assign taxonomy, compare microbial communities, and estimate microbial diversity using statistical models.

But the most important thing that was demonstrated throughout the course was that there isn’t a “cookie cutter” analysis that will fit all datasets. Instead, it is our job to think critically about the constraints of our data and what tool or tools will best fit those constraints. While that is a huge responsibility, it is also an incredible motivator to always be aware of and learning about the advances in the field of bioinformatics.

I came back to the lab at Southern Miss excited about everything that I learned and that I will learn. This course opened my eyes to the limitations and the power that these bioinformatics tools provide. They not only enable us to make new discoveries about microbes but they also push the field of deep-sea microbial ecology a little further into the future every day. And if that’s not exciting, I don’t know what is.

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We are tied to the ocean

“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.” – JFK.

We still have much to learn about the ocean and the microbes of the deep sea. The data we collected on our most recent cruise in the Gulf of Mexico will bring us a little closer to understanding them. The scientific objective of this cruise was to collect sediment and water samples from six different historic shipwrecks so that we can continue our effort to evaluate the effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill on microbes in deep-sea sediments.  We collected the sediment cores with a multi-corer, and as you can see, we were all very excited when our cores came on deck with our deep-sea treasure.

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At one point in the cruise, we had some Atlantic spotted dolphin visitors who came along, no doubt, to check up on our science.

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As we settle back into life at the lab, we are grateful for our time spent out on the sea and for the time we were able to spend with our colleagues and crew. Southern Miss to the Deep!

Click the link below if you would like to see more photos from our cruise.

Point Sur Cruise PS17-26 Photo Album