Molecule to Organism in the Field

 

Molecule to Organism has a reputation as one of the most challenging upper division science classes at Evergreen. Combining biology and chemistry, M2O asks a lot of its students and leaves them well-prepared for careers as doctors and research scientists.

 

Students in M2O work in the programs biochem lab. -- Shauna Bittle photo

Students in M2O work in the program’s biochem lab. — Shauna Bittle photo

Hours of intense study and lab time are common features of M2O from year to year, but this year the program tried something different. After two quarters of reading and preliminary field work on campus, they set out across Washington State to study the snail population found in several National Park sites. They counted the snails by number, and made note of which plants each was found on in order to start a record of the snails’ food preferences. After a week of data (and snail) collection, the students returned to the lab where they broke into groups that worked to identify the snails, chart their DNA, and study their features in a powerful Scanning Electron Microscope.

 

Faculty Clarissa Dirks talks with team leaders about field methods at the start of a field research session. -- Shauna Bittle photo

Faculty Clarissa Dirks talks with team leaders about field methods at the start of a field research session. — Shauna Bittle photo

Searching for snails in a 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 meter plot. -- Shauna Bittle photo

Searching for snails in a 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 meter plot. — Shauna Bittle photo

Students take notes on the size and identifying features of snails found in the field. -- Shauna Bittle photo

Students take notes on the size and identifying features of snails found in the field. — Shauna Bittle photo

Creating photo documentation of snails in the Washington forests. -- Shauna Bittle photo

Creating photo documentation of snails in the Washington forests. — Shauna Bittle photo

As faculty Clarissa Dirks says: “What’s nice about this is that it’s bringing sub-disciplines of biology together and allowing students all to have an important role.” In addition, they’re completing important research in the under-represented field of malacology in Washington State. It is not at all unlikely that this group of students will identify a previously unknown snail for the first time, and hopefully their work will result in publications for others to reference in the future.

 

M2O students inspect micromollusks for identifying features in the biology lab. -- Shauna Bittle photo

M2O students inspect micromollusks for identifying features in the biology lab. — Shauna Bittle photo