Category Archives: Undergraduate Research

Meanwhile in California — Porcelain crab collection for an undergrad project

While David and I went on the urchin/crab collection expedition in Panama earlier this year, we had two undergraduate students from UC Davis starting a project in the Eisen group. Amy Wen and Jolie Lobrutto are interested in learning more about the bacteria that are growing inside urchins and porcelain crabs.

Originally, we planned to bring tissues back from Panama for them to dissect and screen for microbes. However, permit issues prohibited this endeavor. Instead, we decided to focus on urchins and crabs in California. Eric Sanford, a collaborator at UC Davis who is a group leader at Bodega Bay and using urchins as a model species provided us a specimen from the lab and another one from the field. Amy and Jolie dissected them while David and I were lost in Panama.

A few weeks ago I teamed up with Jonathon Stillman, a professor at San Francisco State University & UC Berkeley, and an expert on porcelain crab physiology. He had a collection trip scheduled to look for different species of Porcellanidae at Fort Ross. The tides were low and we were able to collect a good assortment of four different species. Amy and Jolie could not join us because the low tide chart coincided with exams. Nonetheless, they could spare some time to come to the lab and culture bacteria from the new specimens. Amy and Jolie are now experts on the culturing of host-associated bacteria. Soon they will learn how to identify the bugs using Sanger sequencing.

Laetitia and Jonathon looking for porcelain crabs at Fort Ross
Jonathon explains how to identify different species in the field.
Laetitia showing California crabs to Amy and Jolie

We are curious to learn more about which bacteria they found on urchins and porcelain crabs in California!