BEACON Researchers at Work: Life by the Lake

This week’s BEACON Researchers at Work blog post is by College of Charleston junior Kola George. Kola was an BEACON Undergraduate Research Apprentice (URA) at MSU Kellogg Biological Station in summer 2015, with Jeff Conner as his mentor.

Kola_friendsThis summer, I was fortunate to participate in research under the direction of Dr. Jeff Conner concerning evolutionary trait loss. Along with my research, I had many great experiences all of which contributed to an amazing summer filled with science, new experiences, and new friends. Growing up in a rural area, I was always outside playing in the woods or embracing what nature has to offer. Because of this, I was excited to spend time taking advantage of the breathtaking landscape of the Kellogg Biological Station.

Kola_labFor my research project I tested whether the number of short stamens in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, which is a highly-selfing plant, impacts the number of seeds produced. A previous study by Dr. Anne Royer showed that A. thaliana appear to be losing their short stamens and she suggested the short stames had lost most, or all, of their function. To examine this idea, I was able to work with 10 populations from across Europe from Belgium, Germany, France, Czech Republic, Spain, Sweden and Italy. We grew 2 plants from each population and I counted the stamens daily without harming the flowers, and marked each flower individually. After two weeks, I counted all the seeds in the fruits that were produced on each plant. Data from our experiment suggested that short stamen number did not affect seed set, and thus the short stamens do appear to have lost their function!

KBS Gull LakeIn addition to an engaging research project, there were many other things going on at the Biological Station, all of which made this a great summer. I camped on the shores of Lake Michigan, hiked the dunes at Sleeping Bear National Dunes National Lakeshore, and spent an entire day exploring the Field Museum in the city of Chicago. Living at KBS on the shores of Gull Lake the whole summer was also an amazing thing in itself. Throughout the summer I got to get to know a lot of cool people and played hours of soccer, basketball, and volleyball to unwind from a long day in the lab. There were days that I felt homesick, but the constant energy that came from Gull Lake and my friends at KBS made it so I could never have a bad day at KBS! From the many experiences I’ve had at KBS, one of my favorites has to be ending most of my days watching the sunset at the dock on Gull Lake. It never failed that every time I watched the sun set it was more of a sight to see than the time before. This summer has provided me with life-long friends, professional development, a great research experience, appreciation of nature and the desire to know more about the world that surrounds us.


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