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Introductions and Learning my Project (Week 1)

I had orientation on Monday 6/18/12 here at CMOP for my summer internship. We learned the basics of what CMOP does and some of the projects that they are involved with. This week was the “get acquainted” week where you learn everyone’s name, where their offices are, where their labs are located, the other buildings on campus, and other things of that nature. We also had safety training at the primate center (didn’t get to see any monkeys though), and got our ID badges.
The first couple of days were dedicated to getting to know my project by reading project grants and related articles on the web. Originally I was going to research “Detecting Dissolved Organic Carbon in the Columbia River Estuary,” but when I met with my senior scientist, Joe Needoba, he informed me that he had something else in mind for me to work on instead. My new project was to perform data analysis from samples taken from the Columbia River using the micro flow cytometer (µFCM). The µFCM detects particles and using LabVIEW, graphs the data. What I will be doing is analyzing the graphs by taking an approach deemed “particleomics.” The aim is to count the number of particles in a particular sample and characterize the particle profiles. There are many peaks/troughs of the graphs as well as different widths of the peaks. I will be using this information to characterize the different phytoplankton and other species in the Columbia River. This method will allow real-time analysis of samples and in the big picture of what CMOP does, will allow researchers to quickly monitor, assess, predict, and identify phytoplankton in the Columbia River. It also has the potential to monitor water quality, evaluate drinking water, wastewater, and agricultural recycled water, and detect health hazards. The µFCM is a relatively new instrument, so the level of its importance is just beginning to emerge. I also didn't realize the importance of phytoplankton in the water. I had thought that most of our oxygen comes from plants on land, but in actuality, over half of the planets oxygen is produced by phytoplankton--who knew?!

The latter part of the week was spent getting familiar with some of the programs that I would be using to perform the analysis. Some samples had already been run through the
µFCM during its testing phase, so I used that data and played around with LabVIEW to see everything that it could do. I also got to do some lab work with my frontline mentor, Melissa Gilbert, filtering samples as well as running samples through the FlowCAM. I also attended a thesis defense by a PhD student and a seminar on “Tribes and their relationship to natural resource management” by Elizabeth Furse—a former US Congresswoman. Overall, it was a good first week here at CMOP and I am excited to see the results at the end of the summer!