The biggest project you'll do this semester will start by collecting dozens of individuals of your species from several locations. You'll then use a technique called allozyme electrophoresis to look at genetic variation in a single protein. The goal will be to make inferences about the roles of migration, random drift, and selection in determining allele frequencies.
By the end of the semester, you should be one of the world's experts on genetic variation in your species. To start off, you'll write a pre-proposal (due Tuesday, Sept. 4) that attempts to answer the following questions about your species:
To answer these questions, you should start with a simple web search. Most of these species are common and conspicuous, and you should be able to find images and information about identification and habitat for most of them.
After you've found the easy stuff online, it'll be time to dig into the scientific literature on your species. The best tool for literature searcing is the Web of Science. If you haven't used it before, see the Guide to searching biological literature for detailed instructions, and let me know if you run into problems.
Start by doing a topic search on the scientific name of your species. If there isn't very much, you should probably look at all the papers in hopes of getting some scraps of information about where they live, how to catch them, etc. But if you have a species with a ton of literature, limit your topic search with terms like "allozym*" (to get "allozyme", "allozymes", and "allozymic") to get the allozyme papers.
For the pre-proposal, you don't need to read all of the papers in detail (you'll do that for your proposal, due Sept. 18). You just need to list the papers so I can see that you've done a thorough literature search.
For each paper you find that you think may be relevant, say whether it's available (online or in print) through the UD library. If it's not, order it through Interlibrary Loan. The instructions for Interlibrary Loan are given in my guide to searching the literature.
Your project should include collecting your species from two different habitats, with at least three locations in each habitat. Habitats could include shady vs. sunny, woods vs. fields, deciduous forest vs. evergreen, ivy vs. liriope, two different soil types, etc. E-mail me if you need suggestions or if you're not sure that your species lives in a particular habitat. After you've decided what habitats to compare, you must find at least two locations where your species is present, so that you can begin collecting it on Tuesday, Sept. 4. Your pre-proposal should include the location information (a map, and the latitude and longitude) for at least two locations, plus information about which habitat they are, when you visited them, and how abundant your species looked at each location. These first two locations can be one from each of your two habitats, or two from the same habitat. If you find more than two locations, include the information about all of them. You cannot use the exact locations we looked at in the first lab.
On Tuesday, Sept. 4, you must turn in a pre-proposal. This will be worth 5% of your overall grade. The format can be pretty informal (but it must be typed), and there's no minimum or maximum length. It should give the information you found that answers the questions I listed above; tell me what your species looks like (include at least one figure!) and how you're going to tell it apart from similar species.
Next, include information about where you looked for your species and where you found it. This should be a list with a brief description and the latitude and longitude of each location where you found it. Also include a description of where you looked unsuccessfully (you don't need latitude and longitude for this).
After the basic information about your species, list the relevant literature that you've found on it. For some of your species, there are just a few scientific papers that mention them, so you'll want to list all of the papers you've found. For other species, there are a ton of papers, so you should only list papers that you think may have information about genetic variation.
Your list of references must be in the reference format shown near the bottom of the paper instructions. You don't need to read and summarize the papers yet, that will be in your proposal due Sept. 18.
Some of your species will have relatively little information available, while others will have a lot. As a result, some of your pre-proposals may only be a page or two long with three or four references, while others will be several pages with a couple dozen references. That's okay.
Return to the Genetics Lab syllabus