Office of Undergraduate Research

Diversity of bioluminescent bacteria in marine fish

Unlike mammals, fish are not thought to have a defined intestinal microbial community. The prevalent hypothesis has been that the microbial residents in the fish intestine are repeatedly acquired from the surrounding seawater, and turn over rapidly. Early work by other investigators supported this hypothesis, but lacked the resolution of modern molecular analysis. The proposed project will investigate the diversity of the bioluminescent subset of intestinal bacteria isolated from fish caught in the Gulf of Mexico in 2005. Bioluminescent bacteria are easily cultured, and easily identifiable to the strain/species level using DNA sequence data. This project will involve PCR amplification of bioluminescence genes from frozen bacterial cultures, followed by sequence analysis and homology searches to identify species. A comparison of intestinal residents and bacteria isolated from the seawater will address the question as to whether the two microbial communities are similar.

Tasks and responsibilities:

Students will be involved in routine lab maintenance tasks, including washing glassware, preparing bacteria growth media, pouring petri plates, racking pipet tips, pouring slide gels, etc.