18 June, 2002
The second phase of my research experience began with my arrival in South Bend, Indiana and at the campus of Notre Dame University. I drove up from Cincinnati yesterday afternoon and while the drive was far, far more pleasant than driving the Haul Road in Alaska, I did encounter….Kokomo. I believe that it took me nearly 20 minutes to drive the few miles on Route 31 through Kokomo. It seems to be a town of endless stoplights and a single perpetual strip mall. I have been advised by all the local residents to make my trip through Kokomo either at night when there is little traffic or at lunchtime when I can break up the trip through town with a stop for lunch at one the multitude of places to eat in town.
Upon my arrival in South Bend, I checked into the hotel and made my way over to the campus of Notre Dame. There is an air to many college campuses that is like no other place in the world. As one walks through campus surrounded by ivy covered buildings and students, there is a feeling of reverence that exists only at institutions of higher learning. What amazes me is how much more of that feeling you get at some campuses verses others. Notre Dame has that feeling as does Miami University in Oxford back at home. Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire last summer had it as did my alma mater, the University of Illinois. It must have something to do with the personality of each campus. Whatever it is, I welcome that feeling of being in someplace a little step above the average locale.
This morning, I sat with Dr. Jack Duman to discuss the plan for the next two weeks. What do we hope to accomplish and how well do those goals fit with the needs of the TEA program. As I am here to help as well as bring the experience back to my students and my community, we set a twofold plan to work on the insects and the data we collected in Alaska and to make an effort to develop some type of lab exercises or lessons that I can use in the high school classroom. The research certainly lends itself to a number of possibilities for a high school classroom.
After lunch at a campus cafe, I settled in to examining some of the samples we collected at the Toolik station in Alaska. The carabid beetles we found on a tundra hillside needed to be checked for AFP (antifreeze protein) activity. This procedure involves watching a sample of hemolymph (insect blood) while it freezes and melts in a supercooled bath. Samples that show AFP activity will have a difference between their freezing point and their melting point. To show that difference, we change the temperature of the bath very slowly while watching for signs of crystal growth and/or crystal melting in the sample. I would really like to show you what the process looks like in the microscope, but I haven't figured out a way to hook a camera up to the microscope yet. I'll be working on that during the week. Our results today showed a very small amount of AFP activity in the beetles. This turns out to be somewhat significant since no other beetles of this species have shown activity in the past. This result also shows one of the difficulties in this field of research in that only a relatively small number of insects have ever been tested for their tolerance to freezing conditions. There are thousands and thousands of insect species in the world and the testing for these proteins has really only just begun.
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