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What is ISLaNDs? by Shivani Agarwal

Here at CHS, every first-year student participates in a project called Interdisciplinary Science Learning and Novel Discovery or ISLaNDs. This project is an integrated project between biology lab and chemistry lab that spans the fall semester to the spring semester. Most people worked with a partner, and a few people, including myself, had groups of three.

For the biology aspect of this project, we look at the invasive clams, Corbicula fluminea, commonly known as Asian clams. In the fall semester, we tested the feeding rates of these clams and compared them to the feeding rates of native clams. In November, we went down to the American River to collect our clams, which we later dissected and collected tissue samples from. In addition, we collected soil and water samples and analyzed them to detect bacteria. During the spring semester, we conducted a genetic analysis from the tissue samples we collected in the fall. We analyzed the cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) gene to identify the species of our clams. We performed gel electrophoresis and Western blot in order to analyze the DNA and proteins from C. fluminea. For the Western blot, each group chose a specific protein to study. My group chose to study the HSP70 protein, which is a protein important to protect a cell from heat stress.

For the chemistry portion of the project, we chose a specific ion to study within the American River. My group studied nitrate levels in the fall, and dissolved oxygen levels in the spring. In the fall semester, we tested this ion qualitatively, and quantitatively in the spring. Groups studied things like heavy metal, dissolved oxygen, or hardness of the water. Both semesters, we had to develop our own experiments to test our ion. In the fall, this meant methods like flame tests or test kits. I personally found using test kits to be the easiest and most effective method during experimentation. In the spring, more complicated methods such as titrations or spectrophotometry. My group decided to determine dissolved oxygen concentration through titrations. Unfortunately due to the coronavirus, we couldn’t actually do the experiment, so instead we conducted a literature review. In the literature review, we tried to find published works that did an experiment similar to what we had planned, or to find literature data values regarding our ion.

At the end of the spring semester, students usually present all of their work at Research Day. Again, this semester we couldn’t do this because of the coronavirus. We still made posters though, and presented them in class instead of at Research Day.

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