Skidaway Institute of Oceanography
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 Molecular Biology 

Dr. M.E. Frischer; Dr. R.F. Lee; Dr. J.R. Nelson; Dr. G.A. Paffenhofer; Dr. W. Savidge

Biologists and the Skidaway Institute have developed many innovative molecular approaches to studying important questions.
Dr. Marc Frischer and Drs. Peter Verity and Melissa Booth of UGA/Sapelo, Dr. Debbie Bronk of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and Dr. Matt Gilligan of Savannah State University were awarded a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The research project focused on "Molecular Approaches for In Situ Studies of Nitrate Utilization by Marine Bacteria."
In conjunction with Dr. M.E. Frischer, Dr. Verity developed a novel combination of a fluorescent stain and molecular probes which quantitatively identify those cells with compromised membranes, and those cells containing sufficient rRNA to be considered metabolically active. They also evaluated the ratio of bioluminescent to total bacteria (BLR) as an indicator of anthropogenic impact on estuarine ecosystems in a series of laboratory and field studies.
Drs. M.E. Frischer and P.G. Verity examined methodological factors that contribute to variability using fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) in Marine Planktonic Environments. They proposed a standardized method for the use of kingdom-specific eubacteria targeted 16S rRNA probes in marine planktonic environments, an approach for standardizing FISH enumeration using a custom designed image analysis system, and a framework for optimally reporting percentages of probe positive cells obtained using FISH.
The ability to obtain information about feeding selectivity and rates in situ for key organisms such as copepods and other zooplankton is vital for understanding the mechanisms structuring marine ecosystems. In this study, Dr. Frischer and Dr. Verity developed a novel and successful method for molecular detection of a specific prey consumed by calanoid copepods from gut and faecal material. These are compared to grazing estimated from traditional experiments in which natural plankton communities are incubated with and without added metazooplankton. Instead of using chlorophyll or particle volume as a proxy for grazing, as is typically done, Dr. Verity analyzed samples using an imaging system he developed.
An important issue in the management of zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) populations is early, rapid, and accurate detection of the planktonic larvae (veliger) of the zebra mussel. Dr. Marc Frischer explores the feasibility of developing a molecular approach for the detection of zebra mussel larvae in diverse environments.

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