Graduate Student Council Research Grants


Quantifying Predation Success to Identify Defensive Traits of Microbial Prey

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M.S. in Biological Science

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It is widely known that predator-prey interactions have been among the most intensively studied areas of ecological science for quite some time. These are vital in understanding multitrophic food webs and evaluating predatory and defensive traits of species. There are common limitations in studying these dynamics in nature, such as the fact that most individuals have long generational periods, inhabit a large spatial scale, and are frequently affected by uncontrollable environmental factors. In my research, I plan to experimentally simulate a predator-prey relationship in a laboratory setting using multiple microbial species. The nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, is a species that has a generation time of 3-6 days and their eggs survive freezing processes, making them useful for evolutionary and ecological studies. Myxococcus xanthus is a social bacterium that displays behavioral responses to environmental cues and predation. They also aggregate into a multicellular developmental state during starvation conditions, a state that apparently deters predation by C. elegans. Because of this, I will be able to assess predatory defense traits of M. xanthus when subjected to a predator, C. elegans, under specific environmental circumstances. Various methods will be used to gauge the effectiveness of the traits, including survival assays and statistical analyses.

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