Sep. 20th, 2017

rebeccmeister: (cricket)
As of yesterday, we are still getting a lot of adults with deformed wings, like so:

Crickets with deformed wings

I am reading the tea leaves pretty hard, but think I am seeing a small improvement, which means I could be up and running again in another week and a half or so, at the soonest. If my tea leaf reading skills are terrible, it will be longer than that, which would push back completion of the lab circadian experiments to sometime in late October, if I'm lucky and this disaster actually comes to an end. When I dissected the above crickets, their innards looked completely normal, and their fat body (analogous to the vertebrate liver) looked fine under the scope. My labmate has found someone who knows the relevant procedures for testing for deformed wing virus, so that's next on that agenda.

Meanwhile, time to make progress on the thousand other fronts that deserve attention. One project that has been fun has been figuring out how to estimate cricket ages for field-caught crickets. I'm trying to work out the logistics for a method from a paper published in 1987, where a famous cricket biologist would take a cricket leg, slice a thin cross-section of it, and then would view it using a phase-contrast microscope to count the daily growth layers of chitin. My mentor in Nebraska suggested setting up a simpler polarizing light microscope, but for various reasons it has taken me a while to figure out how to do that. Finally, I found this tutorial, and watched the linked video, and finally got that part sorted out. Very satisfying!

But now I'm stuck on the cross-sectioning method. The author of the 1987 paper described a process of wedging the cricket's leg in a chunk of potato (to stabilize it), then cutting thin slices with a hairdresser's razor. My attempts to replicate this method have been comically bad so far, and I have no idea what I'm doing wrong. So I'm still scratching my head over how to proceed, and hoping that I don't wind up having to go through the arduous and tedious steps involved in more conventional tissue sectioning methods.

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