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Elements The Scientific Magazine of the University of Puget Sound

Elements Investigates: Arsenic in Tacoma Blackberries?

Where Do Your Fish Come From? Issue 4, Fall 2007

Genetically Modified Organisms

Vaccines of the Future Plus: Quiz! Which Natural Disaster are you?


22

Elements: The Scientific Magazine  

Credits

Editor-in-Chief: Marissa Jones Managing Editor: Nick Kiest Content Editor: Wren Williams Copy Editors: Wren Williams, Madeline Gangnes, Alison Riveness, Keaton Wilson Staff Photographers: Matt Loewen & Nick Kiest Layout: Marissa Jones, Emily Hoke, Nick Kiest, Wren Williams, Keaton Wilson Image Editing: Nick Kiest Figure Editing: Keaton Wilson Illustrators: Tanya Rogers, Keaton Wilson Faculty Advisor: Mark Martin Front Cover Photo: Nick Kiest & Matt Loewen Back Cover Photo: Matt Loewen

Letter From The Editor Welcome back to Elements, the Scientific Magazine of the University of Puget Sound. Every semester, Elements chooses one of the classical elements – earth, air, fire, or water – to represent the magazine and appear on the cover. Having gone through the more easily photographed fire, earth, and water, this semester left us with the interesting challenge of photographing thin air. This was difficult, considering that our subject is transparent, nearly ubiquitous on land, and generally considered the absence of matter rather than a visual entity. We hope that this issue will make you think differently.

On the cover you see a common physics demonstration that Professor Paul Weber and The Wizard, Tim Hoyt, helped us reproduce. Smoke created by the reaction of zinc oxide and ammonium nitrate is blown through tubing to suspend Elements would like to thank ASUPS, the Biology a ball in “midair.” This photograph illustrates that Department, and the Geology Department for air is not a void at all, but a very tangible medium – one that transports particles, provides lift, their generous donations. and shapes our world in a very real way.

Acknowledgments:

We would also like to thank the following organizations and individuals: Office of the President and the Admissions Office for purchasing our magazine; the ASUPS Media Board and the Trail for loaning us the computers and software we need; Paul Weber and Tim Hoyt for helping create the cover photo; Mark Martin for advising and support; Curt and Debbie Kiest for intense copy editing; thank you to Megan KiestMcFarland for tireless assistance; and lastly, thank you, Wikipedia, for being a font of knowledge and fact checker, and Wikimedia our font of imagery.

The articles in Elements have taken on a slightly different flavor this semester. Our authors got excited about summer research and we are proud to present a series of articles that demonstrate the breadth of the science program at UPS: genetically modified organisms, stinky mud at the bottom of Hood Canal, and Arctic haze. We even designed a research project specifically for the magazine in which we measured concentration of heavy metals in Tacoma blackberries. What’s more, we feature our first-ever professor contribution, a poem by biology professor Leslie Saucedo.

Contact & Publishing:

We are also proud to announce that, like many other aspects of UPS, Elements has gone green! We now print our magazine using sustainable printing methods. This issue of Elements represents scientific initiative – whether it’s designing your own summer research, writing about what you love, or commandeering school equipment to address questions about regional pollution. We hope that our enthusiasm is infectious.

e-mail: elements@ups.edu

web: http://clubs.ups.edu/clubs/elements mail: ASUPS - Elements, University of Puget Sound, 1500 N Warner St. #1017, Tacoma, WA 98416 Published by Consolidated Press 600 S. Spokane Street, Seattle, WA 98134

This issue was published on paper from well-managed forests, controlled sources and recycled wood or fiber.

Sincerely, Marissa Jones

Find an article interesting or infuriating? Want to see Elements investigate something? Let us know, or join the Elements team and share what you know with others.


3

of the University of Puget Sound

1 Cover

Periodic Table of the

á•Ż You are Here

4 Helmholtz

Letter

from the

Editor

Contents 3

2

5

Aquaculture

Resonator

by Keaton Wilson

by Matt Getchell

8

14

by Alison Riveness & Kirsten Wright

by Emily Hoke

Genetically Modified Organisms Arctic Haze

16

21

22

Arsenic in your Blackberries?

Edible Vaccines

Hood Canal

24

31

Welcome to the

Poem: Is that Fly smiling at me?

Quiz: Which

Natural Disaster

are You?

!

29

RD

28

NE

27

Friday Harbor Labs Allium

by Wren Williams

by Matt Lonsdale

MO

A Weekend at

by Karina Hickman

CO S

by Matt Loewen & Marissa Jones


44

Elements: The Scientific Magazine  

Science in Contex t

ted by the neck, or plug of the bottle, and bottles without necks have a much harder time creating any noise at all.

Why Does It Do That? M at t G e t chell

When you blow across the top of a bottle, a small current of air goes directly over the lip, but a portion of it also goes down into the bottle, itself. This small bit of air then increases the pressure inside the container, causing the extra air inside of the bottle to be pushed back out. If you keep blowing, then you push more air down inside which is continuously pushed back out by the increased pressure. The result is that the small plug of air on the inside of the bottleneck oscillates, or jumps, up and down rapidly, causing a vibration. It is this vibration that creates the sound that you hear.

A Helmholtz Resonator

C

learly, readers of this magazine are aware of the impact science has on our day-to-day lives, and how the governing laws of nature dictate everything that happens around us. Can you tell this is a physics major talking yet? There are many things that we all have done at one time or another that we do not really think about too much. When we stop and actually think about why certain things happen, which laws of nature are in play, we are often baffled. One such example is the Helmholtz Resonator, named for Hermann von Helmholtz, the nineteenth century German physicist. Here, some might grumble that it is just some physics major about to ramble off on the subject of his latest new gadget, but the Helmholtz Resonator is something that every one of you has created and used at some point during your life. In its simplest form, the Helmholtz Resonator is an empty soda bottle that you can take and blow across to create a sound.

You may not want to take the time to collect bottles and fill them up with different amounts of water to create a soda bottle symphony (do not laugh, I have actually done it). However, the next time you are just hanging around, and some-one says “Hey, look what I can do!” and proceeds to make noise with their bottle, you will actually be able to explain to them why it works. Note: If you actually feel the urge to create a soda bottle symphony, I have found that glass bottles work better than plastic. Try different levels of liquid and see what pitches you get. Nick Kiest

Oh! That is what you mean! Yeah, I know what that is! Of course, we have all done this, but how many of us can really describe how it works? The Helmholtz Resonator is a perfect example of simple harmonic motion, because of the oscillatory nature of the air within the bottle. Here is how it works: If you were to test a few different kinds of bottles, you might determine that the “best” noise comes out of bottles with smaller necks, but larger bodies. Say you took a small, but narrow vial, and blew across the top. You might get a noise out of it, but it would not be anywhere near as pronounced as if you used a glass or plastic soda bottle. This is because the noise that you hear is specifically emit-

Now the next question you might ask is why the sound is a lower pitch when the bottle has less liquid in it. The answer is that, since the volume of the empty space on the inside of the bottle is greater, the resulting frequency of the oscillations is lower. If the frequency is lower, then the pitch is lower as well. As far as basic wave theory goes, the frequency of a sound wave determines its pitch (so if you take a couple of gulps, you will get a lower note). The amplitude determines the intensity of the sound wave (so if you blow harder, the resulting sound will be louder).

The amount of empty space in the bottle determines the pitch of the Helmholtz Resonator.


of the University of Puget Sound Research Repor t Aquaculture:

K e at on W il s on

Year Aquaculture Production (million tonnes) Human Consumption (million tonnes)

Something Fishy,

M

Aquaculture is currently, and has been historically, a global phenomenon. Practiced in China since approximately 2500 B.C.E., aquaculture has been a staple food source for many cultures, including the Hawaiians, Japanese and ancient Romans. With the advent of modern technologies, and an increased understanding of the biology of farm-raised fish, aquaculture has been able to produce staggeringly high yields of marketable fish from large farms. Much of the fish we buy today at the grocery store is farm raised, especially freshwater fish, where the United States dominates. Although marine fisheries make up a large majority of the fish we consume, here in the United States, aquaculture is dominated by freshwater aquaculture. Freshwater catfish,

These tanks are used to raise fish commercially.

2001

2002

2003

37.9

40.4

42.7

96.9

99.7

100.2

102.7

in a

5

2004

35.5

2005 45.5

105.6

Good Way

110

94

Million Metric Tons

any people have never heard the term aquaculture, even though it is an industry and field of study booming in both the United States and the rest of the world. This industry is essentially the watery cousin of agriculture. Instead of growing plants, aquaculture looks to grow marine and freshwater organisms, and the fact is, it is growing in leaps and bounds. Take for example the fact that in 2003, aquaculture generated approximately 31% of the world’s marketable fish. This is a staggering 41.9 million metric tons of fish in a single year and these production values are only increasing. One reason that aquaculture is such a burgeoning market is that a large portion of cultures in the world depend on fish as a staple of their diet, making it a commodity in large demand worldwide. Another factor that has influenced the aquaculture industry in the recent past has been the decline of natural fisheries due to a variety of human-caused effects such as overfishing and habitat alteration. Regardless of the cause of declining fisheries, the world demands its fish, so aquaculture is expanding as an industry. It is becoming a hotbed of research and development for new techniques to perfect the art of growing fish.

2000

Aquaculture Production (million metric tons) Human Consumption (million metric tons) 78

62

46

30 2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

Year

Worldwide Fish Consumption and Aquaculture Production Ictalurus punctatus, alone rakes in approximately one billion dollars a year in revenue for the industry. This brings us to a description of some of the different kinds of aquaculture practiced worldwide. There are two general categories, freshwater and saltwater, which consist of many subcategories. Freshwater aquaculture can be broken down into two groups: warm and cold water fish culture. Catfish and tilapia are two commonly raised warm water species in the United States, but other species include alligator, and tropical fish for personal aquariums. Cold water fish, such as rainbow trout, sturgeon and steelhead are also very viable products. In most cases, the type of aquaculture (warm or cold water) practiced is dependent on the water sources available in an area, and the resources available to the farm to heat or cool water accordingly. Marine aquaculture presents an equally, if not even more diverse, body of species for culture. Coastal farms that grow bivalves such as oysters or mussels, and offshore operations in the open ocean that rear large teleosts (ray-finned fishes) such as salmon, are just some of a multitude of options. Each system, both offshore and coastal, provides different challenges for raising fish and maintaining the surrounding ecosystem. It is important to note that the use of natural ocean water in these systems is a double-edged sword. The water may be the ideal temperature and quality for the organisms for a time, but if changed, the farm has very little chance of filtering out detrimental factors from the water. There are also several subcategories of aquaculture that are of particular interest with regard to the recent development of sustainable farming practices. The first is the very old practice of polyculture, or raising more than one species together in a single system. Polyculture can consist of multiple fish species living together, plant-animal systems, and even systems of aquatic and terrestrial organisms. This type of synergetic system is extremely useful for companies trying to reduce their impact on the environment, as well

1


66

Central and Eastern Europe Sub-Saharan Africa

as maximize profits. One of the biggest challenges facing the aquaculture industry is that of wastewater and its effects on the environment. By utilizing a polyculture system with harvestable plants that utilize the excess nutrients in waste water, is possible to drastically decrease the amount of these materials that return to the natural environment. Polyculture is also one of the methods supported by the USDA, which, as of 2001, provides financial benefits for these practices. Settling ponds, recirculating systems and floating tanks, are also supported, as they are methods that cut water pollution by using water to its maximum potential.

0.42

Elements: The Scientific Magazine  

0.16

0.16% 0.42% 0.86% 1.27% 2.26% 3.54%

Hood Canal. In turn, these nutrients give rise to large algal blooms that eventually die, and are decomposed by bacteria that absorb oxygen from the water, drastically disturbing the normal balance of life. As shown in Hood Canal, an increase in nutrient pollution can have severe effects on the natural environment.

21.92%

Wikimedia Commons

Just because the amount of organic pollution increases does not mean that it is a direct result of the aquaculture industry. Although the industry is regulated by the EPA and other governmental agen69.57% cies, traditionally, many aquaculture companies have been ahead of the game in China Asia (excluding China) keeping pollution to a minimum. There Western Europe Latin American and Carribean Aquaculture, as any type of agricultural are a variety of techniques available North America Near East and North Africa industry, has the potential to have masto keep pollutants in check, including Central and Eastern Europe Sub-Saharan Africa sive effects on the surrounding ecosysclosely monitoring effluent water, utilizing Aquaculture Production by Region tem. In freshwater systems, one of the settling ponds, and formulating modified main concerns is effluent water, the used diets that include lower levels of hazardwater from the aquaculture facility, being reintroduced into ous organic pollutants such as phosphorous and nitrogen. the natural environment. In particular, organic pollution While aquaculture must be responsible for its organic polsuch as nitrogen and phosphorus can have huge effects on lutants, other industries, particularly traditional agriculture, natural waterways, because they act as fertilizers. With an can have a significantly more dramatic impact on organic increase in nutrients, a waterway can become overgrown pollutant levels. with plant life, completely changing the previous ecological Biological pollutants, such as the release of farmed fish, dynamic in a process termed eutrophication. Eutrophication parasites and diseases into the natural environment also is also a consideration in coastal marine aquaculture syspose a risk. There are a variety of ways that this can haptems, and was found to be the main cause of a decline in pen, but one prime example is in the case of offshore the quality of marine waters in 2000. Close to home, Hood farms, where escaped fish can mingle with natural popuCanal offers a prime example of what can happen when lations, introducing disease, parasites and genetic mateeutrophication takes hold of a body of water. Hood Canal rial that would otherwise be unknown to the population. is one of the few bodies of water in the United States that Traditionally, aquaculture can be a harbinger of different has been designated a dead zone, due to its low oxygen diseases, mainly because of the close proximity of the fish, levels. These low oxygen levels, termed hypoxia, are attribas well as less than ideal physical conditions. In fact, many uted partly to an increase in the organic nutrients found in fish diseases are endemic to fish farms, and are incredibly rare in wild populations. Another problem with aquaculture escapees is that they can change the genetic makeup of a wild population. Fish grown for commercial use are often selectively bred for traits that, while being desirable for the consumer, are not beneficial for surviving in the wild. Also present is the danger of introducing an invasive species into an area. If an aquaculture farm is raising an organism that may be able to escape into the environment, and have significant effects on the natural habitat, then there may be an entire set of problems associated with the introduction of this species. Ranging from the replacement of key species to predation of already endangered organisms, introduced species can quickly push an already unstable environment into a state of chaos.

Aquaculture is used to raise pets as well as food.

It might seem that aquaculture is a poor idea due to all the potential damage that it can wreak on an environment. The point here is that while aquaculture has its problems, the industry recognizes those problems, and through research and development, along with cooperation with government agencies, aquaculture can become a responsible and relatively harmless industry.


-50.0%

Rainbow Trout

Pacific Oyster

Golden Shiner

Blue Mussel

American OysterRed Swamp Crawfish

7 Photo Services: Nicole Marshall

of the University of Puget Sound

Farm-raised Steelhead trout on sale at Top Foods. One innovative technique that some researchers are exploring is merging the fields of dietary science in fish and selective breeding. Selective breeding programs have traditionally been used to create families of fish that grow faster, or are resistant to particularly virulent diseases. In this new approach, fish are being bred to better process altered diets that may reduce the amount of organic pollutants released into an environment. With the rise of recent advances in genetic techniques, it may also be possible to isolate contribute to this change, allowSpeciescertain genes that Percentage Growth Striped Bass 819.00% ing Hybrid for a multitude of prospects for further research. In819.00 fact, Atlantic Salmon 468.00% 468.00 some genetically modified organisms been Channel Catfish 40.10% have already 40.10 Rainbow Trout -3.10 examined for use in aquaculture, -3.10% including rainbow trout, Pacific Oyster -3.80% -3.80 salmon, carp, oysters and tilapia. -12.50% Golden Shiner -12.50 Blue Mussel

-14.40%

-14.40

American Oyster advances come in the -38.60% -38.60of Other recent form of integration Red Swamp Crawfish -42.60% -42.60 different systems. One way to accomplish this is by utilizing a form of aquaculture already discussed: polyculture. Mixing aquaponics (growing fish and plants together in an integrated system) and traditional fish culture can be in-

900% 675% 450% 225%

Hybrid Striped Bass Atlantic Salmon

0% Channel Catfish

Growth of the Three Major Aquaculture Groups in the United States from 1989-1998 credibly beneficial both in reducing organic pollutants and creating tremendous growth in aquaponically grown plant species. Although this technique is seldom used today, it may become more and more important, especially for small scale operations, where two different consumable products can be grown together. This type of system might also be helpful in providing aid in third world countries, where in many cases, fish comprise a large percentage of the traditional diet. Integrated systems like these may soon make a broader global appearance. Like most agriculture industries, aquaculture poses a potential threat to sustaining a healthy environment. However, much can and is being done to combat this threat. The industry historically has been very adept at monitoring itself, and with a rise in farms worldwide, regulation via governments has also helped shield the environment from these potential hazards. With an increase in demand for fish, the field of aquaculture is growing exponentially both in research and in production. While the industry has numerous risks, it also has enormous potential. Although aquaculture can not and should not be a permanent replacement for declining natural fisheries, it can significantly help to feed the people of the world in the form of large industrial farms and smaller operations designed to provide food on a local level.

0%

-12.5%

-25.0%

-37.5%

-50.0%

Rainbow Trout

Pacific Oyster

Golden Shiner

Blue Mussel

American Oyster Red Swamp Crawfish

Percentage decrease in major wild aquaculture groups in the United States from 1989 to 1998


8

Elements: The Scientific Magazine  

Research Repor t

Genetically Modified Organisms Cells to Nations... Summer Research Case Studies A lis on R i v enes s

a nd

K irs t en W righ t

D

id you know that every day you come in contact with genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? Whether it is the clothes on your back or the food on your plate, GMOs have become integral to the world’s production of crops and a variety of other industries. Today, genetically modified agriculture is rapidly gaining interest due to its impact on enhanced yield and productivity. But how do scientists go about making a GMO?

most productive agricultural region, known as the “pampas,” is humid, temperate and flat: an ideal environment for growing soybeans.1 With respect to infrastructure, Argentina’s roadways and the Paraná River provide convenient means for transporting export commodities.1,2

Production of GMOs begins with the isolation of genes (transgenes) from another organism that encode for favorable traits such as pesticide resistance and durability in the face of environmental stresses. Once this desired gene is isolated, it is inserted within the plant genome in one of two ways:

Season

‘80

Argentina’s soy cultivation overwhelmingly consists of a genetically modified variety called Roundup Ready, designed to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate (commonly known as Roundup). 3 The incentive for creating soy varieties that withstand glyphosate applications is that the chemical can then be used to kill weeds without harming the soy. In 1986, scientists identified a bacterium that degrades glyphosate and two years later introduced its genes into the soybean genome. 3 Since then, the technology has spread across the world. According to Greenpeace, glyphosate use on soybeans increased 56-fold between 1999 and 2005.4 By 2002, 99% of Argentine soybeans were Roundup Ready varieties. 4 In 2006, 32.7 million tons of soy were produced in Argentina and the projected output for 2007 is 47.6 million tons.5,6 Thousands of Tons of soy Thousands of hectares of soy planted Thousands of Hectares of soy harvested produced 3,500 2,100 2,030 3,770

‘81 ‘82

Season

‘83

‘80

‘84

7,000

‘81

1.  Gene Guns: Small flakes of gold are coated with the transgene. At a high pressure, these flakes are shot towards the leaves of the plant to be transformed. Upon contact, the flakes blast through the plant tissue randomly inserting the transgenes into the plant genome.

‘85

6,500

‘82

‘86

1,925

1,880

4,150of soy Thousands of hectares of soy2,040 1,985 Thousands of Tons planted Thousands of Hectares of soy harvested produced 4,000 2,362 2,280 3,500 2,100 2,030

7,100

‘83

3,770 4,150 4,000

2,920

2,910

1,925

1,880

2,040

1,985

3,300

3,269

3,340

3,316

2,362

2,280

6,700 7,000 9,900 6,500

3,700 2,920

3,532 2,910

4,413 3,300

4,373 3,269

‘86

6,500 7,100

4,670 3,340

3,931 3,316

‘87

10,700 6,700

5,100 3,700

4,961 3,532

‘88

10,862 9,900

4,413 4,966

4,373 4,774

‘92

‘89

11,310 6,500

4,670 5,004

3,931 4,935

‘93

‘90

11,045 10,700

5,100 5,319

4,961 5,116

‘87

‘84

‘88

‘85

‘89 ‘90 ‘91

‘91

‘94

11,720

‘92

‘95

12,134

‘93

10,862 11,310 11,045

4,966

4,774

5,004

4,935

5,319

5,116

5,817

5,749

5,817

5,749

6,011

5,935

The area cultivated for soybeans has also expanded dramatically. Between 1996 and 2005, cultivation increased by eight million hectares, reaching 16.1 million hectares for the 2007 season.4,6 The value of productive land has increased simultaneously, from $1,000 per hectare in 1996 to $2,500 in 2005.7 Because it is easiest to farm in areas that are more biodiverse and receive enough rain, native

‘96

12,448

‘94

‘97

11,004

‘95

11,720 12,134

6,002

5,913

6,669

6,393

6,011

5,935

‘98

‘96

18,732 12,448

7,176 6,002

6,954 5,913

‘99

‘97

20,000 11,004

8,400 6,669

8,180 6,393

‘00

‘98

20,135 18,732

8,790 7,176

8,637 6,954

‘01

‘99

26,880 20,000

8,400 10,664

8,180 10,400

‘02

‘00

30,000 20,135

8,790 11,639

8,637 11,405

‘03

‘01

34,818 26,880

10,664 12,606

10,400 12,420

‘04

‘02

31,576 30,000

11,639 14,526

11,405

12,606

12,420

14,526

14,304

14,400

14,037

15,329

15,091

2.  Agrobacterium: The isolated genes are transformed into bacterial plasmids (genetic structures in a cell that can reproduce independently from the chromosomes) that are inserted within soil-inhabiting bacteria that commonly infect plants. Once inside of the plant, these genes are incorporated within the plant genome.

‘03

‘05

38,300

‘04

‘06

40,500

‘05

34,818 31,576 38,300 40,500

‘06

14,304

14,400

14,037

15,329

15,091

40,500

Alison Riveness

Although soybeans are native to Asia, they are suited for cultivation in Argentina. Geographically, Argentina is home to some of the richest agricultural land in the world. Its

Thousands of Tons of soy produced

Tons of Soy, in Thousands

30,375 30,375

20,250 20,250

10,125

0

‘80 ‘81 ‘82 ‘83 ‘84 ‘85 ‘86 ‘87 ‘88 ‘89 ‘90 ‘91 ‘92 ‘93 ‘94 ‘95 ‘96 ‘97 ‘98 ‘99 ‘00 ‘01 ‘02 ‘03 ‘04 ‘05 ‘06

0

Alison Riveness

10,125

‘80 ‘81 ‘82 ‘83 ‘84 ‘85 ‘86 ‘87 ‘88 ‘89 ‘90 ‘91 ‘92 ‘93 Year‘94 ‘95 ‘96 ‘97 ‘98 ‘99 ‘00 ‘01 ‘02 ‘03 ‘04 ‘05 ‘06

Soybean production (Above), Hectares of planted and harvested soy (Below) Year

20,000

20,000

Hectares of Soy, in Thousands

Perspective: Genetically Modified Soybeans in Argentina

Thousands of Tons of soy produced

Tons of Soy, in Thousands

The implications of this process have raised questions beyond just those in the laboratory. For instance, what are the economic implications of agricultural biotechnology? Can genetic modifications in agricultural products alter the environment by exchanging transgenes with closely related, native plants? This past summer, two UPS students spent their time investigating such questions by looking into the biology and economics of genetic modification.

40,500

Hectares of Soy, in Thousands

After transformation through either of the above methods, scientists raise the plants within a laboratory to ensure proper insertion of the transgene of interest. If the gene is found to have been successfully inserted, the plants are then moved to the field and raised as any other agricultural crop.

Thousands of hectares of soy planted Thousands of Hectares of soy harvested

15,000

Thousands of hectares of soy planted Thousands of Hectares of soy harvested

15,000 10,000

10,000 5,000

5,000 0

‘80 ‘81 ‘82 ‘83 ‘84 ‘85 ‘86 ‘87 ‘88 ‘89 ‘90 ‘91 ‘92 ‘93 ‘94 ‘95 ‘96 ‘97 ‘98 ‘99 ‘00 ‘01 ‘02 ‘03 ‘04 ‘05 ‘06

Year 0

‘80 ‘81 ‘82 ‘83 ‘84 ‘85 ‘86 ‘87 ‘88 ‘89 ‘90 ‘91 ‘92 ‘93 ‘94 ‘95 ‘96 ‘97 ‘98 ‘99 ‘00 ‘01 ‘02 ‘03 ‘04 ‘05 ‘06

Year


9

  of the University of Puget Sound

The environmental organization, Greenpeace Argentina, would like the Argentine government to pass a bill to protect 33 million hectares of the nation’s native forests. The law would declare a “state of emergency” for the country’s forests, making any further deforestation illegal even if it means overriding provincial authority. It has been approved in the House of Representatives but not in the Senate and there has been major resistance in the densely-forested provinces of Fromosa and Misiones. Critics of the bill say it is too vague and that it violates A cordon de fuego: provincial autonomy.9, 10 Currently, the individual provinces have the authority to regulate deforestation. A farmer in Salta told me that while his land used to be completely forested, he was able to convert it to agriculture as long as he followed provincial law and left 30% of the trees.11

Greenpeace Argentina

forests have been the target for new agricultural plots. 8 According to the Inter Press Service, the destruction of 250,000 or more hectares of forest annually in Argentina is mainly due to the expansion of farmland for transgenic soybeans.9

clearing the land by burning in order to grow soybeans into native forests. Argentine scientists could also investigate ways to make soy more productive per hectare so that farmers would not be as tempted to expand their plots.

Although more and more of Argentina’s bioproductive land has been devoted to soy cultivation, not much soy is acIn addition to providing legislation, the Argentine govern- tually consumed by Argentines. Rather, a total of 97% of ment should also provide educational programs for farmers Argentina’s soy is destined for export. China and India are explaining why it is in their best interests to limit defores- the central markets for soy oil and soybeans. While the tation. Trees are important to water quality because they European Union banned genetically modified agricultural trap sediment and absorb nutrients that run off of agri- imports from 1998 to 2004, the World Trade Organization cultural plots.12 The community as a whole should also be urged the EU to accept them after receiving complaints concerned about deforestation because forests serve as a from the U.S., Canada and Argentina.14 Currently, the EU livelihood for many indigenous people, offer watershed pro- purchases the majority of Argentina’s soy meal and soy peltection, provide timber and lets.4,1 Argentina is now the medicines, house wildlife, world’s number one exporter hat is gene tic modific ation maintain the water cycle and of soy oil and pellets and The transformation of an organism ’s the number three exporter clean the air. 8 genomic composition by the insertion of soybeans.15 Argentina exThe Argentine people need of genes isol at ed from other organ - ports a diverse selection of to think seriously about how isms . The transformed organism, then soy products to a variety of they want their forests to markets, because it reduces look and how much forest e xpresses those traits of the donor or - the risk of an economic crithey would like to have after ganism in addition to its own. sis due to a drop in prices all the conversion to agriculand added trade barriers. tural land is done. How the forest is structured, whether it is en masse, in a corridor, in small plots, or other designs Although investment in the soybean industry has increased is important in terms of creating appropriate habitats for to a certain degree, the economic vision for the future wildlife. The Argentine government should open up dialogue remains relatively short - a trait also shared by the Argenbetween ecologists and provincial leaders about the future tine people. One cannot really blame Argentines for their of Argentina’s forests. Moreover, it should create a map of shortsightedness considering their volatile political and ecoits forests, as Brazil has done, in order to monitor defores- nomic history. As recently as 2001, many Argentines were tation. Perhaps instead, the government should map out its restricted as to how much of their money they could even forests in order to monitor unwarranted deforestation. If the withdraw from the bank, meanwhile their savings dwindled country is to increase the production of soy, it should be because of hyperinflation and currency devaluations. What through minimizing waste in soy processing, not expanding seems important to many Argentine farmers is that soy is

W

?


10 Greenpeace Argentina

Elements: The Scientific Magazine   glyphosate will not benefit Argentina but rather, the profits will go to foreign corporations, such as Monsanto, that are based in the United States.

Already, the relationship between Argentina and Monsanto is showing signs of instability. Continuing with a practice that has occurred for centuries among farmers all over the world, Argentine law permits farmers to save seeds from year to year for replanting.17 Therefore, when the Monsanto corporation requested a patent in Argentina for its genetically engineered “Roundup Ready” seed varieties, they were denied.16 Although Monsanto knew it would not receive royalties for its seeds sold in Argentina, it continued marketing them in the country because it could still make money off of the sale of glyphosate.1 In 2003-2004, once Argentina adopted the technology and infrastructure for the Bulldozing in Salta, Argentina to clear the land. production of Roundup Ready soy, the company threatened profitable now. The result has been the exclusive cultivation to withhold sales until its patent request was accepted and of soy in some areas. The practice of planting only one retroactive payments of royalties were made.1,7 Negotiations crop for extensive periods of time is known as monoculti- on patent regulations are still underway between Argentine vation, and it eventually results in soil depletion because lobbyists and Monsanto representatives. Argentina has a lot the natural give-and-take of nutrients in the soil by various at stake in this debate. If it does not respect the patent, it plant species does not occur. Moreover, depleted topsoil is may lose access to Monsanto’s seeds as well as investment not easily replaceable. According to American agricultural and markets. Argentines would also not be given access economist James Horne, topsoil can only form at a rate of to a new technology Monsanto is developing for soybean one inch every 500 to 1,000 years depending on the geo- seeds that could be grown in Argentina’s more arid regions.1 graphic location.12 Although monocultivation has a negative Furthermore, Monsanto could implement a terminator gene impact on soil, farmers can better maintain topsoil quality in the soy genome that would make them sterile after one if they rotate their crops and use the no-till methods of soil season, forcing farmers to buy seeds every season.12 In order to wean its dependence on foreign management made more feasible with hat agricultural crops companies for its weed control, ArRoundup Ready soy. 3 gentina must develop its own biotech are genetically modified industry. Instead of intensively producing soy through monocultivation, there are on the market today more sustainable ways of increasing Besides limiting input costs, another heat profits. One approach is to decrease way to increase profitability is to reinput costs. The inputs involved in the ceive a higher price for soy. At presoy increasingly large soy entities are more ent, Argentine farmers are price-takers, orn than is necessary. Although glyphosate meaning that they must accept the gootato currently requires fewer applications ing international price. An alternative than most weed killers, it is likely that would be to grow more specialized anola someday weeds will develop a resisproducts, such as organic soy, that otton tance to glyphosate as well. Eventually, receive a higher price and find accepmore and more of the herbicide will be tance in more markets. It is beneficial anana needed to fight the “super weeds” that that Argentina offers many types of apaya develop. The likelihood of resistance is processed soy exports, like soy oil, enhanced because glyphosate is one soy flour, soy pellets, biodiesel, etc. ice of the only methods of weed control that increase the value-added content ugar beet used with genetically modified soy vaand therefore sell at higher prices. rieties. Just as doctors must use new broad-spectrum antibiotics to combat ever-adapting bacte- A soy derivative that has seen increasing demand is biodieria, farmers need to use multiple weed control methods to sel. While in 2007, biodiesel production is estimated at 200 fight off the development of weed resistance to herbicides. million liters, it is projected to exceed 800 million in 2008 Moreover, if resistant weeds emerge, farmers will have to and has the potential to increase beyond 2 billion liters by resort to tilling and as a consequence, will further erode 2010. It is a favorable time for biodiesel exports because the soil. By only using glyphosate, Argentines are trusting there are relatively few regulations and there is high interthat corporations will adapt their herbicide formula to ad- national demand. Argentina has found the highest demand dress emerging resistant weed varieties. But what if they do in the European Union because of its legislation requiring not succeed or are too late? Or what if they decide to in- biofuel mixes. Although export taxes on many soy products crease the cost of herbicides? The growing dependence on are over 20%, the tax on biodiesel is only 5% and is ac-

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  of the University of Puget Sound companied by a 2.5% rebate. The Argentine government has also been working to increase domestic demand for biofuels in order to ease its dependence on fossil fuels, enhance internal consumption of soybeans, and promote a cleaner environment.18 Consequently, it passed a law that would require a mix of 5% biodiesel with regular diesel by the year 2010.13 It is likely that 700,000 million liters of biodiesel would be required to fulfill the 5% requirement.18 Encouraging both external and internal demand for biodiesel would help Argentina increase profit and decrease risk.

using Roundup Ready varieties, he only needs 5 people.11 Argentine farmers should do a cost-benefit analysis to compare the increasing use of chemicals, machinery and seeds to be purchased every year to the more natural process of cultivating one’s own seeds and employing local people. While it is clearly initially more profitable for some farmers to use biotechnology in the short-run, due to increasing input costs associated with biotechnology, it is not as obvious which option is more viable in the long-run. By supporting rural communities, the government could encourage the distribution of wealth and prevent a diaspora of rural residents to the slums of Buenos Aires.

In addition to selling processed items, individual farmers or cooperatives themselves could look into marketing soy While maximizing profits, Arhat is cy t ogene tic s within Argentina or abroad, gentina must find a way to to prevent the loss of profit The e x pl or at ion of a n orga nism ’s chro - reduce risk. It seems quite to multinational distributors.12 mo s om a l c omp o si t ion using a proc edure risky that the government Argentine farmers could also c all ed F l ores c en t I n - si t u H y bridiz at ion would depend on the export diversify their products by (FISH). G ene t ic m a rk ers a re highligh t- taxes for soy for over 10% of rotating their soy with other its revenue. There are many ed using s equenc e specific fluores c en t premium crops such as orvariables that could go wrong ganic corn.12 Rotating soy with probes a nd a n aly z ed using UV micro s - with a crop, especially when corn is an ideal combination c opy. This all ow s f or fur t her a n alysis , it comes to Roundup Ready because corn absorbs the ni- including k a ryo t y ping . soy. One major threat is the trogen that soy adds to the crop’s vulnerability to drought soil, maintaining a healthy balance of nutrients. and disease due to the loss of genetic diversity. If a natural disaster affected one crop of genetically modified soy, it While working to raise net income from soy, emphasis would likely affect them all, whereas if there was widespread should also be placed on increasing the number of people genetic diversity, it would likely only affect crops from cerwho will benefit. With genetically modified agriculture usu- tain regions. The Irish potato famine of the 19th century is ally comes industrial farming, involving more mechanization a case in point. Because just a few varieties of potato were and less manpower. Because only some farmers can afford brought over from the Americas, the crop was completely the capital to undertake such methods of farming and those devastated when a potato disease emerged in Ireland.12 who have do not require as many employees, the result has Consequently, about 1 million people starved and 2 million been an increase in rural unemployment.19 A soy farmer I fled the country.12 Genetic diversity has continued to disapvisited in the province of Salta admitted to me that when pear at an alarming rate through modern farming practices. his farm produced organic soy, he hired around 500 people The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for short periods of the year to pull weeds. Now that he is estimates that the world has lost 75% of its agricultural diversity since the beginning of the 20th century.12

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Greenpeace Argentina

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Deforestation for conversion to agriculture in Argentina.

Case Study: Genomic Exchange of Desired Genes Kirsten Wright

Have you ever considered the potential that the transgenes in your genetically modified produce may have transferred into the genomes of your garden’s weeds? Ever wondered what would happen if this truly occurred? For instance, the formation of a Roundup Ready weed or one that is pest resistant? Many people do not consider this to be a problem because industries claim they are inserting their transgenes into “safe places” within the genomes of genetically modified plants. These “safe sites” are portions of the genome that are known to be lost during the hybridization between a genetically modified plant and a natural diploid weed. This begs the question, can the transgenes be passed onto natural diploids even after being placed within the “safe site?”


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Elements: The Scientific Magazine  

Kirsten Wright Kirsten Wright

Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) of B. napus mitotic metaphase chromosomes (blue) with centromere probes (Cent-1=red, Cent-2=green, appears white). Above: B. napus GT5-BC2-013 with Cent-1=17 Cent-2=3 Below: B. napus GT8-BC2-014 with Cent-1=16 Cent-2= 4

en.xihalife.com

This past summer, at the University of Missouri, Columbia, in the lab of Dr. J. Chris Pires, I worked with other undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students investigating the potential for exchange of trangenes between genetically modified allopolyploid Brassica napus (canola) and parental diploid plant Brassica rapa (a weed). Allopolyploids are organisms that result from the hybridization of genomes from two or more progenitor species. During this process, genomic changes can occur where chromosomes are deleted or added, known as aneuploidy. Often these individuals are sterile and display phenotypic instability resulting in speciation. So why did I use B. napus to do this procedure and not another plant? Brassica napus was used because it is a fertile hybrid of Brassica rapa (a diploid weed) and Brassica oleracea. This allows researchers to trace transgene transmission between an allopolyploid and a natural diploid and investigate if homeologous recombination (exchanges of genetic material) and/or aneuploidy are taking place. Brassica rapa (a weed)

The overall purpose of the research conducted by my fellow researchers and myself was to assess gene migration and determine if industry’s claim of safe insertion of transgenes is in fact true. Is the “safe site” within the genome of B. napus truly “safe” and transgenes inserted there have no or minimal transmission to other organisms? The study began by tracing transgene movement in order to provide evidence for homeologous recombination. Three backcrosses were made between transgenic B. napus to natural B. rapa. Each time, germination rate was measured to see if decreased viability occurred when hybridization took place (an indicator of aneuploidy). Also, transmission rates were measured using PCR (polymerase chain reactions) where transgene pieces of known size were cut out of the transgenic DNA using enzymatic reactions. These rates allowed us to determine how often the transgenes were being passed on to the weed offspring. Surprisingly, we found that eight out of the total nine crosses conducted contained progeny with the transgene. This meant that each generation of backcross had the transgene or rather, the transgene was being passed from the genetically modified plant to the natural diploid weed. Using the above evidence, further study of aneuploidy was performed to validate if homeologous recombination was occurring. For this procedure, we used Fluorescent in situ Hybridization (FISH) techniques and cytogenetic analysis to look for chromosomal rearrangement, additions, or deletions. This was performed using fluorescent markers specific to the two centromeres present within the B. napus genome (Cent. 1 and Cent. 2). After hybridizing the markers to chromosomal spreads collected for each backcross, the number of chromosomes and the number of centromeres one and two were counted. The expected result of each backcross was the progression of the B. napus centromere composition (38 chromosomes)


13 Monsanto.com

  of the University of Puget Sound

Brassica napus (canola) towards the B. rapa genome composition, which contained 20 total chromosomes (16 Cent. 1 centromeres and 4 Cent. 2 centromeres, see FISH photos). What we found is that in fact centromere abundance in each backcross does progress towards the expected 20 B. rapa chromosome composition. Aneuploidy must have taken place. We concluded this because each backcross contained a different total number of chromosomes and different numbers of Cent. 1 and Cent. 2, but in each backcross the total number of chromosomes moved towards 20 from 38, therefore chromosomes were lost. From a compilation of the two above forms of evidence it was concluded that although the chromosomes were changing in number between generations, retention of the transgene was taking place. Simply, the transgene was moving from the canola to the natural weed. Because there was a variance in the number of each centromere even in the plants containing 20 chromosomes, we suggested that transgenes could transfer even if placed on the lost portion of the genome by homeologous recombination. Overall, industry was incorrect in their claim that their transgenes do not exchange into natural diploid weeds. “Why do I care?” you may be asking yourself right now. “It does not matter to me if we have weeds with transgenes!” Unfortunately, it does matter. Take a moment and imagine weeds that possess the ability to resist all herbicides, pesticides and environmental stresses. Imagine weeds that you cannot kill and that proliferate rapidly due to genes encoding for increased productivity and yield. Imagine what we like to call “superweeds” growing happily everywhere, out-competing all kinds of natural plants and, eventually, agricultural crops. It is these images that inform why you should care, because soon it may be a reality. Clearly, much more extensive research is necessary for the proper formation of genetically modified organisms. Researchers and industries must recognize that we cannot

completely stop gene transmission, but “safer” sites must be found within plant genomes in order to preserve other natural plants while still increasing yield and other desirable characteristics in our crops. 1. Interview with Federico Landgraff from the Argentine Rural Society (Sociedad Rural Argentina). 2. “Biting the hand that feeds.” Economist 381 (2006): 46-46. 3. Fedoroff, Nina and Nancy Marie Brown. “Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist’s View of Genetically Modified Foods.” Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press, 2004. 4. “The Expanding Soy Frontier.” Greenpeace International. Nov. 15, 2005. http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/ content/international/press/reports/the-expandingsoybean-frontier.pdf 5. “Argentina Soybean Processing Sector Expects over $200 Million in Investments in 2007.” Diario La Capital. All Data Processing Ltd, Feb. 19, 2007. 6. Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Pesca y Alimentos. “Campaña Agrícola 2006/07.”http:www.sagpya. mecon.gov.ar/new/0-0/agricultura/otros/estimaciones/ pdfmensual/julio_07.pdj 7. Valente, Marcela. “Argentina:Farmers Want Government to Help Big-Time Profits Grow.” Inter Press Service / Global Information Network. Aug. 3, 2006. 8. World Wildlife Federation (WWF). “Oil palm, soy and tropical forests: a strategy for life.” Sept. 2005. http://assets.pand.org/downloads/fcibrochure.pdf 9. Valente, Marcela. “Argentina: Green light remains lit for destruction of forests.” Inter Press Service / Global Information Network 27 Dec. 2006. 10. Hermelo, Francisco Díaz and Alejandro Reca. “Agribusiness in Argentina: Juggling Exports and Domesstic Sales.” North American Food and Agribusiness Outlook, 2007. Rabobank and Universidad de San Andrés, 2007. 11. Interview with Pedro Arias, owner of Estancia Buenaventura, a soy farm in the province of Salta, Argentina 12. Horne, James E. and Maura McDermott. The Next Green Revolution: Essential Steps to a Healthy Sustainable Agriculture, The Haworth Press Inc., 2001. 13. Webber, Jude. “Fueling Progress: Pioneered by Brazil, green gasoline initiatives are gaining ground even in major oil-producing nations like Mexico and Venezuela.” Latin American Financial Publications, Inc. Oct. 2006. 14. “EU is urged to accept biotech products.” The International Herald Tribune. June 15, 2007. 15. Popper, Helen. “Argentina expects big gain from soy use: Farms to expand acreage and yields as the demand for biodiesel rises.” Houston Chronicle 12 Sept. 2006. 16. Interview at AACREA 08/06/07 17. Greenpeace Argentina. “Soja transgénica: Greenpeace acusó a Monsanto de ‘chantajear’ al Gobierno Argentino con su anuncio de irse del país.” Jan 19, 2004. http://www.greenpeaceorg/argentina/transgenicos/ soja-transgenica-greenpeace 18. John C. Baize and Associates. Weekly News Article Update. Falls Church, VA. June 25, 2007. http://www. mnsoybean.org.programareas.documents/QSSBNewsletterJune252007.doc 19. SAGPyA, “Desarrollo Rural,” http://sagpya.mecon.gov.ar


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Elements: The Scientific Magazine  

Research Report

A Microscopic View of Arctic Haze E mily H ok e

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or six years, Professor Steven Neshyba has been working with Professors Thomas Grenfell and Steve Warren from the University of Washington on the issue of collecting soot in the snow as well as on the phenomenon of Arctic haze. They have been doing this in order to show that Arctic haze is a major contributor to global warming. Arctic haze is a mixture of water-soluble chemicals and tiny soot particles that remain suspended long enough to be carried up into the Arctic from industrial areas in North America, Eastern Europe and Western Asia. The tiny particles, some as small as 20 nanometers, are caught in air currents until they fall to the ground with snow or rain through a process called wet deposition.1 This dirty snow absorbs more energy from the sun, thereby heating up and increasing the global temperature.

Soot particles are essentially carbon, which absorbs continuously throughout the visible range. The researchers previously considered gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy (GC/MS) and liquid chromatography (LC/MS) as methods of determining the composition of Arctic haze, but they had not assessed the microscopic morphology of the haze particles. Brik successfully obtained a Canfield Summer Research Grant to use a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). This enabled him to pursue research into determining the amount of soot in a given area and also potentially link this to the origin of the soot. Brik obtained samples from the research team at the University of Washington who collected the ice from Svalbard, Norway. This isolated area served as a control, because the remote areas of Norway should have been untouched by soot or pollution. The sample was taken during an Arctic haze event 400 meters above sea level.

Andrew Brik

Andrew Brik

A year ago, senior chemistry major Andrew Brik approached Neshyba to work on the subject for a summer research grant. His proposal included working with the team from the University of Washington and Professors Grenfell and Warren were interested in studying the effect of soot on the albedo (reflectivity) of snow further, since they had only

previously approached this effect using absorption spectroscopy in the visible range.

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Soot and no soot: A standard sample of soot (left), versus the arctic haze event from Svaldbard, Norway. The miniscule black dots (pores on the sample plate) resolve at 200 nanometers, whereas the long resolutions are the soot. The yellow bar represents 10 micrometers.


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Emily Hoke

Using a SEM with electron dispersion spectroscopy (EDS), Brik examined the samples and with help from Professor Emeritus of Geology, Stewart Lowther, acquired digital images with resolution down to 200 nanometers. The benefits of SEM/EDS spectroscopy are that, not only do the images provide exact details, but also the EDS function determines the identity of trace elements in the sample. The preliminary results showed Brik that the larger, resolved particles were either too ambiguous to define or mineral deposits such as quartz. Throughout many of the samples, however, there existed specks too small to be resolved with the SEM owned by the university.

Andrew Brik

With these unknown specks posing difficulties with the SEM, the next Andrew Brik loads a sample into the Scanning Electron Microscope to look for stage was to compare the smaller soot for his summer research project. particles to a standard soot sample. The small dots were the primary Additional samples from Snoqualmie Pass, WA, which were constituent in the standard soot sample and were visually collected away from the road, had a presence of these similar to the unresolved dots from the Svalbard sample. small particles. Although the composition of these particles

could not be determined, the visual correlations between the standard soot and the small particles in the Snoqualmie samples provided sufficient evidence for determining their identity. One of the additional characteristics of Arctic haze is the presence of additional chemicals such as nitrates and sulfates. These chemicals alter previously non water soluble soot particles into water soluble particles. Once water soluble, the soot particles are brought to the ground in wet deposition. This process is not as yet fully understood, so the next stage for Brik is to create a cloud chamber to simulate these conditions. The connection between Arctic haze and climate change began with Professor and climatologist James Hansen, who testified about global warming in front of congress in the 1980’s. One of the main reasons soot in ice and snow is important is that, according to Brik paraphrasing Professor Hansen, “so much attention is focused on the effect of CO2 on to global warming, but Hansen recently calculated that this albedo reduction could account for up to 1/4 of the causes of global warming.”2

10 micrometers

Samples from Snoqualmie Pass, Washington where the presence of the small soot particles were resolved from the extraneous debris. The yellow bar represents 10 micrometers.

1. Quinn, P.K., Shaw G., et al., 2007, Arctic Haze: Current trends and knowledge gaps. Tellus. 59B, 99-114. 2. Hansen, J., Nazarenko, L., 2004, Soot Climate Forcing via Snow and Ice Albedos. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 101, 423-428.


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Elements: The Scientific Magazine  

Science in Context

Arsenic in Your Blackberries? Studies of the Fallout from the ASARCO Smelter M at t L o e w en

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M a ris sa J ones

As hungry students here at the University of Puget Sound, we often indulge in the juicy blackberries that ripen all over the place during the early fall. Wild blackberries are free, delicious, and abundant along Tacoma’s roadsides, construction areas, vacant lots, and railroad tracks, making them an ideal urban treat. Those who search far and wide for this delicacy may have noticed that the hardy and invasive Himalayan Blackberry thrives in disturbed areas. In fact, one of the most profitable berry-picking locations overlooks the former ASARCO site, a conspicuously vacant area at the end of Ruston Way. There are few people in Tacoma who have not heard references to the high levels of arsenic, lead, and other toxins that the ASARCO smelter deposited into the soil and groundwater when it was active.

For nearly 100 years the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) operated in Tacoma’s backyard, churning out mostly copper and lead. It was also one of the nation’s largest producers of arsenic (over 10,000 tons a year).1 The dark side of this operation was the toxic plume of heavy metals released into the air during the process of refining the ores. By the time the smelter discontinued operation in 1986, north Tacoma and southern Vashon Island were loaded with over 200 parts per million (ppm) of arsenic and other toxic materials, 10 times the acceptable limits defined by the state of Washington. 2 Twenty-one years later, the legacy of the smelter is not so obvious to the unknowing eye. The smoke stack that marked the presence of this industrial giant was demolished in 1993. All that remains today is bald patch of land at the end of Ruston Way. Toxic metal enrichment, however, still

Matt Loewen

Thinking back to all the blackberry pies, ice cream sundaes, and juicy handfuls that we consumed in our years at UPS, we began to wonder, exactly how safe were those berries?

ASARCO’s Legacy

The barren ground of the ASARCO superfund site at the end of Ruston Way.


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LEGEND: Sample Site ASARCO Superfund Site Arsenic Levels: >200 ppm 100.1-200 ppm 40.1-100 ppm 20.1-40 ppm 0-20 ppm

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Blackberry sampling sites in north Tacoma. Colors show the distribution of ASARCO arsenic pollution in the soil. plagues north Tacoma neighborhoods, and numerous health advisories are in place. The Department of Ecology recommends that residents check the statistics for their neighborhood to determine the levels of toxic chemicals in their own backyards. Tacoma also offers soil-testing services for residents and schools to determine if drastic cleanup is necessary. Tacoma has numerous advisories that encourage locals to be proactive in protecting their families from potential harm. Residents are encouraged to take their shoes off before entering the house, mop and clean regularly, and have children wash their hands after playing in the soil. 2 The thoroughness of these advisories emphasizes the danger created by the ASARCO smelter. From these dangers have blossomed a host of scientific investigations that attempt to characterize the effects of the pollutants on animals, plants, soil, and groundwater. This article chronicles our small contribution to the ongoing effort to understand ASARCO’s legacy.

The Means and the Motivation Given what we knew about the reality of toxic chemicals in Tacoma, we felt that the question of arsenic in our blackberries warranted further investigation. After considering the number of berries that had gone through our systems, however, we were not entirely certain that we wanted to know the answer. Some plants have the ability to concentrate heavy metals in their tissues and deliver a toxic mouthful to whomever takes a bite. We had no idea if blackberries were capable of doing this, but with arsenic concentrations over 200 ppm, we figured that it was possible that even a thin coating of dust on the outside of the berries would contain measurable quantities of the toxic metal. With access to the geochemistry lab at UPS and help from the biology, chemistry, and geology departments, we set out to address this question for ourselves and our readers in a quick and dirty scientific investigation, designed especially for Elements Magazine.


18 Methods The first thing we needed was a way to measure the trace amounts of heavy metals. This is easier said that done in most cases, but the University of Puget Sound had the tools we needed. The ICP-OES (Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometer) is a machine that belongs to the geology department and is housed in the basement of Harned Hall. It measures elemental components such as water, sediment, or rock samples, but we felt that it could be commandeered for the purpose of analyzing heavy metals in blackberries. Next we needed the blackberries themselves. We wanted to observe the blackberries on a continuum of increasing arsenic soil concentrations. Using data from the Department of Ecology, we constructed a map of North Tacoma and identified the concentrations of arsenic found in the soil. 3 From this, we selected seven prime blackberry picking locations between UPS and the former ASARCO site.

One gram of powdered berry (about three berries) from each treatment was mixed with five milliliters of a 10% solution of nitric acid and left for several days. This technique pulls off all metal ions and brings them into the acid solution. We expected the nitric acid to utterly and completely dissolve the blackberry powder and its seeds, but a large amount of blackberry gunk (the scientific term) remained at the bottom of each tube. As a geological tool, the ICP-OES is not designed to burn up things like the sugars found in blackberries (they might clog the nebulizer) so we centrifuged the mixture and diluted two milliliters of our solution with two milliliters of hydrogen peroxide to destroy the remaining organic compounds. Just to be safe, we filtered the clear yellow liquid through a 0.2 micrometer filter to trap any remaining particles. Confident that our treatments were safe to run through the ICP, we tested the solutions for arsenic, lead, cadmium, and iron. The first three elements are known products of the ASARCO smelter and have been measured in high concentrations in the soil of north Tacoma, increasing with proximity to the smelter. They also are highly toxic in elevated concentrations. We tested for iron, because it is an important nutrient and a known component of blackberries, so we could expect to find some in all samples. If blackberries did incorporate arsenic, lead, or cadmium, we would expect their concentrations in the berries to increase with proximity to the smelter. We also thought there was a chance that iron would increase as well, since it was possibly an accompanying pollutant in the smelting process, though it would not have received the same level of attention due to its low toxicity.

Matt Loewen

In the field, a subset of the berries we collected was tested initially for deliciousness using the Jones-Loewen Deliciousness Index (D’). This is a three-fold index that rates sweetness, texture, and flavor on a scale from one to ten. We brought the unconsumed berries back to the geochemistry lab and washed half of each sample. We wanted to compare berries that were covered in dust from the local area to those that had been washed. We did our best to rinse the berries equally by running them under the faucet three times the way we would wash fruit from the store before eating it. Washed and unwashed berries were dried in a 120 degree Celsius oven for a week and then pulverized with a mortar and pestle.

Elements: The Scientific Magazine  

Preparation of blackberries from freshly picked on the left, after drying in the middle, and pulverized on the right.


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Results of iron and lead concentrations in washed and unwashed blackberries by location. Locations are arranged in order of distance from the ASARCO site, and show a steady increase in iron concentrations.

Results Relief! We found that concentrations of arsenic and cadmium were below detectable limits in every sample. Lead, however, was found in small amounts (less than five ppm) in several of the samples, although there was no clear trend between these minor concentrations with either proximity to the ASARCO site or in wash treatments. Iron was found in measurable concentrations in all samples. This came as no surprise since blackberries are known to contain iron. These samples, however, showed marked increases in iron concentrations with proximity to the ASARCO smelter. Concentrations at the ASARCO site were almost double those near UPS. In addition, iron concentrations were lower in samples that had been washed.

ASARCO health?

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The remarkably consistent increase in iron concentration closer to the ASARCO site suggests that iron was in fact a component of the airborne pollution from the smelter. The increased concentrations in unwashed samples suggest that the concentration was not only in the berries, but also in the soil. Ideally, soil samples from all the sites would have been tested, but with these initial data, there appears to be a trend.

The implications of these results are counterintuitive. The effects of ASARCO pollution actually may have increased the nutritional value of the soil for blackberry consumers. We would expect this nutritional increase to be accompanied by increases in toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, and cadmium. In reality, however, these metals appear not to be significantly absorbed by blackberries in the area. Therefore the harm from these metals is possibly mitigated by the physiological properties of blackberry plants. When we began this project, the little bit of mad scientist in each of us was secretly hoping to find dangerous amounts of arsenic in the berries. What better story could we have than a shocking study of toxic levels of heavy metals contaminating the berries of Tacoma? When the results starting coming in, we initially bowed our heads in disappointment. But then it dawned on us that this was not a bad thing! As residents of Tacoma, WA, we can still scavenge the berries that tempt us from back alleys and roadside ditches. Indeed, results from our highly scientific taste test show a strong indication that berry tastiness increases steadily the closer they are to the ASARCO location! Our study, of course, is far from conclusive. We consider these data preliminary. We did not measure nearly enough sites or samples to be certain of the trend we initially observed. In addition, we still do not have


Jones-Loewen Delicousness Index (D’)

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Elements: The Scientific Magazine  

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Blackberry deliciousness was found to increase dramatically closer to the ASARCO site. enough information on the exact physiological mechanism that would explain why blackberries do or do not incorporate toxic heavy metals while selecting a metal like iron. Future studies also should verify if iron was indeed a component of ASARCO pollution by vigorously testing soil in the region. Our results, though, form an intriguing story that is certainly worthy of further investigation.

Other Studies The story of ASARCO is not limited to the safety of blackberries. Indeed, our results are unexpected, because they do not spell doom the in the way most other investigations on the effects of the smelter do. Despite the well-documented heavy metal concentrations in the soil, new studies continue to illustrate the various effects and behaviors of these compounds. For several years now, the UPS Environmental Geochemistry class and Professor Jeff Tepper have investigated the levels of heavy metals in Tacoma area lake sediment. These class investigations, along with Christian Manthei’s 2006 senior thesis, found levels of arsenic and other heavy metals that were far above the federal standards. The real crux of the study lay in describing the distribution of these metals at different depths in the sediment. ASARCO had already discontinued operation for nearly 20 years, so they expected to find that the heavy metal-rich sediments had been covered in many years worth of relatively unimpacted detritus. In reality, pollutant levels were highly enriched in the top few centimeters. Something was causing the metals to stay at the surface. After considering the situation, Manthei concluded in his thesis research that a process of element mobility was occurring. 2 Reducing conditions in the sediments allowed metals to actually migrate upwards through the sediment, enriching the surface layers to unanticipated levels.

One of the only concrete things we know about the effects of ASARCO is that arsenic, cadmium, lead, and other toxic elements are everywhere in the Puget Sound region. The remaining question is how these elements behave, and the results are multifaceted. In lake sediment these elements are not just highly enriched, but have concentrated to levels well above what we would expect, because of the behavior and characteristics of the mediums in which they are stored. In other projects, such as our investigation of blackberries, the initial results seem to indicate that just because arsenic is in the soil, it is not necessarily in the fruits grown, and the other pollutants such as iron may actually enrich the soil in ways that are not harmful. This is what makes ASARCO such a fascinating and important topic for scientific investigation. Questions remain about the behavior of chemicals, the effects of chemicals on biological and human communities, and the policy implications of such a large and toxic industrial process. One thing is clear, however: the pollution from ASARCO has created an enormous laboratory for the study of chemical and biological systems right in our own backyard. 1. Tacoma Smelter Plume Project Extended Footprint Study. (2005). from http://www.metrokc.gov/health/ tsp/footprint2005/index.htm 2. Hooper, Dawn. (2007). Dirt Alert – General Information about Arsenic and Lead in Soil. Washington State Department of Ecology 06-09-048. Available from http:// www.ecy.wa.gov/biblio/0609048.html 3. Washington State Department of Ecology. Dirt Alert – Tacoma Smelter Plume [Internet]. [cited 2007 Nov 11]. Available from http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/tcp/ sites/tacoma_smelter/ts_hp.htm 4. Manthei, C.D. and J.H. Tepper. (2006). Behavior of heavy metals in marine and lacustrine sediment cores, south Puget Sound, Washington. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 38, 9.


21

  of the University of Puget Sound Science in Context

potato raw to have any benefit, because the heat would denature the protein.

K a rin a H ickm a n

This summer in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers led by Tomonori Nochi of the University of Tokyo, published an article concerning their success in genetically engineering a cholera vaccine in rice. In cholera vaccines, the antigenic protein which triggers the immune response is the cholera toxin B-subunit. To add this protein to rice, Nochi and his colleagues inserted the gene into the rice genome along with a promoter, a gene that acts as an on switch for the adjacent gene in the presence of a certain molecule, to induce expression of the gene, and thereby the production of the protein. Once the gene was placed in the rice and the rice had been grown, all that remained to be done was to test the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Vaccines

S

o you are sitting in the SUB, about to bite in to a french fry, or maybe you are waiting in line for some rice from PAC Rim. Now these delicious staples appear to have nothing in common with the flu and Gardisil vaccines that you may have seen advertised everywhere from counseling health and wellness services, to the residence halls, but they do. These foods could become instrumental in keeping you healthy from such diseases. Enter edible vaccines: genetically modified foods which contain genes that code for antigens — immune response triggering proteins. These foods would allow all of us to avoid those nasty trips to the doctor, but edible vaccines are more than just convenient; they could save thousands of lives. Vaccines exist for a number of diseases. Some diseases, such as smallpox, have been entirely wiped out, and in Western countries there are vaccines for many diseases that are so effective that we hardly hear about the disease anymore. On the other side of the world, however, cholera, tuberculosis, and other preventable diseases are a serious health threat.

Now that you have finished your french fries or that great stir-fry with white rice, it is time to think about how amazing this new technology really is. This technique will likely work for a vast number of important vaccines, which could save hundreds of thousands of lives in areas that had little hope before. Rice has always been a mother grain, and the basis of billions of people’s diet but now it truly is a super food.

Wikimedia Commons

Vaccines exist that prevent these horrible diseases, so why are people still getting sick? The answer is simple and the solution is complicated. The obstacle that keeps millions from lifesaving vaccines is the storage and administration of those vaccines. Traditional vaccines are not particularly hardy. They are composed of proteins that are so sensitive to temperature change that a few degrees difference can change the protein’s conformation and therefore its function. To counter this sensitivity most vaccines must be kept refrigerated, but it is not easy to find a refrigerator in sub-Saharan Africa where temperatures can be well over a hundred degrees. Nor is it wise to administer vaccines as a shot in countries where fresh needles are not always available due to cost. Since the rise of genetic engineering, researchers have been looking to genetically modify plants to produce vaccines within their systems, which could then be administered orally. Foods of interest in this process have been bananas, tomatoes, and potatoes, which have had some success, although you would have to eat the

The rice was fed to lab rats and, as Dr. Nochi had hoped, the grains of rice helped to protect the protein from being broken down by the digestive system. The digestive system’s ability to break down proteins into their respective amino acids has long been a problem in the administration of protein-based drugs, which has made it very difficult to administer this class of drugs orally. The current cholera vaccine faces precisely this problem. It is administered orally, and because of the digestive system’s interference, it is not particularly effective. When the protein made its way through the digestive system to the intestines, it induced an immune reaction, which resulted in the production of antibodies specific to cholera, thus providing protection from the disease. The mice were then fed cholera toxin, and researchers saw that they were protected by their new antibodies, proving that they were effectively vaccinated. Dr. Nochi and his team also found that the vaccine was still effective after sitting in storage on a shelf for 18 months.

Wikimedia Commons

Edible

Afraid of needles? Soon you may never have to see one.

An apple a day may soon truly keep the doctor away.


22

Elements: The Scientific Magazine  

Science in Context

Bacterial Mats in Hood Canal M at t L onsdal e

I

t is an amazing thing when a person gets paid to follow a childhood dream. When I was a child, I spent a lot of time on the banks of mountain streams in Idaho. Since it was too cold to get in the water, I played in the mud. I loved the mud. I loved how it was cold, gooey, full of interesting twigs and rocks, black as night, and smelled slightly of rotting eggs. I got into trouble when I coated the lower half of my parent’s house with mud (I was short when I was five), making it a lovely brown color instead of the white my parents had painted it. I still do not understand why they were mad — a throwback to a 1970’s color was and still is an excellent idea. I started college with a strong interest in biology and got a summer research grant to study a close cousin of the mud of my childhood — the mud at Lynch Cove in Hood Canal.

Joel Elliott

The muddy environment I studied over the summer is notable because it is considered a dead zone. A dead zone is defined as an area, particularly a polluted body of water, in which conditions are unsuitable for life. While this may be an accurate assessment of macro-faunal, oxygen dependent life, this is not true for micro-faunal organisms present within the system. In this case, a dead zone can be quite full of life, and it happens to be nearly indestructible. Enter the extremophile; the technical term for forms of life that can live in areas too toxic for less specialized organisms to tolerate. The hot springs at Yellowstone National Park are wonderfully colored with vivid blues, reds, oranges, and purples. These colors are not created by the water itself, but by bacteria that dwell in water so hot it could boil a human alive in less than five minutes. While it may seem like the Northwest does not have a dead zone nearly as spectacular as that of Yellowstone, the truth is that Hood Canal is just as interesting to someone like me, a mud lover.

Beggiatoa in a core sample from Hood Canal.

Hood Canal contains an extremophilic bacterium like those in the hot springs of Yellowstone, but instead of being brightly colored, it is pure white. To create the perfect environment for these bacteria to live in, simply add an enormous amount of nutrients, lower the temperature to ten degrees Celsius, add sulfur (the chemical compound that smells of rotting eggs), and finally remove all but a tiny fraction of the oxygen from the water column. You end up with the perfect niche for Beggiatoa. If you take a camera and dive to a depth of 10-25 meters in Hood Canal’s Lynch Cove, you capture an interesting scene. It looks like a group of giants had an apocalyptic pillow fight, ripping their pillows over the benthic sediment and covering approximately seven square kilometers of sea floor with cotton. The “cotton” in question is Beggiatoa. It can be seen by the naked eye and can grow up to three centimeters in length — a bacterium that is not microscopic but macroscopic in nature. At that size you could even name them and keep them as pets! Best of all, this bacterial pillow mud is cold, gooey, full of interesting twigs and rocks, black as night and smelling strongly of rotting eggs. I was home again, but instead of painting my house, I needed to “paint a picture” of Lynch Cove, this time with full permission. From previous research done in the Marine Biology class at the University of Puget Sound, I knew that bacterial density and distribution in Lynch Cove changes with the seasons. During fall and summer the size of the bacterial mat reaches approximately seven to nine square kilometers depending on the year and then shrinks during the winter to approximately one square kilometer. This pattern repeats each year, similar to how bellbottoms keep making a comeback in the fashion world. My goal was to quantify this change. To do this, I spent the better part of my summer watching 10 hours of video and quantifying the bacterial percent cover on a zero to five scale for every second of video. (If you think this does not sound like much, think again). This allowed me to draw maps that quantified the amount of bacterial growth per month on the benthic sediment of Hood Canal. Being a diligent scientist, I wondered what factors affect the bacterial growth and shrinkage over time. What factors, such as nutrient input, salinity and oxygen, combine together to form the ecosystem currently observed? I broke the study into two major parts: water and sediment quality. During the year, weekly data was collected by the Hood Canal Dissolved Oxygen Program, which included a transect covering “my” bacterial mat. They collected water samples, titrated for dissolved oxygen levels, and tested for the presence of ammonia. They found that through most of the summer and fall there was little to no dissolved oxygen in


23

The expanse of the bacterial mat (white) above, in winter 2006 and below, in fall 2007. The size of the bacterial mat varies seasonally due to changing water quality conditions in Hood Canal.

the water column approximately 10 meters below the surface and deeper. These conditions are considered hypoxic levels, in which oxygen levels are below the required amount for an oxygen-dependent macrofaunal organism to survive. This did not answer the question of why Beggiatoa is found in Lynch Cove, but it did suggest that the conditions in this area created prime habitat for this type of bacteria because of the low dissolved oxygen levels. Also, all of the other marine factors that I hypothesized could contribute to this problem did not differ significantly between water inside the bacterial mat and water outside the bacterial mat. I was able to discount these factors as being a major influence on the abundance of the bacterial mat. Next, I looked at the sediment the Beggiatoa lived in to determine the amount of smelly hydrogen sulfide (H2S) present. To do this, I took 30 centimeter core samples of the benthos inside the bacterial mat and to the north and south of the main mat area. I created a sediment profile by measuring the level of hydrogen sulfide, reduction-oxidation reactions (REDOX), dissolved oxygen, porosity (amount of water in the sediment), and Total Volatile Solids (TVS, or the amount of organic material) per centimeter of sediment. These analyses showed there was a correlation between the presence of bacteria located in Lynch Cove, and high levels

of hydrogen sulfide, organic materials, REDOX reactions, porosity, and organic material in the sediment. This means that bacteria grew near their food source, hydrogen sulfide, and lots of organic material. This also means that this large amount of organic material was coming from somewhere, but its source had not yet been determined. Could it be from the benthos or the water column? To find out, I placed sediment traps in the water column at three depths: five meters from the surface, ten meters from the surface, and three meters from the bottom of the waterway. These traps collected “plankton rain� over a period of one week in late August. From these data I concluded that there were two to three times the amount of plankton settling over the bacterial mat compared to the deep and shallow sites. Finally I had a clue, and Sherlock Holmes himself would have been proud of my scientific detective work. It was still just a clue, and not a quantifiable source of information. I then took some grab samples at the same sites as the sediment traps, washed them through sieves, and measured the distribution and abundance of macro-faunal polychaete worms, brittle sea stars and any other organisms present. In the bacterial mat, there were half the number of species and almost one-tenth the weight of macro-faunal organisms as opposed to the other two sites. I concluded from these data that the high levels of organic material come from the water column rather than from the sediment. In a normal system, bacteria play an important role along with the polychaetes, brittle stars and other pelagic and benthic feeders. Due to the lack of these pelagic and benthic feeders within the bacterial mat, all of the responsibility for breaking down organic material falls on the bacteria themselves. Beggiatoa uses H2S in cellular processes, so it actually removes a harmful toxin that kills other life forms in the water column. Thus, Beggiatoa acts as an indicator of a toxic, low oxygen system in which life that requires oxygen for survival will not be found. Beggiatoa indicates that Lynch Cove, Hood Canal is a dead zone which does not support the ecosystems and fisheries that would normally be plentiful in that area.

Joel Elliott

Matt Lonsdale

  of the University of Puget Sound

This is a close-up of a single, enormous Beggiatoa .


24

Elements: The Scientific Magazine

Research Report

A Weekend at Friday Harbor Labs W ren W illi a ms

M

arine Interactions is a class that deals largely with the ecology of algae. So far this semester we have taken an exhaustive survey of the kingdoms of brown, red, and green algae, as well as learned about the morphologies and feeding habits of some of their most common herbivores. If you think of pond scum when you hear the word “algae,” you are on the right track, but are not seeing the entire picture. What we commonly know as “seaweed” is really algae, as is kelp, the single-celled plankton, called dinoflagellate, responsible for the fish-killing “red tide” and the bioluminescent organisms that make our seawater glow. Needless to say, we do a lot of field work, but there are some objects of our study that we cannot easily get to in this portion of the Puget Sound. As a result, our class took advantage of the location of Friday Harbor Labs (FHL) and set off to do some intensive field research. What follows is a field diary of sorts to give all you aspiring researchers out there an idea of what life would be like at a marine research center like FHL. Alternately, this can give you nonscience types solid proof that your friends are completely insane.

roughly 150 miles north of Tacoma. The island contains many beaches and coves, an important factor for ecology studies that require comparison among different sites. The lab also has a good relationship with the local community, which means many people who own coastal land are willing to let scientists conduct research on their property. In addition, the island has a land bank program, which means that any person buying property must pay into a community fund, which is later used to buy up non-developed property. This property is guaranteed to never be built upon, which ensures the scientists of Friday Harbor Labs workspace for many years to come. Dr. Jennifer Burnaford, our professor and a member of the UPS Biology Department, has done graduate work there in the past, and is currently performing research there. When she decided we needed to get some field work in, she realized FHL would be ideal for our purposes. We agreed to give up a weekend, bought the appropriate gear to work night tides, and set off together to get some hands-on experience in marine ecology.

Why Friday Harbor Labs?

Most of this day was spent in a campus van, thanks in part to horrendous Seattle traffic and the ever-present three-car pile-up on I-5. We left UPS at 4:00 PM, and arrived at Friday Harbor Labs at about 9:30 PM to settle into our cabins. After an hour off to unpack and get into our protective layers, we met up and went down to the beach to take advantage of the low tide. The entire class fanned out over the freshly-exposed rocky intertidal area and looked for new species of algae we had not previously encountered back at UPS. I also found a gumboot chiton lurking in the fold of a rock, and several people found various species of sea stars, anemones, and limpets. By the end of the night, in fact,

Tanya Rogers

Friday Harbor Labs is managed by the University of Washington, and has been around for over 100 years. It has access to University of Washington’s enormous library, as well as a well-stocked library of its own, and all of the full-time staff are employees of the university. Friday Harbor Labs is also home to many research scientists who work on marine systems. Classes are offered on a quarter system for undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate students and students from other schools are eligible to apply for all classes. The facilities are situated on San Juan Island,

Friday, October 26th


25

of the University of Puget Sound there were so many limpets present that I was afraid to step anywhere in case I accidentally committed mass murder.

Saturday, October 27th The people who run the cafeteria at FHL are early risers — after that long night out, we had to get up at 7:45 AM if we wanted to be fed. About one-third of the class decided it was worthwhile, so we ate together and then split up to explore before we met up for the official tour at 10:00 AM. We quickly discovered that there is a lot to do at Friday Harbor Labs that has nothing to do with algae, which is not surprising considering how long people stay there while attending classes or conducting research. The cafeteria and lounge area is always open and has a pool, ping-pong, and a TV with a respectable movie collection. There is a signout sheet for rowboats for those people who are desperate to get into town and do not have a car, and there is a trail into the woods that starts right on the edge of the facilities. Granted, they may not have cable, but it is clear they understand that scientists are still at least marginally human, and, as a result, need some sort of entertainment that does not involve amusing crabs by wearing algal hats. At 10:00 AM we gathered for a tour of the main labs. Friday Harbor Labs has a complex seawater system that pumps water directly from the Sound, channels it through their holding tanks, and returns it to the harbor at the end of its journey. Because of this, they are able to maintain several large pools of marine organisms that are stocked by researchers and divers. In this sense, the main labs look much like a small aquarium, but upon closer inspection, signs of research abound. Many of the sea stars in one of the tanks were missing an arm, or in the process of regenerating a replacement. Other tanks are labeled with the names of researchers, making it clear that unlike the communal tanks, their contents were not up for grabs. Some of the more interesting organisms we met here included living sand dollars, and the “slimy sea star,” which produces a thick mucus in response to being handled and has been known to fill entire containers with the stuff in the time it takes to collect them and get them to a holding tank. We also got to meet Camryn Pennington, a recent UPS graduate who is doing research for a quarter at the labs before going on to graduate school. Pennington did her senior thesis with Burnaford, so she spent the summer before her senior year at UPS living at the labs to conduct her research on chitons.

Dana Wu

After we collected all of that neat stuff from the intertidal area, we went down to the docks to go “nightlighting.” This part was purely optional, but we had all heard interesting stories about it from Professor Burnaford over the course of the semester, and were dying to try it for ourselves. The principle of nightlighting is simple: put a bright light in the water, and see what shows up to check it out. We were down there until after midnight watching shrimp, sea stars, and small fish inspect the area. A lot of us were hoping for squid to stop by, but by this time we were cold and quite exhausted, and decided to wrap it up and head back to the cabins and get some sleep before it was too late. These salt water tanks held the algae we collected.

Now, at the lab, Pennington is currently participating in what is called an “apprenticeship” course. These classes consist of two weeks of lecture and eight weeks of independent projects, so at this point in the year she is well into her research on the distributions of planktonic (free-floating) algae around the San Juan Islands. She talked to us about what the classes were like and what it was like living at Friday Harbor Labs, and was generally an excellent resource for those of us who were interested in doing research after we graduated. After the tour we went back to the docks to collect more algae from tires they had oh-so-cleverly hung over the edges to allow marine life to hook on and grow. To get what we needed, all we had to do was haul a tire out of the water (which is far more difficult than it sounds) and take our pick of the living creatures that had taken up residence. Between this and our foray into the intertidal zone the night before, we had enough new algae to spend several hours identifying and sketching them in a lab that had been assigned to us for our stay. Some of the more interesting specimens we collected looked like spaghetti, or had a highly reflective cuticle that made them iridescent, or had sulfuric acid in their cells so that they had to be held separately from our other samples to prevent them from inciting civil war within the tank. We also had the opportunity to use their library to collect information for our research projects, something which we all took advantage of at some point during the day. Several of us checked out a rowboat and went into town for dinner, which allowed us to get a good look at Friday Harbor itself. It is a decent-sized town, though slightly touristy, and has more than enough to keep people entertained if they need a break from all that science. Since the ferry-ride to a larger town can eat up a significant chunk of time, this should be considered very good news indeed. The class regrouped at 8:30 PM to do some research at a nearby beach with two of our UPS professors. Professors Jennifer Burnaford and Scottie Henderson are currently examining the relationship between an invasive species of clam, Nuttallia obscurata, and several species of native pea crab that typically set up house within living clams. While


26

Rowing from Friday Harbor Labs into town takes a mere fifteen minutes if you know what you are doing. we were at the beach, we worked to collect Nuttallia specimens to determine the infection rate at the site for the fall season. These clams live in the high intertidal area (higher than most native species), and have a tendency to bury themselves, so finding them took a bit of work. First, we ran three transects up the beach, and along these selected square quadrants 50x50 centimeters in size in which to dig. Next we removed sand to a depth of 20 centimeters, collecting any clams we found. Finally, we sieved the removed sand and recovered any smaller clams we missed during our initial inspection. At the end of the weekend, we took all the clams we collected back in the van with us, using battery-operated bubblers to keep them alive and ready for more work back at our lab. After the digging concluded at midnight, we took a final optional trip to Cattle Point to have one last chance to collect algae. Cattle Point is much more rocky and wave-exposed, which meant that it would be inhabited by different species of algae than we saw at FHL’s intertidal area or its docks. This trip concluded at 2:30 AM, and we all went back to our cabins and collapsed in our beds. The next morning we were awake and ready to load the vans by 10:00 AM, caught the ferry at 1:00 PM, and were back in town by 6:00 PM. I was asleep for most of the van ride home, but was awoken by a severe case of van neck long enough to glance around and see that everyone else in the van was also napping — we were completely exhausted! The trip was worth it, and we all had a lot of fun, but it took a couple of days for us to

get caught up on sleep (and if I am any indication of the group as a whole, on homework). So what should you have gotten out of this account if you are interested in research? For starters, if you are worried you are lacking the time to do a project of your own before you graduate, there are plenty of other options open. Friday Harbor Labs has summer courses, as well as classes during the school year. If you are unwilling to give up all your creature comforts to pursue your topic of study, Friday Harbor Labs is also a good choice. The Labs are an interesting mix of classes and professional research — while studying there you can learn what your old professors are doing, or catch up with the latest work being conducted by the author of your favorite textbook. You should also realize that any work dealing with tidal activity can be difficult to schedule. In the winter, low tides in the Puget Sound occur almost exclusively at night, so researchers have to plan their sleep schedules, and their wardrobes, around this unfortunate truth. Finally, remember that it is not required that you have a love of algae to take advantage of any of these facts. Friday Harbor Labs also has facilities to work on larger marine organisms. In short, this is a facility that all students interested in marine biology should know about because chances are high that there is something there he or she can benefit from at some point in a college career. For more information on Friday Harbor Labs, hop online and visit http://depts.washington.edu/fhl/

Tanya Rogers

Dana Wu

Elements: The Scientific Magazine


Welcome to The Allium Solallium hybridium

Meet the potonion (pə’ tənyən): Ever been forced to choose between onion rings and curly fries? Now, thanks to modern culinary science, this stalemate for every fast food consumer shall never be broached again. Combining the healthy carbohydrates of Solanum tuberosum with the savory influence of Allium cepa, the potonion is the genetic marriage of tuber and bulb that makes chefs and food critics everywhere breathe a sigh of relief. Not only is food preparation time cut in half, the potonion is self-harvesting! This ground-breaking trait has eliminated the need for menial labor worldwide. The prehensile limbs of the potonion mature in the month of October and, with the rise of the full moon, the potonion climbs out of the soil to nestle itself in the nearest wicker receptacle. This wickertropic behavior is the signature trait of the potonion. It significantly reduces harvesting and processing time, thus making the potonion the freshest produce in history.


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Elements: The Scientific Magazine

Is that fly smiling at me? B y P rof es s or L eslie S auc edo

steal your breath nd effortlessly push your body about s I catalogue your features deny your flight nd manipulate your fecundity s I dare override your selfish genes toss you aside nd sacrifice your offspring s I peer through their guts nd as I weigh and decide each move ou feign unawareness of your internment nderstanding that your mysteries ill only expand with each generation nowing that my spirit is at your mercy

Leslie Saucedo

nd that your toils are brief compared to mine


29

of the University of Puget Sound The Allium

Elements Quiz

W h at N at ur al D isa s t er

d. I don’t get to listen to much music. e. Frank Sinatra.

a re you ?

1. You’re late to class and there is a long line at the café. What do you do as you wait for your latte? a. Shout at everyone that you have to get to class and force them to let you go ahead of them. b. Joke that everyone is milling about like a herd of cattle and moo intermittently for the next ten minutes. c. Stay calm. There is no reason to be mad. Really. No, you’re fine. d. Actually, caffeine makes my tremors worse. Decaf soy latte, please! e. I am the only person on this campus without a caffeine addiction.

2. You dart out the door with your drink, take a sip, and realize they forgot your extra shot of espresso. Time to: a. Throw it at a random passerby in a fit of rage. b. Do nothing. My day is clearly going downhill at a steady rate, but I am fine. c. Actually, mine has espresso when it shouldn’t. Now my hands will be shaking all day. d. Mine was supposed to be a lime Italian soda with half and half and whip... what? e. I was laughing too hard at my joke to notice until you pointed it out. Thanks a lot.

3. You’re running down the hall with a lot of books, papers, and pens in your hand. What is most likely to happen here?

a. You trip, sending pens flying into nearby walls at frightening speed. b. You trip, sending the papers ahead of you in a sinister rustling wave. c. You trip, launching books into the air to rain down destructively upon other people. d. Your fall does more damage than the items you were holding. e. You don’t trip because you’re too down-to-earth to panic and run to class.

4. Tell me, how do you feel about the various regions of the Earth?

a. I am torn between preferring river valleys and coastal areas. b. I adore the coasts. I’m totally drawn to them. c. I absolutely despise the Pacific Rim. d. Earth? I hate it all equally. e. I find faults with many places.

5. What sort of music really “speaks” to you?

a. Anything with a strong crescendo. Beethoven, Metallica, whatever. b. Anything with a good beat. Even techno! c. I like rock ballads with deceptively calm interludes!

6. If you could eat anything right now, what would it be? a. b. c. d. e.

Soup. Crème brûlée. Cajun cooking. Chocolate lava cake. The dinosaurs. ALL OF THEM.

7. How would you woo your Super-Secret Crush? a. b. c. d. e.

I’d I’d An I’d I’d

take him skinny-dipping. knock her off her feet. evening of stargazing sounds lovely. take her to Maui and see the sights. blow him away.

8. So, which of these is your favorite movie? a. b. c. d. e.

The Core Twister Space Cowboys A Perfect Storm The Day After Tomorrow

9. If you could pick one song to listen to every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?

a. “Cry Me a River - Justin Timberlake b. “I Feel the Earth Move” - Carole King c. “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” - Aerosmith d. “Riders on the Storm” - The Doors e. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” - Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

10. Under what circumstances were you expelled from college?

a. You thought it was funny to leave on all the sinks in the communal bathroom so that you could canoe down the hallway. b. You thought that Schiff and Harrington needed their space and tried to make it happen. c. You thought that the luau needed a bit of sass and attempted to incite Rainier. d. You attempted to throw the mass spectrophotometer off of the astronomy tower to test the gravitational constant. e. You thought you could get away with streaking, because they could never catch you during the mother of all storms.

1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10)

a a a a a a a a a a

= = = = = = = = = =

5, 5, 5, 2, 4, 2, 2, 1, 2, 2,

b b b b b b b b b b

= = = = = = = = = =

Key: 2, c = 4, c = 2, c = 5, c = 3, c = 3, c = 3, c = 1, c = 3, c = 3, c =

4, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 1, 1, 1, 4,

d d d d d d d d d d

= = = = = = = = = =

3, 1, 1, 3, 1, 4, 4, 1, 5, 1,

e e e e e e e e e e

= = = = = = = = = =

1 2 3 1 2 1 5 1 4 5


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Elements: The Scientific Magazine Wikimedia Commons

Hurricane (40 - 46)

Wikimedia Commons

People can tell when you’re coming, and are never quite the same once you’ve gotten there. You are quite possibly the only thing that makes shutters useful, and are quite adept at hurling Volvos at people who think they can stand up to you. Your hobbies include embedding strange objects in trees and ravaging small tropical islands at crucial plot points. If I were you, I’d learn how to take a deep breath and count to ten instead of bowling over everyone who gets in your way.

Volcano (31 - 39)

You have a rocky exterior, but periodically let your fiery nature come out to play. You also probably don’t like trees — or island natives. I’m sure you have your reasons for letting everything build up and then blowing your top, but it’s likely the local topography would prefer it if you’d get better at letting things go. I’d recommend channeling all that fury into art — anyone who has seen the lovely obsidian you craft in the heat of the moment has to appreciate your innate creative vision.

Earthquake (22 - 30)

Public Domain

Your presence shakes people to their foundations. Large cities have spent fortunes trying to come up with the best way to deal with you. In fact, buildings in Tokyo have been specially created to survive your arrival. You are watched by scientists all over the world through special machines sequestered away deep underground, so they know where you started, where you ended, and how long it took you to get there. In short, you are one of the few people who can legitimately say your every move is being followed.

Nick Kiest

Flood (15 - 21)

You have a tendency to lay it on thick, and your over zealousness has been known to cause massive property damage. When people see you coming, they flock to higher ground, or more unusual places. You have even been known to cause cows to seek refuge on rooftops. It is very possible that you have an odd sense of humor, and tend to hang on to jokes long after they have stopped being funny. A word of advice: tone down your enthusiasm a bit to avoid being such a wet blanket ruining everyone’s fun.

Some may say you’re a little spacey, but when you come down to earth, you can really make an impact. In fact, you come out of nowhere with Earth-shaking repercussions. Most prefer to appreciate you from a distance. You consider your life to be under the control of the cosmos and follow your trajectory no matter where it may lead. The only thing that can perturb your usual calm is your irresistible attraction to large objects. Just be careful – breakups can be catastrophic for both parties.

NASA

Meteor (10 - 14)


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