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U of R: Microbiology Field Trip

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Image via loganpetlak.ca

On October 31st, 2016, our AP Biology class left Central Collegiate to go to the  University of Regina (U of R) for the morning. The purpose was to take advantages of the opportunity to do a bacterial isolation lab. It was my first time going to the U of R and I was in awe of the size of the campus and the number of people.

Inside the lab, we met Professor John Stavrinides who is an associate microbiology professor. He introduced the topic of microbiology and what it was. Later, he gave each student five swabs. We had to swab five different things in the common area of U of R. I swabbed the women’s washroom floor, ATM, a classroom’s chair, a stairway banister and the water fountain. After going back to the lab, we were given more swabs. I swabbed my palms, my phone and my cheeks. Doing this lab made me realize how dirty my hands were.

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Image of Growing Bacteria in Petri Dishes via stevespanglerscience.com

 

In the lab, we were given five petri dishes. Two were LB, two macConkey, and one mannitol salt plates. Each plate had to be labeled and then we squiggled them on to the gelled agar on the petri dishes. We sealed all the plates and waited for one day to allow the bacteria to grow. The next day, we looked at our plates and found that some of our plate had shown little growth of bacteria where some other ones didn’t. The bacteria from the women’s washroom floor and the stairway banister had some bacteria showing. The bacteria from my hands were the most visible and there were a lot them showing! It was showing on mannitol salt plate; this means that the bacteria was Gram-positive. I am presuming the reason for my hands to be so dirty is because I was fascinated by the university and I touched everything that I passed by. So, as I walked and touched the objects, many microbes were transferring to my hands. The plate showed the prove of that.

Photo: Caring for ourselves goes hand in hand with caring for the planet

Image via davidsuzuki.org

Discussion that interested me

After analyzing our plate, our class had discussions

Some bacteria showing, and  some are not showing on the plate? Why?

We discussed a few possible reasons why this is. One of them is the incubation period. The reason can be very simple; the bacteria just need more time to grow in the incubator. Another could be that since it was at a common area, the place is often sanitized which prevents bacteria from growing on that specific places or surfaces. For example the washroom is a dirty place, the janitor has to clean it everyday to prevent bacteria from growing. So if the bacteria didn’t show up on the plate, it’s all because of the janitor. He or she had cleaned the place properly to prevent bacteria from growing.

Probiotic

There are bacteria that actually beneficial to you body. One is probiotic; this bacteria helps your digestive system. They help prevent irritable bowel syndrome, infectious diarrhea, and etc. They are naturally found in your body. You can also find them in foods and supplements.

Important thing to remember: Not all bacteria are harmful and it’s sometimes is good to be affected by different kinds of bacteria so you can be immune to it. For example, my grandparents didn’t have the  luxury to have washroom or shower when they were younger. So when they had to shower, they used the pond that was shared by most people in the whole town. The people had to use the same water to wash the dishes too. (Remember, you can’t drain the water from the pond like you can in regular washroom.) Now you can imagine how many harmful microbes there would have been in that pond. The funny thing is that my grandparents told me that they didn’t get sick much only few time when they were younger and it was just minor sickness.

University Life

Image result for university of regina
Image via University of Regina

As a student that’s still in high school, I don’t feel like going to University yet. I don’t want to be part of the bigger world. There might be more freedom, but I feel like my life would be stressful because  of homework and being in debt. However, I am interested in going into the medical field, especially in pre-pharmacy and doing a science degree. I am planning to go to U of R for the first 3-4 years then got to U of S for doing the pharmacy program. What I am really exited about going to university is doing the labs; I like to experiment.

 

My big question: How come there are some people who are more immune to harmful bacteria  than others? What makes us different from them? As years pass by, are people becoming less or more resistant to pathogens?

A video you can watch about microbes:

More infomations on probiotics:

http://www.medicinenet.com/probiotics/article.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probiotic

 

 

 

 

The Handicap Principle

Adaptation is a heritable trait or behavior in an organism that aids in its survival. This principle of Charles Darwin may seem obvious. However, the book called A Missing Piece of Darwin’s Puzzle is a captivating book which recognizes circumstances where the principle of adaptation breaks down and the Handicap Principle (HP) takes control. Handicap Principle is one of the most important concepts in animal signaling theory, proposed by Amotz Zahavi in 1975. “A general definition is that females have evolved mating preferences for males who display exaggerated ornaments or behaviors that are costly to maintain and develop, and that this cost ensures an ‘honest’ signal of male genetic quality.”(Anne, 2010) To have attractive offspring, female organisms just need to mate with an attractive male; the trait doesn’t need to be costly to tell females that their offspring will be attractive. However, it’s unsure if the offspring will survive long. A male organism with a handicap, not only is attractive but also healthy and well-adapted to its environment. This kind of male organism has costly signals. So HP is a theory that argues only the fittest individuals can afford costly traits.
Image result for handicap principle Referece: The Handicap Principle book

One vivid example of the Handicap Principle is found in peacocks. Male peacocks with the largest, most colorful plumage are more likely to  win the female peacock than males that have less. However, there are disadvantages to this. Having those colorful feathers will allow them to be more visible to predators; it also makes the males slower when they attempt to escape. You may ask why would the females still like peacock males with big tails even though they are at risk. The speculation is that big tails carry risk, and only the best males survive that risk. In conclusion, the bigger the tail, the more fit the male is.

Image result for handicap principle

Reference: A male peacock showing off his huge plumage
When handicap principle is used for mating preferences, it depends on three rules. The first one is where animals need to communicate with each other through signals.  The second is where the signals must be honest in order to be effective. The HP works like an identification that declares quality. Only a confident organism can have it. HP cannot be faked; this is what makes it honest. Lastly, honest signals are expensive.
Now you may wonder why the honest signals are costly? The reason is signaled do not come for free. They take up energy and make survival more difficult. The stronger they are, the more easily they can bear this cost. The nature of the handicap is such that a weak individual could not afford it.

Background 

The book On the Origin of Species, Darwin’s theory of natural selection couldn’t explain some phenomena. One of this situation is about the tail of the peacock. This question has been handled broadly by behavioral biologists over the years. In order to explain this Fisher proposed ‘runaway sexual selection’ hypothesis. He believes that the reason males develop a handicap trait is because at some point a female found it attractive. However, his idea couldn’t completely explain the problem. So in mid-1970’s Amotz and Avishag Zahavi put forward a novel idea. The answer to the question of why animals have extravagant traits of behavior is to show females that they have better genes and can survive the disadvantages of HP.

Different Types of Handicap 

In order to clarify the handicap principle, Grafen classifies handicaps into four categories.

1) “Strategic Choice” Handicap: This theory is the most common. The male or signaller chooses how large of a handicap to produce. Different signallers choose different sizes of handicaps.

2) The Condition-dependent Handicap: This relies on only some signallers to be able to produce the  handicaps. A healthy diet, limited wear-and-tear and other conditions are needed for a healthy coat or shiny feathers.

3) The Revealing Handicap: This is when the signallers are in actions. Those signallers are engaging frequently in the handicap behavior.

4) Survival Handicap: This handicap put the signaller’s life at risk. Only the strongest survive and thus proving their high quality of genes.

In researching and learning about handicap principle, I began to compare animals to humans. How are human signallers similar to animals when trying to attract someone else? Do traits like having bling, wearing makeup, wearing nice clothes, having fancy hairdos or having a lot of money attract people? Do you agree or not? Also, why do we even do it? How about the behavior of the signallers, how are they similar and different to animals? Do you think having handicap trait are positive or detrimental qualities? How would having handicaps influence our world? Do you think it’s fair that other people have more advantages than you? Or do you even care?

A video you can watch!!!

Reference: Handicap Principle

Websites I used to find informations on hadicap principle:

Zahavi’s handicap principle

The Handicap Principle | Sexual Selection and Life History Evolution

REVIEW.PDF – review.pdf

Animal Signalling Theory 101 – The Handicap Principle | Replicated Typo

Sexual Selection: The Handicap Principle Does Work — Sometimes | Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences

The Theory of Honest Signaling – Defining the Handicap Principle

Properties of Life

Biology is the science that studies life, but what exactly is life? What makes you different from a blanket? How are you so sure that water is not a living thing? Even though we know the answers in a blink of an eye (I am just kidding…), from the earliest beginnings, scientists have struggled to answer these questions in a scientific way. They know that objects weren’t alive but they didn’t know how to explain it. In the early days, there are three questions that scientists had wrestled with to answer these questions: What are things in common that living thing share? How will we able to find the levels of organization in its structure more closely? How do we organize the different kinds of organisms, to understand them better?

After a long time of research, biologists were able to find some answers. One of them is the properties of life. All living organisms shares eight characteristics or functions that serve to define life. They are: order, regulation, homeostasis, energy process, reproduction, sensitivity or response to stimuli , adaptation, and growth and development. Response to stimuli is living things response to changes around them (light, smell, any other things that they “sense”). Homeostasis is when organisms are constantly attempting to maintain a balance internally and with the external environment. Reproduction is when organisms give rise to new genetically similar organisms. Growth and Development is when our bodies grow and the number of cells in organisms may increase as a result. Order is when organisms are highly organized structures that consist of one or more cells. Adaptation is a change or the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment. Regulation is the control of individual or organism internal environment. Energy processing is where all organisms use a source of energy for their metabolic activity.

As a student, learning about this topic, has helped me understand the definition of life. For example, now it will help me answer questions that are hard to know whether they are alive or not, such as virus. My belief is that a virus is not a living organism because they don’t reproduce on their own. They don’t grow or develop, they multiply. They don’t respond to stimuli and they are acellular which means to not have specific cellular structure or lacking of cells.

As for today, as we discover new organisms, biologists will continue to seek answers to these and other questions.

An intersecting video to watch:

 For more information, you can go to these websites:

https://www.boundless.com/biology/textbooks/boundless-biology-textbook/the-study-of-life-1/themes-and-concepts-of-biology-49/properties-of-life-268-11401/

http://www.ck12.org/biology/Characteristics-of-Life/lesson/Characteristics-of-Life-Advanced-BIO-ADV/

http://www.biology4kids.com/files/systems_regulation.html

 

Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection and How Did It Start?

 

The earth has changed over millions of years. We evolved from apes, dinosaurs became extinct and organisms have changed. However, how do we even know that? Who came up with the idea of evolution and what is it? The word evolution refers to an orderly succession of changes. Biological evolution is the change of population of organisms over generations. This idea of evolution has been suggested, explored and debated long before the eighteenth century. Early scientists noticed that new life-forms appeared to be modifications from fossils found in the same geographical area. This implied that a natural modification process was at work. However, the one who came up with the idea and later became the foundation of modern evolutionary studies, is named Charles Darwin. He was born February 12, 1809 in Shrews bury, Shropshire, England. He was an English naturalist who proposed the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection. Natural selection, also known as “survival of the fittest,” is a process where the organisms best suited to their environment reproduce more successfully than other organisms. Thus, over generations, the proportion of organisms with favorable traits increases in a population.

However, how did Darwin come up with this theory? The French scientist Jean Baptiste de Lamarck (1744-1829) was one of the first to propose a hypothesis of species modification. Lamarck proposed that similar species descended from a common  or same ancestor. Therefore, living species were descended from similar extinct species, and this  evidence shows in the fossil record. Fifty years later, Darwin used this idea to explain how species change.

Background

Darwin is the son of wealthy British physician and attended medical school at the university of Edinburgh and later enrolled at Cambridge to study for the clergy. There at Cambridge, Darwin showed interest in natural history. In 1831, he went on a trip to explore, and map areas in South America and the South Pacific. He was appointed ship naturalist which meant he had to keep careful records and collect specimen.

During his  voyage of the Beagle, Charles read Lyell’s book Principles of  Geology which talks about the age of the earth and the principle of uniformitarianism. This principle states that the Earth’s structure is the result of different processes and is always continuing. Lyell’s book inspired Darwin to be interested in geology, and it made him think about the possibility that the modification of environments is a very slow process. This was confirmed after he observed the volcanic activity in the Andes Mountains. Darwin contemplated that the arrangement of mountain extents would gradually change natural surroundings, requiring life forms that lived there to adjust to these progressions. Since these changes are longer than human life span, they would be difficult to detect. At the point when Darwin came back to England, in October 1836, his collections and the data analysis from the voyage were applauded by the scientific community.

One of Darwin’s most famous collections were the Galapagos finches. On the island, he observed species of organisms on different islands that were quite similar but had distinctive differences. He had gathered 13 distinct types of finches. For example, the small ground finches had a unique beak shape that was  different than a large ground finch on a different island. Later Darwin understood that, different types of beaks help the birds get a specific type of food. This observation for the finches lead Darwin to conclude they all originated from a few  bird or even one female. He suspected they got there from birds that had descended from a few birds or even a single female that had been blown off course from South America, 1,000 km to the east. Darwin additionally accepted that the offspring of the original finches had been adjusting to various situations and food sources for a  short time. By able to explain how and why evolution could take place, he called this mechanism natural selection.

 

A video for more clarifications:

 

For more information, you can go to these websites:

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Charles-Darwin

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evo_25

http://darwin-online.org.uk/EditorialIntroductions/Freeman_OntheOriginofSpecies.html

http://www.blupete.com/Literature/Biographies/Science/Darwin.htm