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High School “Diatom Camp”

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25 July, 2013

Sylvia Lee

Iowa Lakeside Lab hosted the High School Diatom Camp for the second time from July 15th to the 19th this year, with financial support from the Friends of Lakeside Lab. The students went on field collection trips to West and East Lake Okoboji, Silver Lake Fen, Freda Haffner Kettlehole, and the Little Sioux River. Students learned about the morphological diversity of diatoms, their biology and life history, and their applications in water quality assessment and forensic science. Students worked together to compile a graphic novel style booklet on these subject areas, in addition to pages describing their favorite diatom genera: Cymatopleura, Gyrosigma, Epithemia, Pinnularia, and Hydrosera.

The students also conducted a morphological comparison of Cymatopleura solea in plankton samples from the Lazy Lagoon (Triboji Beach, IA) taken in 1983 and 30 years later, in 2013. Specimens from the Reimer Diatom Herbarium (and identified by Dr. Charles Reimer) as C. solea were compared with specimens collected in 2013. The students found a positive relationship between C. solea valve length and width, a constant costa density, and that the two populations were likely in different stages of life history: the population from May 2013 had much larger valves resulting from recent size regeneration, while the population from July 1983 had much smaller valves resulting from asexual divisions without size-regenerating sexual reproduction.

The students presented these findings and their graphic novel to their families and guests at the end of the camp. Instructors Sylvia Lee (Florida International University) and Kerry Howard (University of Nevada-Reno) were thoroughly impressed by the students’ creativity and enthusiasm for diatoms. The finale of the students’ presentations was a rendition of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, about the forbidden love between a pennate and a centric diatom, affecting a rousing response from the audience.