Abstract: Identifying Unknown Hydroids from Around the World

There are many organizations around the globe that collect samples from various marine areas, from just off coastal areas to deep tropical reefs. For example, the Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP) is a Smithsonian organization that seeks to further explore tropical deep reefs that have not yet been thoroughly studied. DROP recently collected several samples of organisms from these tropical deep reefs around the islands of Curacao and Dominica. These samples have been sent to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, but the species in these samples have yet to be identified. Included in these samples are hydroids, or hydrozoans, which are very small organisms in the phylum Cnidaria, related to corals and jellyfish. Other organizations like DROP have sent samples to the Smithsonian with the hope of figuring out what species make up those samples. My project will involve trying to identify the species that are in these samples, while learning a lot about scientific laboratory techniques in the process. I will take the hydroids from the jars of specimens, extract their DNA, amplify it through a polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and then sequence it in an attempt to identify the species. This will be done by comparing the DNA sequences to known sequences of hydroid species. Hopefully this project will enlighten our knowledge of the biodiversity of the areas from which the samples were sent and will perhaps indicate whether or not preventative measures need to be taken to preserve the hydroid species there.

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