contributed by Sophia Pogranichniy
My name is Sophia Pogranichniy and I am a second year student studying Animal Biology in hopes of becoming a veterinarian one day. Currently, I am in the Early Admission Program for KSU’s veterinary school, contingent on keeping up with classes, extracurricular activities, and animal experience hours. I joined the Lee Lab in the spring semester of my first year at K-State and over the summer I got the amazing opportunity to lead my own independent research project thanks to the Mark Chapman Scholarship. I learned so much throughout this experience and I cannot wait to continue learning new things as I examine the results of this project during the school year.
The goal of this microbiology project was to examine how a swine farm impacts the microbial environment surrounding it. My team and I went out to a swine farm every other week to collect water, soil, and swine fecal samples. We ended up going to the farm five times before the end of the summer, and I was able to collect many samples for my data analysis.
After processing all the samples, the next step was extracting microbial DNA from them. The gut microbes help with digestion, fighting infection, and play a crucial role in the environment they are in. There are microbes in the swine gut as well as in the soil and the water, and my project is looking at how many of these microbes are the same and how many are different. The extraction process takes about 4 hours for each type of sample (fecal, soil, water) and I did molecular microbial DNA extractions every day of the week that I did not go to the farm. It was a very long, tedious process but it is gratifying to see all my hard work pay off when I quantify my extractions and find high values of microbial DNA!
After describing all that I did this summer, you may be wondering- what happens next? I was able to send off the DNA exudates for 16S (bacterial) sequencing. Although I do not have the results back yet, when I do they will tell me what microbes were found in the swines’ gut and what microbes were found in the environment, and how many are similar and how many are different. This project has a very open-ended research question so I am excited about what I will find. I hope to find an association between the swine host and the environment. The significance of these findings may impact how scientists, engineers, farmers, and policy makers develop approaches to sustain food production systems while preserving important biodiversity and ecosystem health. I also collected samples in a linear direction from the swine barn towards the retention pond, so another hypothesis is that perhaps as the samples get further away from the farm the microbial environment will deviate more from what is found in the host. These are some of the research questions I am considering right now but I am excited to start the next step in this project and learn even more as I go!