Queen Mary Gets Up Close and Personal With Termites

Queen Mary Gets Up Close and Personal With Termites




Termites are one of the first creatures that ever lived. Their existence can be traced way back to approximately 240 million years ago. They satisfy on wood and are able to recycle broken down or dead wood. These creatures are known to contribute to the world’s CO2, producing as much as 4% of this important greenhouse gas. The CO2 in termites is produced by microorganisms called protists, found in the termite’s intestines. There is a further need to understand how this specific ecosystem works, since it is important in the global carbon cycle. Queen Mary, University of London, has risen to the challenge.

The School of Biological and Chemical Science, located in Queen Mary, is also considered as one of the largest multi-faculty colleges of the University of London. Inside Queen Mary, the Evolutionary and Organismal Biology Group is recognized worldwide for employing post-genomic approaches. These approaches are done to understand in addition as probe the evolution and roles of genes and proteins at an organismal level. This investigation is obtained using a range of form organisms, among which are plants, fish, mammals and invertebrates. Bioinformatics, examination of cell and tissue structure, examination of gene and protein expression, gene-knockout impact on phenotypes, in vitro physiology in addition as pharmacology and examination of whole organism behavioural methods are utilized.

Dr. Mark van der Giezen, a lecturer in Microbiology focuses on understanding the function of cells from microorganisms that are prone to environments where little or no oxygen is present. In order to study the hundreds of protists living in the termite hindgut, the organisms must be secluded in an ecosystem similar to their own since they will not be able to survive in high oxygen environments. The guts need to be extracted and once extracted the conditions within the guts will quickly change so there is a need to work faster to preserve the internal structure to be studied. The protist species are then separated and a micromanipulator is used to pick individual cells so that they are separated from the other species.

the time of action is repeated until about 50 organisms are collected. It is the DNA obtained from these organisms that is used to discriminate their specie in order to understand their biochemistry at a molecular level. After isolation, the protists are observed in addition as analyzed for their morphology, behaviour and also, to check if there was contamination during the isolation course of action. The findings from the protists will provide crucial information on how the termites’ intestines are able to produce high levels of methane (CH4) and CO2 without oxygen. In order to be able to conduct this kind of observation, the technology used must be precise and comfortable to use since hours of work are entailed for this specific task.

Along with the wide range of mantis microscope from Vision Biomed, the DX61 Inverted Microscope was chosen by Dr. Mark van der Giezen for this project, for reasons he stated below:

“When the system was demonstrated to us, we requested custom modifications to the stage to incorporate a recess for a Petri dish for example. The final decision was based on the good interactions we had with Vision Biomed, the additional assistance of the modular design and the Isis eyepiece. As the DX61 was modular, it would allow us to add observation modes and image capture options at a later date”. ‘The buy of this microscope has been made possible by generous grants from the Royal Society (2004/R2) and the methodic Research Fund.”




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