BY MANDI ROE
2013 Symposium on Student Research,
Creative Activities and Innovation Finalist
Being able to do such amazing research as an undergraduate has really given me a boost in my education. Since I started research at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research as a CIRM intern, I have noticed that a lot of the techniques and processes taught in my biology classes are things that I have encountered in the lab and it gives me a better understanding of these challenging concepts. I feel that this research experience has given me the confidence and drive to pursue a graduate degree, and a competitive edge in these programs.
About my Research
The research that we conduct is the development of a method to increase the reproductive lifespan of endangered birds. We do this by taking the germ stem cells (cells that develop into sperm) from the testes of a deceased adult bird and inject them into a chicken host embryo. At this time in a chicken embryo’s growth, its own germ stem cells are circulating through the blood stream before settling in the area in which the gonads will develop. By introducing the adult germ stem cells at this time, they will also settle in this area. As the host chicken develops, its testes will also produce sperm of the exotic bird. Our goal is to use this sperm for artificial insemination of female endangered birds.
The model species that we use is the quail. The germ stem cells from the deceased quail are stained with a fluorescent dye before injection. A week later, the gonads of the chicken host embryo are removed and the cells are run through a flow cytometer. The flow cytometer will count the fluorescent cells and give us an idea of how many of the quail cells successfully migrated to the gonads of the chicken embryo.