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Oklahoma researchers study how organisms adapt to changes due to human activity

by Silas Allen Published: August 15, 2013

Two Oklahoma researchers are studying a type of plankton in Minnesota lakes they say could offer clues about how plants and animals adapt to changes in their environments caused by human activity.

Larry Weider, a biology professor at the University of Oklahoma, and Punidan Jeyasingh, a zoology professor at Oklahoma State University, will work with a Minnesota researcher to look at daphnia, a small freshwater crustacean that lays eggs that can lie dormant on lake bottoms for decades or even centuries.

The project, which is funded by a $229,267 grant from the National Science Foundation, is a continuation of years of work Weider and Jeyasingh have conducted.

The project will allow researchers to get a better look at how daphnia changed as the area around the lakes became more heavily populated and industrialized, Weider said. During the project, researchers will take soil samples from Minnesota lake beds and separate each sample by time period, he said.

Researchers will then hatch daphnia eggs they find in the soil, giving them daphnia specimens that date to times before European settlement, when the area was more sparsely populated by American Indian groups, Weider said.

Researchers can then look at genetic markers to see how daphnia adapted to cope with changes to the lakes where they lived, including changes brought about by agriculture and industry.

In particular, researchers are interested to see what happened to daphnia when phosphorous levels in the lakes began to increase because of chemical fertilizer runoff, Jeyasingh said. Phosphorous is critical for the plankton to survive, but it was relatively scarce before agriculture began to change the chemical content of the lakes.

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by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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