Undergraduate Research: Heat Stress Effect on Schizocosa ocreata Reproduction

Emma Lykins

This past summer I conducted an independent research study here at the Ohio State University under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Roberts. I studied the heat stress effects on reproduction in Schizocosa ocreata in the Museum of Biological Diversity. Over four months a raised the spiders to maturity, bred them, conducted experimental heat stress tests, and recorded the outcome of the offspring.

Through my experiences during the undergraduate research funded by STEP I know I have deep passion to continue research in my future career. Although I do not necessarily want to conduct research with spiders, I will use my knowledge from my experience in my future dental research. This project transformed how I viewed the scientific process and the mental dedication it takes to follow through an entire research experiment. I’ve gained a self-appreciation for all of the hard work and time I dedicated to a project. Even though the results were not what I had expected, I conducted and followed through an entire live-animal experiment by myself. Knowledge is power, every skill and piece of knowledge I gained from this experiment will be useful in my future endeavors. STEP provided a change in not only my mentality but it transformed me into a more knowledgeable and passionate student at the Ohio State University.

My relationship with Dr. Roberts and his graduate student Salvatore Sidoti really opened my eyes to the possibilities research can bring about. They are both super passionate about research, mainly arachnid, and helped guide me through my own project. They invited me to present my project at future research conventions to network even more. It was amazing to have a support system throughout my STEP project. They taught me how to preform many statistical tests on my data and how to analyze the results. I found this to be super valuable because I use stats in almost all of my Biology major courses. I appreciate everything they have done for me and I hope all their hard work and passion can be translated into the research I conduct someday as a dentist.

As for the experimental process, I endured many obstacles that showed me that research isn’t always picture perfect. Since we worked with live animals, I faced many challenges with spider deaths and parasites among my experimental group. This can be transferred into clinical research because I may not always obtain the result I want. It was also difficult because my research relied on the breeding of spiders and this summer we had a very difficult time getting the spiders to copulate. I really love research but the problems I encountered demonstrated how tedious lab work can become. I believe that this lab only furthered my dedication and passion for research. I gained respect for the many other people who endure these struggles in their own research.

Through my research with arachnids, I gained many valuable skills and traits. I had to learn to become tedious, the breeding process required a lot of data to be collected in such a little amount of time. I also learned that results cannot always be seen by the naked eye. I had to analyze all of my data as a whole, I could not directly tell whether my data had any significance until I found correlations when preforming statistical analyses. I had several professional meetings with Dr. Roberts to update him on the progress of my project. I also held the responsibility of having 24 hour access to his laboratory. This project taught me to think and create as individual. I no longer needed to rely on other partners, I had a full laboratory to myself in order to coordinate this project.

The transformation that STEP provided me will be carried through my future career as a dental professional. Someday I hope to be working on clinical research that focusses on the genetics behind congenitally missing teeth. Although spiders may not be directly related to dentistry, the process that I used to study the spiders can be translated into my future research as a dentist. All of the skills I learned will help guide me in developing yet another independent research study. My networking skills gained through Dr. Roberts and his partners will enable me to connect more openly with other dental professionals. I’m very happy I got the opportunity to partake in STEP because it has truly expanded my horizon for future research opportunities.

Below are two photos of the species we worked with this summer! The photo on the left shows a female with her offspring growing on her back. The photo on the right demonstrates how we mated the spiders.