Hi! My name is Emery Valencia and I'm a research assistant for the Blumstein Lab.
I started out working for this awesome lab as a RA over the summer, conducting observations and trapping the marmots in order to take their measurements. Now that I'm back in the lab, my job is to score blood smears by counting the number and type of white blood cells in individual samples. There are five types of white blood cells: lymphocytes, neutrophils, monocytes, basophils, and eosinophils, with the most common types being lymphocytes and neutrophils.
To view these cells I use a microscope, which is not too different from the scopes I used back in Colorado. As you can imagine, using the microscope for too long can strain your eyes, but eventually you adjust to it and can withstand longer periods of time.
White blood cells are indicators of an individual's immune system and health. Counting up the these cells allows us to analyze just how healthy the animal was and is therefore an important part of studying physiology and animal behavior, because health can influence an animal's behavior.
On my first day on the job, I found a rather interesting looking organism in one of the slides. I was told the parasites have all but disappeared from our study animals for a while now, but upon observation of this mysterious thing, I had thought that it must have been a parasite.
After talking to one of UCLA's head veterinarians, Dr.Lawson (who generously analyzed the sample for us) reported that it was... nothing but a piece of lint. Although we failed to find a parasite, which is good for the animals, this was a good learning experience.
Anywho, here's another marmoteer update!