UOG graduate student heads to Okinawa to study marine invertebrates

A graduate student from the University of Guam will be going to Okinawa to study marine invertebrates as part of an internship at the University of the Ryukus from April to August 2024.  

Joseph Proietti, a Master of Science in Biology student and Guam NSF EPSCoR Graduate Research Assistant, will be mentored by James Reimer, a professor at the University of the Ryukus whose research focuses on the biodiversity of understudied marine invertebrates.  

During the internship, Proietti will study Palythoa, a type of cnidarian closely related to corals and anemones.  

Some Palythoa, like hard corals, have symbiotic algae that live inside them that photosynthesize and feed their host in exchange for shelter and protection. These Palythoa are known to live in places with light availability such as open reefs while those without these symbionts live in caves or reef crevices.  

“We’re going to take the Palythoa that have symbionts and the ones that don’t to do what’s called a reciprocal transplant experiment, which will involve switching them between their two habitats,” said Proietti. “Then we’ll monitor to see how this change in environment affects how they function depending on which of their genes are expressed.”  

Besides networking with other professionals within his field, Proietti will learn skills that will help him advance as a scientist.  

“During this internship, I’ll learn about RNA library preparation, a very specific type of lab work that involves preparing RNA to be sequenced which is complicated and challenging to get right,” said Proietti. “I’ll also learn how to analyze gene expression data.”  

Proietti said that he is looking forward to exploring the reefs of Okinawa and taking on this new experience.  

 “I hope to go diving a lot. Okinawa has pretty healthy and diverse reefs from what I understand,” said Proietti. “I believe that traveling and experiencing as much of the world as you can is hugely beneficial to expanding your worldview and teaching you things that are hard to put into words. These experiences are beneficial to not just your professional life, but who you are as a person.”   

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