The Blanes Center for Advanced Studies (CEAB-CSIC) has been welcoming students from the Youth and Science Program for some years now so that they can get to know first hand how to work in an aquatic ecology research center.
The Youth and Science Program is promoted by the Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera and aims to promote the scientific vocations of young students with talent and interest in science and, at the same time, enhance their enthusiasm for research and scientific careers. The program is an opportunity for students to get in touch with scientific research and work with top-level researchers.
This year, the researchers in charge of the project have been Miquel Ribot, Gustavo Carreras, Delfina Cornejo, Maria Argudo and Helena Guasch, all from the research group on integrative inland water ecology. The main objective of the project has been to practice the skills of scientific research in the field of river biogeochemistry and microbial ecology.
Our daily activity (brushing our teeth, doing a washing machine, using wipes, etc.) has a major impact on the rivers around us. Many studies have concluded that rivers that receive water from urban wastewater treatment plants undergo a number of changes in their ecological status, mainly an overload of nutrients that decreases water quality. The project will evaluate the effects of the arrival of sewage treatment plant effluents on the river, how their self-purification capacity is affected and what are the main factors involved in carrying out these functions.
Hypothesis formulation, sampling planning and laboratory work
The students’ stay was mainly held at the CEAB facilities and laboratories, with transfers to the sampling areas and some visits to the Urban River Lab, an experimental laboratory associated with the CEAB located in the effluent from the Montornès del Vallès treatment plant.
The tasks that the students have carried out have included all the phases of the scientific method. The fieldwork included a phase of hypothesis formulation and sampling planning, followed by on-site sampling and measurements. The laboratory work has allowed students to learn how to process and prepare samples for further analysis (molecular, chemical and microscopy) and at the same time perform analysis and counting of micro, meso and macro-plastics in the plastics laboratory of the CEAB. They then processed all the data obtained and drafted a report with all the tasks performed.
But, what do students think about their stay at the CEAB?
“It must be said that stays at the CEAB-CSIC have gone much better than I could have imagined. Initially, I asked for them for their current and pioneering theme, as well as the wide range of activities described there. that I ended up enjoying more, however, has been the relationship with all the researchers we have been in. They have treated us as if they had known us since time immemorial, with immeasurable patience and kindness.
The project had an impeccable structure, allowing to see the whole methodology of study of microplastics, from the collection of samples in the field to their analysis in the laboratory, through the intermediate processes in order to isolate them. Perhaps what I enjoyed most were these intermediate processes, especially for the Roda de Ter sample where we found 136 particles, including 12 microbeads.
I would also like to highlight the last day, when we were working with Gustavo in the molecular biology lab. We were able to participate in the whole process of analyzing the biofilm samples that we had also helped to isolate, helping to extract and isolate the DNA from the organisms that make it up and the subsequent PCR and electrophoresis. Now, in addition, we are awaiting the results of the sequencing of the PCR results. I look forward to hearing from them, as seeing that a participation as short as ours in a project can have tangible results is priceless”, says Maurici Trasserra, one of the students who has participated in the program.