Hello! My name is Enid Gonzalez-Orta and I am an Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at California State University, Sacramento, where I teach undergraduate students about the wonderful world of microbes. In addition, I embed an authentic research experience into my microbial diversity class each spring where we study soil samples collected from CSU Sacramento Arboretum or from local vernal pool sites. We study the bacterial community of these samples using traditional methods, like culturing samples onto laboratory media, sequencing of the 16s rRNA gene through the Sanger method, and building phylogenetic trees. However, I began to think about how much the field of microbial ecology has changed and is changing. I thought about how culture-independent methods allow us to peek into environments seldom studied in the laboratory and how these methods reveal members of bacterial communities that were previously not known to inhabit these niches. I also thought about how next generation sequencing (NGS) methods are becoming becoming the “tradition” in this field. And, I thought about how important it is for undergraduate students to have hands-on experience with bioinformatics and computing in order to interpret the volume of sequencing data that is produced through NGS. But, how I could I do this when I myself had little-to-no experience with processing 16s rRNA NGS data? Then came EDAMAME to the rescue!
When the opportunity to attend EDAMAME presented itself, I just couldn’t pass it up. I haven’t been a student for a little while, so I was excited to be in a classroom sitting in a desk and not in the front of the room for a change. Not only would this course help me teach undergraduate students in my courses how to process NGS data, but it would help to advance my research program CSU Sacramento as well. My research focuses on the bacterial diversity of the California Vernal Pool Ecosystem in the Sacramento Valley. This project is done in collaboration with my fellow colleague Dr. Jamie Kneitel and has been worked on by many undergraduate students. One of them, Dana Carper, joined my lab as a graduate student focused her Master’s work on this topic .
My experience with EDAMAME so far has been awesome. We are officially half-way through the course and I can say that I have learned a lot from Ashley, Tracy, and Josh. And, on top of some great instruction, we have amazing guest lectures! I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned and teach it to my undergraduates.