teaching zebrafish

Paul Z. Myers myers at astro.ocis.temple.edu
Sun Oct 16 14:11:49 EST 1994


In article <37rbsr$f88 at mserv1.dl.ac.uk> , VOGEL at ubaclu.unibas.ch writes:
>as more and more people start working with zebrafish, more and more
people
>will be confronted with the situation to having to give lab courses for
>undergraduates using the fish. The immediate question is: "What can you
>do in a course that is not too easy (=boring) nor too difficult
>(=frustrating) ?" In our group, we were in that situation this summer,
and
>everything turned out pretty much, well - o.k.. Since it could be better,
>and I feel everyone would appreciate some ideas on that topic, I suggest
>that you mail your experiences to me, I collect them and post them
>collectively for everyone as soon as I have collected a substantial
amount.
>Your mail should contain the following information:
>
>- age (academic) and number of students, duration of the course, number
of
>teaching assistants; number of times this course has been given.
>
>- experiments (short description), did they work?
>
>- amount of preparation time needed
>
>- additional teaching materials developed? (lectures, videos,
graphics...)
>
>- anything else you find important
>

This term I'm teaching a course in advanced microscopy for undergrads
(which means "advanced" is closer to "intermediate"), and in several of
our labs I've used zebrafish as preps. Of course, in this course the fish
isn't
the central figure in the experiment, it's the microscope, so actually
just
about any small transparent embryo would have done the job...zebrafish
happen to be about the most convenient small transparent embryo you
can come up with.

Two labs come to mind that really got the students attention:

1. A comparison of simple brightfield, phase contrast, and DIC. In this
lab
we just set up the scopes for a couple of different methods of imaging, 
grabbed images with a PowerMac+video digitizer, and did some comparisons
of pixel slices and histograms. The zebrafish makes for a beautiful live
prep
(especially in DIC),  and the students were really impressed with being
able to see blood cells, muscle fibers, all that kind of pretty stuff.

Very little preparation was required -- I just grabbed a beaker of 2-day
old embryos from my incubator and a couple of depression slides. I also
put together some representative histogram images.

2. A demonstration of time-lapse microscopy. The lab is early in the
morning,
so it was just right for bringing in some freshly fertilized eggs and
making a 
quick movie of cleavages. The division time of 20 minutes is just right
for
illustrating slow changes but still giving us several dramatic events
over the 
course of an hour.

Again, almost no preparation was required. I was a bit worried that the
fish
wouldn't lay on schedule, so I did set up several movies ahead of time so
we
could at least see something canned if the fish failed to cooperate.


I'm planning another lab with zebrafish in early cleavage for later this
term.
We're going to use ratiometric imaging to look at calcium changes during
cleavage...I hope. I'm still trying to make the technique reliable, and
it's going
to require some preparation in advance. I'll have to get a dozen embryos
injected
with fura about an hour before the lab, which is going to require an
interesting
level of efficiency on my part.


I don't know how much use this will be to you. For the most part, these
are
demonstrations, not real experiments.  Still, the students have been
extremely
enthusiastic about all the labs with live zebrafish, especially in
comparison with
all these other labs where we're looking at really boring things like
gratings and
prepared slides.

------------------------------------------------------------
Paul Z. Myers                    myers at astro.ocis.temple.edu
Dept. of Biology                              (215) 204-8848
Temple University
Philadelphia, PA 19122




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