First-year student aids in research to protect clams

A Gettysburg College student contributed to recently published research that could help stop a disease that has devastated wild and captive clam populations.

Laura Gambino '14 was published as a co-author of a study in the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology. Along with a team of scientists led by Dr. Bassem Allam from Stony Brook University, Gambino studied a clam disease that is infecting clams along the upper eastern coast of the United States and Canada called Quahog parasitic unknown (QPX).

A biochemistry and molecular biology major from Miller Place, N.Y., Gambino became interested in scientific research when participating in a biotechnology summer camp at Stony Brook University. There she gained lab experience that later proved useful, both during her research on QPX and her student career at Gettysburg.

"I was fortunate to get in contact with Dr. Allam at Stony Brook University," said Gambino. "Dr. Allam let me do research in his lab and taught me many lab techniques. He was always very patient with me, and without him I would not have been published."

Gambino's interest in science continued through high school as she participated in student science competitions and at the Long Island Science Congress she received an honors award in the senior division.

Her interest continued at Gettysburg College, where Gambino is involved with the Pre-Vet and Sceptical Chymists clubs. Also further piquing her interest in science was her First-Year Seminar, Complementary Medicine: A Cultural and Scientific Inquiry, which explored topics of alternative therapies such as acupuncture and herbal medicine.

While researching QPX with Allam and the team, Gambino's role was to examine the lysozyme activity and protein concentration in the plasma of the clams that were kept at different temperatures. Clams collected from Massachusetts were naturally infected with QPX disease, while clams collected from Florida were injected with QPX and also used for non-infected controls.

In short, Gambino and the team discovered that hard clams' defenses are less effective against QPX at lower temperatures. QPX did not develop at higher temperatures, while the clams at the lowest temperatures did develop the disease.

To put it in perspective, noted Gambino, a clam's weakened defense to QPX in colder water is similar a person whose immune system may be compromised by walking outside in the cold with wet hair.

The research conducted by Gambino and the team will prove useful, as it will help protect clams, both in the wild and in fisheries, from QPX. Continual mortalities from QPX would have a significant negative economic impact on the clam industry. Thanks to the research conducted by scientists and students such as Allam and Gambino, it is clear that by regulating the temperature of the water that clams grown in, fisheries can protect clams from the incurable disease.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

By: Rachel Wynn ‘12, Communications & Marketing Intern
Contact: Nikki Rhoads, Assistant Director of Communications, 717.337.6803

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Posted: Mon, 14 Mar 2011


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