A. Americanum

A detailed morphological look into developmental and reproductive events

Biological databases are currently used heavily in the genetic, molecular and medical fields of science, however, the field of botanical studies, due to its extreme variance in cells types, is often over looked in database design. Cellular studies require vast amounts of data storage, as thousands of samples must be sorted and undergo cellular keying for specifics. Dwarf mistletoes are parasitic plants infecting numerous host plant species across the globe. This study focuses specifically on Arceuthobium americanum, a dwarf mistletoe species that infects lodgepole pine trees (Pinus contorta) locally in Kamloops, B.C. A.americanum has an infection range from Mexico up through the Western United States and spreads from Western British Columbia to Ontario with heavy infections occurring throughout British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba. Detailed analysis into male developmental biology, through cellular and morphological studies, is critical to determine methods for reducing the spread of infection of this highly parasitic plant. Database requirements for a detailed cellular investigation include heterogeneous types of data: multilayered images, GPS coordinated infection sites using geographical data, weather data, various methodologies containing literature references, a vast amount of morphological and cellular descriptions and microscopy data analysis results. In this study, we are working with four sets of trees, collecting samples from each tree throughout the year resulting in approximately 400 samples to undergo analysis. The approximate volume of data for a single sample results in 330 slides containing six images per slide for light and fluorescent microscopy. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) adds to the data volume with the addition of 3-dimensional images (micrographs) for a variety of plant parts. These micrographs are direct digital scans of a single sample mounted on a stub (numerous micrographs per single sample). Therefore, for samples processed throughout the study there may be upwards of 132,000 slides resulting in 792,000 images and descriptive text for light and fluorescence microscopy alone. With the inclusion of SEM micrographs, the total number of images can reach well over one million. In addition to cellular specific sample data, temporal data will also be incorporated into the model, as all samples need to be tracked from harvesting through to their final analysis. The conceptual data model will be used to build an integrated data repository for dwarf mistletoe using open source DBMS software such as PostgreSQL 9 and a web based interface. This system will be used as a basis for continued research accessible to researchers working with dwarf mistletoe species in cellular analysis, and various ontological based approaches to data modeling.

By Kathryn Pernitsky