The Ecological Sciences and Engineering (ESE) Symposium, a student-run, interdisciplinary event, provides undergraduate and graduate students with an opportunity to present their research and interact with experts in various environmental fields. It also raises awareness about the ESE program and other environmentally focused initiatives at Purdue University and beyond. This year’s symposium, Bridging the Gap from Science to Policy: Technology, Envioronment and Sustainable Development, took place on October 27. Jiaqi Guo, an undergraduate in the Department of Entomology, won first prize for her poster titled "Molecular Study of Fireflies, an Integral Part of the Indiana Landscape".
The flashing lights of fireflies (family Lampyridae) are a beloved feature of Midwest nights. The four Indiana species resemble each other closely except for their different patterns of light signals, which, at present, are the basis of their identification. To better document their persistence during future periods of environmental degradation, we are doing molecular analysis of our four Photurus species (P. versicolor, P. hebes, P. tremulans and P. lucicresens) plus a species from a different genus (Photinus) for comparison. Our goal is to find better methods to identify relationships and to track the fate of the IN species during periods of climate change. We sequenced nuclear (18S) and mitochondrial (COI) genes to examine the phylogenetic relationships of the five species by applying polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and cloning. We analyzed the sequences with neighbor joining and maximum parsimony. The data indicated that the five species have few differences in the 18S gene but many in COI gene. The COI genes of the five species separated into two groups by genus. Until now, the sequences of the COI gene of P. versicolor and P. hebes were not available in Genbank, but our analysis provides sound evidence for the reliability of our new sequence data for the two species.