My first week of my internship consisted of familiarizing myself with my new place of employment and doing some background reading on the primary pregnancy hormones we will be focusing on. This includes progesterone, estrone sulfate (an estrogen metabolite) and some of the pregnancy related proteins. I have also realized the benefit of staying awake in immunology class as I am quickly becoming aware of my lack of working knowledge on ELISA tests. More on ELISA's later.
It was decided that our sample bank would be collected from Nobis Dairy Farms in St. John's, Michigan. After contacting the herd owners a schedule was arranged to collect serum and blood samples from the 700 lactating bovines. Blood and milk samples were collected during the same day from individual animals to provide a reference serum hormone level for each milk sample. Unfortunately, morning milkings at the Nobis farmstead begin at 2:30 AM. This resulted in some "zombie-like" behavior from myself, my supervisors (Todd Byrem and Bridgette Voisinet), and the willing (?) lab techs who were dragged along. Upon returning to the lab, samples were processed and stored in a freezer. Processing involves harvesting serum from the blood samples and freezing aliquots of both whole milk and defatted milk. Two types of milk samples were saved, allowing us to compare the effects of butterfat concentration on milk hormone levels. When samples were not being collected I prepared materials for collecting and processing samples. I have also started perusing the well-kept records of Nobis Dairy Farms to determine each cow's reproductive status.