Showing posts from February, 2017

The shipwreck paper

I analyzed video footage recorded from the shipwrecks with an ROV (remotely-operated vehicle) and saw lots of crazy things. For example, this is a fishing net that got caught on one of the wrecks but still had its floats attached. It got pulled up into the water column by the floats and was densely inhabited by tube worms (most likely chaetopterid polychaetes) and sea stars ( Henricia sp.). It's always satisfying to see a scientific paper get published. The final part of the publication process is out of the scientists' hands, as the editors and type-setters of the journal are in charge. There's a time lag of several weeks between when I stop working on a paper and when the journal finally releases it, so it's easy to feel disconnected from the paper by the time it finally emerges. Nevertheless, I am proud to see my paper finally in print. This particular paper is about invertebrate communities on shipwrecks in the Atlantic. I collected the data for it duri


A few months ago, I put racks of settlement plates out on docks around Woods Hole. My intention was to monitor any organisms that recruited over the winter and practice identifying them. Well, I can tell you that not much at all recruits to shallow dock communities in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in the winter. I found a few hydroid colonies at one site, but really not much else. (Seriously, I've seen higher winter recruitment in the Arctic!) My monitoring plates at the WHOI dock, 15 Feb 2017 Here's the thing about hydroids, though: they live in colonies. They clone themselves. And when there's nothing to eat them or compete with them, those colonies can grow pretty darn fast. The photo at right shows what my monitoring plates on the WHOI dock looked like this week. It was hydroid-a-rama! The clusters with the pink buds are an athecate hydroid called Tubularia . They started showing up on my plates in early January, and they've proliferated since. But look in th

Warning signs

Friends, another scientific paper with my name on it has been published. This one concerns anthropogenic impacts on the deep sea. I can't take too much credit for the paper, because I was not present when it was conceived of but contributed to the writing and revision process later. The first author, Andrew Sweetman, who was my advisor in Norway, deserves much more of the credit. He lead a group of over 20 authors to craft a thoughtful and data-supported analysis of how climate change is likely to impact the deep sea in the near future. There are warning signs already, and this paper shows how rising temperatures, falling pH, and food limitation may reduce diversity in the deep sea. You can find the study here , in the journal Elementa . The paper just came out today, but it's already attracted attention. It's been publicized by Heriot-Watt University and covered by The Guardian , Ocean News , and  EurekAlert . I highly recommend you give it a read.

Mental flossing

I sat down on the chairlift and sank into the padded seat. To my left, Wes commandeered more than his share of space and stretched one Hulk-sized foot over my leg. Whatever. To my right, Dad let out a sigh. "We are...tired," he exhaled. The sun shone down on me as the cold air stung my face. From my place in the middle of the chairlift, I could feel all the tension flow out of my body until I was fully, completely relaxed. There's just something about being outdoors that cleans my psychi. My dad calls it "mental flossing." I've spent a long weekend snowboarding with my family in Maine, and after three days of cold and sun and snow beneath my feet, I am sufficiently exhausted.  I think there's a relationship between physical and mental exhaustion - the two cannot easily co-exist. Getting outdoors gives me a mental break. It renews my mind and lets me go back with a fresh perspective next week. I'm glad for time with family, for the chance to


Vineyard Sound, 16Feb17 Riding along the bike path to WHOI, I couldn't help but look over my left shoulder. Sandstone boulders lined the shore as gentle waves lapped up on the sand. The sea was gray and calm. Suspended over Martha's Vineyard, the morning sun poked through the clouds, piercing fingers of white light interrupting the blue horizon. I squeezed the brakes on my bike and drifted off of the paved path. I swung my leg over the back tire and leaned on my bike frame sideways, facing the shoreline head-on. In that moment, it was like someone had turned a knob in my brain and released all tension in my body, physical and psychological. Only one word filled my mind: Peace. As you well know, my work can get hectic at times. My personal life also has a new complicating element, but friends, let me share this thought. I've felt for years that the  course of my life was not decided by chance , that each place I've lived was  a place I was meant to be . Since mov


"You sense there's a purpose Of a higher life A force in your heart As if you were revived Brand new grounds to explore Before the night arrives" - "Exhale" by Amaranthe It is 8:00 pm, and I am still in my office. Out my window, Water Street is dark except for the glowing arched windows atop the Bigelow Laboratory. The cleaning crew has come and gone. As I scoot my chair away from the wide blue computer screen, I exhale deeply for the first time in hours. Victory for Coding Kirstin! This figure shows how much time larvae spent in different parts of the water column. I've been working furiously all day. I'm analyzing data using a code-based statistical program called Matlab, which I can only access at the lab. Normally, that wouldn't be a problem, but there's a massive snowstorm predicted to hit Cape Cod tomorrow. We're supposed to get 8" (20 cm) over the course of the day, and it's obvious that nobody will be able to

Built like Rome

In recent years, I've found myself watching the American comedy The Big Bang Theory , a fictitious series about physicists at the California Institute of Technology, with ever-increasing frequency. It's an intelligent comedy, and the producers go to great lengths to include real scientific and mathematical concepts in the episodes. Their accuracy is lacking, however, when it comes to matters of academic life. For example, in the most recent season, two characters have a brilliant, ground-breaking idea, which they record in a furiously-written manuscript and post online just hours later. That's not how it works. The barnacle Hesperibalanus hesperius on my plates, magnified 16 times Scientific papers are never written, much less published, in mere hours. Ideas and analyses take months, even years to develop, record, and distribute. Scientific theories are built like Rome - certainly not in one day. Friends, I bring up the lengthy time-line for scientific analyses t