Showing posts from March, 2020

The model: part 2

It's a rainy Tuesday on Cape Cod. We're still in social isolation, and I'm still working on my model. One of the simulated communities my model produced. Each color represents a different species. I'm actually pretty glad I have all this free time to dedicate to it right now. I'm making a lot of progress. Over the last week, I've figured out how to make my species grow and occupy area on the panels. I even figured out how to control which species can overgrow others. In the real world, fouling communities are all about overgrowth. Things like ascidians and bryozoans are constantly spreading their edges and trying to cover over one another. Space is at a premium, so whoever is on top wins. I was very excited to be able to simulate these competitive interactions with probabilities in my model! Another piece I've had to code is the species' temperature tolerances. I noticed during my dock study experiment that some species completely disappeared f

The model

"A smart model is a good model." - Tyra Banks While the world is on lock-down, I'm using my self-isolation as an opportunity to pursue projects that I wouldn't normally have the time for. I want to tell you about one of them, because it's a project I'm really enjoying. The fouling community in Eel Pond in Woods Hole Do you remember my dock study project from 2017? I spent a good 5 months collecting data from fouling panels in Woods Hole , in an attempt to understand how interactions between different species drive change in communities over time. When I started the project, I had very clear expectations in mind. Every paper I had read about New England fouling communities up to that point seemed to indicate the same thing: the first things to settle would be barnacles, followed by bryozoans and then ascidians . I had all sorts of hypotheses about how those species would interact, and I really thought my experiment would reveal a series of intricate,

Social distancing

Well, friends, I don't know about you, but I feel like the world has drastically changed over the last week. I've been instructed to socially distance myself from others to avoid spreading coronavirus, and it looks like one of my upcoming research trips might be cancelled. It's sad and disorienting, but it's also an opportunity. You see, this is not the first time I've been stuck somewhere, forced to work under unusual circumstances. In 2013, I was on a 6-week research cruise off the coast of New Zealand. It took us 2 weeks to even get the ROV working, and then we only got about another 10 days of sampling before the ROV was lost. I was just a PhD student at the time with no leadership role in the project, so I was stuck on the ship with little to do. But instead of wasting time, I analyzed a data set that turned into the cornerstone of my dissertation , and I wrote a string quartet . It's the most productive cruise I've ever had! In 2015, I was in Sva

Figuring it out: part 3

In between phone calls, e-mails, and countless logistical puzzles , I'm working with an intern to taxonomically identify a set of samples I collected from the Arctic deep sea last summer. We've had some minor victories , and yesterday was very productive. The bryozoan on a rock from 1700 m deep in the Arctic We had been working on a bryozoan specimen from a rock at 1700 m depth. I've told you about bryozoans before - they're small, crunchy animals that build calcium carbonate exoskeletons and live in colonies of clones. They're one of the most abundant taxa on hard substrata in the high Arctic . I was really excited to identify the bryozoan specimen yesterday because I had a new book to use as a reference guide: Bryozoa of the northern seas of the USSR . Yep, it's that old. But it's also chock-full of helpful illustrations and dichotomous keys. My intern and I pulled out the specimen, cracked open the book, and got to work. Notoplites normani , pho


"What can brown do for you?" - slogan of the United Parcel Service in the early 2000s I usually like to post on this blog when I have interesting things to tell you about, but I'm struggling to find blog-worthy topics recently. In my role as a tenure-track scientist, I'm spending a lot more of my time managing projects and less time doing actual science. Sure, I still process my own samples , analyze data , and spend plenty of time in the field , but these tasks are proportionally less of my time. The remainder is filled with logistics - staying on top of budgets, ordering supplies, leading meetings, and figuring out how to ship the things I need to remote corners of the world. Grad school doesn't include any management training. I spent 4 years of my life learning how to select important scientific questions, design experiments to answer them, and interpret the results, but PhD programs don't include coursework in project management. If I had it to do o