Showing posts from June, 2020

The unknowns

It's a quiet Friday afternoon in the lab, and I'm back to working on my Arctic larval samples . I'm using molecular biological techniques to try and identify some of the unknowns to species. That way, I can tell who is reproducing in the polar night and whether new species of larvae are being brought into high Arctic fjords by upwelling in mid-winter.  As a marine biologist, I'm used to dealing with unknowns. There are so many species - so many taxa - in the ocean that it's impossible for one person to know them all by sight. Most of the time, I can tell what family a specimen belongs to, and then it's just a matter of using reference materials to get to species. But every once in a while, there's a specimen that has me totally tripped up. Specimens that are very young or blob-like are particularly challenging. For some, I find myself asking "Is it even alive?" The world is full of crazy things. That's where molecular biology comes in

Lady Gaga shoes

"A girl's just as hot as the shoes she choose." - Lady Gaga Science is a weird career, if you think about it. People either get into this business because they love data and learning or because they love exploring the world. I think of these two types as "indoor" and "outdoor" scientists. Lucky for me, I have a foot in both camps, as do many ecologists. In fact, the combination of the two is what I love the most about my job. I love thinking, analyzing, and posing questions, then traveling, adventuring, and exploring, then returning home to my lab with samples to start the process over again.  Today is an indoor day for me. I've made it far enough with my model of succession in fouling communities that I can produce simulated data - and lots of it. The key to my analysis will be comparing the simulated data to my actual data, to see which version of the model fits my real data best. It's a mathematical challenge, so at the advice of a collabo

The brave

"The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all." - Meg Cabot in The Princess Diaries - also graffiti on Cape Cod Canal in Sandwich, MA If driving a boat in New England were an Olympic sport, it would be called Lobster Pot Slalom. The colorful buoys pop up everywhere, forcing one to swerve like a madman or risk entangling a propeller. It's enough to make you crazy - or make you laugh. I choose the latter. Any day on the water is a good day. Over the last week, Carl and I took a much-needed break from our work. With our boat finally afloat for the season, we explored around Massachusetts, from Martha's Vineyard to Boston Harbor. We even spent two overnights on the boat, which was a new experience. The break was a good way to clear our heads after what has been a long pandemic, with still no end in sight.  Being outdoors, especially on the water, centers me. It reminds me why I do what I do, even when the global situation makes it more difficult. R

The Crepidula carryover paper

It's always exciting to see my scientific work in print. Today, my first paper of the year was published, about the experiment I did with Crepidula fornicata last summer. I studied how conditions experienced by mothers during brooding affected the larvae, and I found that mothers kept at cooler spring temperatures released larvae that took longer to develop to competency. Essentially, that means that larvae released earlier in the year will be in the water column for longer and could disperse to habitats farther away. This study contributes to our understanding of variation in the larval phase and could help refine future predictions of dispersal. You can read all about it in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series :

Born this way: part 2

"I'm beautiful in my way 'Cause God makes no mistakes I'm on the right track, baby I was born this way" - "Born this way" by Lady Gaga Another one of the organisms I'm finding in my samples is Clione limacina , which is a pteropod or "sea angel." We actually collected a very large adult of this species  in one of our samples, which I didn't even need a microscope to see. As I'm going through the larval samples in more detail now, I'm finding lots of younger pteropods, including their polytrochous larvae. Polytrochous larvae of Clione limacina . Arrows mark ciliary bands. Two individuals are not to scale. The root word "troch" means wheel, and it refers to the bands of cilia (cellular hairs) that help larvae swim. As the cilia beat, it looks like a wheel turning around the larva. The polytrochous larvae of Clione limacina have multiple ciliary bands (poly = many), which I can see distinctly in my larval s