Showing posts from April, 2022

Porites nubbin parts

"Po, po, po, Porites! Nubbin parts!" - Cas, singing to the tune of the O'Reilly Auto Parts jingle I told you Cas loves terrible puns. And I am not especially thrilled about this one getting stuck in my head. He sang it off-and-on for an hour the other day while I drilled, and Maikani picked up on the catchy jingle too. Ugh.  A freshly-drilled nubbin hole Well, we did get some spawning this month, but not nearly what we were hoping for in the end. It was enough to set up two small experiments but not nearly enough for our full experimental design. We can try again in May (that's actually supposed to be a bigger spawning event than April for our species), but in the meantime, we decided to deploy our back-up plan.  Enter the nubbins.  "Nubbin" is a term used by coral researchers to refer to miniature cores they collect from coral colonies. You take a circular drill bit, drill into the coral, and then break the core out with a chisel. Amazingly, the colonies l

Just keep swimming

"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming" - the movie Finding Nemo There's this concept in invertebrate biology called "delayed metamorphosis." It refers to a larva remaining in the water column for longer than its peers and only settling to the seafloor when it's older. Delaying metamorphosis can cause a larva to disperse farther away from its parents and maybe even find a new reef, but it can also have some carryover effects. Previous research in ascidians has shown that larvae that delayed metamorphosis had slower growth, higher mortality, and lower reproductive output later in life. I guess it's analogous to a scientist with a severe case of wanderlust who travels the world and never finds the time to raise children (not that I'm referring to anyone specifically...). As far as I know, nobody's looked at delayed metamorphosis in corals. It's actually kind of crazy to me that nobody has (and I'm prepared to be corrected), since it could

The larvae

Friends, I am so immensely proud of my team for our work with Porites lobata coral larvae. I just have to show off some of my favorite photos.  Porites lobata eggs! Matthew and I were both very excited about the "fat rainbow."  It indicates the eggs are full of lipids and were well-provisioned by their mom. On the left is an egg that has not begun dividing yet. On the right is one that's undergone two  divisions and is in its 4-cell stage. Dividing embryos! These are all from the same batch but might have been fertilized at slightly  different times, causing them to be at different stages of cell division. I was really confused by the 8- and 16-cell stages in some embryos looking like clusters of grapes rather than organized spheres,  but the larvae all seemed to develop normally.  Swimming larvae! They're slightly elongated and swim with cilia. In this photo, you can even see the  symbionts. Those dark brown dots on each larva are zooxanthellae that they inherited

Strawberry milkshake

We arrived back at the station with our dinner - burgers, fries, and strawberry milkshakes purchased from a food truck across the bridge. After a long day - our first day! - of collecting coral colonies from four study sites, we were ready for dinner and a rest. We should just check the corals quickly, we thought, to make sure they're not going to spawn tonight.  These, ladies and gentlemen, are fertilized embryos of the gonochoric, broadcast-spawning coral Porites lobata . "Um, guys, is this sperm?" Cas asked while peering into one of the bins. Matthew rushed over with a flashlight. "Yes."  Cas and I cursed at the exact same time. His facial expression was not one of a professional researcher about to conduct the first-ever ex situ fertilization and larval culturing of the coral  Porites lobata . It was the look of a man who had just bought himself a strawberry milkshake and would have to let it melt while he worked.  Spawning came early this month. Back when I

And then there were five

This trip to Palau is different. In 2018, it was just Hanny and me. In 2021, I brought along Kharis. I knew each of them well, and it was just the two of us. But this time, I am in charge of a larger team, and we all met in person for the first time in Palau. With that in mind, I want to introduce you to the team.   Kirstin Meyer-Kaiser (that’s me). I’m a larval biologist, benthic ecologist, SCUBA diver, and lover of the color orange. You all pretty much know me by now.   Carsten Grupstra is the new postdoc on the Palau project. We hired him to replace Hanny when she moved on. Cas just finished his PhD at Rice University. For his dissertation, he studied how fecal detritus from corallivorous and herbivorous fish influences microbial symbiont composition on coral reefs in Mo’orea, French Polynesia. In English: he spent four years following fish around and identifying the microbes in their poop. As it turns out, poop from some fish helps spread healthy microbes between corals, so it’s


The governor's office was tidy. A large, dark wooden desk dominated the space against a backdrop of matching cabinets and a fabric flag on a free-standing pole. I recognized the flag with its deep blue background and yellow crescent moon - it was the flag of Koror state. Two leather office chairs faced the desk as I approached, so I took a seat when offered. I noticed an old campaign sticker on the back of the governor's tablet. It seemed familiar. I had seen the same design on signs on Main Street last November. The election must still be fresh in his mind.  "So you've applied for a marine research permit," the governor began. I did my best to sit up straight and nod respectfully. Governor is the highest-ranking official I've ever had a one-on-one meeting with, and it happened spontaneously. I was very conscious of the fact that I was wearing a T-shirt.  "I'm Eyos by the way." He interrupted himself and stuck out his hand.  I shook it. "Kir

In the quiet of the night

Back when I was in college, I used to volunteer at this homeless shelter run by my church. I always signed up for the 2-6 am shift, partly because they always needed people for it, but also partly because I loved the quiet that descends in the middle of the night. Most of the guests were asleep, so I sat at one of the dining room tables and talked with the other volunteers, or, more frequently, that one insomniac guest. I always brought homework, but I never did it. When 6:00 rolled around and my replacement arrived, I would drive out to a park right outside of town and watch the sun rise over Lake Superior. As the sky grew lighter, the quiet hush was broken, and the day rolled forth.   I thought about the homeless shelter today for the first time in years, because I was once again awake in the quiet of the night. I left my house at 2:45 am in an airport shuttle. I thought I would sleep; I was prepared to work; but instead, I just talked.   I am on the way to Palau with the new postdoc

Wissenschaft verbindet

When my best friend got married , the photographer wanted a picture of all the friends the bride had met through her scientific endeavors. I remember posing for that photo and looking around at the people near me - it was 90% of the friends in attendance at that wedding. Only the couple's childhood companions were excluded. The caption for that photo online was "Wissenschaft verbindet" - "Science connects."  I was reminded of that principle again this week when a dear friend came to visit in Woods Hole. I've talked about him plenty of times on this blog before - Andrew K. Sweetman , my mentor, friend, collaborator, and surrogate older brother. Andrew's family was on vacation and decided to spend some days in Massachusetts re-connecting with friends. My husband and I invited them over for dinner, and it was the single greatest evening I've had in a while.  I thrive on community - that feeling of being completely accepted , connected, and part of a la


Friends, this week has been a high-point in my year so far. I am in Portsmouth, NH, for the annual Benthic Ecology Meeting. This is the first scientific conference I've been able to participate in for a while, and more than that, it's the first in-person conference since covid! There is so much power in speaking to another scientist in-person, and I am ecstatic to have that opportunity again.  The Woods Hole contingent at the Benthic Ecology Meeting The presentation I'm delivering at Benthics concerns my team's research in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The publication of our most recent paper was actually perfectly timed, coming out earlier this week. I'm hoping my presentation generates more interest in Maritime Heritage Ecology. Perhaps the most exciting thing about the conference is that there's a large representation from WHOI. Several graduate students, an undergraduate researcher, and three faculty all presented their work. A few researchers f