Showing posts from August, 2023

CATAIN lives!

It's always a good day when I open my email to a message from the field . Kharis is in Svalbard right now, so I've been watching my email for updates. She's sent me periodic communications about sample collection, sorting larvae, and life at the research station. Aside from the normal ups-and-downs of field work, everything is going pretty well. Except for one thing: CATAIN.  CATAIN being lifted out of the fjord by R/V  Teisten . Photo by Kharis Schrage. We deployed CATAIN on the seafloor in Kongsfjorden last January, and Kharis was tasked with recovering it this trip. She learned how t o operate our lab's ROV  for the recovery operation. She flew all the way up to Ny-Ă…lesund, Svalbard. She went out on the Kings Bay research boat, Teis ten . dice. Kongsfjorden is very different in the summer compared to the winter. In the winter, the water is crystal clear, even if it is dark out all day. In the summer, though, the glaciers release turbid water into the fjor

Name that fish!

A frame grab from my Gulf of Mexico video. Can you name the different fish? If science was a game show, it would take place in Japan. Japanese game shows are ridiculous - you know what I'm talking about. Contestants have to hold an orange between their chin and their chest and transfer it to another contestant, all while standing on a wobbly rotating platform. Or they slide through a tunnel of slime while a fan blows glitter on their faces to reach the prize: a golden banana. The combinations of elements don't even make sense, but the audiences are always super invested in the contestants' success. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just do an online search for Takeshi's Castle . I don't (usually) have a live audience when I'm science-ing, but it can feel like a ridiculous challenge nonetheless. The game show I'm playing this week is called  Name that Fish! I'm going through all the video we recorded using a remotely-operated vehicle from


Back when Kharis started her PhD, we came up with a grand plan: deploy CATAIN s at three locations in an Arctic fjord. One site would be near the glacier at the head of the fjord; one site would be in the middle of the fjord next to the research station; and one would be at the fjord mouth, exposed to the open ocean. That way, we could tell how settlement and post-settlement mortality patterns varied across a gradient of glacial influence.  Kharis building CATAIN's computer system - we had to  stack a Sleepy Pi on a Raspberry Pi. Here's the problem: we only have one CATAIN. I always intended the settlement camera to be a research tool I could duplicate - in an ideal world, I would have 100 CATAINs deployed all over the world - but I was left with the question of how to build more. It's been a challenge. The first barrier to scientific progress is always, always funding, so Kharis and I set about writing grant proposals and scraping together money to buy all the necessary c

The smear

My electrophoresis gel This image represents progress.  Recently, I've been trying to develop a quick and easy way to identify cryptic lineages of the coral Porites lobata.  For the past few years, my team has researched Porites  in Palau . We discovered that the corals living inside semi-enclosed lagoons have higher thermal tolerance than corals living outside the lagoons, and they're actually genetically distinct . Two of the genetic groups - we call them lineages - have higher thermal tolerance and are more common inside the lagoons.  Every time we collect samples and want to sort the corals by lineage, it's an elaborate process. There are DNA extractions , then clean-up steps, then dilutions, then library prep, then sequencing, then bioinformatics - the whole thing takes months. Sure, the cost of sequencing has come down in recent years, but there's still a lot of time investment for genomic analysis. When you have a few hundred samples to weed through and just need

The schoolhouse

Just around the corner from my lab, on the appropriately-named School Street, is a large schoolhouse. It's home to a daycare co-op during the school year, but in summer, it hosts a local tradition: the Children's School of Science. You can always tell when CSS is in session because you see middle-schoolers walking around town in large groups, carrying plankton nets and buckets or snorkels and fins. Teachers lead the curious students to local habitats and expose them to marine animals. The whole town turns into one giant summer camp. Belly Biology with the Children's School of Science. Photo by Olivia Rauss. This year, a CSS teacher reached out to me to ask if her students could see my lab. She was just a few days too late to catch the live-animal experiments  that took place in my lab this summer, so I suggested we go outdoors instead. Kharis and Johanna were available to help out, so we split the group of 14 into two smaller groups of 7 - half on the dock, half in the lab.