Showing posts from September, 2023


"The sea is dangerous and its storms terrible, but these obstacles have never been sufficient reason to remain ashore."  - Ferdinand Magellan In grad school, one of my friends used to say that he was a professional reader. At the time, he was working on a review paper that would constitute the introduction to his thesis, so he wasn't entirely wrong. I think he read a few hundred papers that year. He had to be deeply familiar with his field in order to craft the review.  Atlantic sea scallop, Placopecten magellanicus . Can you see the growth rings? Science involves not just the search for knowledge but a familiarity with all previous knowledge. Right now, I find myself in a phase that could very well be described as "professional reading." I've read some 50 papers about sea scallops in the last week. My eyes are getting tired.  Why am I busy ingesting scallop facts, you ask? There's a good reason, trust me. One of my colleagues at WHOI recently invited me

Name that zoea!

Friends, it has been a productive few weeks over in my corner of the world. I'm busy at the microscope, sorting and identifying zooplankton from the Gulf of Mexico. This zoea larva came from one of my plankton samples. Check out that spike! Long spines and spikes help protect plankton from predators.  Last summer, I was part of a team investigating shipwrecks and natural hard-bottom reefs in the mesophotic zone, between 50 and 200 m deep. Recently, I've waded my way through all the ROV video we collected and found magnificent species of fish and corals along the way. The next step is to analyze plankton samples  I collected when we were at sea.  I wasn't quite sure what would be in the plankton samples or what they would show. I've been curious for a while about how animals disperse to shipwrecks as larvae, so I thought that plankton samples collected from the water column right above shipwrecks might offer some clues.  Take a guess: Am I finding larvae of the cora

Name that coral!

I am back at it - analyzing all the video footage my team collected from the Gulf of Mexico last summer. I finished the fish already , so now I feel more at home: I am identifying the invertebrates .  This frame grab from our mystery shipwreck  shows cup corals ( Tubastrea coccinea ) and sea rods ( Diodogorgia nodulifera ) . Many of the engineers at WHOI subscribe to a 3-part taxonomic system. Having little knowledge of the living creatures in the wide, watery world, the engineers classify objects they observe in the ocean into three categories. An object is either a rock, a shark, or snot. That's right - all inanimate objects are termed "rocks," all swimming animals are called "sharks," and the rest gets described as "snot." I didn't say it was a good system, mind you.  I suppose under the rock-shark-snot worldview, all the sessile invertebrates that I love so much fall into the "snot" category. To be fair, they are a bit slimy someti