Showing posts from October, 2023

By perseverance

"By perseverance, the snail reached the Ark."  - Charles Spurgeon Leading a research lab is like trying to write a book in a tornado. Every day, I sit at my desk and put text on paper, hoping my words will compel a federal agency or a private foundation to grant us the money we need to keep going. Or I deal with finances, correspondence, and standardized forms - the hum-drum paperwork that for some reason the world requires. If I'm lucky, I get to write a paper reporting our scientific results.  Meanwhile, my lab is a flurry of activity. An incessant clicking from the far corner indicates my technician, Sarah, is busy counting zooplankton. My postdoc, Johanna, paces around the molecular biology bench as she extracts and amplifies DNA from tiny larvae. New boxes of samples showed up in the freezer last night, indicating my PhD student, Kharis, is finally home from her own whirlwind research trip in the high Arctic . Multiple times per day, someone sticks their head into

The nomination

Friends, I have some very exciting news to share today. "Life in the dark: the polar night" has been nominated for a Suncoast Regional Emmy award!  In January 2023, my grad student, Kharis, and I were joined in the field by a film crew from South Florida PBS. The producer, Alexa Elliott, wanted to share the story of our high Arctic research as part of the series Changing Seas . Our episode premiered on TV and online in June. You can watch it anytime on YouTube: It is incredibly exciting for an episode featuring my lab's research to be nominated for this award. If you check the list of nominees, you'll notice that another Changing Seas episode was also nominated! Alexa and her production team do incredible work, and I am glad to see them receive much-deserved recognition.  The Suncoast Regional Emmy Awards event is on December 2. It is an honor to be nominated, but I also hope the Changing Seas team walks away with at lea

Name that fungus!

The mysterious specimen Back in 2021, Kharis and I took a deep-sea plankton pump to the Arctic. The pump was installed on a lander by my German collaborators at the Alfred Wegener Institute and sent down to the deep. From 2.5 km away, Kharis and I wished and hoped for good samples, sending good vibes to the pump whenever we could. We got some incredible specimens .  Of all the beautiful larvae we collected that trip, one stood out to me. I pulled it from the watery sample, not knowing what it was. It kind of resembled an egg. Maybe it was an elusive deep-sea larva, I thought, but I wasn't sure what kind. We found 20 of them - sparkly blue orbs with gold flecks. A few of them were housed inside a loose mesh of spikes. My invertebrate-seeking mind concluded that the spikes must be sponge spicules, and we had found the first sponge larvae from the Arctic deep sea. You can imagine my excitement when, months later, Kharis got a successful sequence from one of the mystery orbs. Here w