Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Failed Halloween

A month later, I've realized that I failed the wonderful holiday of Halloween with my post. Not that it wasn't interesting or witty, etc, but it wasn't very apropos for the occasion.

Science Sushi Blog did a much better job in capturing the spirit of Halloween with Your Average, Everyday Zombie - an entertaining and informative post about how creatures (often to fuel developing larvae or to increase dispersal) can take over and control their hosts. The neuroscience, behavior, developmental, and ecological questions are many fold, but really it comes down to being COOL. And a couple of days later, my family and I were privileged and horrified to see one of the examples, the parasitic wasp (see the section The Zombie, It Stings), on a stem of broccoli from our local organic farmer's market. It was definitely organic!

Back up with the other Atlantis?

Everyone can't be marine biologists? Now they tell me!
I've been on the Research Vessel Atlantis (ship) quite a few times now.  Maybe should I apply to the astronaut program as a back up? I'm a bit late to make it on the space shuttle Atlantis; but they're currently seeking candidates: USAJobs

Friday, November 25, 2011

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
   - Lewis Carroll
     The Walrus and The Carpenter

The little oysters on the west coast are rapidly disappearing. Not due to walruses or carpenters but due to climate change. The sea may be increasing in temperature, but is the increase in acidification (drop in pH due to higher levels of CO2) that is really doing the damage. There have been numerous lab experiments that have shown that increased CO2 in the atmosphere causes changes in larval development in many marine species. These changes can be positive, neutral or detrimental depending on the experimental set up and the species tested. These variable results may leave questions for policy
(c) VIMS
makers and the public about the effects of climate change or global warming on ocean life. However, now there is clear evidence of the detrimental effects to life and the economy from the real world - outside of the lab.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


This week was one of those weeks. It seemed like if it could go wrong, it did. But, as Bing Crosby sang, "Still, there's plenty to be thankful for." This has been a great and productive year. Two papers published in broad, high impact journals and two more manuscripts in the pipeline. I had a fabulous undergrad working with me over the summer to develop a new project. I feel like the hard work is paying off with good job prospects. I am thankful. Most importantly, I've accomplished a lot professionally while still spending a lot of time with my family and watching my kids grow. My son has gone from a crawling baby to a running toddler and my daughter is flourishing in her first year in preschool. Its been a good year and its not quite over yet.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Career Intellect?"

I firmly decided I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was in 7th grade. I, of course, had no idea of what that entailed at the time. I still don't claim to have this job search thing figured out.  We'll see how this year turns out. Thus far, I've been invited for four interviews, so I'm maintaining my optimistically hopeful attitude. I've worked hard to get to a place where I'm competitive to reach that goal. Often as grad students and postdocs, we keep our heads down and work hard into the night on our myopic problems of interest. I found that there are some other things (in addition to hard work) that we must do to advance ourselves. Here are a couple of tips that I've found or thought hard about over the course of my job search (take 'em or leave 'em):

1. Get familiar with the process. 
2. Promote yourself.
3. Take the lead.
4. Remember the Big Picture.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A week in my life

This week was fun. Another 8 job applications in. One rejection email. One email invitation for an interview. A great new set of in situs. Final revisions for an accepted manuscript turned in. A set of positive reviews for another ms received. And half of a holiday to relax with the family.

Thank you to all of men and women who serve or have served our country.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Crowning the Queen

The tale of the honeybee queen is a classic and popular example of developmental plasticity (aka changes in development in response to the environment). Although this is not a marine example, it is an elegant system for looking at the role of larval development in ecosystem function. Queens, worker bees and drones all have the same genome, but have very different final forms. The important determining factor in social class is eating like a queen. You are what you eat. A diet of Royal Jelly causes hormones to rage and a queen to develop. 

The role of Royal Jelly has been well established, but only now have the active ingredient(s) in the jelly and mechanism by which it works been revealed. M. Kamakura, apparently singlehandedly, discovered that a single protein, royalactin, was responsible for making a queen. Furthermore, he connected royalactin to changes in hormones through epithelial growth factor (EGF) signaling.

This work was a breakthrough in understanding the signaling mechanisms involved in drastically altering development. It identifies new players and seemingly disproved the involvement of another key player - insulin.