Friday, November 8, 2013

What's in a NAME?

In preparation for my official lab website, I have to come up with a name. And no offense to my husband - Adams Lab isn't currently cutting it - too generic.

I am unfortunately NOT gifted with the ability to make catchy acronyms for projects, etc. Here are some possible words that could go in the lab name:

Molecular Ecology

PLEASE help me come up with something cleaver! Put your suggestions in the comments.
Thanks for your help!

Monday, October 21, 2013

First Culture

A historic event in the Adams Larval Ecology and Development Lab - we made our first larval culture!

We had to borrow beg and steal to get some of the supplies (note the shelves waiting to be filled) but we scrounged enough to spawn two sand dollars, Dendraster... mix their eggs and sperm together... and voila our first LARVAE!
Rutgers undergraduate, Ryan Buttone, transferring the culture.

Ryan at the microscope marveling at watching embryonic development before his eyes.
Dendraster pluteus under DIC transmitted light.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Blue Ribbon for the Indispensable Ocean

GPO Blue Ribbon Panel of Ocean Experts - CEOs to activists

Today, a unique panel of business, government, conservation and academic leaders convened by the Global Partnership for the Oceans (GPO) has agreed on a global strategy for aligning ocean health and human wellbeing. USAID is a founding donor partner in the 140+ member Global Partnership for Oceans – a partnership committed to working together to solve the critical issues affecting the health of our oceans. 

The Blue Ribbon Panel, which includes 21 global experts from 16 countries, emphasizes that without action to turn around the declining health of the ocean, the consequences for economies, communities and ecosystems will be irreversible. But there is good news: solutions exist that benefit both oceans and economies, according to the Blue Ribbon Panel’s report, Indispensable Ocean.

According to the panel, fragmented approaches that fail to consider social, political, economic and ecological relationships will fail to meet the complex challenges facing ocean health. The report calls for an integrated approach to ocean investment and emphasizes the essential role of public private partnerships.

The panel agreed that the Global Partnership for Oceans is a platform that brings together the multistakeholder support, technical expertise and finance needed to change the course on oceans.

The panel did not identify a “silver bullet” to resolving urgent ocean challenges. Instead, it proposes five principles to ensure effective GPO investments: (1) sustainable livelihoods, social equity and food security; (2) a healthy ocean; (3) effective governance systems; (4) longterm viability and (5) capacity building and innovation.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A rocky start

I'm not sure where September went, but I find myself in a new office in New Brunswick over looking trees donning the multi-hues of fall... as an new Assistant Professor at Rutgers's Institute of Marine and Coastal Science.

Have I finally settled? This is the illusive tenure-track faculty position - achieved! Like a barnacle cyprid, I'm testing out furniture arrangements before cementing it in place. I'm overwhelmingly excited and also overwhelmed - with the stuff to purchase, with living in a hotel and then finally moving (our sewer main was discovered broken less than 48 hours after closing!), with bringing personnel on board, and well, the whole thing. Hopefully, my rocky start will lead to a better over all hold as well. Right now, I feel woefully behind.

A new website is in the works. I hope to share it shortly!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Farewell to DC

My USAID farewell was hastened and my farewell party postponed due to the 50th anniversary on the March on Washington (for freedom and jobs). Admittedly, that was a bigger and better party celebrating a more important event, but a bummer nevertheless.

NY Daily News - Flooding in Manila Aug 2013
Instead, my FAB (Forestry and Biodiversity) Office farewell was rescheduled on what ended up being my first day back with them as a short term consultant. We had a little after hours celebration with drinks and snacks (outside the office of course). I was extremely surprised that I got a farewell present - a gift card to REI. The funds were for a specific item - waders. Every TDY I went on had a major flood - Jakarta, Manila. Just as this was being explained, the skies opened up and it started pouring down rain in DC!! The covered patio... started to flood. Perfect.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Typhoon Utor

My second trip for USAID, my first trip to the Philippines... and my first typhoon, Super Typhoon Utor.
Yep that's Utor in all of its Cat 4 glory... and I'm in that dot labelled Manila. 

As impressive as Utor was from space, the punch on the ground wasn't nearly as impressive. There was a good wind whistling through my sliding glass door and a couple of downpours, but I didn't see even a single tree fall down. Manila was lucky - Utor stayed to the north part of the island. Communities there were not so lucky - and this coming after numerous other storms.

I've heard estimates from 11-25 named storms each year hit the Philippines. Not all of them become typhoon strength, and of those not all become super typhoons. [For those of us in DC, we know that names don't always mean that much - the derecho June of 2012 was far worse than Hurricane Sandy.]

People here are already murmuring about climate change -- Mindanao didn't usually have typhoons. Now the paths are pushing more to the south. The typhoon season is shifting from June to November to August to December. 

Climate change adaptation - sea level rise, ocean acidification, disaster risk reduction - are concerns of this well informed and vocal people. I am very impressed by the ability of the Filipino society and even parts of the government. Its easy to be in Manila and forget that this is a developing country. Similar to Indonesia, the rapidly growing economy is sky rocketing some while leaving many more in extreme poverty and susceptible to shocks, like Utor. Clearly, there is still work to be done, but there's a great base and people to make the work succeed.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Measuring publishing impact

Article specific metrics.
The newest and first female editor in chief for Science magazine provided her insights on Scientific publishing to the current AAAS fellows.  One of the suggestions was article specific metrics. PLoS has embraced article metrics - how many views, how many downloads, etc.  In many ways, this is great! I love more data! The articles stand for themselves. Unfortunately, it's not quite that easy from where I'm sitting.
This leather-covered journal will impress the writers on your list.
At the end of the day the journal still matters and early career scientists may be at a huge disadvantage.
Part of a journal's impact is its reach and readership. Some journals are more likely to read than another. Sure, with online search capabilities this has lessened. You can search and find articles in thousands of journals that wouldn't have been found back in the dark ages in the stacks. However, I still get Science and pursue the magazine. I also subscribe to get an email blast with the newest table of contents for my favorite journals. I know and trust these journals. I know their review process is robust... having been slammed by it before. The journal still matters.

So to the individual article metrics... Obviously the best journals will have higher metrics. Many of these journals, including Science, get press coverage that helps to push statistics. Different sectors have different audiences... With different sizes and citation rates. Take the large and fast paced biomedical sciences compared to geology. As an early career scientist, my completely heliocentric view is that article metrics open the system to more popularity contests and potentially work against new people breaking in.

Where will this go? Can we find a middle ground?  Metrics that combine both the journals reputation and a sector adjusted article metric...
Which metrics do you prefer?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Off the coast

Back to basics... well at least my basics - The Deep Sea.

I know its been a while since I posted something on the deep sea. USAID and the international development world has been rather consuming. The deep sea rarely comes up in that context - though I did have a meeting with Marine Conservation Science Institute a couple of weeks ago. A smile swam across my face when I saw the East Pacific Rise as one of their 'Jewels'.

To the point... there's been a new discovery. I know... this happens all the time in the deep sea, but its a great reminder that we don't even know what's in our backyard.

A new seep was imaged and sampled in Baltimore Canyon earlier this month. Mussels extended as far as they could see -- admittedly from a submarine or ROV camera the field of view is limited by light. They even found sea urchins and sea cucumbers - yeah for echinoderms.

A lithodid crab seen on the mussel bed at 1,600 meters. Image courtesy of Deepwater Canyons 2013 - Pathways to the Abyss, NOAA-OER/BOEM/USGS
These oases of animals are found where methane, hydrogen sulfide or hydrocarbons seep out of the seafloor. The chemicals originate from deposits of ancient sea life... which in turns supports a new communities.

Few cold seeps are known along the eastern coast. The East Coast represents a dispersal challenge -- the larvae of many seep mussels are thought to spend time near the surface where the Gulf Stream could whisk them away. The usual dispersal/connectivities apply -- where do they come from and where do they go?

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center SESYNC

Where humans and environments intersect...
(c) David Lazar
And what a fun meeting place. SESYNC is the closest I'll get to a 'Google' work environment.  Breaks with cookies and soccer - perfect.  Better yet, in between the breaks, I got to work with amazing people on how a healthy marine environment and improved marine governance (aka Marine Protected Areas - MPAs) affect human health on national and a global scale.

This is what happens when big data from usually disconnected sources come together for a mash up. You get a bunch of nerds 'geeking out' in front of white boards.  Ah... white boards full of ideas, mechanisms, and data sources!!  So satisfying. 

If you'd like to learn more about our project, go to:

Monday, March 25, 2013

Evolving Conservation

(c) National Geographic
When I grew up 'conservation' meant (to me) saving the pandas or tigers or elephants. Oh my. Charismatic megafauna - the cute, squishy, and cuddly animals that you can put on posters. Conservation was about species.

Conservation has evolved. I don't know whether the NGOs (... I guess not everyone knows D.C. speak... it means non-profits) realized that people cared more about people than animals, that their efforts were wiped clean in a few years if they didn't address help the humans whose activity threatened the animals (and whole ecosystems), or if it was just a new way to get money... or something else completely. No matter what the driving force, the result is conservation as a more holistic set of activities that, I would argue, is more effective.

I have a new view and appreciation for conservation non-profits and the work they do. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The other side of Indonesia

The big city side... The fishing coasts... The rice bowl. The terraced rice paddies. The stereotypical hats, and not so stereotypical hats.

They are all the unique, kind, and beautiful people of Indonesia. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated

I got a rude awakening to my blissful ignorance about fishing practices around the world. I like to think about beautiful, picturesque fishing villages like this:

...where traditional artisanal fishing is still done and in a sustainable way.

While those are pictures I took during this trip and artisanal fishing is still done, much of it is not sustainable even without industrialization of the fleet. People are poor. They need to feed their families. Anything that they can get out of the sea to sell or eat is fair game. This is not to say that people are breaking the law. Some probably are, but in general, fishery regulations are lax and what few exist are often poorly enforced. 'New' species are being collected... "Baby Shark" and "Baby Tuna". The fish landings at these picturesque scenes also look like this:

"Baby shark." For scale the tiles are standard 12" x 12"

"Baby Tuna." Yellow fin and Skipjacks being weighed and sold. Yes the fish on the floor are tuna.

Thursday, February 28, 2013


The irony of it all. I've just completed uploading my budget and budget justification to Fastlane (NSF's system for electronic proposal submissions) last night. A large proposal with over 10 PIs, thus with only a small portion going to me, of course. Still, this will be my first proposal submission where I am listed as a PI.

Of course, you've probably heard about a little thing called the Sequester. Its almost as hard to ignore in D.C. as a Red Sox win while living in Boston. Our proposal is due next Monday... the first week when funds will be sequestered away from all of the federal agencies.  NSF has reassured scientists across the country that existing grants will be honored. However... new grants are on the chopping block. We may have put all of this effort in and in the end have a 0% chance of being funded (as opposed to the normal 5-30% chance).

Ah... its good to be an early career scientist.

Back from the haze and diving down deep

I've now mostly caught up from being away for 3 weeks and have gotten over the 12 hour jet lag. So, really, I have no more excuses not to post something. Luckily from me, Deep Sea News had a great post to day on what it takes to be a deep sea biologist. I'm a little afraid that I'm revealing too much about myself, as obviously gone through all of their points to fully embrace the insanity of deep sea biology.  Here's #1:

"Love and Pain…Like Sunshine and Rain. Welcome to Deep-Sea Science.  Before you start, you better realize what exactly you are heading into.  Deep-sea science can be both extremely rewarding and extremely heart breaking.  To be a deep-sea scientist is to be one part scientist, one part explorer, and three parts masochist. The logistical difficulties and financial requirements of sampling an environment covered with miles of water will pretty much make every project you want to do either impossible or close to it.  While other graduates students and scientists in your department drive a truck down to their field site and take samples till the cows come home, you will be having a nervous breakdown because of insufficient data.  A project that takes other scientists a weekend and $250 to do will take you three years and $250,000. So, deep-sea science is not for the faint of heart.  However, if you can manage to get a chance (which likely will not happen), then you will probably discover something new, a species, a habitat, a process, or a biological adaptation. Deep-sea science is a young field compared to many other science disciplines.  You will never be at a loss for questions, because most of the answers are still unknown.  Too bad you won’t be able address all of them.  I write this with tongue-in-cheek of course, but I am serious.  This is a tough field and doing deep-sea science isn’t easy.  Think about this for some time before you move to number 2."

#2 - 11 found here

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Adapt to this...

Part of what I'm in Indonesia to do is to review a marine program which includes efforts to help Indonesian coastal communities adapt to climate change. Most of the effort is focused on rural villages on remote islands. I must say, it makes for good site visits.... do you sense the but?  Here it is... but there's a HUGE problem in the urban areas.

While Jakarta looks like its headed towards Panem with the huge shopping malls and high fashion, its still a third world, developing city. I've already experienced the open sewers, ad hoc landfills and 100% unsafe piped water, but today was another adventure.

An hour or two of rain. That's all it took to cause massive gridlock (in an already congested traffic pattern) due to flooded streets.  After waiting 30 min for a taxi we ordered from the hotel (all of the taxis are full when in rains), we decided to trek it. We waded through ankle to mid-calf high water for about a mile to get to our hotel.

The water itself wasn't an issue - just standing water, no current - as long as I didn't think about what was IN the water. I mention the open sewers, right? Eww.  The bigger issue was that the sidewalks and streets are in such disrepair, you never knew if you were about to step in a giant hole. I also kept imagining a car going my and splashing us - like in the movies. But the cars weren't going fast enough to get more than a wave going. Luckily, we made it back to the hotel with no twisted ankles... just wet and with shoes that should likely be tossed out.

As a colleague at USAID said... "Welcome to Jakarta."

Monday, February 4, 2013

Meetings in Jakarta

The first thing that I learned about Jakarta was that physical displacement was HARD to do. Often you could walk to meetings faster than you can drive... that is if there were sidewalks and it wasn't 85-90 degrees plus 90% humidity, oh and yeah, the air pollution (though I'm told that its leagues better than it was 10 years ago). I learned my lesson the hard way... I was nearly late for my first meeting.

Brown flood waters fill the streets of central Jakarta
I took 45 min to go 2.5 miles; and then tack on another 10 minutes to get an elevator... and I was a couple minutes late for a meeting at the UN. Luckily it was an informal meeting and we ended up at Starbucks in search for air conditioning.

First, you might be asking why we were on the search for AC. Well, the UN's AC was out due to electricity problems following the massive floods in Jakarta after a rivers spilled over and flood gates had to be raised. Luckily for me, most of the flooding had receded by the time I arrived, but we still took some taxis through a couple of questionable streets in both Jakarta and then in Kendari.

Second, you might be thinking... Starbucks?  Yes, in many ways it was like taking a different mix of ethnicities and throwing them into a city in the USA. Starbucks, McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, Ace Hardware, Gap, Banana Republic, and the list of familiar names goes on and on. The defining differences between Jakarta and a US city, the traffic is a little worse than say DC or LA, but really its the slums two blocks away that surround the skyscraper islands. Its a strange mix of modern and traditional, economic growth and adverse poverty. Thus is Jakarta... an embodiment of the two worlds of Indonesia.

After learning my lesson about the speed of physical mobility in Jakarta, I planned better for meetings across town with USAID, the Indonesian government, and with our "partners". "Partners" in USAID speak means the companies and NGOs to which we give money to actually implement the development activities. I'm not good at names and I've even worse when they're names I don't know.  Its a good thing I've been collecting business cards... though I'm worried I'm running out of my USAID cards!!

All and all it was a long and crazy week in a Jakarta.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


A conglomeration of three island names, Wakatobi is an amazing place at the far southeast arm of Sulawesi that has been set aside by the Indonesian government for protection - a Marine Protected Area (MPA). It was a wonderful place to get my introduction to the work that USAID does in the field.  That being said, I'm pretty bummed that I didn't actually get into the communities.  I arrived a couple days late due to flight and itinerary rescheduling at the last minute, so I missed the actually 'talking to the people' part. I did get to take a walk the morning of our departure and meet a couple of families, like this mother and daughter collecting octopus and starfish from the reef at low tide.
Enjoying the sunrise before our dive.
 Outside of all of the meetings, I did get to squeeze in a single early morning dive.  It was a great way to start a day full of sitting in a darkened room... full of beautiful healthy corals. Now I guess my colleagues can officially justify calling my first trip a "junket".  It was great to see that there was both something on the reef to save as well as immediately see threats to the reef.  All of the corals were amazing... large plate corals, one of which had a medium sized fish sitting in the middle like a fish on a dinner plate; gorgeous soft corals, whips and sea fans gently swaying. My personal favorite was the variety of crinoids - black, stripped, purple... The other divers liked the lobster and giant clam.  However, the diversity of fish was largely depleted. There were very few large fish and only a few large schools. The dive master, Bryony (I swear pronounced "Briny"), said that there was a crown-of-thorns bloom on parts of the island.  So clearly there are some direct threats.

It was encouraging that the government appears to be committed to marine conservation. We toured the construction site of a new academy (similar to vocational school) dedicated to marine conservation practice. It was an impressive building. May be this child waiting on the stairs for his mom or dad to finish construction for the day will be a pupil in the new school.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

First TDY

TDY - Temporary Duty; Temporary Duty Yonder, Testis-Determining Factor on Y, Temporarily Divorced for a Year, Typically Developing Youth.  (Dictionary definitions of TDY)

The world of the USG (U.S. Government) is filled with acronyms, often with out definitions. I think what I'll be doing is the first definition, which will hopefully not lead to the second to last definition. For all intensive purposes, here, TDY will mean a three week trip to Indonesia.

This trip could mean:
 Days on end in a room (I hope is as nice as) this:
or days spent visiting sites like this:

Likely it will be mostly option number 1, but I'll be happy if I get any of option number 2... and it sounds like I might. There is at least one day that says 'snorkel/diving' on our itinerary. It does make sense that we would check out the marine resources that the programs are working to conserve, preserve and utilize to improve peoples' lives.

I've been told that this rarely or never happens on a TDY for our office. But I've also heard the same thing about high profile projects... so we'll see what happens!! I'll at least get a better sense of how our work is translated 'on the ground'.