Thursday, October 2, 2014

Kick'em Jenny LIVE

As the cost of research at sea rises and the push to include more students and citizens continues, telepresence is becoming more common.  What is telepresence? Its like watching an unedited and interactive IMAX movie on your computer screen.  Live feed from the remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) streams from the sea floor through a satellite dish to your screen.  Scientists, students, and even citizens associated with the cruise can log in and help guide and describe the work being done. The rest of us can watch how it all unfolds -- the first glimpse of the vent as well as the ship steaming to the site, the ROV deployment and the drive to find the vent.
Shrimp @ Kick'em Jenny (c) Ocean Exploration Trust

Sound interesting?  Well check out the livestream as my good friend Dr. Anna Michel (and colleagues) helps execute undergraduate projects at Kick'em Jenny, a submarine volcano in the Caribbean from now until Oct 8th.


The semester is in full swing now with the first round of exams starting.  I am lucky to have a light teaching load and no full time class this semester.  Instead I'm helping out with a couple of other courses as a guest lecturer.  I gave my first lecture at Rutgers yesterday. The students were very interactive, had new ideas and insightful questions.  A promising start.  Does this mean I'm officially a Rutgers professor?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Time flies

Its amazing how fast a summer can fly.

A summer gone and what is to show for it? Three poster presentations full of excellent science.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Floating styrofoam balls

Tiny pinkish bundles of sperm and egg aggregate on the surface of the ocean in cycles with the moon. Fish start a feeding frenzy. Marine biologists start a different frenzy - they don their headlights, lie on their bellies to look over the dock, or hop into a kayak with a scoop. 

I temporarily traded in my sea urchins to try my hand at manipulating corals. Its a lot harder to work with corals that only spawn when they want to and where they want to. So this adventure took me to Hawaii in this summer.

Injected embryo (FITC, green) next to uninjected embryos. The symbiotic algae are autofluorescent (red)

The corals were definitely a challenge. But miracles happened, and we developed techniques to inject them and even got some to settle.  Yeah.  

Next year will be even better.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Faces of the lab

The lab is now humming with a group of students and a 'borrowed' tech constantly in and out - checking out their larvae, snapping pictures on the microscope, and grooving to music playing on the '80s boombox we inherited from who knows who! Its great to see the empty shelves and benches filled with boxes, instruments, and PEOPLE.

Adam Christman, PIV technician, learning how to culture sea urchin larvae.
Angela Coccagna, undergraduate researcher, taking pictures of her experiments
Christian Diliberto, undergraduate researcher, getting ready to spawn the variegated sea urchin, Lytechinus variegatus

Ryan Buttone, work study and undergraduate researcher, watching cells divide.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ocean Sciences

I admit I feel a bit guilty being in Hawaii while my students and family are still battling with old man winter in New Jersey.... and it seems like old man winter is winning.

About half of IMCS building (probably more) hopped on the 11 hour non-stop flight from Newark to Honolulu to meet, greet, eat, and present at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting. A gathering of over 5,000 ocean scientists to share their research and ideas.

There are a lot of white men with beards in Hawaiian shirts!! But, I'm also pleased to see increasing diversity and gender balance.

The ASLO Minority Program ( has brought some of the best and brightest minority students to Ocean Sciences and ASLO meetings for decades. The program seems to be thriving at Ocean Sciences this year. It could be the desire to go to Hawaii was appealing, but I'd like to believe that there are more students than ever interested in and pursuing ocean science careers. Over a decade ago, I was one of those undergraduates attending a scientific meeting for the first time. Now I'm on the other side... trying to recruit some of them to join my lab. Isn't life grand!

Aloha from Hawaii!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

New Faces

There are new faces in the lab for the Spring Semester. We welcome two new undergraduates, Angela Coccagna (Class of 2015, Marine Science & Sociology) and Christian Diliberto (Class of 2015, Biological Sciences and Marine Science)! Angela will be working on the evolution of phenotypic plasticity. Christian will be diving into the world of transcriptomics to identify genes that are involved in the phenotypic plasticity mechanism. Adam Christman is also joining us as a technician for the semester throwing our larvae into turbulence. Full introductions and pictures to come.

We also have new urchins in the lab to play with from the tropics to the frigid north.
Lytechinus variegatus variegatus, the variegated urchin (Florida Keys, Fla)
Lytechinus pictus, the painted urchin (Goleta, Cali)
Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, the green urchin (Cape Cod, Mass)

Saturday, January 25, 2014


The lab has an official website! Check it out:
Lab name is still pending vote by the students in the lab. We have two new undergraduates joining the lab this semester. Let the science begin!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Spring Semester starts with a blast

Between holidays and winter break, its been lonely and quiet on the Rutgers' campuses the past few weeks. The cold, snowy blast delivered by Winter Storm Janus ushered in 'Spring'. The first day of the spring semester was called off early and the second day started late. Today is the first full day of 'Spring' topping out at 18 degrees F. Welcome back!

While I'm excited to have everyone back, the quiet and break was nice - we enjoyed sledding in the snow; family came to visit from California; I submitted my first preproposal (ever) to NSF Integrative Organismal Systems Division; and we got in two new species of sea urchins in from the Florida Keys - Lytechinus variegatus and Arbacia punctulata. Both of these species are successful across a large geographic range - are there local adaptations? Does development change in response to the environment? So many questions about how they can thrive under such variable conditions.
(c) Florida Museum of Natural History, Arbacia punctulata

A. punctulata is found along the Western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Cuba and throughout the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. They are found in shallow water with rocky, sandy or shelly bottoms.

L. variegatus is also found along the US eastern seaboard from North Carolina around Florida into the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. However, L. variegatus prefers sea grass beds.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Whats in a NAME? Part II

Here are some suggestions that have been put forth. Chuckle, giggle and then vote in the poll to the right! Additional suggestions are still welcome.

MEDDLe Lab      Marine Ecology, Dispersal and Development of Larvae
LED Lab              Larval Ecology and Development
ILE Lab                Integrated Larval Ecology
MADD Lab          Marine Adaptation, Dispersal and Development
MEDDLe Lab      Molecular Ecology, Dispersal and Development of Larvae
DevEL Lab           Development and Ecology of Larvae
DADS Lab           Disperal and Development in the Sea
LEAD Lab            Larval Ecology and Development
La Da Dee            Larval Dispersal and Developmental Ecology

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Back to the East Pacific Rise

The office is pretty quiet right now - between people just starting to trickle in from the holidays and the local mass exodus to the East Pacific Rise. I don't get to go back this time - to my tromping grounds as a graduate
(c) WHOI
student - but my office neighbor, his students and postdoc have just arrived. 'Dark Life at Deep-Sea Vents'. As the expedition name suggests, they will be focused primarily on life at vents... but not the life I usually study. You have to go smaller than even my tiny larvae, to the microbes - the core of the ecosystem there. The microbes convert the chemicals to the energy that fuels the abundant oases of life at vents.

Join Dive and Discover Expedition 15 here: