Wickedly cool foraminifera? Really? Can a tiny marine plankton be cool? Yes, it can... The pictures below were taken this summer during our field season. Our summer research was, in a nutshell, amazing. We made a lot of observations and took a lot of pictures (and videos) of a species that is not widely studied in the lab, Neogloboquadrina dutertrei. Unlike its shallow dwelling cousins, this species doesn't have spines. The lack of spines makes their behavior in the lab MUCH different. Instead of floating in culture jars, they sink or 'go benthic' as we like to say. And, because they go benthic, our observations are also really different. We have images and videos of these forams eating, crawling on the bottom of their culture flask using their rhizopodial network to move, releasing gametes (going 'gam'), and adding chambers. Very cool stuff, indeed.
Below are a handful of my favorite pics. Click on the image to enlarge and read the caption.
Two summers ago, I had the opportunity to join a group of researchers on Catalina Island off the coast of LA to do field research culturing little planktic critters called foraminifera. I didn't have a true 'project' that year, but set out to culture the forams that live much deeper than the forams that are typically grown in culture, N. dutertrei. These forams not only live deeper in the water column, but are much more difficult to maintain in culture. After having some success culturing the 'deep-dwellers', we applied for and were recently funded for a 3 year project that included 2 summer field seasons on the lovely Catalina Island. And so, I am back on the island.
Last time I was here, I promised friends back home that I'd blog. I never did.
This year, I said I would blog again and am stickin' to that promise. Really, I am.
Only I've been on the island for about 5 weeks now and haven't written a blog post. Why? Days on this island are LONG. I mean REALLY long. We work hard. We are up with the sun, out on the water or in the lab ALL DAY and then, when we are done working hard, we play harder. When we have free time you'll find us running, hiking, kayaking, having dock time (dock o'clock - my favorite time of day). I rarely have time to reply to emails let alone blog. Next year, I'll be back for another field season and I'll be a better blogger.
Until then, I'll post some great pictures. Soon.
The Keystone XL pipeline is getting a lot of press lately. I didn't know much about the pipeline until I went to a talk by Garth Lenz - a photojournalist who is documenting the devastating changes tar sand oil production does to the landscape. Of course, once I saw the images and heard his talk, I had to learn more.
I learned a bit about tar sands when I started graduate school and took a class called Environmental Chemistry. Back then, the price of oil was low... the cost of extracting oil from tar sands is really high, so at that time I took that class, mining the tar sands in Canada (and North Dakota) was not very economical. Fast forward 10 years and the cost of a barrel of oil is high, high enough that mining tar sands for oil production is more cost-effective. Even though tar sands were being mined decades ago, production has increase substantially over the last 10 years or so. Anyway, all that back story aside, tar sands are an environmental disaster. I get why people are for them... oil from Canada means the US can (potentially) be less dependent on foreign oil. BUT the Keystone XL pipeline, isn't meant to bring MORE oil to the US, the oil will be transported to Texas to be refined and sent overseas. Canada wants to tap the overseas market. More oil to the market in general, though, means more supply and 'maybe' lower prices. The National Defense Resource council shows how it could actually raise prices at the pump. Some of more polarizing arguments about the Keystone XL pipeilne: (Read more...)