Teaching impressionable young minds in the South Pacific

Sorry for the prolonged absence. I’m sure the collective spirit of our vast readership has been crushed by having to wait for more than 3 weeks since my last post. As David correctly guessed last week, preparing to TA a field marine biology course (MBQ as we call it at UCLA) stole nearly every waking moment from me since early April. We’re now in Mo’orea, French Polynesia, working hard but also enjoying island life.

French Polynesia comprises several groups of small oceanic islands in the South Pacific, far from any continental land mass pretty much invisible from space.

We are living and working at Gump Research Station, owned and operated by UC Berkeley, at the northwest end of Cook’s Bay. There are 18 students, 2 professors and 3 TAs. Breakfast is at 6:30 every morning and we work until 6pm, with an hour lunch break in between. Students work on two research projects as a class (one for each instructor), and two more independent projects in groups of three. All of the research is focused on marine biological processes, so all of it involves diving and/or snorkeling nearly every day.

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A (not so) Fond Farewell to our Paleontologist Presidential Candidate

I can’t say Newt Gingrich was on the top of my list for president, or for that matter, anybody else I knew. ¬†And I guess I wasn’t alone on that one, because a dozen contests too late and $4 million in debt, Newt Gingrich is suspending his presidential campaign.

Newt hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the scientific community this election season, arguing we invest our limited recourses into a moon colony and vowing to ban embryonic stem cells. But did you know that in his free time, Newt is a passionate armchair zoologist?

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What Superman might see if he looked at a fish.

Not much commentary here, but I wanted to share something cool. Sometimes science can be just as artistic as it is technical. One example of this is a collection of X-rays currently on display at the National Museum of National History. There are 40 images on display until August, so if you happen to be in the DC area it’s probably worth checking out.

X-rays can be valuable tools for research, especially since different but closely related species can sometimes look so similar from the outside. It’s actually been useful for my own research, when I was involved in recognition of a species of goby that’s endemic to just the Colorado River delta in the northern Gulf of California (Swift et al. 2011).

X-ray images of the longjaw mudsucker, Gillichthys mirabilis.
Taken by curators at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.

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