“There may be explosions next week. And watch out for the raccoon.”
I stand in a musty warehouse on the docks of Los Angeles, in view of cranes and adjacent to water that reflects opalescent colors with skims of oil. Every spigot outdoors warns “do not drink”, and the asphalt floor has been painted and repainted so many times to guide different vehicles that there are practically rainbows … under the grime. This is, in other words, the last place you would expect cutting edge scientific research to take place. And yet that is what we were there to do.
The BioBlitz was an event that brought a team of taxonomists together, experts on different groups of bizarre animals, to catalogue as much of the life in a place as possible. We were marine invertebrate biologists, so we were in LA not for the whales and sea lions but for the strange creatures hiding under the rocks on the shore or in the sands deep in the ocean. Each of us had a group of ocean weirdos that we loved the most, and we were there to share our passion with one another as we chronicled the life that LA’s port coast has to offer. In practice, a BioBlitz is a room full of nerds and geeks talking to crabs and worms the way most people talk to puppies. Heaven, really.
I was thrilled to bring some meiofauna forward from mud samples. The highlight of the experience was showing several scientists their first live specimens of more than one PHYLUM!
Now that I'm home, I have exciting days ahead to make some new kinorhynch slides for my personal collection (oh yes, I have one) and wait for some hand injuries to heal before I can code. :)
Just got back from Monterey, California, where I presented an invited talk in a Utility of Molluscan Genomics session about the genome of my chiton, now approaching publication. And I won a Best Student Talk Award! I'm so excited to see the future of this work in light of the amazing comments from other malacologists!
For the past two weeks, I've been up at the University of South Carolina, visiting collaborators Dan Speiser and Alex Kingston. We had a phenomenal time further exploring the radula, and I can't wait to share what we found. Can't wait. Keeping the excitement properly controlled is difficult.
I wrote many pages, answered many questions, and drew many diagrams, but I can now say that I am a PhD candidate. I don't have a cute picture to go with this, so here's a cool set of chiton valves instead. I used this set as a fidgeting tool as I studied- nothing like a chiton jigsaw puzzle to give your hands something to do!