Proper posts are on the way but in the meantime I'm happy to announce that I've gotten some more press!
|1 animal-inspired artist + 1 evolutionary biology lab for 1 year|
Last week on Monday Tina, Jeff and I spent the afternoon talking about nothing but boxfish. For the last several years the two of them have worked with these curious fish and I decided that I would join the crew and discover how their research develops from ideas and experiments to papers. So far Tina and Jeff have gathered a large sampling of boxfishes (small fishes with an extremely tough exterior that has several ridges making it look box-like, google it!) and used a 3D scanner to make digital files of the different boxfishes shapes. They then tested how each boxfish shape fared after pressure was applied to the top and bottom (simulating a bite from a predator) and how efficiently fluid moved around the fish. One of the questions they're hoping to answer with this research is whether the diversity of boxfish shapes is due to the shapes ability to withstand bite forces or its efficiency in swimming fast to avoid being bit at all.
During our meeting we discussed other questions that could be asked about boxfishes and came to the conclusion that we need more funding to travel and collect data on the fishes in the wild. It turns out that scientists don't know that much about these fishes so we would need to answer some basic questions like: What eats boxfish?
Later in the afternoon we dissected a boxfish! The exterior of the boxfish was so hard that it almost snapped our scalpel -- we should have worn safety glasses. After getting through we looked at the intestines and the gonads and the swim bladder. Then, while Tina and Jeff were talking I decided I would remove one of the eyeballs and dissect it separately. When I worked at the Exploratorium I dissected cow eyeballs about three times a week so I was really excited to compare the cows eye with that of the boxfish. The boxfish lens, which would normally have been transparent, had turned opaque white due to the fish being dried at some point in its preservation. There were two layers of transparent tissue covering the lens. After I had inspected the extracted eye, and looked into the clean bony cavity that it come from, I turned the fish over and placed the eye just south of its intact eye and called it a boxfish-flatfish!
(flatfish refers to a group of bottom dwelling fishes that, in its adult form, lives with both eyes on one side of its head)
Like I mentioned in the last post, this conference was my first scientific conference. Conferences are awesome! They're my new favorite thing! I went to the most interesting talks, including one using scanning electron microscope (SEM) images to deduce that the extinct feathered dinosaor, Archeopteryx, had black feathers! Every day I would quickly scan the schedule of talks, organized in tight 20min intervals with very little slop time, for titles that caught my eye. Among these titles were: "Tail assisted pitch control in a lizard, robot, and dinosaur", "Unique wing morphology in wingsnapping Manacus Manakins", and "Evolution of elastic mechanisms in salamander tongues"!
Just a few days after a fun-filled new years in D.C., I headed to the Society of Comparative and Integrative Biology's annual conference, this time in Charleston, SC. I got there a few days early, booked into a really wonderful hostel called Not-so Hostel, and visited a picturesque swamp before putting the final touches on my presentation.
During my talk I discussed the workshops on biodiversity I had developed and presented, along with my collaborator and lab-mate Tina Marcroft, to local fifth and third graders before the holidays. For the workshops we used the coral reef and open ocean habitats to show how prey type can affect the amount of fish present in a habitat and the morphological diversity of the fish present in a habitat. After a brief lesson the students were assigned a prey (via a "Prey Card") from either the coral reef or open ocean and asked to make up a fish that would eat that prey.
This was my first conference and I was really nervous about speaking to scientists -- what if I got a fact wrong or described my graphs improperly! But no, my audience was lovely and I had several people stay after to ask me questions both about my artistic background (which I breifly mentioned in my intro slides) and my outreach endeavours.