Monthly Archives: February 2012

Catching Up With… Jill Harris!

Ph.D. student Jill Harris gives us an update on what’s keeping her, and the other lab members, busy these days:

This is “fellowship season” around the Smith Lab. Lots of deadlines for student scholarships, grants, and fellowships are coming up, so many of us are busy polishing our research proposals. Sometimes, science can seem like a never-ending quest of finding enough money to do the cool work we get to do.


A snapshot of what a herbarium looks like

Students in Jen’s phycology class (me, Levi Lewis, Amanda Carter, Molly Gleason, Susan Kram, and Emily Kelly, who is the TA) are learning how to press and preserve local algae for our class herbarium projects. Last week, we all braved the cold San Diego winter weather to explore tide pools in the new Scripps marine reserve (officially, the “San Diego-Scripps State Marine Conservation Area) and collect some samples. By the end of the quarter, we should all have lovely photographs of our specimens to share.

I am spending long hours at the microscope identifying microscopic algae from my research in Palmyra. It may not be as glamorous as scuba diving, but some of the algae really are beautiful. Plus, as I spend more time and effort on this project, it’s really nice to get more confident in my knowledge of marine algae taxonomy.

Catching up with…Susan Kram!

Susan takes some time to give us a glimpse into the life of Master’s Student at SIO:

I am currently taking Dr. Jennifer Smith’s Phycology class and learning A LOT about algae taxonomy and identification.  We have taken a couple trips out to the tide pools here at SIO to collect algae  and are working on making our own Herbariums, which is a dried seaweed collection.  Its both a lot of fun and a lot of work because algae is so diverse!

In other lab news, we recently did an overhaul clean of the wetlab and it now looks PRISTINE!  We have been collecting coral larvae from our spawning corals since the summer, but they have now considerably slowed their larvae output.  We also have some corals that we are considering to possibly donate to science or the aquarium, since they are no longer needed for our purposes.

I have been working continuously with Nichole Price (a post-doc in the Smith Lab) to get the CO2 Bubbling System up and running in the wetlab, which will allow us to mimic the effects of ocean acidification and run experiments!  I hope to be able to set up my own experiment and have it running by next quarter.

It’s been a pretty busy quarter thus far, but I am definitely learning a lot and enjoying the experience!

Four Days of Data and Chicken Wire

Emily does some data collection on the reef

I just completed a whirlwind four-day research trip to collect data and put in new hardware for an experiment that’s been on-going off West Maui for the last two years.  Check out the photos taken during data collection and after setting up the new shiny green chicken wire cages that are at Airport Beach / Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area.  You can find them on the reef in 25 feet of water and the different cage designs reflect the different herbivores (or seaweed-eaters) that can graze inside during this experiment.  Some of the cages allow herbivorous fish to graze, some allow urchins, some allow both, and some allow neither.

Shiny new green chicken wire cages

The goal of the Herbivore Fisheries Management Area (put into place by the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources in 2009 to protect herbivores from fishing) is to see more herbivores on the reef so that they will reduce algae cover and increase coral cover.  With a little help from a couple rolls of chicken wire, the data from this experiment tell us how these different algae-grazers are affecting the coral reef community.

Mahalo nui loa to friend of the lab Mark Miller for generously volunteering his time as a field assistant this week!

A Less Scientific Approach to Marine Biology

I was 10 years old when I first decided to become a marine biologist.  I was at Sea World watching the beluga whales in majestic awe and thinking to myself “these animals are awesome.” I had fallen in love with these animals, with the ocean, and I wanted to learn all I could about them. At first, I imagined I’d become a dolphin or whale trainer and put on shows or I’d just live on a boat and follow pods of whales. When I started college, I started thinking I’d go into research, studying anthropogenic effects on animal behavior or maybe find a cure to coral bleaching.  Fourteen years and a B.S. degree later, I’ve once again chosen a different route.  I love learning about the science behind marine ecosystems, but I was never all that great with the research aspect.  So now I get the opportunity to help promote and share the information that I love with the people who can make the biggest difference… YOU.

We live in an electronic age.  An age where cell phones are basically tiny computers that keep our world in balance – calendars, contacts, entertainment, pictures, videos, etc. Our laptops are smaller, thinner, but have more capabilities than we could have imagined 10 years ago. But best of all, this age connects through the internet.  Geographic and language barriers are broken and we are able to communicate with people all over the world. We can see the joys and sorrows of people from across the globe with the tap of a finger and information can go viral in a blink of an eye.  It’s amazing.

I have the privilege of being the social media coordinator for the Smith Lab at SIO.  I get to work with all the lab members, learn about their projects, sort through pictures of their latest adventures, and research new topics and discoveries that occur every day all over the world. And best of all, I get to share all of that with you – the people who are interested in what we’re interested in. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc., they’re all tools available to help us see the bigger picture: we share this world and it connects us. We provide the information, but only with your help can we make a difference in this world. Don’t get me wrong, swimming with dolphins and training Shamu would have been really cool, but this is far more rewarding.

scripps oceanography uc san diego