Robert J. Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, officially began serving as chairman of the MBL Board of Trustees last weekend when the board met in New York City. President Zimmer succeeds John W. Rowe of Columbia University, who had served as board chairman since 2006.

President Zimmer’s succession as board chair had been unanimously supported by the MBL trustees at their meeting in November, 2013. More information on President Zimmer, Dr. Rowe, and new members of the MBL Board of Trustees is here. Sincere thanks to Dr. Rowe for his very important years of service to the MBL, and a warm welcome to President Zimmer.

Jack Rowe, left, president of the MBL Board of Trustees since 2006, with new Chairman of the MBL Board Robert J. Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, in New York City last weekend. Credit: James Sharp

Jack Rowe, left, Chairman of the MBL Board of Trustees since 2006, with new MBL Board Chairman Robert J. Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, last weekend in New York City. Credit: James Sharp

Congratulations to MBL’s Linda Amaral Zettler and colleagues, whose paper introducing the “Plastisphere” has been named “First Runner Up: Best Environmental Science Papers of 2013″ by the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The journal’s editors selected the winners from more than 1,730 papers it published last year on a range of topics in environmental science, technology, and policy.

Plastic debris from the ocean. Credit: Erik Zettler

Plastic debris from the ocean. Credit: Erik Zettler

The Plastisphere, a novel ecological habitat, is the flotilla of microbial communities attached to bits of plastic debris in the ocean. Amaral Zettler collaborated with Erik Zettler of Sea Education Association and Tracy Mincer of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to collect the samples (most of which were millimeter-sized pieces of plastic)  in the North Atlantic Ocean and analyze their microbial passengers. The Plastisphere, they say, raises a host of questions. How does it change environmental conditions for marine microbes and their competion for survival? How does it change the ocean ecosystem and affect larger organisms? Does it change where microbes, including pathogens, are transported in the ocean? Because plastics are so long-lived, the scientists say, they may play a significant role in distributing bacteria in the ocean.

Zettler ER, Mincer TJ, and Amaral-Zettler LA (2013) Life in the ‘Plastisphere’: Microbial communities on marine plastic debris. Env. Sci. & Tech. DOI: 10.1021/es401288x

Eight undergraduates from the University of Chicago spent a day discovering MBL science last week, having “trekked” to Woods Hole with the UChicago Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (UCISTEM) program.

xxxx watch a green sea urchin release its gametes into seawater while visiting the MBL’s Cellular Dynamics Program on Tuesday, March 25. The students were visiting the MBL with the UChicago Careers in Science, Technology, and Mathematics Program.

University of Chicago undergraduates Sarah Kurtis (left) and Margaret Lee watch a green sea urchin release its gametes into seawater while visiting the MBL’s Cellular Dynamics Program on Tuesday, March 25. The students were visiting the MBL with the UChicago Careers in Science, Technology, and Mathematics Program.

The program helps UChicago students explore and prepare for a STEM-related career by providing opportunities such as workshops, internships, and trips or treks to STEM employers in industry and academia.

The MBL visitors included both science and humanities majors, with career interests ranging from neuroscience to marine biology, science writing to bioinspired design.

While at MBL, the students fertilized sea urchin eggs with guidance from scientists in the Cellular Dynamics Program; toured the Marine Resources Center and the National Xenopus Resource; learned about cephalopod camouflage, sea lamprey regeneration, and the Encyclopedia of Life; and discussed science journalism with Heather Goldstone, science editor at WCAI.

Later, they toured Woods Hole Science Aquarium and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where they also met a representative from Hydroid, Inc. An impeding blizzard precluded their planned visit to Woods Hole Research Center.

A student studies sea urchin eggs prior to fertilization.

A University of Chicago student studies sea urchin eggs prior to fertilizing them.

The visiting undergraduates were: Medha Biswas (Biology major), who is returning to the MBL this summer through a University of Chicago Metcalf Internship to work with UChicago neurobiologist and Whitman investigator William Green; Lyda Harris (Biological Science/Visual Art minor), Katalina Kimball-Linares (Biology), Sarah M. Kurtis (Biology), Margaret Lee (Chemistry), Tyler Lutz (Physics and English), Eliza Nieweglowska (Chemistry), and Lauren Vogel (English Language and Literature). They were accompanied by Andrea Dieckmann, senior associate director, University of Chicago Pre-Professional Programs and director, UCISTEM Program.

 

By Jane Tucker
Senior Research Assistant, MBL Ecosystems Center

Note: MBL senior scientist Anne Giblin was recently named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. This post by Jane Tucker was originally published on The TIDE Project blog, edited by MBL assistant research scientist David S. Johnson.

Anne Giblin’s recent election as an AAAS Fellow is well deserved, and if there were a companion award for outstanding achievements in kindness, generosity, and commitment to others, she would rightfully be awarded that, too. I have had the privilege of working closely with Anne for over 20 years at the MBL Ecosystems Center, and I should know.

From left, Jane Tucker, Anne Giblin, and Sam

From left: Jane Tucker, Anne Giblin, and MBL research assistant Sam Kelsey. Credit: William “Mac” Lee

Anne Giblin “speaks ” biogeochemistry, thermodynamics, biology, physical chemistry–really, all the “hard” sciences–as a first language. They seem to be part of her innate intelligence. But she is not a desk scientist. She loves to be in the lab, or even better, out in the field conducting experiments or collecting samples.

Adverse field conditions are Anne’s forte! She is not stopped by freezing temperatures or clouds of mosquitoes on the North Slope of Alaska, nor by tropical heat, “no-see-ums,” or scorpion stings in Panama. She does not let little things like utter darkness in the cold depths of Adirondack lakes or a blanket of sewage sludge on the bottom of Boston Harbor dampen her enthusiasm for collecting more mud and adding dives to her SCUBA log. She does not send her students or employees out to do this work for her: she jumps in first. She does all of this to keep adding pieces to the scientific puzzle of element cycling in sediments, particularly with respect to nitrogen, carbon, and her first love, sulfur.

Anne Giblin at Liquid Jungle Lab

Anne Giblin at the Liquid Jungle Lab in Panama. Credit: Jane Tucker

Hard work is often matched by good cheer. A long day in the marsh with Anne leading the Plum Island Ecosystem-LTER team, in itself fun, is routinely followed by a good meal (often prepared by Anne), a good local brew (often provided by Anne), and good stories (often told by Anne). Over the years, these days and stories and Anne’s optimism have become encapsulated by some memorable lines, now used affectionately by the team. Three of the classics are, “Done by noon!” (as in, “It won’t take long, we’ll be ….”); “That’s not thunder, those are jets!” (at next occurrence, accompanied by a bright flash of light); and “No herics!” (i.e. heroics. I mentioned Anne’s first language is science, not English, didn’t I? It’s really the only thing I can help her with!)

Sure, Anne has the necessary stats on her CV that attest to her accomplishments as a scientist. But the best testament to her success may be that, in an increasingly difficult funding climate, and at an all soft-money research laboratory, Anne has kept herself and her team funded for over 25 years. It is tribute to Anne as a mentor, colleague, and friend that we have all wanted to stay.

The Plum Island Ecosystem-Long Term Ecological Research project and the TIDE Project are funded by the National Science Foundation.

Anne Giblin diving in Boston Harbor

Anne Giblin and Sam Kelsey diving in Boston Harbor.

 

MBL’s Linda Amaral Zettler and colleagues first described the Plastisphere, an ecological community of microbes floating on plastic debris in the ocean, last year. This week, Amaral Zettler, Erik Zettler of Sea Education Association, and Tracy Mincer of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are presenting their latest discoveries about the Plastisphere, and how it interacts with the larger ocean ecosystem, at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. More information is here.

Greg Boyd holds a piece of macroplastic marine debris. Photo courtesy of Linda Amaral Zettler

SEA Education Association scientist Greg Boyd holds recovered foam floats containing invertebrates and microbial biofilm. New research being presented at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting delves deeper into the role microbial communities living on plastic marine debris play in the ocean ecosystem.
Credit: Erik Zettler, SEA

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