Archive for June, 2014

The breadth and mysteries of Julie Huber’s research—from exploring the dark, peaceful ocean depths to mining enormous data sets about the microbes that live there—are captured in this video profile by Geoff Wyman of Falmouth. Huber describes her background growing up in the Midwest, and how her love for the ocean eventually led to a fascination with marine microbes and how they power the planet’s elemental cycles. Today, Huber dives to deep-sea environments around the world to collect samples of fluids from underwater volcanoes, which she analyzes back at the MBL to discover the microbial communities that can thrive under such extreme environmental conditions.

Huber is associate director of the MBL’s Josephine Bay Paul Center, and is also associate director of the National Science Foundation’s Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations at the University of Southern California.

Many thanks to Geoff Wyman for producing this video, the first in a series of profiles of MBL scientists.

Contact: Laurel Hamers


WOODS HOLE, Mass.- In hospitals across the country, doctors guard against casual use of antibiotics: overuse of these powerful drugs encourages the emergence of drug-resistant bacterial strains that pose a public health threat. On our farms, however, it’s a different story. The discovery that antibiotics could improve yields in livestock production was made in 1948, at the start of the antibiotic era, and within a decade the drugs’ administration to farm animals for non-medical purposes had become routine.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Author and independent journalist Maryn McKenna, a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, will address the use of antibiotics in agriculture—and the tradeoff this practice sets up between public health and the economic benefits of increased farm productivity—in a lecture at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) on Saturday, July 26. McKenna’s talk, “Losing the Miracle: The FDA and the Controversy over Livestock Antibiotics,” will take place at 7:00 PM in the MBL’s Lillie Auditorium, 7 MBL Street, Woods Hole. The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the MBL parking lots.

By 1969, the first alarms had been raised that antibiotic-resistant bacteria that developed on farms could spread to human populations through manure, runoff, meat and even farm workers themselves. Consequently, in 1977, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed withdrawing its approvals of penicillin and tetracycline for agricultural use. The agency was persistently stymied in its efforts, and 37 years later, it has finally succeeded in implementing only voluntary controls. While Europe has imposed outright bans on growth promoters and there are country-specific controls on other antibiotic uses, non-therapeutic use of antibiotics remains common in U.S. agriculture. Simultaneously, public health, medical, and even Congressional opposition have risen—and so has the rate of emergence of antibiotic resistance worldwide.

Maryn McKenna

Maryn McKenna

McKenna, winner of the 2013 Byron H. Waksman Award for Excellence in the Public Communication of Life Sciences, primarily writes about public health, global health, and food policy. She was the 2013-2014 Knight Science Journalism Project Fellow at MIT and a finalist for a James Beard Foundation Award. She writes and blogs for numerous national publications, including Wired, Scientific American, and National Geographic’s The Plate, and is also the author of the award-winning popular science books SUPERBUG: The Fatal Menace of MRSA (2010) and Beating Back the Devil: On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service (2004). McKenna is currently writing a book on antibiotic use in agriculture, to be published by National Geographic in 2015.

The Byron H. Waksman Award for Excellence in the Public Communication of Life Sciences is awarded annually by the Waksman Foundation to an institution or individual who demonstrates excellence in the communication of some aspect of life sciences. McKenna’s lecture at the MBL is sponsored by the Waksman Foundation and the MBL’s Logan Science Journalism Program.


The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery and improving the human condition through research and education in biology, biomedicine, and environmental science. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.

Editorial writer Karin Klein reports in the Los Angeles Times on the exigencies–and irony—of climate change research at Toolik Field Station in arctic Alaska, where she is spending a week as an MBL Logan Science Journalism fellow. Read her article here or on the fellowship’s blog, A Toolik Field Journal.

Karin Klein, an editorial writer at the Los Angeles Times, and Kodi Kozacek, a reporter for Circle of Blue, are getting a good look at the life of ecosystems field scientists at a remote arctic outpost this week. They are observing the action during the short, productive summer season at Toolik Field Station, 350 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska, through Polar Fellowships awarded by the MBL’s Logan Science Journalism Program.  Kozacek’s first dispatch, “Where the Sun Never Sleeps (And Neither Do the Scientists)” is on the fellowship’s blog, A Toolik Field Journal.

River sampling near Toolik Field Station. Credit: Chris Neill

River sampling near Toolik Field Station. Credit: Chris Neill

Several MBL Ecosystems Center scientists are deeply involved in climate-change research at Toolik through the Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) grant from the National Science Foundation. Led by MBL Senior Scientist Gaius Shaver, the Arctic LTER is a collaborative, multi-institutional project with the long-term goal of understanding and predicting the effects of environmental change on arctic landscapes. The arctic region has warmed significantly over the past 30 years, and arctic lands and freshwaters are changing in response.

Toolik Field Station was established in 1975 by a group led by MBL Distinguished Scientist John Hobbie and Senior Scientist Bruce Peterson; Shaver joined the fledgling arctic research group a year later. Hobbie recently co-authored Alaska’s Changing Arctic: Ecological Consequences for Tundra, Streams, and Lakes (Oxford University Press, 2014), a synthesis of findings from the Arctic LTER.

Today, Toolik Field Station is operated and managed by the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, with support from the Division of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation.

Toolik Field Station is in the footholds of the Brooks Mountain Range (above) on the North Slope of Alaska. Credit: Chris Neill

Toolik Field Station is in the foothills region of the Brooks Range (above), North Slope of Alaska.                     Credit: Chris Neill



Codi Kozacek took a “crash course in urban watersheds” last week in Baltimore, Md., as a fellow in the MBL Logan Science Journalism Program. Kozacek is a reporter for Circle of Blue, a publication with an intense focus on water and its relationships to food, energy, and health. She describes her experience here.