Archive for July, 2009

The Neurobiology course took its annual boat trip to Devil’s Foot Island on July 8, with “Captain” Joe DiGiorgis of Providence College and “First Mate” Tom Reese of the National Institutes of Health charting the course. This day of relaxation, swimming, music-making, barbeque and games has become a much-appreciated course tradition. Two years ago, before returning to the MBL, the course left its mark on the island: a lovely squid in the sand. Thanks to Neurobiology faculty member JoAnn Buchanan of Stanford University School of Medicine, who took the photos!

DiGiorgis-and-Reese-resized

sand-squid-resized

A day in the life of the Physiology course at the MBL. A great video by course director Dyche Mullins.

by Lauren Fackler

David Pogue, the personal technology columnist for the New York Times, brought “Dave’s Mobile Show and Tell” – part lecture, part comedy routine – to Lillie Auditorium on Wednesday. The event, sponsored by the MBL Associates, was a benefit for the Falmouth Forum Endowment.

The audience was well entertained by Pogue’s brand of humor, as well as by his slides, videos, and live demonstrations of his favorite tech gadgets and developments.

Some of the most interesting services and products Pogue described were:

Skype – This free software application allows free instant messaging, voice calls, and video conferencing through the Internet to other users of Skype. (A fee is charged for calls made to landlines).

Google Voice Local Search – A free business search telephone service from Google. Call 1-800-GOOG-411. After telling them what business you are looking for, it will connect your call, send you a text message, or speak the business address and phone number to you.

ChaCha Mobile Search – A free mobile search service. Text any question to ChaCha (242 242) and a person will reply with an answer in about one minute. You can also call 1-800-2ChaCha with questions.

MiFi – A personal WiFi hotspot small enough to fit in your pocket. It requires a cellular network since it works by converting 3G radio waves to WiFi 802.11b/g for LAN connectivity. A great way to get wireless wherever you go!

Twitter – A free social networking site where users can post messages (up to 140 characters each) on their personal pages or other pages. On his own Twitter page, Pogue posted one random question every night for a couple of months. He received thousands of responses and a book containing the questions and best (and probably funniest) answers is due to be published next month!

One cool new product not discussed by Pogue is the CellScope – a clinical microscope that attaches to your cellphone. Although not available for sale yet, it is already receiving rave reviews. Using the cell phone’s battery and camera, it offers resolution of just over a millionth of a meter!

The Cellscope prototype configured for fluorescence microscopy. Developed by UC Berkeley researchers, it is described in the July 22 issue of PLOS ONE.

The CellScope prototype configured for fluorescence microscopy. Developed by UC Berkeley researchers, it is described in the July 22 issue of PLOS ONE. Photo by David Breslauer

Eel Pond, Woods Hole. Photo by Matt Person

Eel Pond, Woods Hole. Photo by Matt Person

Matt Person, technical services coordinator in the MBLWHOI Library, walked out of a movie in Redfield Auditorium one June evening and into this serene scene. “It wasn’t difficult to capture,” he says. “It was one of those moments when you know you are looking at something beautiful, and all you need is a camera.”

As far as scary-looking fish go, the adult sea lamprey is right up there with the sharks. It’s about 3 feet long, with concentric rings of teeth inside a jawless, suction-cup mouth. After trapping its prey by sucking, the lamprey scrapes off the skin using a tooth at the end of its tongue, and then sucks out the blood. Since the lamprey has good taste in fish – preferring trout, salmon, bass –it’s the target of a federal lampricide program in the Great Lakes region, where it has nearly devoured some of these stocks.

The toothy mouth of the sea lamprey. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The toothy mouth of the sea lamprey. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

But no creature is all bad. “The lamprey has a really beautiful spinal cord,” says Ona Bloom, an MBL Research Fellow from The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research. Together with Jennifer Morgan (Univ. of Texas at Austin) and David Parker (Univ. of Cambridge), who are recipients of an MBL sponsored Albert and Ellen Grass Faculty Research Grant, Bloom and her colleagues are studying the lamprey’s remarkable ability to recover from severe spinal cord injury. “We have been talking for years about collaborating on these studies,” says Bloom. “ The MBL gives us a wonderful opportunity to do that.”

One of the most primitive of living vertebrates, the sea lamprey is a good animal in which to analyze the acute response to spinal cord injury, which is Bloom’s focus, and how the nervous system functions are restored, which interests Morgan and Parker. “We want to understand the differences between the robust recovery in lampreys and how that contrasts with what happens in humans with spinal cord injury,” says Morgan. “If we can understand processes in the lamprey that contribute to recovery, then we can see if those processes can promote better recovery in higher vertebrates.”