Archive for July, 2009

T-shirts decorated with cartoon fish are a dime a dozen on Cape Cod.  But the kids and parents who attended the MBL Club’s “Fish Stories and T-shirt Printing” last week took home a much better souvenir of the ocean — T-shirts that they printed with real fish.  You may not think fashion when you think fish, but these beautiful shirts may change your mind.

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Five finished fish shirts. Photo by Lauren Fackler/MBL

To make the prints, the kids and parents painted freshly caught fish and then pressed them right onto the shirts.  MBL Club volunteer Alan Steinbach told stories and scientific yarns about each fish before helping the group make the prints. Steinbach even provided the fish, which he caught himself.

The MBL Club hosts weekly activities all summer long, as well as special events every Wednesday night for kids and adults.  Tonight’s event continues the scaly creature theme with a “Rainforest Reptile Show”!

What’s an arctic researcher to do with all those extra hours of summer daylight? Pay homage to the late King of Pop, of course. Last week, MBL Logan Science Journalism Fellows, scientists, research assistants and other backup dancers from the Toolik Field Station in Alaska braved the mosquitos for an arctic tribute to Michael Jackson. Watch them do the zombie walk in what may be the northernmost performance of Thriller ever. Can you spot Ecosystems Center scientists Chris Neill and Linda Deegan and MBL webmaster David Gallagher in the back row?

Here are a few pictures from the always-unique July 4th parade in Woods Hole:

MBL Director and CEO Gary Borisy (with flag) leads a happy jumble of sun-drenched paraders in Woods Hole. Photo by Beth Liles

MBL Director and CEO Gary Borisy (with flag) leads a happy jumble of paraders in Woods Hole. Photo by Beth Liles

The banner held by Embryology course TA Elke Ober and a young assistant gives a clue what the students are doing: the “chaotic cleavage dance”! The blue T-shirts are the egg's ectoderm, red are the mesoderm, and yellow are the endoderm. Photo by Beth Liles

The banner held by Embryology course TA Elke Ober and a young assistant gives a clue what the students behind them are doing: the “chaotic cleavage dance”! The blue T-shirts are the embryo's ectoderm, red are the mesoderm, and yellow are the endoderm. Photo by Beth Liles

And representing Microbial Diversity are (carrying banner) Alexa Price-Whelan, dressed as a redox tower, and Monisha Brown, dressed as carotenoids. That purple squid to the right is course co-director Steve Zinder, and behind them are young bacteriophages. Photo by Beth Liles

And representing Microbial Diversity are (carrying banner) Alexa Price-Whelan, dressed as a redox tower, and Monisha Brown, dressed as carotenoids. That purple squid to the right is course co-director Steve Zinder, and behind them are young bacteriophages. Photo by Beth Liles

That would be the (blue)Grass Lab! Photo by Beth Liles

That would be the (blue) Grass Lab! Photo by Beth Liles

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Something remarkable happened this weekend. It was not that the rain finally stopped. It was not that the street-gastrulating, red-blood-cell-lysing, tadpole-mutating, infectious-disease-emerging July 4th parade in Woods Hole once again enthralled and puzzled throngs of happy patriots and onlookers (photos to come).

It was the message that you, the Woods Hole community, sent to the leaders of the Woods Hole research institutions during my introduction of Susan Avery, President and Director of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) at her July 3 Friday Evening Lecture, “Coastal Cities, Coastal Impacts: The Tides, They Are A-Changin’.” In the course of my introduction, I mentioned that the heads of the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, WHOI, and the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) came together this spring and signed a Memorandum of Agreement at the Captain Kidd to create the Woods Hole Consortium, an alliance that will bring our combined scientific power to bear on some of the major issues facing society today.

You, the full-house audience attending the lecture, burst into spontaneous applause. I was stunned. I shot Susan a look and she, too, was astonished. The discussion to form the consortium began with WHRC Director John Holdren, WHOI Director Susan Avery and myself, and continued with WHRC Acting Director Richard Houghton after John Holdren became Scientific Advisor to President Obama. We proceeded cautiously, fully involving our respective scientific leadership and boards of trustees. If we had any doubt about the wisdom of establishing the Consortium and working together, your affirmation by applause totally dispelled it. Thank you, Woods Hole!

MBL Director Gary Borisy, WHOI Director Susan Avery, and WHRC Acting Director Richard Houghton shake hands after signing the Memorandum of Agreement creating the Woods Hole Consortium. Photo by Tom Kleindinst/WHOI

MBL Director Gary Borisy, WHOI Director Susan Avery, and WHRC Acting Director Richard Houghton shake hands after signing the Memorandum of Agreement creating the Woods Hole Consortium. Photo by Tom Kleindinst/WHOI

Sue Barry didn’t realize she lacked 3-D vision until her early 20s, when she heard about studies of kittens with misaligned eyes in a college class. Barry had been cross-eyed in childhood, and had undergone three surgical attempts to align her eyes in their sockets. Although there had been signs that something was amiss — Barry had difficulty learning to read, for example, which caused a great deal of suffering in grade school — she was still floored to realize that she, like the kittens, could not see stereosocopically (in 3D). Worse, as her professor explained, no amount of surgery could give her this perception of visual depth and dimension, as it was thought to develop only at a “critical period” in early life.

Yet, at age 48, with the help of a developmental optometrist, Barry painstakingly re-trained her eyes to accurately align and send consistent visual information to her brain. And one day — it was no less than an epiphany — her world blossomed gorgeously into three dimensions. Barry, former director of the MBL Grass Fellows program and professor of neurobiology at Mt. Holyoke College, recently published a book about her experience, Fixing My Gaze, which has already sold out its first print run. Presently on a book tour, Barry stopped into the MBLWHOI Library’s Summer Salon Series last week to tell her story. It is both an inspiring personal odyssey and a moving testimony to the amazing plasticity of the human brain.

Sue Barry, author of Fixing My Gaze, leads her audience at the MBLWHOI Library Summer Salon in a simple demonstration of how the brain attempts to fuse inconsistent visual input from the two eyes into one image. Photo by Diana Kenney

Sue Barry, author of Fixing My Gaze, leads her audience at the MBLWHOI Library Summer Salon in a simple demonstration of how the brain attempts to fuse inconsistent visual input from the two eyes into one image. Photo by Diana Kenney