We congratulate the following members of the MBL community who were recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences class of 2014.  One of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies, the Academy is also a leading center for independent policy research.

Members contribute to Academy publications and studies of science and technology policy, energy and global security, social policy and American institutions, and the humanities, arts, and education.

  • Kenneth A. Dill, Stony Brook University, alumnus, Physiology
  • Leslie Anne Leinwand, University of Colorado, Boulder, MBL Society Member; former faculty, Physiology
  • Claudio Daniel Stern, University College London, former faculty, Embryology; former lecturer, Embryology
  • Dora E. Angelaki, Baylor College of Medicine, former lecturer, Neural Systems & Behavior
  • Bruce Palmer Bean, Harvard Medical School , former lecturer, Neurobiology, Methods in Computational Neuroscience
  • John Henry Richard Maunsell, University of Chicago, former faculty, Methods in Computational Neuroscience
  • David A. McCormick, Yale University School of Medicine, former faculty/lecturer, Methods in Computational Neuroscience
  • Larry James Young, Emory University, former lecturer, Neural Systems & Behavior
  • Graham A.C. Bell, McGill University, former faculty, X-Microbiology

The Academy also elected 26 members with UChicago ties, including eight faculty members and three trustees.

Read more about the Academy’s new class here.


A whimsical, enlightening video about cuttlefish camouflage by Jacob Gindi, a senior and biology major at Brown University, appeared in The New York Times last week. Gindi had encountered live cuttlefish when he visited the MBL’s Marine Resources Center as a student in The Art and Science of Visual Perception, a Brown course co-taught by Roger Hanlon of the MBL and Mark Milloff of Rhode Island School of Design. Gindi then had a chance to make a CreatureCast video in Casey Dunn’s Invertebrate Zoology class at Brown. Inspired by Hanlon’s research, Gindi’s artful video about the cuttlefish’s amazingly adaptive skin can be enjoyed by marine biology-lovers of all ages.

“It is so gratifying to see science and art promoted at this national/international scale,” says Hanlon, an MBL senior scientist and professor in Brown’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department through the Brown-MBL Partnership and Graduate Program.

CreatureCast, a collaborative blog produced by members of the Dunn Lab, is supported by a National Science Foundation grant.



Pedestrians in Edinburgh, Scotland, have been treated to a springtime display of giant photos of “glowing” or bioluminescent animals, including images of the jellyfish Aequorea aequorea captured by MBL Distinguished Scientist and 2008 Nobel Laureate Osamu Shimomura (panel behind girl on bike).


The display, called “Living Lights,” was part of the 2014 Edinburgh International Science Festival and this week is moving to another venue in Edinburgh, Our Dynamic Earth, where it will remain through October.

Shimomura took these photos of Aequorea in 1961, when he was a young chemist at Princeton University asking, “What makes the jellyfish glow?” He captured thousands of jellyfish from the waters off Friday Harbor, Washington, and painstakingly searched for their bioluminescence molecule. The two photos on top (below) and at the one at bottom left he took in daylight, shooting directly into the clear Friday Harbor water, using a Nikon F camera and 50 mm lens. Shimomura brought one jellyfish into a darkroom and exposed it to fresh water to trigger its luminescence, allowing him to capture the phenomena on camera (bottom right).


Shimomura did find and isolate the jellyfish’s bioluminescence protein—which he called “aequorin” –that year, and in the process he also discovered a fluorescent jellyfish protein that he called “green protein.”

Years later, in 1994, Martin Chalfie of Columbia University discovered that the jellyfish’s green fluorescent protein (GFP) could be an extremely useful tool for lighting up microscopic cells and their parts for study. GFP and other fluorescent proteins are now used in biomedical research worldwide, and they have been crucial in illuminating many processes that were previously invisible, such as the development of nerve cells or the spread of cancer. Shimomura, Chalfie, and Roger Tsien of University of California, San Diego, were awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their contributions to GFP’s discovery and applications.

The "Living Lights" photo exhibit of bioluminescent organisms in front of the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh.

The “Living Lights” photo exhibit of bioluminescent organisms in front of the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, Spring 2014.


MBL Distinguished Scientist Osamu Shimomura at Friday Harbor, Washington, in 2003. Photo by Martin Chalfie

MBL Distinguished Scientist Osamu Shimomura at Friday Harbor, Washington, in 2003. Photo by Martin Chalfie


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

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