My Phinishing Talk: a summary of the sciency things I’ve done to get a PhD.

*update* I did get those signatures and received my PhD on May 15, 2015.

lab_photoI am almost a doctor…almost. I have one signature down, three to go, a few edits to make, and then that – is – it. For a glimpse into my academic journey, I present to you here my finishing talk, recorded on April 20, 2015 (and then I put slide images over the poor-quality video). I hope you enjoy it and learn something new!

For those of you that don’t want to sit through the whole thing (at least not in one sitting…you know you want to hear it all!) I have provided the time points for the different sections below:

My advisor’s introduction (David Lindberg): 0:00-5:05

Background on deep-sea ecosystems: 5:06-9:19

My three questions: 9:20-10:04

Q1: Is there a common evolutionary path toward specialization in reducing habitats? (aka, the Gastropod supertree chapter): 10:05-19:27

Q2: How have lineages modified their anatomy to specialize in deep-sea habitats? (aka, the 3D limpet chapter): 19:28-27:15

Q3: How does variation in sunken wood influence community assembly? (aka, the woodfall chapter): 27:16-43:58

Summary and Acknowledgements: 43:59-46:39

Questions from audience: 46:40-53:13 (end)


Everyone assumes tropical islands are paradises, but are they really “para-dumps”?

I grew up being told that that it’s bad to litter. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Avoid styrofoam and single-use plastic bottles that will never degrade. My klean kanteen has traveled the world with me. I try to avoid plastic packaging, and always bring reusable bags to the store. If I forget, I tend to stuff what I can into my purse or backpack and carry the rest rather than endure the guilt of taking a bag (I do live in Berkeley, afterall). Although I do my best to be aware of my impact on the environment and take steps to reduce my footprint, I know I am far from a shiny green example of environmental stewardship: plane travel has quite a heavy carbon footprint by itself, and there’s a laundry-list of other first world comforts I feel guilt over indulging in. I’m convinced we’re all hypocrites in one way or another, but where does that leave us? Continue reading

Sunday Snorkel

Yesterday morning, I kayaked across Cook’s Bay to the abandoned Cook’s Bay Hotel. The reef is better over there compared to right in front of the Gump Station, but still not in great shape. I did see lots of fish though and even a turtle! Unfortunately the turtle didn’t show up in the footage, so I’ll have to come back to this spot!

Who is Under the Dock Today?

This “short film” (30 seconds) takes a peek under the dock at the UC Berkeley research station. Just before I stuck my camera in the water, there was an adorable box fish and other times I’ve seen lots of other fish that seem to like the dock as shelter. The algae that drifts in is mainly Turbinaria and Sargassum brown algae, and the mats come and go quite rapidly, but may act as refuge for juvenile fish, invertebrates, and other algae. I’ve also seen trash get swept in by these mats, so I imagine them as giant brooms sweeping along small critters and debris as they make their way across the water. Unfortunately, it seems to grow on almost every coral head on the nearby reef (the floating stuff had to come from somewhere!), but it is hard to say whether these algae are a cause of coral die-off or if they are simply taking advantage of a vacant space after coral dies of other causes. Luckily, there is active research on this topic and regular monitoring of Turbinaria and Sargassum by the Moorea Coral Reef Long-Term Ecological Research team at the Gump station by UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge scientists. There is also an excellent French research station in the next bay over (Opunohu Bay, we are in Cook’s Bay) called CRIOBE (Centre de Recherches Insulaires et Observatoire de l’Environnement) that has excellent long term reef transect data and has also published studies on the effects of Turbinaria on the coral reefs in Moorea.

These algae that frequently startle me with their abrasive touch while swimming have also caught the attention of some of the students in the UC Berkeley course. For some, it is one factor of many in coral reef diversity studies, but Imari Walker is interested in the communities Turbinaria itself supports and how that community shifts once a mat is washed ashore, leaving the marine for the terrestrial realm. I’m looking forward to seeing what she discovers!

A Turbinaria mat has washed ashore along the research station in Cook's Bay, Moorea.
A Turbinaria mat has washed ashore along the research station in Cook’s Bay, Moorea.

Flippin’ my fins…

…I might not get that far, but you sure can see a lot of interesting critters if you stick your face in the water around here! I took a bunch of GoPro clips snorkeling around different spots in Moorea the first week here and took some time to compile them and set them to music from the Bali Hai dance show. I hope you enjoy it!

Video tour of Mo’orea

During our first week on the island, I shot lots of GoPro footage both on land and swimming with the fishies. Here is a compilation of scenes around the island from jagged mountains, to mangroves, and the stunning aqua blue lagoon. The music was recorded on my iPhone at the Bali Hai Club Tahitian dance show last Friday, which was quite an experience in itself!