Janet Voight is a zoology curator at the Field Museum of Natural History, with a keen interest in octopods, clams, and other marine invertebrates. To study the ecology of these animals, she explores the depths of the ocean aboard Alvin, one of the few submersibles able to explore the deepest parts of the sea. Her participation in research cruises allowed her to observe novel octopus behavior as well as discover several new species, even genera, of animals including wood-boring clams and the closely associated flatworms that feed upon them.
Metricus paper wasps ( Polistes metricus; left top) at the University of Michigan have been trained to recognize the individual faces of a related species, the golden paper wasp (Polistes fuscatus), to avoid potential pain. Naturally, P. metricus lacks individual recognition, even among its own nest mates. With the lack of individual color variation and solitary nesting behavior of P. metricus, there has been no evolutionary need for recognition behavior to develop. This is in stark contrast to P. fuscatus (left bottom), whose unique facial patterns and communal nesting reinforces the need for individuals to recognize one another for continued cooperation. Each adult P. fuscatus’ face has a specific pattern, making each wasp uniquely recognizable. By raising individuals of these 2 species together, the normally oblivious P. metricus has gained the ability to not only recognize specific wasp faces, but to associate individual P. fuscatus images with pain and actively avoid them.
Most of us have heard the term algae used when we see that slimy green goo caked on rocks along the beach, or when we see a mold-like muck in the water of an outdoor Jacuzzi that’s overdue for a clean. You may have even heard of them in the news, with headlines reading “Dangerous algal bloom appears off the coast”. But what actually are algae? Are they plants? Fungi? Is it even alive or just some kind of aquatic debris that collects over time? And what purpose could they possibly serve?
Mariah Scott is a 2nd year graduate student in the Biological Sciences Division at the University of Chicago. She was raised in Dearborn, Michigan; a diverse, suburban city most known for being the headquarters of Ford. With her parents and sister, growing up involved frequent road trips to Lake Michigan or the woods where her enthusiasm for the outdoors would frequently result in her clothes being caked in mud. This messy trait would later inform her career, as for years her research involved digging in the waterbeds of rivers and streams in the pursuit of her science.
Hidden within Lake Xochimilco in Mexico City, lives the axolotl. With a collar made of gills and a paddle-like tail, this slow, slimy creature spends its days swimming along the lake floor, sucking up insects that come into its path. With its alien body and blank stare, this under water critter has been capturing the hearts of budding biologists and animal enthusiasts for decades. But what actually is an axolotl, and does it warrant all the hype it receives?