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UCMP 2012 summer adventures

Jean Alupay spent most of the summer getting research done in the lab here in Berkeley; however (thanks to a UCMP Graduate Student Support Grant), she did attend the 78th annual American Malacological Society Meeting in Cherry Hill, NJ, in June and gave a talk titled "Characterizing arm autotomy: an octopus mode of defense."

This summer, Tony Barnosky began a year-long sabbatical to write a new book about the current extinction crisis and what can be done about it. As part of the research, he spent late July and early August in Kenya, immersing himself in landscapes and megafauna that the rest of the world has not seen since the Pleistocene. High points were watching 15 lions from two different prides work out who gets the warthog, and being in the middle of the Great Migration of wildebeest from the Serengeti into the Masai Mara.

As a new graduate student, it is not surprising that Jeff Benca spent much of his summer moving to new digs in Berkeley, but his move was more challenging than most. It involved renting a truck to transport a huge ancient plant teaching and research collection from the University of Washington to the UC Botanical Garden. The plants included more than 70 species of lycopods, many of which he cultivated himself using a new protocol he invented.

Jean Alupay Tony Barnosky in Kenya Jeff Benca lycopod

[Click on any of these photos to see an enlargement] Left: Jean Alupay sets up a tank to study the biomechanics of octopuses. Middle: Tony Barnosky observes migrating wildebeest in the Masai Mara, Kenya. Right: One of Jeff Benca's lycopod samples.

This summer Bill Clemens made his now traditional journey for field work in eastern Montana. This year he joined Paul Renne of the Berkeley Geochronology Center and UCMP alumnus Greg Wilson, now on the faculty of the University of Washington, to continue investigations of the fossil records of the latest Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation and the earliest Paleocene Tullock Formation. In addition to vertebrate fossils, they collected many samples of volcanic ashes associated with fossil localities. Paul will be able to make determinations of the ages of these ash falls, which will provide a much more refined picture of the tempo and mode of vertebrate evolution across the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary.

Thanks to a generous donation by UCMP donor Maria Cranor, Maya DeVries worked with the UCMP education and outreach team this summer — her task? Translating "Evolution 101" from the Understanding Evolution website into Spanish! That will be a welcome addition to the usefulness of the site.

Lindsey Dougherty spent her summer at the Friday Harbor Laboratories on San Juan Island, WA, taking a marine invertebrate zoology course and conducting research on fluorescent phyla using spectrometry. She also utilized the UCMP's Molecular Phylogenetics Laboratories to place the reflective bivalve Ctenoides ales in a phylogenetic context. She is currently using the UCMP and other museum invertebrate databases to examine morphological data on the genus.

With the new Caltrans grant now in place, Mark Goodwin was kept busy with final details including interviews for the new Caltrans-sponsored Senior Museum Scientist who will be hired to manage the UMCP prep lab and oversee fossil preparation of specimens from the 4th bore of the Caldecott Tunnel. He plans to head to Montana at the end of September for collections work in the Museum of the Rockies on Triceratops with Jack Horner and Ph.D. candidate John Scanella and some fieldwork in the Hell Creek Formation, where hopefully temperatures will have decreased a bit from the steady highs of July and August this summer.

Theresa Grieco and Whitney Reiner joined Leslea Hlusko on the Olduvai Vertebrate Paleontology Project this summer. The trio was out at Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania for a month where sediments yield vertebrate fossils from the last two million years, including many important ancestors on the human lineage. Whitney even found remains of one of these... stay tuned for more on that!

Carole Hickman presented two research papers at the annual meeting of the American Malacological society in Philadelphia, celebrating in the birthplace of American malacology 200 years ago. Field time included a three-week exploration of the geology and natural history of Iceland, hosted by UCMP Curatorial Associate Doris Sloan and Icelandic guide Elisabet Brand. Patterns observed in the land of fire and ice will contribute to Carole's analyses of recurring similarities in natural systems. One highlight of the trip was seeing mollusks of the shell beds at Tjörnes, where marine assemblages, plant fossils, and isotopic data document the transition from warm conditions of Mid-Pliocene Climatic Optimum in the north Atlantic to cold conditions and the arrival of cold-water taxa from the Pacific. Observing active glaciers, volcanism and unique features of the rift zone and boundary between the North American Plate and the Eurasian plate was even more exciting.

Jenny Hofmeister returned to Catalina Island off the coast of southern California for three months to continue her research on octopus behavioral ecology. She was fortunate enough to receive a fellowship from USC funding her field work. She completed 107 SCUBA dives, effectively achieving "mermaid status." She focused on the ecological factors influencing octopus distribution and abundance inside and outside the marine reserve near the research station. This was achieved primarily by completing a number of surveys including octopus, snail, fish, lobster, and moray eel density. She also participated in a number of marine education outreach programs (a huge passion of hers) through the research station. She will be attending the Cephalopod International Advisory Council meeting in Brazil this October to present the results of her summer fieldwork.

Lindsey Dougherty Theresa Grieco and Whitney Reiner
Carole Hickman Jenny Hofmeister

[Click on any of these photos to see an enlargement] Top left: Lindsey Dougherty digs for annelids on San Juan Island, Washington. Top right: Theresa Grieco (left) and Whitney Reiner in Tanzania. Bottom left: Carole Hickman reaches across a fissure in Iceland's mid-Atlantic rift zone. Bottom right: Jenny Hofmeister with an octopus off Catalina Island.

Jenna Judge

Jenna Judge (left) and a friend explore the catacombs of Paris.
Jenna Judge spent the past spring and summer doing research, field work, and visiting museums in Europe. She spent the majority of her time in Munich diving into deep-sea limpet morphology at the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology and then joined her German colleagues for a field course in Banyuls-Sur-Mer, France. She also enjoyed visiting the scientists and collections at the Swedish Natural History Museum in Stockholm and the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris.

Jere Lipps, Professor Emeritus, in his new position at the Cooper Center in Southern California, spent the summer working with staff, volunteers and students on various research and outreach programs in paleontology and archaeology, as well as overseeing curation of the enormous collection of fossils. This task includes curation of Neogene marine mammals and Paleogene terrestrial biotas (mammals, snakes, and plants) just for starters.

Kaitlin Maguire spent the first part of the summer at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in central Oregon working as a museum technician in their collections. She then had the wonderful opportunity to do field work in western Mongolia with a team from the Netherlands Center for Biodiversity Naturalis looking for Devonian fish. Afterwards, she returned to John Day to finish cataloging specimens for her dissertation research.

Joey Pakes joined undergraduate Amelia Weiss at the STRI Bocas Del Toro Marine Station on the Panamanian island of Colon. There, they teamed up with caver, Tamara Thomsen from Wisconsin, and STRI scientists to discover new cave systems. After some great jungle hikes, river walks, and caving days, Amelia remained in Panama to pursue her honors thesis on the abiotic drivers of cave shrimp distribution. Joey headed to her field site, Cenote Crustacea, in Quintana Roo, Mexico, to count and collect cave crustaceans as well as retrieve temperature loggers that had been submerged for several years in the cave's marine and brackish water layers. With any luck, these researches will shed light on the effects of environmental factors on crustacean abundances in limestone systems.

Ash Poust may win the overall travel award this year: Following fieldwork in the Hell Creek of Montana and the White River Badlands of Nebraska, and museum visits in Paris and Brussels to examine pterosaurs and dinosaur eggs respectively in their historic collections, Ash is excited to be back. But then he's off to China for research and a conference!

Jere Lipps Kaitlin Maguire Joey Pakes

[Click on any of these photos to see an enlargement] Left: Jere Lipps and Curator Jeannine Pedersen discuss a Pleistocene whale jaw at the Cooper Center, California State University, Fullerton. Middle: Kaitlin Maguire and Matthew Becker at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Oregon. Right: Joey Pakes (center) observes a crab (in the bucket), Cueva Nibida, Bastimentos, Panama.

Jean Alupay photo by Lindsey Dougherty; Tony Barnosky photo by Nancy Etchemendy; lycopod photo by Jeff Benca; Lindsey Dougherty photo by Christina Burdi; Theresa Grieco and Whitney Reiner photos by Leslea Hlusko; Carole Hickman photo by Susan Willson; Jenny Hofmeister photo by Kory Gozjack; Jenna Judge photo courtesy of Jenna Judge; Jere Lipps photo courtesy of Jere Lipps; Kaitlin Maguire photo by Elizabeth Baker; Joey Pakes photo by Tamara Thomsen