Black History Month – Marine Biology edition

Behind the scenes at the Monterey Bay Aquarium: Large rectangular aquarium with pale white Moon Jellyfish inside. On the outside of the tank are two circles made of dashes and arrows to show the water movement in the tank that keeps the fragile Moon jellies safe as they float in the tank.

While reading many great articles about #BlackExcellence this month I thought about how I might contribute to the conversation, if at all. I finally settled on doing some research on one of my favorite topics: Marine Biology. Specifically, I was looking to learn about Black Marine Biologists and what work they were doing. Given the issues with discrimination in STEM I really shouldn’t have been surprised by the lack of information available. Still, I have yet to meet a research rabbit hole I didn’t like, so down I went.

Bellow you will find information on several Black, primarily American, Marine Biologists. I imagine there are more, certainly around the world, and hopefully in the US, but this is my start on the topic. Additionally there are links to several articles that I found helpful and some of the programs available to Black and other minority students interested in getting into the marine sciences.

I have not touched on any of the reasons why there are so few Black Marine Biologists, or why the information is not simple to find, that is a much larger and longer book that I am not currently educated enough to write. Suffice to say, as with so many other areas of discrimination and structural racism, we have a lot of work to do still to empower people with the knowledge that they can in fact study what they love and share that love with the rest of the world.

Marine Biologists

Dionne Hoskins-Brown, Ph.D., in oyster bed

Dionne Hoskins-Brown, Ph.D.

“Dionne Hoskins-Brown, Ph.D., is a change maker. When she was approached about a need for a summer pre-college experience for students interested in marine sciences, she created Coast Camp. When she saw that Savannah-area students weren’t as prepared as they could be when entering college, she sought a position on the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System (SCCPSS) Board. And most recently, when she realized how strong the connection was between her beloved field of marine sciences and local coastal African-American communities, she joined the National Park Service’s Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission.” – Savannah State Faculty Spotlight

https://www.savannahstate.edu/News/2018/06/05/Faculty-Spotlight-Dionne-Hoskins-Brown-PhD 

https://www.youtube.com/user/invertegirl/featured – her Youtube page “Invertegirl” with lots of videos of marine invertebrates!

Dr. Dijanna Figueroa speaking at William & Mary

Dr. Dijanna Figueroa

“Dijanna Figueroa has made a career of exploring the mysteries of the deep. In 2005, she was featured in James Cameron’s documentary Aliens of the Deep, which follows Cameron and NASA scientists as they explore the some of the deepest parts of the ocean and learn about the unique life forms that inhabit those spaces. Recently, Figueroa has become an advocate for STEAM education—adding art and design to the science, technology, engineering, and math equation. She’s spent more than a decade teaching STEAM to grades K–8 in the greater Los Angeles area, formerly served as global director of the National Geographic Society’s Green STEAM program, and has advisory roles with many STEAM nonprofits. If that isn’t enough, Figueroa is a committee director for Blue Ocean Sciences, an organization of scientists conducting high-level research that addresses the needs of the global community.” – Beyond Curie

https://www.beyondcurie.com/dijana-figueroa

https://www.wm.edu/sites/50/events/figueroa-brownbag/index.php

http://www.blueoceansciences.org/bosteam.html

Dr. Daniel Pauly

“Dr. Daniel Pauly is a French and Canadian citizen who completed his high school and university studies in Germany; his doctorate (1979) and habilitation (1985) are in Fisheries Biology, from the University of Kiel.”

“Since 1999, Dr.Pauly has served as Principal Investigator of the Sea Around Us, based at the Fisheries Centre(now the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries), UBC. This initiative, which is devoted to studying the impact of fisheries on the world’s marine ecosystems, was supported mainly by funds he secured from the Pew Charitable Trusts, Philadelphia, USA, and since 2014, from a number of philanthropic foundations.” – Sea Around Us

http://www.seaaroundus.org/daniel-pauly/ 

http://www.seaaroundus.org/daniel-paulys-publications-with-pdfs/

Robert K. Trench

Robert K. Trench

“While a professor of biology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Robert Kent Trench earned the reputation as the world’s leading expert on corals and their symbiotic algae, more specifically strains of zooxanthellae adaptation to certain coral species.  Born on August 3, 1940 in Belize City, British Honduras, he studied at the University of the West Indies, Oxford University, and the University of California at Los Angeles where he earned his doctorate with a dissertation on invertebrate zoology in 1969.  

“Trench’s areas of expertise encompassed coral reef ecology, physiology, biochemistry, phylogenetics of symbiosis, and intercellular recognition phenomena.  He taught for four years at Yale University before arriving at UC Santa Barbara in 1976.  The author of several dozen scientific papers, in 1994 his groundbreaking description of metabolite flux from kleptochloroplasts to host won him the coveted Miescher-Ishida Prize for outstanding contribution to the field of endocytobiology.  A member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Society of Limnology and Oceanography, Trench retired from university teaching in the year 2000.” – Black Past

https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/trench-robert-k-1940/

https://www.researchgate.net/scientific-contributions/2060770300_Robert_K_Trench

https://alncfeaturedscientist.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/robert-k-trench/

Samuel Milton Nabrit

Samuel Milton Nabrit

“A celebrated marine biologist who specialized in studying the ability of fish to regrow their fins after injury or disease, Samuel Nabrit was the first black representative on the United States Atomic Energy Commission. In a long career, Nabrit found success on many fronts. He was the first alumnus of Morehouse College to receive a doctorate and the first black to be awarded a Ph.D. at Brown University. He served on various committees under three United States presidents and as president of Texas Southern University he steered the institution through many years of civil rights protests and change. Commenting late in life on the difficulties he experienced in advancing his own career, Nabrit is reported to have said that “no kite can rise unless it’s going against the wind.” – Samuel Milton Nabrit Biography – Selected writings


http://biography.jrank.org/pages/2364/Nabrit-Samuel-Milton.html

http://todayinafricanamericanhistory.com/december-30th-in-african-american-history-samuel-milton-nabrit/

Ernest Everett Just

Ernest Just

“Born in 1883 in Charleston, S.C., Just attended the Kimball Union Academy, a boarding school in Meriden, N.H., graduating in 1903. He then enrolled at Dartmouth College and graduated magna cum laude in 1907 as an esteemed Rufus Choate scholar. He immediately accepted a teaching position at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he quickly rose through the academic ranks, becoming full professor in 1912. He chaired the department of zoology at Howard and, with the help of the Rosenwald Fund, established a master’s program in that field.

“In 1909, Just began making annual summer excursions to the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., where he worked under renowned embryologist Frank R. Lillie. Almost from the beginning, his work was significant. His first paper (5) showed that the sperm entry point determines the first cleavage plane in the egg of the marine annelid Nereis limbata. The body of work for his doctoral degree, which he obtained from the University of Chicago in 1916, was based on his study of the breeding habits of N. limbata and Platynereis megalops (another annelid) and the fertilization reaction of the sand dollar Echinarachnius parma. While at the MBL, he rose from student apprentice to internationally respected scientist.

“Just was known at Woods Hole and beyond for his uncanny ability to coax marine invertebrate embryos to develop normally, and many sought his advice on the proper handling of marine animal eggs and embryos. He compiled a set of indices of normal development based mainly on the timing and quality of fertilization envelope separation, allowing him to predict with great certainty whether or not development would be normal for a given egg. In 1939, he published a laboratory manual, “Basic Methods for Experiments on Eggs of Marine Animals” (6), which applied his deep storehouse of knowledge on egg handling.” – American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology / ASBMB Today Feb 2010

http://www.asbmb.org/asbmbtoday/asbmbtoday_article.aspx?id=5878&page_id=1

https://www.capeandislands.org/post/life-lessons-first-african-american-marine-biologist

Roger Arliner Young

Roger Arliner Young

“[B]orn in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania in 1889, was the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in zoology and to conduct research at the prestigious Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  Young conducted research on the anatomy of paramecium and the effects of radiation on sea urchin eggs.

“Young enrolled at Howard University at the age of twenty-seven, intending to major in music.  After struggling through a biology course with African American biologist Ernest Everett Just, she changed her major to that subject, earning a B.S. in 1923.  Just hired her as an assistant professor at Howard while she attended graduate school.  The next year, Young enrolled at the University of Chicago in Illinois part-time and published her first article on paramecium which achieved international recognition. She received her M.S in Zoology in 1926 and was elected to the honor society Sigma Xi.” – Black Past

https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/young-roger-arliner-1889-1964/

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/urban-scientist/roger-arliner-young-zoologist

And FYI the Urban Scientist who wrote the second link on R A Young is a black scientist herself, Danielle N. Lee. Check out her blog at Scientific American:

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/urban-scientist/

Articles


Minorities in Marine Biology: The Dearth of Black Professors
An old but interesting piece about the lack of minorities in the marine sciences with a focus on black students and teachers in particular. This is one time the comment section is worth reading several of the names and organizations I have linked came from information in this comment section.

African Americans in Marine Sciences
“African Americans have made contributions to maritime history and the sciences from the colonial period forward. The first wave of academically credentialed African American marine scientists, however, would not be born until toward the end of the 19th century. HarborLAB serves budding African American scientists through its youth programs each year, and for Black History Month honors trailblazers from years past.”

Minorities in Water Sciences
“As with so many other scientific fields, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders are poorly represented in the ranks of practicing water science professionals. Minority students interested in becoming oceanographers, marine biologists, fisheries scientists, hydrologists, ecologists, aquatic chemists, or limnologists have few role models to emulate. In part, this reflects a history of a lack of minority science and mathematics teachers in the K–12 schools. A number of institutions, such as Northern Arizona University and State University of New York at Oswego, are trying to correct that by offering programs that are directed towards elementary and secondary environmental education.“

The article includes many links of interest for minorities wanting to explore and/or get started in the marine sciences.

Programs

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution – undergrad minority summer fellowship

American Elasmobranch Society 2019 Young Professional Recruitment Fellowship Diversity Scholarship award winners

(Sharks!! – Also, their website is not well updated but the general information about applying for the award is still on the site)

Additionally see the many links as part of this article at Water Encyclopedia

Alaska Trip Part 2 – Friday June 3rd, rest and a little bit of sight seeing

Not knowing how my body would react to the Day of Travel, Scott and I planned for a very mellow first few days in Juneau. On Friday we did breakfast at the hotel, then walked down to the cruise ship docks to catch the Mount Roberts Tram. There were only two ships in port in the morning and they were only just starting to off load passengers for day tripping, so it was pretty mellow.

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Cruise ships at their docks and one seen from above.

The hardest part for me actually was the fact that all the boats and their attendant vans and buses meant that there was a lot of vehicle exhaust which I am allergic to. With my mask on it wasn’t too bad, but Scott got several lungs full of the stuff plus a burst of fake scents when we passed one of the perfume heavy gift shops.

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The Mount Roberts tram takes visitors up the side of Mt. Roberts and over the trees of the temperate rain forest. It took me a moment to digest the idea of this chilly damp city having a rain forest, but that combination is part of why they do. Mt. Roberts is part of the Tongass National Forest and is rich in plant and animal life including Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock trees, many of whom were dripping with pale green lichen, and an array of sub-alpine meadow flowers, grasses and ferns. We didn’t see any of the animal life, but we did hear a whole lot of birds.

thumb_IMG_4885_1024Mount Roberts as seen from the base / Tram statio  thumb_IMG_4883_1024   thumb_IMG_4887_1024

the Gastineau Channel as seen from Mount Roberts / Trees and lichen

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 Snow Crooked Pine trees  / Narcissus Anemone

The two trams that carry visitors up the mountain are decorated in traditional Tlingit designs for Raven and Eagle. The images represent the two moieties of the Tlingit and Haida people. “Tlingit people and Haida people are born into their identity through a matrilineal clan system: One’s identity is established through the mother’s clan. All Haida and Tlingit clans are organized into two major moieties: Eagle and Raven. In Tlingit, Yeil is Raven and Ch’aak is Eagle (Wolf is sometimes used interchangeably with Eagle). Each clan is made up of clan houses.” – http://www.ccthita.org/about/history/

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At the top of the run we were let out at the visitors center, which has a restaurant that we didn’t try, and two gift shops with lots of artwork and crafts from local artists, which we did indulge in. There was also this really gorgeous beaded hanging / art piece suspended from the ceiling over one of the main stairwells. Within the beads is an image of a forest (at the bottom edge) and a river with salmon leaping up stream. The work, created in 1998 by Bill Hudson and Clarissa Rizal called “Salmon Return”, was a commission from the Mount Robert’s Tram for the stairwell of their visitor center. “It portrays the yearly return of the Salmon People, shown swimming up a cascading waterfall made of approximately 180,000 glass and crystal beads. The sculpture is approximately 21 feet long, and about 5 feet wide at the bottom.” – Bill Hudson Productions

thumb_IMG_4852_1024“Salmon Return”  by Bill Hudson and Clarissa Rizal

There is also a movie theater that shows the documentary “Seeing Daylight” (Turns out you can purchase a copy of the DVD here )which is about the local Tlingit people, their history, myths, and customs. Its a lovely piece and hit me right in the thinky thoughts so now I have ideas churning in my brain about the similarities in how native cultures personify and interact with the land and Powers, and how there must have been a Norse and Celtic tradition in a similar vein. The artist and anthropologist in me has a whole lot of research to do.

The center also houses a rescued Bald Eagle named Lady Baltimore. She was found shot through the beak and right wrist and either as a result of that, or of the fall after, her left retina tore so she has no depth perception which means she is unable to safely fly or hunt in the wild. She is cared for on the mountain by the Juneau Raptor Center .

EagleatMTRoberts  eaglecollage

After visiting with Lady Baltimore we walked a little ways up one of the trails to get a sense of the foliage and view from the top – both of which are glorious, and then took the tram back down the mountain.

We grabbed lunch at the docks in another of the local spots then trudge home, wiped out, to take a long lie down.

After our nap, we walked over to the less touristy end of the docks to purchase tickets on a day long fjord and ice burg cruise for Saturday, then walked the couple of blocks up to the Sealaska Heritage Center.

Sealaska Heritage was founded in 1980 by Sealaska after being conceived by clan leaders, traditional scholars and elders at the first Sealaska Elders Conference. During that meeting, the Elders likened Native culture to a blanket. They told the new leaders that their hands were growing weary of holding onto the metaphorical blanket, this “container of wisdom.” They said they were transferring this responsibility to Sealaska, the regional Native corporation serving Southeast Alaska. In response, Sealaska founded Sealaska Heritage to operate cultural and educational programs. The late George Davis (Kichnáalx—Lk’aanaaw) of Angoon spoke these memorable words:

“We don’t want what you did here to only echo in the air, how our grandfathers used to do things… Yes. You have unwrapped it for us. That is why we will open again this container of wisdom left in our care.”

Sealaska Heritage is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars and a Native Artist Committee. – http://www.sealaskaheritage.org/about

(I didn’t manage to take a photo of the lovely facade of the building, but there is this nice one from the Sealaska Heritage website)

Along with several other shops and galleries, the Center participates in Juneau’s First Friday’s open house. The Center was showing an exhibit of Tlingit art, featuring local artists and a native children’s dance group. We were too early for the kids, but got to see the exhibit and happily fell into the centers gift shop. We also poked our heads into several of the other galleries and shops. One of the more intriguing ones was a shop called Trickster Company which features work by local artists, most of whom are exploring the blend between traditional styles and contemporary ideas and techniques. They have a lot of very cool work. One of my favorites was this one of Light sabers by Rico Worl!

And then it was back to the hotel to fall the frak over.

Sadly the assorted exposures, plus a ton of walking and not enough water caught up with me in the shape of a late night pain flare. No fun, but I survived, which is really what counts.

Next Up: Glaciers!!

 

Alaska trip 2016 – Part One Getting there!

I get to go see whales because my husband loves me lots!

How do I know my husband loves me so much? When the opportunity to finally take a real live, honest to Cernnunos, vacation for the first time in ten years came up, did he suggest Italy or France for a week of museum hopping for his Art History loving soul? Nope. He offered to take me to Alaska to see whales! Yup, true love J

After much planning, fretting, packing, repacking, more fretting and a plotting the sweetie and I set out for Juneau on Thursday June 2nd.

Day One, All the Traveling

Neither of us slept well the night before, but a little breakfast and coffee and we were good to go. Of course getting to Juneau from Oakland is a little on the complicated side. First of all, you can’t drive into the city, it’s walled in by water, tree-covered mountains, and a glacier. And yet, it’s the state capital, because why not? Secondly, it seems you can’t get to Juneau (from Oakland at least) without stopping in Seattle. The short description of our Day of Travel can be summed up thusly: “Two planes, three airports, a train, and a cab ride, we go thud now”. The longer version includes the fact that airplanes these days are sardine cans packed to the brim and not meant for people with shoulders or hips and that with two of us flying together one was always stuck in the middle. On the first leg it was Scott, while I got the window seat. On leg two, the slightly longer run, I took the middle and we lucked out with a nice lady who lived in Juneau and worked as a tour guide. So we got lots of tips and facts about the city and things to do.

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A fleet of Alaska Airline planes lined up and ready to go at Seattle Tacoma International Airport.

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Amazing view coming into Juneau Airport.

On the plus side, the Juneau airport is tiny and has really cool art work flying over head as you cross into the baggage claim area. With a little digging I discovered that the piece was commissioned as part of the city’s 1% for Art program and was created by Janice Criswell and Steve Henrikson. thumb_IMG_4818_1024

“Their hanging sculpture, “Wetland Wings,” is located in the two story vestibule of the east wing, near baggage claim. Flocks of migrating birds constructed of metal and glass in the Tlingit “form line” art style greet arriving visitors en route to the baggage area. The sculpture celebrates the birds of the Mendenhall wetlands, the 4,000-acre refuge that surrounds the Airport. The birds represented in the sculpture are Arctic Terns, Bonaparte’s Gulls, Mallard Ducks, and Snow Geese.” – http://www.juneau.org/airport/1_percent_for_art.php

This was only the second time I’ve been on a plane in the ten years since I was diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity . For a very long time I thought air travel was permanently out of reach, actually I thought most travel was out of the question. Thankfully many things in my life have shifted. While I am not “cured”, I am healthier and much better able to handle the chemical exposures that are part and parcel of industrial life. Being on an airplane, wedged in with 100+ other people is a little on the scary side for me, but now I also know that it is something I can do without taking much in the way of a health “hit”. It’s exhausting and requires a lot of pre-planning, but it IS doable.

thumb_IMG_4799_1024First Leg: OAK to SEA

thumb_IMG_4803_1024Second Leg: SEA to JUN

thumb_IMG_4824_1024Look Ma, I made it to Juneau!

Since we had planned a week-long stay in Juneau sans car or side trips to other towns, we opted to stay at the Hotel Baranof. The Baranof is a Grand Old Lady of a hotel (http://www.westmarkhotels.com/blog/about-alaska/westmark-baranof-hotel-celebrates-75-years-in-alaskas-capital/ ). Built in 1939, she was an elegant retreat for executives and the hotel’s original owner, Walter Wooten Council and his family. These days she’s a little long in the tooth and showing her age, or perhaps a lack of attention by her current owners the Westmark Corporation, but her heart and bone structure shine through. We have a nice size room with a microwave and mini fridge and a very comfy king size bed. Even better, her location at the top end of Downtown puts us within walking distance of a ton of places to eat and things to do and makes for a great base of operations. We even found the local organic grocery story a few blocks away to stock up on supplies.

Our room looks out onto the hotel parking lot, which okay, is not the prettiest of sights, but looking just beyond that there is a row of homes and right behind those there is a wall of mountain. And I do mean wall. If you aren’t looking out over downtown toward the Gastineau Channel, then you are looking at the near vertical slopes of trees and rock with the occasional thin stream of water making its way down the side, all of which was carved out over the ages by the Mendenhall Glacier. It’s an impressive site.

 

thumb_IMG_4896_1024Looking up at the wall of rock from Edge drive (not our hotel, because that shot just didnt do the view justice).

Gastineau Channel is a huge part of why Juneau has their tourist trade, it divides Juneau into Douglas Island on one side and Juneau proper on the other. The first 9+ miles of the channel are deep enough for today’s massive, multi-story, 2000+ person, cruise ships. The ships come in starting late May and run into September, stay for a day of sight seeing and shopping, and then are off again. When we arrived there was only one ship left at the docks, a mid-sized beast that backed its way out of its slot, turned around, and slowly cruised back out to sea. Apparently that was the last of four ships that had been in for the day. We learned later that the summer season “started” on May 22nd with the arrival of six of the massive things. Sadly, the cruise lines have also taken over many of the shops and several of the eateries along the docks. The visitors think they are getting Real Native trinkets, but most of it is made elsewhere and shipped in, with the money going to the corporations instead of the town. There are lots of signs saying “locally owned” and where applicable “locally made”, so we’re keeping our eyes out for those places.

We ended our first day, which felt more like three days of marathons, with dinner at Hanger on the Wharf, a local hangout that also gets the tourists coming off the cruise ships. Mmmm fresh grilled halibut. Very tasty.

thumb_IMG_4825_1024Our view from dinner after a very full day.

Tomorrow: Resting and a little bit of sight seeing!