Name that Bloodsucker! Interview with Eric Engh

by Shoshana Harlem, Terra Linda High School

Eric Engh, an insect ID Specialist, works for the Marin-Sonoma Mosquito Vector. He also runs educational programs for the Marin-Sonoma Mosquito Vector. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and an M.S. in Entomology from University of Florida.
1. What made you want to study insects?
 I have been interested in insects ever since I was a small child. I was also really lucky to have an excellent mentor- Ron Keith. He was our Vector Ecologist for Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District for over 30 years. Not only did he teach me much about entomology, he excelled at explaining information in a friendly and simple manner without making the listener(s) feel stupid. In the 5 years that I got to work with him, I got to see him help hundreds of people with their entomological inquiries.

2. What are the best parts of your job? What are the worst?
I don’t really have any complaints about my job. I enjoy teaching about entomology, developing curriculum and interactive displays for public events, and I really enjoy being a resource of information for the public. The most difficult part of my job has to do with people who are convinced that some unseen insect is biting/infesting them, but there is no concrete evidence to support this. There are many causes of skin irritation similar to an insect bite that include but are not limited to: environmental sensitivities, allergies, reactions to various chemicals or medications, mental conditions, etc.. These cases can be very difficult because the person is absolutely convinced they have an insect infestation, and they often have already been turned away by doctors, family members etc., and are extremely frustrated. I can identify insects, but in these cases there is little I can do to help, and resources available for people with these problems are scarce.

3. How can people protect themselves from being bit by mosquitos?
There are many things people can do to protect themselves from mosquitoes:
Wear EPA approved mosquito repellent while spending time in areas where mosquitoes are present.Search around your home for any source of still water where mosquitoes may breed. Dump out small amounts of water that accumulate in items that don’t require water (buckets, toys, junk, etc.), rinse out items that require small amounts of water (bird baths, pet water dishes, etc.) at least once a week. Don’t ignore mosquito problems! Call the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District for help locating unknown sources of mosquitoes or to help with a mosquito-related problem that you cannot resolve on your own.

4. What should people do if they get bit by a mosquito?
The most important thing to do is to not make the problem worse by itching the bite site and scratching open the skin, which invites infection. There are over-the-counter products that are commonly available to help reduce itching sensation, or if someone has a serious reaction to a bite, they should consult a doctor.

5. What current projects are you working on?
I am currently working to create a curriculum for local vectors (mosquitoes, ticks, yellow jackets), that reinforces the Next Generation Science Standards. We provide an education program to schools, and we are trying to make it interesting, useful and informative. We are also involved in a number of other projects including surveillance for invasive species of mosquitoes.

Want to learn more about Eric Engh and mosquitos? Join us on Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at Terra Linda High School from 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM in Room 207!

Learn more at: http://msmosquito.com/


Cyborgs! This Wed. 10/4 at Marin Science Seminar

Cyborgs!

This Wed. 10/4 at Marin Science Seminar we’ll welcome Nuria Vendrell-Llopis from UC Berkeley’s Brain-Machine Interface Systems Lab.

For the past two years, Dr. Nuria Vendrell-Llopis has been a Postsdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Brain-Machine Interface Systems Laboratory, on an EMBO Long-Term Fellowship. She holds a Master in Telecommunications Engineering specializing in Electronics from the Universitat Politecnica de Valencia, Spain, and a PhD in Biomedical Science, specializing in Cognitive and Molecular Neuroscience from KU Leuven, Belgium. 
 
 
Join us & Learn! 

Integrative Biology – An Interview with Richelle Tanner

By Rachael Metzger, Marin Science Seminar Intern

Richelle Tanner, a PhD Candidate in UC Berkeley’s Department of Integrative Biology, is bringing her extensive knowledge of how climate change affects neural plasticity and growth within the Eelgrass Sea Hare to Marin Science Seminar on SEPTEMBER 27th, 2017. Details here.

Richelle Tanner’s passion for the ocean and its inhabitants was sparked at a young age through growing up in the coastal city of Seattle and spending her summers in Honolulu. Tanner stated that since she was young she “always enjoyed reading books about seashells and learning about the diverse array of animals in coral reefs and tide pools.” This youthful exploration prompted her to search for a career within the area of her passion, leading to her studies in Integrative Biology. “Being a scientist, especially a field biologist, is a career of constant exploration and discovery,” she expresses, “this is why I became interested, and why I am still passionate about my work.”

Eelgrass Sea Hare (Source: NOAA.gov)

Scientific research is not Tanner’s only passion. Since she was four years old, music has been an integral part of her life. She took music into college, gaining one of her undergraduate degrees in jazz studies. When asked how her two paths of studies connect she says, “Music has helped me stay creative in my ideas, develop leadership and teamwork skills, and given me an intense work ethic.” She explains how she compares her research development process to that of an improvised jazz solo. “You have a framework of what you would like to accomplish, but you have to base your future actions on what has already occurred to compose a complete story.” Tanner believes her two disciplines have led to a more well balanced approach in both fields.

As the name of this month’s seminar reveals, “Not Your Mother’s Genes: How Maternal and Developmental Plasticity Shift Climate Change Responses in the Eelgrass Sea Hare,” Tanner has chosen a very specialized area to study. The Phyllaplysia Taylori, or Eelgrass Sea Hare, is an excellent subject to study in relation to climate change. Tanner tells us more about this important creature.
“Phyllaplysia taylori, or the eelgrass sea hare, is an important grazer in the eelgrass ecosystem that is so prevalent in San Francisco Bay. Since eelgrass is really important for biological, oceanographic, and human processes, it is a natural focus when we are considering future climatic scenarios. I came to this sea hare chiefly because I have a love of all things sea slugs and nudibranchs. They are brilliantly colored, have amazing defenses, and are just plain cool by my standards. It was important for me to find a sea slug playing a large role in an ecosystem that would be impacted by climate change so I could bridge my two fields of physiology and ecology to answer some questions about how the ecosystem would be impacted by future changes. As I progressed in my work, it became clear that this sea hare is a great way to study climate change because it is tough enough to withstand some pretty extreme environmental conditions. Pushing these animals to their limits can tell us a lot about what the future holds for the ecosystem they play such a large role in. Coupled with observations of their current role, we can paint a pretty complete picture of where we are on the spectrum within their limits and inform future climatic predictions for the eelgrass ecosystem.”
As Tanner expresses above, field work is a large part of her job, and it is also her favorite. Although getting up at 3:30 am, “to put on an already-wet wetsuit to crawl through three feet of mud in the dark looking for tiny sea slugs,” might be a lot of work and something to complain about, she emphasizes that getting to travel all over the world observing animals in their natural habitats, collecting data, and bringing samples home, is well worth it. She encourages those who wish to follow in her footsteps to keep exploring different kinds of research just as she explores with field work. She has never said no to a research opportunity, she accentuates how it has greatly impacted her own work, and she urges others to do the same. Tanner also recommends getting involved with other people who appreciate and have similar interests. She drives home that “Staying excited about what you do is key to accomplishing your goals.”

Richelle Tanner is happy to answer any specific questions about how to become a scientist at: rtanner@berkeley.edu. Join us Wednesday, September 27th, 2017 at Marin Science Seminar.

Sea Hares, Cyborgs, Mosquitoes & More! Fall ’17 Marin Science Seminar Calendar is here

Below and linked here (as a downloadable .pdf) is the Fall 2017 Marin Science Seminar schedule. Please share if you know other locals who would be interested. We have targeted extra credit forms available at all sessions for .

All sessions are free, geared towards teenage students (but open to all), and take place Wednesday evenings from 7:30 – 8:30 pm at Terra Linda High School (320 Nova Albion, San Rafael), Room 207.  Details can be found at http://www.marinscienceseminar.com/calendar.html Thank you.

SEPTEMBER

27: “Not Your Mother’s Genes: How Maternal and Developmental Plasticity Shift Climate Change Responses in the Eelgrass Sea Hare” with Richelle Tanner of UC Berkeley

OCTOBER

4: “Cyborgs! The Not-so-distant Future of Human-Machine Integration” with Nuria Vendrell-Llopis of UC Berkeley’s Brain-Machine Interface Systems Laboratory

11: “Name that Bloodsucker!” with Eric Engh of Marin-Sonoma Mosquito Vector

18: “When Parasites Kill: Changing Antimalarial Drug Sensitivities in Uganda” with Stephanie Rasmussen of Dominican University & UCSF

NOVEMBER

8: “Flooded by Science and Seawater: King Tides and What they Can Tell us about Sea Level Rise at China Camp State Park” with Sarah Ferner of San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve – a program of NOAA and SF State University

15: “Making Faces: Developmental Mechanisms of Craniofacial Evolution” with Richard Schneider of UCSF

Join us & learn! 🙂

Videography Internships Available for Fall 2017

The Fall 2017 Marin Science Seminar (MSS) Internship Application Period is now open. We will accept applications for videography internships from July 27th until September 20th, 2017. The internship period will run from approximately September 22nd until November 29th.

Medical Simulation at Marin Science Seminar

Explore science and technology, meet amazing scientists and medical professionals, gain experience for your resume and college applications, develop a portfolio! Our past interns are now students at or graduates of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, CalTech, Chico State, Harvard, Humboldt State, MIT, Northwestern, Scripps College, Seattle University, Sonoma State, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz.

Marin Science Seminar interns attend and assist with a minimum of 6 science seminars per academic year (there are 12 per year) during which they meet the speakers and assist with various logistical duties. Sessions take place on Wednesday evenings at Terra Linda High School in San Rafael (320 Nova Albion, Room 207) during the school year. Interns arrive the evening of a session at 7 pm and are free to leave once breakdown is completed (between 8:30 and 9 pm).

Videography interns record sessions, edit and upload session recordings, and create teaser videos for upcoming events. 

Interns may also research and create materials about event topics, create and distribute outreach materials, and engage in social networking and online development of Marin Science Seminar’s mission to attract more students to the fields of science, technology and math. Training is provided for some intern tasks.

Our internships are also offered in conjunction with the Marin County School to Career (StC) Partnership. Students attending a public high school in Marin County may apply for StC credit. Complete and submit a S2C internship application to your school’s School-to-Career representative or visit them for the complete packet. About the Marin County School-to-Career Partnership

Marin Science Seminar Videography internship
Attend and assist at MSS sessions, 6 Wednesday evenings per semester, 7 – 9 pm
At Terra Linda High School, 320 Nova Albion, San Rafael, Room 207
Submit 2 video samples
Able to edit video using video editing software
Facebook account
Recording equipment and SC cards provided

Apply Online Here

Mathematical Models Help Tell the Future of Animals That Are Living in the Ocean

by Shoshana Harlem, Terra Linda High School

The future of animals in the ocean is unknown. But,
mathematical models can help scientists predict 
information about the circumstances of animals lives in the ocean.

The future of our oceans and the future of the animals living is unpredictable. This is where scientists use math to figure out what is going to happen. Changes in temperature affect animals living in the water. The temperature of the water determines which animals will do well in the water and thrive, and which will struggle, die, and become extinct. There is a range of temperatures an organism can survive in. Each organism has a thermal death point. Certain temperature ranges help an animal reproduce and have more of one organism. There is a range in which species can function which is at or near optimum. When the species are not at or near their optimum point, it is a sign of physiological stress which can cause problems in the organism.

Scientists, including graduate students, researchers, and post-docs in the life sciences and mathematics, often use mathematical models. A mathematical model is a complex model that represents relationships in mathematical form that is used to study the behavior of a certain organism to make reasonable conclusions. Mathematical models can solve problems relating to biology and many other fields.

Scientists, such as Alma Yesenia Ceja who is
speaking at the next seminar, studies and will
talk about what data she finds through mathematical
models about the future lives of crabs.
To learn more about how scientists use math to predict the future of crabs and other animals, come to the Marin Science Seminar in room 207 on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. Alma Yesenia Ceja of the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies and SFSU will be speaking. Join us and learn!

Sources:

Interview with Marine Biologist/Veterinarian Claire Simeone of Marine Mammal Center

Claire Simeone DVM at work
by Kavi Dolasia, Tamalpais High School

Claire Simeone, DVM is a Conservation Medicine Veterinarian at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California, as well as National Marine Fisheries Service in Washington, DC. In addition to taking care of sick marine mammals that come for treatment at the rehabilitation center, she also travels nationally to respond to Unusual Mortality Events, develops international training programs, and works on the Marine Mammal Health Map, which provides a centralized reporting system for marine mammal health data.

To learn more about her profession, we interviewed her.

1. How did you first get involved in marine biology and the field of veterinary?

I knew I loved both animals and science from an early age. Biology was one of my favorite subjects in high school, and I decided to study neurobiology in college. I started as a volunteer at a veterinary clinic in high school, and continued to work as a veterinary technician through college and veterinary school.
My Dad was an environmentalist, and gave me a deep respect for wildlife and the ocean. I began to be exposed to many different careers that veterinarians could have, and realized that I could combine my love of science and wildlife conservation in a job. My career has been a dream come true.

2. How was your experience training with SeaWorld San Diego?

Much of what I was taught about marine mammal medicine came from my mentors at SeaWorld San Diego and the Navy Marine Mammal Program.SeaWorld has been in the media spotlight recently, and there are a variety of opinions about marine mammals in captive care. In my experience, the animals receive the highest quality medical care, and each person that works with them is incredibly invested in caring for these animals in the best way possible. Medicine is continually advancing, and one of the best parts of my job is that I get to be a part of the pioneering science that improves the health of marine mammals everywhere.

3. What is your favorite “project” you have worked on within the Marine Mammal Center?

One of the most exciting projects has been to be a part of Ke Kai Ola, our hospital for endangered Hawaiian monk seals. We work with partners like the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Coast Guard to rescue young animals that would otherwise not survive on their own, and rehabilitate them in our hospital. We use the knowledge we’ve gathered over 40 years of caring for other seals like elephant seals and harbor seals, and apply it to working with this rare species. Since our hospital opened in 2014, we have rehabilitated more than 1% of the entire population. The best news is that during their last estimate, it looks like the population is starting to increase! This is an amazing way for me to be a part of a project that is literally saving a species.

4. What are the best parts of your job? What are the worst?

There are so many amazing parts of this job! First, every day is different. I never know if I’ll be performing surgery in the hospital, or presenting at a scientific conference, or examining a healthy seal in the wilds of Alaska.

Second, I’m lucky to be able to work with such interesting animals. In addition to being entertaining characters, they’re always teaching us something new about themselves, or the ocean. Third, I love being able to share our science and discoveries with the world. So many of the things my fellow scientists are working on are fascinating, and I am thankful that I’m in a position to share this with so many people.The most difficult part of my job is dealing with the realities of working with sick animals and a sick ocean. We can’t save every animal, and sometimes working with so many sick animals can be sad and overwhelming. That’s why I work to balance negativity with positive conservation stories.

5. Why are you so passionate about ocean conservation?

As we become a global society, our Earth is becoming a smaller place. It used to feel as though our oceans were limitless, with unending stocks of fish. We are now acutely aware that we humans have a significant impact on the ocean. Many of the patients we see at The Marine Mammal Center are impacted by human actions – entangled in ocean trash or struck by a ship.But just as we have the capacity to have a negative impact, we also have the capacity to save our oceans. Marine mammals hold secrets about human health, and the health of the ocean. I feel a responsibility to share these secrets so that every person has the information they need to conserve this planet we share.

6. What advice would you give to someone who aspires to work in a similar field?
It’s a big job to save the ocean! We need lots of people working hard on many different projects. My biggest advice would be to stay open-minded about possibilities. I knew I loved biology, but it was a Spanish teacher who suggested I do an exchange during high school, and now I use Spanish when I work on international marine mammal projects. You never know how your skills will come in handy in the future. Get out there and volunteer at places that are doing interesting work. The Marine Mammal Center has a Youth Crew program for students ages 15-18, and allows you to get hands on experience rehabilitating marine mammals.

Learn more at: http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/Get-Involved/volunteer/youth-crew/

Lean more about Claire Simeone at Marin Science Seminar here: http://www.marinscienceseminar.com/speakers/csimeone.html

Interview with Chemical Engineer Eric Stevenson of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District

by Shoshana Harlem, Terra Linda High School

Eric Stevenson is a chemical engineer who works with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. He helps figure out air quality issues such as how to reduce greenhouse gases. To find out more about his work, we interviewed him.



1. How did you first become interested in being a chemical engineer in the environmental field?

 I was always interested in the environment, even as a child.  As I progressed through school, I had an aptitude for math and chemistry, so chemical engineering seemed the logic choice.


2. What air quality issues are you currently working on? 

Right now, we are working on a rule to reduce risk from air pollutants at facilities throughout the Bay Area to the lowest levels achievable.  In addition, we are also working on a way to regulate and reduce greenhouse gases, first from refineries and then from other high GHG emitting facilities. 

3. How do you think the new presidential administration will impact your organization?
 Luckily, while we interact with EPA on a large number of issues, we do not receive much funding from them and we also have stricter regulations than them.  While I anticipate that the next four years will be difficult, the fact that we’re in California should help us weather the potential issues with EPA.

4. What does a typical work day look like for you? Also, what is the best and worst part of your job? 
I go to a lot of meetings and work with my staff to get them what they need to get their jobs done.  I do my best to anticipate issues and problems and plan for successful outcomes.  The people I work with are the best part of the job, as they are dedicated public servants, doing their best to protect the health of Bay Area residents.  The worst part of the job is difficult to define, but it’s hard trying to anticipate all of the issues that might come up, and that can make the job more difficult.

5. What advice do you have to people that want to be a chemical engineer in the environmental field? 

 Learn to work with data and listen to what the data are telling you.  Develop your ability for critical thought.

Want to hear more about Eric Stevenson and his job? Come join us on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at Terra Linda High School from 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM in Room 207!

The Intelligent Sea Lion

The Intelligent Sea Lion
By Shoshana Harlem, Terra Linda High School


The brain of a sea lion!

Can an animal still be a good scientist without thumbs? The answer is yes, because the sea lion is in this exact situation. Although sea lions have no thumbs, they have a big brain. Their brain is about the same size as a chimpanzee brain. They are one of the few mammals besides dolphins, humans, elephants, and whales that have brains that weigh more than 1.51Lbs. Scientists are not sure why the sea lion has such a big brain, but they think that it might be because they have a large body size and those two usually correspond. Other theories have to do with the weightlessness of the marine environment, coping with cold water temperature, or perhaps it is just a random outcome of evolution.

The sea lion’s brain consists of different regions for processing information from their whiskers. A specific, corresponding, area in the brainstem is devoted to each whisker on the sea lion’s nose. The areas in their brain that are responsible for processing touch information from the whiskers and the skin are the thalamus, cortex, and brainstem. Likewise, the human brain has specific areas which correspond to the individual fingers of a person. The whiskers on the sea lion assist with sea lion behavior and sensation. There are certain areas in the sea lion’s brain which are made for processing touch sensations from their flappers and tail. Scientists don’t know a lot about the sea lions cerebral skills. The sea lion has a particular part of their brain called the Bischoff’s Nucleus, which is very well-developed. It is surprising that sea lions have this part of their brain because it is usually found in animals with prominent tails such as kangaroos, raccoons, and whales. But the sea lion’s tail is tucked and small behind its hind flippers.
A sea lion’s very important whiskers!
On each side of a sea lion’s face, are 38 whiskers. The whiskers can grow to be eight inches in length and are really sensitive. The sea lion produces more nerve fibers than any other animal in the animal kingdom. Its whiskers can be helpful in many ways too. One way is that they use their whiskers is to spot a fish by looking for changes in the flow of the water. They can find fish that are swimming up to 590 feet away from them. The whiskers can also help a sea lion know the differences between shapes and sizes up to as far as a fraction of a centimeter.
Amazingly, the sea lion’s brain is capable of higher cognitive functioning. A sea lion can play a game of Concentration. Through trial and error, they can match unrelated symbol pairs. They can also recognize signals, which is really useful in the wild. In this way they can find food, and know if someone is their friend or their enemy. Sea lions also have the ability to think logically. The can know that if a=b and b=c, then a=c.

To learn more about why sea lions are such good scientists, come to the Marin Science Seminar at Terra Linda High School in room 207 on Wednesday, February 8, 2017. Claire Simeone DVM of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito will be speaking. Join us and learn!

Sources:


         

Paper Planes and World Record Breaking: An Interview with John Collins

by Zach Griggy, San Marin High School, Novato

Inside a hanger at McClellan Airfield, a crowd gathered to watch an attempt to break the World Record in paper aircraft distance. Following a throw, the airplane began to climb into the air. Halfway across the hanger, the paper aircraft stalled briefly, beginning a glide towards the concrete floor below. Approaching the ground, the plane pulled out and sailed across a white line. In those nine seconds, the World Record for Paper Aircraft Distance was broken.

John Collins, the maker of that record-breaking paper airplane, has been designing paper planes for years. He has written books and appeared on many television programs, including the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. On January 11th, 2017, John Collins gave a talk at Marin Science Seminar about aerodynamics and paper airplane design.

Following his talk, we interviewed Mr. Collins about his profession and his design process.

1. How did you first become interested in making and paper airplanes?

I just never got out of paper airplanes.  Most people get over it a few months after getting into it.  I started with planes, moved into origami, and then took all of those folding tricks back to paper airplanes.

2. How many attempts did you make in order to achieve the World Record for Paper Airplane Distance? How did these earlier attempts influence later attempts and designs?

Countless.  I worked on it for 3 years.  Joe (the thrower) was with me for the last 18 months.  We went through Moffett Field, Mojave, and finally succeeded in McClellan Airfield.  We started out with a ballistic style dart, but Joe couldn’t beat the old world record with that kind of plane.  We switched to a glider strategy, and immediately knew we were on the right track.  It took a lot of tinkering with the design and taping scheme to come up with the winning plane.  The folding pattern ended up being my very first try with A4 paper three years before.

3. How has the Maker Movement influenced you and/or your design process?

It was inspirational to be sure.  They asked me to participate in the very first Maker Faire in San Mateo, 13 years ago.  I’ve been part of every one since.  My first book was published 13 years before that first Maker Faire, so perhaps we influenced each other.  My design process hasn’t really changed, but it’s been fun interacting with high end tinkerers.  

4. What are the best parts of your job? What are the worst?

Easy; the best part is the audience reaction.  When kids light up and start asking questions, it makes it all worthwhile.  Every once in a while, I have to fold hundreds of the same kind of plane for an event.  That’s a bit tedious, but I put on some music, find my comfortable work chair, lay out the paper and get to work.  I count the sheets of paper before I start making the planes.  When I make it to the bottom of the stack, I’m finished.

5. What advice would you give to makers or students who wish to become makers?

Find something you enjoy and follow it.  Don’t be afraid to change paths, even more than once.  I started in planes, moved to origami, and then discovered my real passion was taking one technology and throwing it at the other.  If you’re going to be the best at anything, you have to love it.  Nobody can force you (at least in this country) to give up food, sleep, or being with friends to accomplish a big goal.  You can’t really compete with someone who’s willing to do that.  You have to be that passionate about your craft.  That passion is self-imposed; it comes from deep inside.  External forces will try to resist it. 

Video Footage of the seminar will be available on Vimeo*. The Spring 2017 Schedule can be accessed here

*Please note that it takes some time for footage to be processed and uploaded. A link will be added to this page when the video has been uploaded