Dan is the subject of “Member Spotlight” for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The article (by Laura Petersen) is titled “Dan Blustein journeys from marine biology to Hollywood and back again,” and it’s a good read, chronicling his interesting forays in the saga explicit in the title–though “back again” might more accurately refer to “marine robotics” rather than marine biology. Of particular note is the reference to Dan’s opportunities in K’s externship program. Those two experiences, one with octopi at the Seattle Aquarium and the other job-shadowing a physician, helped clarify what he wanted to do. Of course the article showcases that Dan’s path has been more spiral than straight line. How cool (and liberal arts!) is that.
Jacob recently completed his Ph.D. at Colorado State University. He has been conducting research on new approaches to control disease-carrying mosquitoes. His research was described in a paper–“Mosquitocidal properties of IgG targeting the glutamate-gated chloride channel in three mosquito disease vectors (Diptera: Culicidae)”–that was published in the May issue of Journal for Experimental Biology. And his paper was highlighted as the “Editor’s Choice” for that issue of the journal. Despite the fact that malaria mortality rates have fallen steadily since 2000, the disease threatens half the human population and kills one child every minute. Moreover, resistance in mosquitoes to the primary pesticide used to control them is increasing. A new mosquitocidal candidate has arisen in an old drug, ivermectin, which has been successfully used against parasitic worms that cause diseases such as onchocerciasis (River Blindness). However, little was known about the process by which ivermectin worked against mosquitoes. Jacob’s research elucidated the site (called the glutamate-gated chloride channel, part of the insect’s nervous system) and the mechanism of action at that site which were responsible for ivermectin’s effectiveness. Based on what was learned from that discovery, Jacob tested a new strategy, essentially substituting for ivermectin an antibody to the glutamate gated chloride channel. His preliminary tests confirmed the antibody insecticide’s effectiveness against the mosquito that transmits malaria. In two other disease-carrying mosquitoes (yellow fever and West Nile virus) the antibody did not pass across the gut, which prevented any insecticidal effect. The next step is to immunize cattle with the antibody. Cattle are a major source of blood meals for mosquitoes. It is hoped that malaria-bearing mosquitoes that consume cattle blood carrying the toxic antibodies during the malaria parasite’s incubation period would die, disrupting transmission of the disease. A new antibody insecticide may offer hope for a malaria-free future.
Jacob is married to classmate Alyssa Brayshaw ’08. This year Alyssa was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to support her doctoral work. She will begin work in the fall on her Ph.D. at Texas A&M University. She plans to focus her research in the field of wildlife disease ecology, concentrating on Chagus Disease, which threatens to cross the Texas-Mexico border. Jacob was offered and accepted a post-doctoral position at Texas A&M in the lab of a population geneticist studying mosquito populations on Bioko Island and other field sites in West Africa. Jacob majored in chemistry at K. Alyssa majored in biology and studied abroad in Nairobi, Kenya.
Samantha recently served as an AmeriCorps New Jersey watershed ambassador working in the Assicunk, Crosswicks and Doctors Creek watersheds. “I hosted a volunteer monitoring training at the Tulpehaking Nature Center, with eight volunteers,” she is quoted as saying. “We spend many hours together. It had gone so well that I was on cloud nine at the end of the training. I’m so grateful for the time I have spent in New Jersey.” Samantha’s comments were part of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection’s effort to recruit Americorps watershed ambassadors for 2016. Samantha majored in biology at Kalamazoo College and studied abroad in Beijing, China.
Kate is a conservation biologist at the Minnesota Zoo. Her mission is to reduce threats to wildlife by using science to solve conservation problems. “I seek to see a planet full of life and awe-inspiring wild places.” She assists the Tiger Species Survival Plan and Tiger Conservation Campaign, and she organizes the zoo’s Recycle for Rainforests Program. She continues her research on dholes in Thailand and is collaborating with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Mongolia on a project related to reintroduced Przewalski’s horses. Her former biology professor, Paul Sotherland, is a big fan. “CONGRATULATIONS,” he wrote to Kate, “on doing such cool stuff!”
Sarah manages the Klamath Bird Observatory’s bird monitoring work on the Trinity River Restoration Program in northwestern California. Body temperature and blood work-ups provide indicators of human health; in a somewhat similar way birds are indicators of a functional river ecosystem. Sarah manages research looking into how changes in habitat structure associated with river restoration are related to bird abundance, diversity and demography. Results shape and assess river restoration activities. Sarah joined KBO in 2013 after earning her Ph.D. at the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. She studied the ecology of the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler. At K, she majored in biology with a concentration in environmental studies. She studied abroad in Ecuador. KBO is a scientific non-profit organization that achieves bird conservation in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the migratory ranges of the birds that frequent the ruggedly beautiful and wildlife-rich Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion of southern Oregon and northern California. KBO emphasizes high caliber science and the role of birds as indicators of the health of the land, and the organization specializes in cost-effective bird monitoring and research projects that improve natural resource management. It nurtures a conservation ethic in local communities through outreach and educational programs.
Tess represents one of several K-Plan roots to a recent fruition of egg-and-bird science. A research paper recently published in the Journal of Experimental Biology sheds new light on the stunning metamorphosis that occurs at or near hatching in many birds. The paper has a mighty title: “Development of endothermy and concomitant increases in cardiac and skeletal muscle mitochondrial respiration in the precocial Pekin duck,” and, it turns out, some very deep Kalamazoo College connections. “Most of the work was done in the lab of Ed Dzialowski ’93,” wrote Paul Sotherland, professor emeritus of biology (and, like Ed, a listed coauthor of the paper). He added, “The storyline all got started WAY back when Tess discovered, in her Senior Individualized Project, the dramatic (think: Grinch-like…hah!) cardiac growth in chickens, a discovery illustrated nicely in Figure 4 of the paper (and acknowledged with the highlighted citation on page one of the paper).” The title of Tess’s SIP was “A change of heart in birds: cardiac response to the onset of endothermy.” According to Paul, Tess’s was not the only SIP “root” that nourished the Experimental Biology paper. “A SIP done by Alan (Skip) Faber ’14 contributed as well,” said Paul,”which is acknowledged by his coauthorship of the paper.” Ed is an associate professor in the department of biological sciences at the University of North Texas. Tess is an instructor in the biological sciences laboratory at Wellesley College. Skip is beginning his second year of dental school at the University of Michigan.
Rob has received a Henry and Sylvia Richardson Research Grant from the Entomological Society of America (ESA). The grant provides research funds to postdoctoral ESA members who have at least one year of promising work experience, are undertaking research in selected areas, and have demonstrated a high level of scholarship. Rob earned his B.A. from K with a major in biology and a minor in German. He studied abroad in Erlangen, Germany. He earned his master’s degree from the University of Munich (Germany), where he majored in ecology, evolution, and systematics, and studied the evolutionary biology between two closely related species of ants. He received his Ph.D. in entomology from Michigan State University. There he helped to develop an integrated pest management program for the asparagus miner. That research included investigating the development, chemical ecology, and natural enemies of that insect. Rob is currently a postdoctoral research entomologist at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, West Virginia. He is researching an integrated pest management program for the invasive brown marmorated stink bug. Rob has more than a decade of experience in helping to develop integrated pest management programs for pests in vegetables and tree fruit. He’s written 18 peer-reviewed publications and made more than 100 presentations.
Keith is the founding director of the Computational Biology Institute at George Washington University. He studies computational biology, population genetics and bioinformatics, and he helps develop and test big data methods of DNA sequence analysis. He applies this work to the study of the evolution of both infectious diseases (especially HIV) and crustaceans (especially crayfish). Keith has published more than 250 peer reviewed publications, as well as three books. He has been a Fulbright Visiting Scholar to Oxford University (England) and an Allen Wilson Centre Sabbatical Fellow at the University of Auckland (Australia). He has received a number of awards for research and teaching, including the American Naturalist Society Young Investigator Award, an NSF CAREER Award, a PhRMA Foundation Faculty Development Award in Bioinformatics, Honors Professor of the Year award at Brigham Young University, ISI Highly Cited Researcher, and the Edward O. Wilson Naturalist Award. He recently was elected a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). At K, Keith majored in biology and studied abroad in Madrid, Spain. After graduating, Keith served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Puyo, Ecuador. He earned his master’s degree (statistics) and his Ph.D. (biology and biomedical sciences) from Washington University.
David died on September 20, 2016. He was 77 years old, four days shy of his 78th birthday, and doing one of the things he loved most–taking a walk on a trail. David’s 39-year career at Kalamazoo College began in 1965 and concluded with his retirement in 2004. “Biology is magnificent,” he once said, “and humbling, and goofy. In some sense, biology is best approached with a good eye for silliness, for it is stuffed with paradoxes, irony, and the ridiculous. This aspect of the subject is often the most engaging for non-majors, but it never fails to lead to more sophisticated material. I often used this movement from the ridiculous to the sublime as a teaching strategy in my courses.”
David’s area of specialty was insect behavior, and two important (and related) themes of his teaching and research were seasonality and adaptation. He earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Carleton College and his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin. His research was published in numerous journals, and he received many academic grants during his career.
His work took him to Africa many times. In 1982 he was a Fulbright professor of Biological Sciences at Njala University College at the University of Sierra Leone. In the early 1990s he visited the continent to study locust migrations on behalf of the United States Agency for International Development. His work and study in Africa became the basis for one of his K courses, “Ecology of Africa.” In 1995 he received the Frances Diebold Award for Contributions to the College Community, and in 1998 the faculty awarded him its highest teaching honor, the Florence J. Lucasse Lectureship for Excellence in Teaching. Those awards were related, in part, to the K marine ecology courses he co-taught with the late David Winch (professor emeritus of physics) on site at San Salvador Island and Jewfish Cay in the Caribbean. “On campus,” he said, “the class handled gray rubbery specimens preserved in jars. In San Salvador the students experienced the organisms alive and in color, and observed how they behaved in their habitat. It was like having one’s eyesight restored.”
Near and after his retirement he served during the summers as a naturalist at Fort Abercrombie State Park on Kodiak Island, Alaska. He loved that assignment, in part because of the “really cool truck” he drove, but mostly because of the liberal arts breadth of the work. In addition to naturalist, he worked as the island’s historian (delving into the area’s World War II days, in particular), and he wrote a weekly column for the island’s newspaper. Shortly after his final courses in a K classroom (spring term 2004) David served as “ship’s biology teacher” in a Semester-at-Sea program that circumnavigated the globe, with stops that included Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Myanmar, Kenya, South Africa, Brazil and Cuba. And long into his retirement he often contacted the College with alerts regarding the achievements of his former students, both majors and non-majors.
David always loved the liberal arts, a passion closely related to his academic and research interest in adaptation. He believed that the liberal arts was the best educational model to develop a broader range of reference and a better sense of humor, traits he considered essential for adaptation in careers and life in general.
He died taking a walk, an activity he loved (particularly along an ocean shore) and that he wrote about in his August 29, 2001, column in the Kodiak Daily Mirror, his final column for that summer’s season.
“For me, the last tide pool walks mean that the park season is winding down….[T]idepooling is one of the most unpredictable park activities in which I’m involved. We seem to have a particularly good time when children are along…
“There’s an Alutiq saying that expresses tidal rhythms in terms of using plants and animals as food: When the tide goes out, the table is set; When the tide comes in, the dishes are washed. The saying gets to the same rhythmic renewal that makes me appreciate this kind of field activity so much. I know I can go down to an area where I’ve been dozens of times, and I can be guaranteed of seeing something new and wondrous.”
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) announced last October that Sarah had been accepted into the Research Internships in Science and Engineering (RISE Germany) for the summer of 2016. RISE Germany offers summer research internships in Germany (about 300 a year) for undergraduate students from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Students are matched with doctoral students, whom they assist and who serve as their mentors. Interns receive a monthly stipend. Sarah returned to Europe this past summer (she had studied abroad in Spain during the fall and winter terms of her junior year) to spend 12 weeks in Hamburg working on her Senior Individualized Project, the scientific focus of which is Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria. In Hamburg, the senior biology major maintained her own malaria cell cultures, no small feat given the difficulty of working with the parasites, which require about an hour or more of daily care and monitoring. Much of the time Sarah spent imaging the parasites, which is the basis of her project.
“I learned how to use two different types of microscopes, fluorescence and confocal, and the software to edit the images from them,” she wrote in her wonderful blog, “Sarah Goes to Hamburg.” “Typically, I could only image the parasites for about an hour before they become too unhealthy. I also had to wait for the parasites to be at the right stage to image them, which made collecting data a tricky and lengthy process.” However, the summer experience was not all work. Sarah learned to played Bubble Soccer and participated in a wattwanderung (mud walk), a fascinating three-hour trek across North Sea mud flats exposed at low tide. These adventures, including visits to Heidelberg and Copenhagen and other northern European sites of interest, are memorably described in her blog.
Sarah continued work on her SIP during her senior fall term. Its working title is “Myosin II localization in Plasmodium falciparum trophozoites suggests role in hemoglobin uptake,” and she will present her research at spring term’s Diebold Symposium. Sarah noted that she received two fellowships from Kalamazoo College–the Beeler Fellowship (through the Center for International Programs) and the Crittenden Fellowship (through the biology department). “They were very important in funding my experience, especially the flight to Germany,” said Sarah.