BAR HARBOR, MAINE – MDI Biological Laboratory has moved quickly to ensure that their popular Science Café series is still available for the public to enjoy, despite restrictions on in-person gatherings. For the months of May and June the cafés will be hosted online.
Cafés will be a mix of real-time presentations and pre-recorded video lectures and all sessions will be made available on MDI Biological Laboratory’s YouTube channel.
Jerilyn Bowers, director of public affairs and development says that while the staff miss being able to welcome guests to the Laboratory’s Salisbury Cove campus, technology allows the organization to fulfill its mission to promote scientific literacy. “We’re approaching this as a wonderful opportunity to reach both our usual in-person audience but also those beyond our geographic reach and help them connect with a diverse range of scientific information and research. We’re looking forward to this new style of Science Café,” Bowers said.
The topic of the MDI Science Café for Monday, May 18, 2020 will be “Volcanoes, Iron, and Phytoplankton in the Antarctic,” presented at 5:00pm by Mike Coffin, Ph.D., of the University of Tasmania. Coffin’s focus is on understanding the connection between hydrothermal volcanic activity and the biological productivity. Phytoplankton supply half of the oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere, but in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica low iron supply limits the growth of phytoplankton. Coffin is currently working with samples from the waters around Australia’s only active volcanoes, Heard and McDonald Islands on the Kerguelen Plateau. Here there are extensive blooms of phytoplankton despite the surrounding waters being iron deficient as a whole.
Coffin is a marine geophysicist who investigates interactions between the oceanic environment and the solid Earth. He has actively pursued an international career that has led him to work in Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, Norway, France and the United States. Coffin has been involved in 34 blue-water research expeditions, focused mainly in the Southern, Pacific, and Indian oceans. He is a Professor at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania in Australia, with visiting positions at the University of Maine and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
In June, MDI Biological Laboratory will host two more online Science Cafés. Monday, June 8 will feature MDI Biological Laboratory faculty, Jarod Rollins, Ph.D. The rate at which we age is determined by the expression of our genes. One critical part of gene expression is the activity of the ribosome, the molecular machine that produces protein in our cells. The Rollins lab quantifies ribosomal activity using a technique called polysome profiling. This tool is used to understand how gene expression changes with age and with anti-aging treatments like dietary restriction. In his Science Café presentation, Rollins will explore the connection between aging and protein translation and demonstrate polysome profiling from within the lab.
On Monday, June 22, Ana Navas-Acien will give a presentation titled “Arsenic exposure and cardiovascular disease: what is the evidence in U.S. populations?” The talk will summarize the epidemiologic evidence on the association between arsenic exposure and cardiovascular disease in several populations in the United States. Navas-Acien’s work also investigates the health effects of other environmental exposures, such tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes, air pollution and other metals; their interactions with genetic and epigenetic variants, and effective interventions for reducing voluntary exposures.
Understanding the health effects of arsenic is of particular importance in Maine, where there is high dependency on well water and a prevalence of high arsenic levels. An MDI Biological Laboratory-led study found that 15% of homes tested (out of 1,200 samples tested to date) exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) maximum safety of 10 parts per billion. The study, “All About Arsenic” is a science literacy project that includes teachers and from 12 Maine schools collecting and analyzing samples from well water in their community. The project is funded by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA).
MDI Science Cafés are offered in fulfillment of the MDI Biological Laboratory’s mission to promote scientific literacy and increase public engagement with science. The popular events offer a chance to hear directly from speakers about trends in science.