|Presented by: Rosie Oakes, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
Tiny swimming snails, called pteropods, have delicate shells which make them vulnerable to changes in ocean chemistry. Their shells are made from aragonite, a more soluble form of calcium carbonate, which is predicted to be chemically unstable in some parts of the ocean by the middle of the century. Why have I spent the last 5 years studying them? Because these tiny organisms are key to understanding the big picture of ocean acidification – the more CO2 that we put into the air, the more CO2 is taken up by the ocean, and the harder it is for pteropods to build and maintain their shells. Pteropods also play a crucial role in the marine food chain, eating phytoplankton and small zooplankton, and being eaten by krill, sea birds, and fish. This means changes that impact pteropods have the potential to impact the whole ocean ecosystem.
The challenge of studying, and communicating information about pteropods is their size. They are about the size of grain of sugar. In this webinar, I’ll discuss how I used a micro CT scanner to image pteropods in 3D so I could measure their shell thickness and volume. I will then explain how I enlarge these 3D reconstructions to print them for educational purposes, and how you can do the same. Finally, I’ll introduce my new research direction, using museum collections of pteropods to decipher how they have been affected by ocean acidification since the industrial revolution.
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About our speaker: A geologist by training, Rosie stumbled into the wonderful world of pteropods after finding some shells in a sediment core she was working on during her Ph.D. Since then, Rosie has spent over 200 hours CT scanning pteropods and has used a variety of other imaging techniques to learn more about how these organisms may be affected by ocean acidification.
Rosie believes that it’s important to communicate science on all levels, and so in addition to travelling to international science conferences and publishing papers, she makes time to attend school science fairs and participate in outreach events (like this one!) in a hope to inspire the next generation of scientists. Originally from the UK, Rosie is currently living in Philadelphia and working as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.