Merging biology and the physical sciences to understand marine larval ecology


Thursday, April 21, 2011
Redfield Auditorium - 12:00 Noon
Dr. Elisa Maldonado
Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard

Many benthic marine invertebrates have a planktonic larval stage in their life cycle. Historically, larvae were considered passive particles in the ocean. Early qualitative evidence suggested that larvae have no control over their interactions with their biological and physical environment, and thus their dispersal or recruitment. Using a unique combination of tools from biology, nanotechnology, and materials science and engineering, my current research on barnacle settlement (in collaboration with Jesús Pineda and Vicke Starczak at WHOI) in the intertidal and settlement of biofouling organisms is showing that larvae actively select substrates for settlement based on their physical characteristics. This research is important for understanding dispersal and recruitment, and has applications to the prevention of marine biofouling and spread of invasive species.