Decoding the Woods Hole July 4th parade

For the non-scientific onlooker, the Woods Hole July 4 parade is both hilarious and mystifying. What exactly are these zanily costumed, dancing MBL students and scientists representing?

Here is a key for some of the 2016 parade, with videos by Daniel Colón-Ramos of Yale University, an MBL Whitman Center scientist and lecturer in the Neural Systems and Behavior (NS&B) course.

The NS&B students and faculty are depicting a giant neuron. “Sodium (Na+) enters the cell, the neuron fires, potassium (K+) leaks out, and the cell returns to its resting potential,” one student explains. Course co-director André Fenton of New York University (in black t-shirt at right) is opening and closing the cell membrane. The other course director, Hans Hofmann of University of Texas-Austin (leading the group in a white lab coat) is “a grounded electron. Totally harmless,” he says.

Stentor is a microscopic, ciliated inhabitant of freshwater lakes and streams, and one of many kinds of cells the Physiology course studies. (Not a bad likeness in the parade!)

Fluid flow around stentor. Credit: Wallace Marshall and 2015 Physiology course

Fluid flow around Stentor as it feeds. Credit: Physiology course co-director Wallace Marshall, UCalifornia-San Francisco, and 2015 course students

The Embryology course is enacting the life cycle of a worm (polychaete). “First we show fertilization, then larva formation, then termination, when the adult dies,” says course co-director and MBL Fellow Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado of Stowers Institute. (It’s not a sad ending; they repeat the cycle multiple times!)

The Biology of Parasitism course’s float is a parasite that infects humans and is usually harmless, but can cause intestinal discomfort.

The Neurobiology course, led by co-directors Graeme Davis of University of California-San Francisco and Tim Ryan of Cornell University, makes good use of a squirt-gun: they are also enacting a neuron firing!

The Grass Lab Fellows dressed as a plurity of organisms, including zebrafish, fruit flies, and hydra (below is their “Hydragon”).

Grass Lab "Hydragon" July 4 2016 Credit Diana Kenney

The Grass Lab’s “Hydragon”

And last but certainly not least, the undergrads at MBL being undergrads (and tending the fires of their hydrothermal vent)!