Undaunted, Grass Fellows Explore Neural Systems — from Ticks to Alligators

Undaunted, Grass Fellows Explore Neural Systems -- from Ticks to Alligators

Like all of MBL’s summer programs, the Grass Fellowships in neuroscience were deferred last year due to the pandemic. Waiting no more, five of the 10 accepted fellows arrived at MBL last May, eager to carry out their independent research projects on animal systems ranging from ticks to squid to alligators.

“The fellows had to step into an empty lab at MBL, set up their own equipment and plan their own experiments, which is not easy!” said Grass Lab director Melissa J. Coleman of Scripps College. Laura Cocas of Santa Clara University was associate director of the lab this summer.

The fellows presented their research results (summarized here) on Sept. 2 to audiences both at MBL and streamed in via Zoom. Congratulations to all!

Grass Fellow Duncan Leitch (University of British Colombia) holds his research system: an American alligator. Leitch studied the thousands of tactile receptors on the alligator’s face that confer an exceedingly acute sense of touch. Credit: Daniel Cojanu

The Grass Fellows and director Melissa Coleman (center) prepare for their research symposium in the Lillie Building. Credit: Diana Kenney

Grass Fellow Oscar Arenas Sabogal (Universty of California, Berkeley) in the Grass Lab at MBL. Sabogal explored the detection of mechanical force in the ctenophore, Mnemiopsis leidyi. Credit: Melissa J. Coleman

Grass Fellow Bernardo Pinto (University of Chicago) holds a netted squid on the MBL’s collecting boat, the Gemma. Pinto studied the effects of electrical activity on protein synthesis within the squid giant axon. Credit: Melissa J. Coleman

Grass Fellow Luis Bezares-Calderon (University of Exeter) studied how planktonic animals sense pressure, using the larva of the sea squirt  Ciona. Credit: Daniel Cojanu

Grass Fellow Carola Städele (Illinois State University) after presenting her research on the neural circuits and genes involved in tick host-seeking. Credit: Diana Kenney

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