‘Solving’ biology’s most important molecule

‘solving’ biology’s most important molecule


According to microbiologist “Venki” Ramakrishnan, “We all have imposter syndrome,” a phenomenon described as self-doubt of intellect, skills, or accomplishments among high-achieving individuals.


With Peter Trapa, dean of the College of Science

In a much-anticipated lecture at the College of Science’s Frontiers of Science September 27, Ramakrishnan detailed “My Adventures in the Ribosome.” With a warm reminder to the standing-room-only crowd at the Natural History Museum of Utah (NHMU) he explained that there were setbacks, re-directs and moments of doubt for the microbiologist who helped solve the structure of biology's most important molecule yet shrouded in mystery ever since the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA fifty years earlier.  “Everything in the cell is either made by the ribosome or made by enzymes that are themselves made by the ribosome,” he says. The event was co-sponsored by the U's Department of Biochemistry, U Health and NHMU.

Whatever syndrome Ramakrishnan once suffered from, the Nobel Prize laureate learned to value change, whether it was pivoting from his early studies in physics — a discipline that dates back to Galileo in the 16th century — to that of biology, now in the midst of a resurgence, supercharged with the advent of genetics. (To the PhD physicist “lambda” was a wavelength, not a virus, he shared with the audience, garnering laughs.)

In his new life science digs, he soon gravitated to capturing the essence of an enormous molecular machine made up of a million atoms — wherein large, complex protein molecules are produced, turning the genetic code into organisms.

If you want to see the world

Finding the structure of the ribosome wasn’t easy. For one thing, it entailed uprooting his family. In his presentation, Ramakrishnan repeatedly displayed a travel map with dotted lines to illustrate how, if you want to see the world, study the ribosome. He and eventually his family traveled from his home in India to Ohio to San Diego before beginning his postdoctoral work with Peter Moore at Yale University in Connecticut, and then a sabbatical in Cambridge, England, to Utah, where he was on the biochemistry faculty for more than four years. (A U lab staff photo projected at the event prompted Ramakrishnan to refer to himself, heavily-bearded in the 1990s photo, as being his “bin Laden days.”)

From Utah he returned to Cambridge, England and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology where he is currently group leader.

The race for solving the ribosome turned into a four-way contest of labs and turned on securing the right level of detail to see how the ribosome actually works–from x-ray technology to eventually crystallography facilitated by the U’s own Chris Hall and others determined to solve a fundamental problem regardless of the challenges.

Fifteen years after the first crystals and there was still no apparent progress towards determining the actual structure of the ribosome. In Utah, Ramakrishnan and his lab focused on what had earlier been identified as the smaller subunit of the ribosome, but it wasn’t until his return to the UK that the goal of bagging atomic resolution crystals of both ribosome units was accomplished. This with the help of electron microscopy as well as circular particle accelerators known as synchrotrons used by his team and his Yale colleagues.

Mission Accomplished

Finally, there was enough detail to hazard a “mission accomplished,” and in 2009 Ramakrishnan, now elected to The Royal Society, shared the Nobel prize in chemistry with Thomas A. Steitz and Ada Yonath for research on the structure and function of ribosomes. In 2012 he was knighted.

Not bad for someone who claims to be subject to sometimes crippling self-doubt, and he was eager to share some take-aways to the audience for not only scientific research success, but life success. In addition to his recurring refrain that we all suffer from imposter syndrome, Ramakrishnan referenced the late Max Perutz, the Austrian-born British molecular biologist who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with John Kendrew, for their studies of the structures of hemoglobin and myoglobin. Perutz charted the variables at play for success in the scientific realm beyond just talent:  money, skill, patience and luck.

And Ramakrishnan's advice?

  • Keep your options open, even if it means learning completely new techniques, moving, or even changing fields
  • Never be afraid to ask for help or show your ignorance
  • Talk to people but not all the time

Of course, “success” is never final for a scientist, perhaps especially for one traversing the mysterious inner galaxies of molecules. And this is where Ramakrishnan brought his journey back to a recognizable metaphor for the uninitiated. In a series of slides, he showed the structure of this mighty molecular machine, including where antibiotics bind to the molecule which has advanced our understanding of how the ribosome works and how antibiotics inhibit it.

It took ten to fifteen years of taking snapshots of the ribosome to get a full complement of intricate, uniquely shaped moving images at an atomic resolution that could then be fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle. Finally, biologists could see and render the long-enigmatic process that takes place from the blueprint of DNA to protein: where exactly mRNA entered, how other proteins attached, and where the amino acid chain exited from the ribosome.

Each of the slides at the Tuesday night event presented a progressively more detailed model of the ribosome, until it was three-dimensional. In his visual piece de la resistance, Ramakrishnan put up an animation of the completed jigsaw puzzle designed by Janet Iwasa and the U’s animation lab. The frenetic choreography of multi-colored components wowed the audience, especially when the good scientist put it up to speed and the illustrated ribosome seemed to go kinetically cosmic before everyone’s very eyes.

Ribosome exhibit at Natural History Museum of Utah.

The animation is featured in a new exhibit dedicated to the ribosome on the fourth floor of the Natural History Museum of Utah.

It was a stirring finish for Venki Ramakrishnan who brought it all up to scale when he closed the evening by saying, “During the time you've been listening to me, the thousands of ribosomes in each of your cells have been churning out tens of thousands of proteins as we speak."

Read Michael Mozdy’s post about Dr. Ramakrishnan and the new Ribosome exhibit at the NHMU.

By David Pace


About Frontiers of Science

The College of Science Frontiers of Science lecture series was established in 1967 by University of Utah alumnus and Physics Professor Peter Gibbs. By 1970, the University had hosted 10 Nobel laureates for public Frontiers lectures. By 1993, when Gibbs retired, the Frontiers organizers had hosted another 20 laureates. Today, it is the longest continuously running lecture series at the U.

The next event in the series takes place March 19, 2024 and will feature Maureen Raymo, American paleoclimatologist and marine geologist.

Nada Math Anxiety Here

Nada Math Anxiety with Ken Golden


At this point, we have all heard of STEM education, that is Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. And there’s also STEAM education which includes the Arts.

Why is specifically math so important in STEM education and subsequent careers?

Featured on KPCW's COOL SCIENCE RADIO podcast, Professor Ken Golden, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at the University of Utah, talks about the importance of STEM careers in the U.S. to meet the needs of our climate and the economy.

Listen to the podcast at KPCW.

Safe Landings Weather-wise

SAFE LANDINGS Weather-wise


Aviation meteorologists like 2008 atmospheric science alumnus Warren Weston connect the dots between severe weather and flight schedules by creating detailed forecasts to help planes and their travelers arrive at destinations safely.

From thunderstorms and limited visibility to scorching temperatures and turbulence, the weather dictates when and where planes can fly. Severe weather is the leading cause of air travel disruptions in the United States.

Aviation meteorologists plan for and around difficult conditions, crafting weather forecasts used to determine the nuances of flights, from altitude to optimal routes. They play an essential role in ensuring travelers get to their destinations safely and efficiently.

Several major domestic carriers, including Delta Air Lines, have in-house meteorologists who monitor global weather 24 hours a day. Delta has 28 meteorologists on staff — the largest team of any airline, it declares — who sit in the carrier’s Operations and Customer Center, alongside flight dispatchers, customer service agents and hundreds of other staffers, at its headquarters in Atlanta.

In this cavernous and screen-filled room, Warren Weston, Delta’s lead meteorologist, recently spoke about the importance of data, the difference between surface weather and upper-air hazards, and how even one degree of temperature can change a flight plan. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Photo credit: Delta Air Lines

Read the full Q&A with Warren Weston conducted by journalist Christine Chung in the New York Times.

Ribosome adventures

Venki Ramakrishnan, 'My adventures in the ribosome'


Venkataraman “Venki” Ramakrishnan’s story is the stuff of fiction. He went from an eager undergraduate student in India to a self-described “failed physicist” to a major player in the race to uncover one of biology’s biggest mysteries—the structure of the ribosome, the most important molecule that nobody’s heard of that earned him a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2009.

The opportunity to research the ribosome drew Ramakrishnan to the University of Utah in the late ‘90s. The ancient molecule brings him back as a Nobel laureate to discuss his “Adventures in the Ribosome” at the College of Science’s Frontiers of Science Lecture Series on Sept. 26, at the Natural History Museum of Utah. The evening should be enthralling—his popular memoir Gene Machine reads like a thriller that navigates inspired collaborations, friendly rivalries, and cutthroat competition behind scientific discoveries and international accolades.

“Why did my career work out? I didn’t go to any famous schools for my undergrad or graduate school, and I was sort of an outsider most of my life. I think there’s some sort of general lessons there,” Ramakrishnan said. “One of them is if you find things don’t work out, you have to be open to change.”

Ramakrishnan has never been afraid of change. He earned a PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Ohio, but immediately realized that developing theories and mathematical calculations wasn’t for him. The field of biology grabbed his attention.

“Every issue of Scientific American when I was a grad student was full of big breakthroughs in biology. That was a time when the first sequences of DNA were being reported, Ramakrishnan said. “Biology was going through this huge revolution, and it hasn’t stopped.”


Read the full story by David Pace and Lisa Potter in @TheU.
Read more about the Ribosome exhibit, in conjunction with Ramakrishnan lecture, at the Natural History Museum of Utah. 


Wilkes Center Climate Prize Winner

Winner of Wilkes Center Climate Prize


Lumen Bioscience is the inaugural winner of the $1.5 million Wilkes Center Climate Prize at the University of Utah. The Seattle-based biotech company beat 77 international teams with their proposal to drastically reduce methane emissions from dairy and beef cattle using a patented mixture of enzyme proteins.

Wilkes Center Director William Anderegg (left) and Lumen Bioscience Chief Scientific Officer Jim Roberts

Lumen Bioscience is the inaugural winner of the $1.5 million Wilkes Center Climate Prize at the University of Utah. The Seattle-based biotech company beat 77 international teams with their proposal to drastically reduce methane emissions from dairy and beef cattle using a patented mixture of enzyme proteins. William Anderegg, director of the U-based Wilkes Center for Climate Science & Policy, made the announcement at a press conference on Sept. 22, 2023, at the Natural History Museum of Utah. The Wilkes Climate Prize at the University of Utah is one of the largest university-affiliated climate prizes in the world and aims to push through potential breakthroughs with a one-time, unrestricted cash award.

Seven years ago, Lumen scientists discovered how to genetically engineer the edible algae spirulina, a problem that had vexed researchers for decades. Based on the discovery, they built a drug discovery and biomanufacturing platform mainly for developing new, orally delivered biogenic drugs against gastrointestinal (GI) targets that cause human disease. Their winning Wilkes Climate Prize at the University of Utah project extends the approach to target the methane-producing microorganisms in the rumen, a specialized compartment of the cow’s GI tract.

“Our award-winning proposal is a testament to the culture at Lumen, which encourages broad and creative thinking by our highly talented scientists,” said Jim Roberts, Lumen Bioscience chief scientific officer. “CEO Brian Finrow and I founded Lumen on the idea that dramatically improving the cost and scalability of manufacturing protein therapeutics would allow us to address global challenges that are out of the reach of conventional biomanufacturing technologies. The recognition of the Wilkes Climate Prize at the University of Utah is a new and powerful example of this.”

Read the full story by Lisa Potter in @TheU about the September 22, 2023 announcement.

Read more about this story at the Salt Lake Tribune.



‘UteQuake’ seismic exhibit goes live


“Although a seismometer’s primary role is to record earthquakes, these very sensitive instruments will detect any ground shaking, regardless of the source, including from rowdy Utes fans in Rice-Eccles Stadium.”

This is how the new webpage of UteQuake introduces itsself as it returns to Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday when the University of Utah faces No. 22-ranked UCLA for the football teams’ Pac 12 conference opener Saturday, Sept. 22.

During the game, which kicks off at 1:30 p.m., the University of Utah Seismograph Stations’ (UUSS) geoscientists from the Department of Geology & Geophysics will monitor amplitude signals recorded by a seismometer they installed Aug. 30 on the west side of the stadium, then tweet interesting observations during the game.

The idea is to help pump up No. 11-ranked Utes’ game-day excitement, while also promoting the Seismograph Stations’ vital public safety mission to “reduce the risk from earthquakes in Utah through research, education, and public service.” The UUSS operates a regional network of 200 seismographs stretching from the Grand Canyon in Arizona to Yellowstone National Park in Montana.

Tested during the Utes’ season opener against the Florida Gators when record attendance exceeded 53,000, the experiment proved a roaring success. So UteQuake will run for the remainder of the season, according to Jamie Farrell, a research associate professor of geology and geophysics.

During Saturday’s game, Mark Hale, one of the seismic analysts at the UUSS, will be tracking the seismic waveforms in real time, then tweeting analysis of readings at key moments, starting with the Ute players emerging onto the field.

Read the full article by Brian Maffly in @TheU.
Go Utes! 

Photo credit: Utah Athletics


Climate-Resilient Western Grid

Gird YOUR Grid


The Western Interconnected Grid, commonly known as “the Western Interconnection,” is one of the two major interconnected power grids in North America.

The "Western Interconnection," as it is called, stretches from the northern edge of British Columbia, Canada to the border of Baja, Mexico, and from the California coast to the Rockies, and serves roughly 80 million people over 1.8 million square miles across two Canadian provinces and fourteen western states in the United States.  It is the backbone of one of the largest regional economic engines in the world.

On September 18th it was announced that  through  $5M funding by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and $3.75M funding by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the University of Utah and University of Calgary will establish and co-lead the U.S.-Canada Center on Climate-Resilient Western Interconnected Grid.

Masood Parvania, associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Utah’s John and Marcia Price College of Engineering will co-lead the center along with Hamid Zareipour, professor of Electrical and Software Engineering at the University of Calgary’s Schulich School Engineering.

“Our center is being established at a critical time when the region is experiencing more frequent and severe extreme weather disturbances such as wildfires, heatwaves, drought, and flooding, the impacts of which not only pose threats to human health and the environment but also affect the ability of the western interconnection to continue powering the communities,” says Parvania.

At the University of Utah, the center involves co-principal investigators Valerio Pascucci, professor at the Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute and Kahlert School of Computing, William Andregg, director of the Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy, and Divya Chandrasekhar, associate professor in the Department of City and Metropolitan Planning in the College of Architecture and Planning, among multiple other partners and faculty.

Read the full story from the John & Marcia Price College of Engineering website.

More about this story from Brian Maffly in @TheU

outstanding contribution to cosmology

Cocconi Prize, outstanding contribution to cosmology


Kyle Dawson (right) and eBOSS co-leadership accept the Giuseppe and Vanna Cocconi Prize. CREDIT: COURTESY OF THE EUROPEAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY

The High Energy and Particle Physics Division of the European Physical Society (EPS) held its award ceremony at their annual conference on August 21, 2023, where they honored the field’s most influential research projects. The SDSS/BOSS/eBOSS collaboration won the Giuseppe and Vanna Cocconi Prize for an outstanding contribution to particle astrophysics and cosmology in the last fifteen years. The University of Utah was a key contributor to the BOSS and eBOSS collaborations.

“I joined the BOSS experiment when moving to the University of Utah. At the time, it felt like a gamble moving into a new cosmology experiment when starting as an assistant professor. It was clearly the right gamble to make as the experience has defined my career and has set me up to help plan large cosmology experiments over the next decade and beyond,” said Kyle Dawson, principal investigator of eBOSS and professor in physics and astronomy at the U.

The SDSS/BOSS/eBOSS projects are international collaborations involving hundreds of scientists that have fundamentally changed our understanding of the universe.

Read the full story in @TheU.

Whale of a project: Library digitizes 50 years of research

Library digitizes 50 years of Patagonia research


Each spring, southern right whales congregate off the coast of Patagonia, Argentina. In the protected bays created by PenínsulaValdés, females calve and raise their young during their first three months of life.

Throughout their 60-plus years of life, the females return to this spot about once every three years. Distinct growths on their head called callosities allow researchers to visually identify individual whales and collect data on them over their lifetime.

In 1971, Victoria Rowntree, now a University of Utah biology research professor, joined head researcher Roger Payne on a trip to his newly discovered research site in South America. “I had previously worked for Roger at Rockefeller University and when he and his family went to Argentina for a year, he said ‘hey Vick, you should come down here—it’s incredible,’” Rowntree said. “And so I did. I’ve been working on identifying and following the lives of individual right whales ever since.”

Marriott Library

At that time, most of what was known about large whales had been gained from the whalers that harvested them. As a behaviorist, Payne wanted to observe the whales over their lives and learn about things such as how often they calved and how they interacted with their environment and each other. He realized that the unique patterns of callosities on their heads provided a way to identify them as individuals throughout their lives.

When the Patagonia right whale project began, Payne and his team used a small plane to aerially document the whales with film photography. Initially, this film was developed in a dark room set up at the research camp. A head catalog was created that organized known whales by the number, shape and placement of their markings, to make it easier to determine whether a whale had been previously identified. By the early ’80s, hundreds of individual whales were known and the sheer number of images was becoming unwieldy.

Technological innovations continually changed the work. For example, when digital photography became available, the researchers shifted to that method of documentation in 2005. In the late 1990s, the project switched from researchers having to physically match the whales with those in the head catalog to using a computerized system that suggested likely matches. Creating the digital catalog required only a few of the best images of each known whale, which meant the vast majority of the data collected before 2005 only existed as physical slides.

To read the full story about how Rowntree's research is being digitized by the Marriott Library, read the article by Mattie Mortensen. 

Right Whale Research, Vicky Rowntree

Doing Right By right whaleS


More than 50 years ago, Victoria Rowntree, research professor of biology at the University of Utah, was invited by the animal behaviorist Roger Payne to visit his then-new right-whale research project at Península Valdés (PV) in Patagonia, Argentina.

Victoria Rowntree, in the field. Banner photo: Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas

Payne was already famous for discovering (together with his wife Katy Payne) the “Songs of the Humpback Whale” – probably the most famous nature album in history.  A few years later Rowntree joined the right-whale project as a full-time researcher and began a long career during which she played leading roles in shaping, and then sustaining, what has become the most important study of its kind.

Rowntree has always had a passion for animals. Initially she wanted to become a veterinarian, but shifted her focus after Payne, her animal behavior professor at Tufts University, asked if she wouldn’t rather study healthy animals in the wild. After graduating, Rowntree worked with Payne on a barn owl echolocation project at Rockefeller University in New York before returning to Massachusetts and working with C.R. Taylor at Harvard’s Concord Field Station for five years.

At the Museum, Rowntree was responsible for performing experiments in which  various species of animals were run on treadmills while researchers recorded their oxygen consumption and heat balance. The subjects included chimpanzees, lion cubs, cheetahs and even an ostrich. These experiments resulted in landmark animal exercise physiology papers with Rowntree as one of the authors.

Despite her success as a researcher, Rowntree didn’t enjoy the work she was doing, she says, “... because you have to know the extremes… It wasn’t for me.” Instead, she wanted to observe animals in their natural habitats. “It’s just fun watching any animal for a long time, one that’s not in an aquarium, but out in the ocean.”

By this time, Payne was back in the Boston area and the PV right whale project was beginning to take shape.  Rowntree asked Payne whether she could join the small team of researchers who were building a “catalog” of individually recognized whales. He immediately said yes.

Giant Sea Creatures

When the PV right whale project began, little was known about the giant sea creatures which average 43 to 56 feet in length and weigh up to 176,000 pounds. Biologists weren’t sure exactly how often female whales bore calves because any prior knowledge came from whalers studying the placental scars in the wombs of whales they had killed. (Though now contested, right whales were named so because they were the “right” whales to kill.) Inspired by the British ethologist Jane Goodall and other researchers who were closely observing animals in the wild, Payne realized that tracking the lives of individual whales, especially reproducing females in their natural habitat for long periods of time, was likely key to understanding their reproduction, ecology and demographics.

Southern Right Whale. NOAA fisheries

Each year, in the months of July through October, southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) arrive at bays on the shores of PV to calve and raise their young in the safety of the shallow waters. Cliffs along the coast provide excellent locations to observe the whales and photo-identify individuals, the primary method of data collection for this project. “Roger realized that repeated photo-identification of individual whales would allow the population size and birth intervals and other important demographic parameters to be estimated,” says U Emeritus Professor of biology Jon Seger, Rowntree’s husband and frequent research collaborator.

What Rowntree and her colleagues look for are distinctive patterns in the whale’s callosities: rough patches of thickened skin on the whale’s head. Within the circles of callus tissue are sensory hairs that may help the whales find their prey. Callosites appear white against the whale's black skin and are covered with living blankets of light-bodied crustacean passengers or “whale lice."

Using photos of the whale’s heads, Rowntree and her colleagues have identified more than 4,000 individuals to date; many have been seen over spans of two-to-five decades and in many different years, with and without calves.

A half century of data

Hovering drone over a right whale. Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas

As Rowntree and her team were observing the changes in the right whale population in Patagonia, they were constantly improving the technology they used to document the animals. Beginning in 1971, annual photographic surveys were conducted by flying along the perimeter of the Peninsula in a light plane which would circle low over groups of whales while a photographer snapped frames on 35mm black-and-white film. Later the National Geographic Society got involved and provided 35mm color film and processing. Finally, in 2005, the team made a long-anticipated move to digital cameras.

Today, quadcopter drones are primarily used to photograph the whales. With a drone, researchers can hover over the water and wait for whales to surface directly below, as opposed to flying in slow, tight circles over the water, hoping to be above a whale when it finally surfaces to breathe.

The wide range data forms posed a challenge for ongoing work. When Rowntree moved to Utah, she found herself managing five filing cabinets with tens of thousands of 35mm film photos covering the first 34 years of the project. At  risk of fire or other disasters, the collection had limited access, especially for her Argentine colleagues. Now, with the help of a grant from the Committee on Library Information Resources, the U’s Marriott Library, has digitized the irreplaceable foundation of the project’s ever-growing database for scientists worldwide which, among quality-check assignments by scientists will also prove helpful in the development of artificial intelligence software to automate individual whale identification. (Read the story about this digitization project.)

Tourist whale watching

Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas

When the PV right whale project began, there was only one whale watching company at Valdes Peninsula, now there are five. The research project has drawn exponential numbers of tourists worldwide to the area, as there is no other place to predictably see whales up close in their natural habitat. “This study contributes hugely to it [tourism] because of the added value for the tourists going out on a boat,” Seger says.“There’s a naturalist [on board] who knows all this stuff.”

News about the right whales is a source of pride and joy for Argentines. Media regularly contact the research team and ask for stories about the whales to share broadly. Rowntree adds, “...we have these whale nights with the whale-watch operators in a room not big enough to hold it, and people are all sitting around on the edge. The captains report what they've seen and what the researchers have learned and what science has gone on… .” These packed community presentations are fueled by empanadas and extend well into the early morning hours.

At its core, the PV right whale project is a labor of love from local students. “Vicky saw early on,” says Seger, “that these wonderful young college-age volunteers who would show up to work for a few weeks should be raising their sights and thinking about getting Ph.D.s and starting their own research projects. Now," continues Seger,  “… five or six have come to the States for graduate study with Vicky's encouragement and help in finding labs."

Two of these students earned their Ph.D.s at the U, and most are now faculty at different Argentine universities. They and their volunteers and students are now responsible for most of the front-line research work and represent the PV right whales nationally and internationally. The project is now directed by the Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas, an Argentine non-profit founded in the 1990s, in collaboration with the American non-profit Ocean Alliance, which was founded by Payne in the 1970s.

A living legacy

With the digitization the project’s analog photos and supporting data, Seger stresses that “this isn’t just a historical archive of some wonderful study that’s now fading back into the mists of history. It’s an ongoing research project that we all want to go on for another 50 years, at least.” As data accumulate each year, they show more and more clearly how the PV right whale population has continued to grow, despite serious ecological challenges.

The involvement and education of local students are crucial for the longevity of the project because, Rowntree says, “... [T]hey’re the ones that can affect the conservation of the right whales… .” In addition to keeping the research project running, these young advocates  represent their population at International Whaling Commission meetings and influence policy changes that will conserve whales and their marine habitats.

This living body of right whale research  grows year-to-year and will continue to illuminate a wide variety of basic scientific and urgent practical issues such as the effects of climate change and increasing commercial boat traffic.  Far from a relic, the research gets its power directly from its continuity, which has been sustained in large part by Victoria Rowntree’s unflagging curiosity and dedication over half a century.

By Lauren Wigod
Science Writer Intern