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Foraminifera Research (Image 1)

June 25, 2010
Foraminifera Research (Image 1) Sam Bowser, a professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Albany's School of Public Health and a scientist at the New York State Department of Health's Wadsworth Center, explains to a visitor how light coming through the uneven ice surface overhead, can confuse divers and make it difficult to find an exit hole at the end of a dive. Bowser spent the past 20 years diving in the frigid waters of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, in search of single-celled creatures called Foraminifera. McMurdo is the logistics hub for National Science Foundation operations on the ice. With support from grants from the National Science Foundation's U.S. Antarctic Program, Bowser's primary research focus has been to try and understand as much of the fundamental biology of Foraminifera as possible, including habitat preference, life cycle, reproductive patterns, eating habits, and evolutionary history. Foraminifera are among the most abundant organisms in the oceans. They are usually less than 1 millimeter in size, but "larger" Foraminifera may reach the size of a fingernail and are able to capture and eat creatures many times their own mass. Some types of Foraminifera build tiny but sophisticated shells out of grains of sand held together with a natural, but extremely effective underwater adhesive. Bowser is also interested in the role the creatures play in recycling organic nutrients in the oceans. The huge numbers of tiny animals also act as a "carbon sink," absorbing carbon from the water to make their shells, so scientists are very interested in knowing how the animal's contribute to balancing so-called greenhouse gases, such as CO2, in the atmosphere. Bowser believes if his research leads to an understanding of the chemistry underlying Foraminifera's naturally produced glue, it could lead to the development of new stronger, waterproof adhesives that could be a boon in fields as diverse as dentistry, neurological surgery and the development of artificial arms and limbs. For more information, see Bowser's Web site at http://www.bowserlab.org. (Date of Image: Dec. 2006) [Image 1 of 13 related images. See Image 2.]


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