Every month, the third Saturday is a special day at Birch Aquarium: SEA Days! As the tagline suggests, SEA Days are always full of “Science, Exploration and Adventure.” Visitors and members can meet a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego or local researcher and get hands-on with science, participate in activity stations, and get creative with a thematic craft. June’s SEA Days will kick off our annual Shark Summer Celebration!
Compared to the billions and billions of tiny creatures in the ocean, sharks can seem powerful, intimidating and mysterious. The whale shark is the largest shark species and can grow to be over 10 meters in length. Even though sharks are massive animals, they are made up of microscopic cells. Scientist Martin Tresguerres, is cell biologist focusing on the relationships between the micro cellular level of sharks and their macro physiology. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts when it comes to sharks, and below Martin shares his advice for future shark scientists.
Where did you go to school?
I took my bachelor and master degrees at the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina).
Then I did my PhD at the University of Alberta (Canada), and my postdoctoral training at the Weill Cornell Medical College (New York City).
I joined Scripps as an assistant professor in November 2010.
What is your area of research?
My laboratory studies cell physiology of diverse marine organisms, including sharks, bony fish, hagfish, coral, algae, oysters, worms, and a few others.
We are especially interested in how these organisms can sense and regulate changes in their internal pH (“acidity levels”).
Who or what inspired you to become involved in marine science?
As a kid, I was fascinated by marine biology documentaries (especially the great French marine biologist and adventurer Jacques Cousteau), as well as by the possibility of scuba diving to see marine life. Also, my parents, grand parents and brother were a great influence by always promoting and appreciating reading books of all kinds (including, but not only, biology books).
What qualities do you need in order to become a scientist?
Curiosity. Training in the “hard” sciences (Math, Chemistry, Physics, and then Biology). Dedication and hard work.
Why is your research topic important?
Every single living organisms in the history of the world has or has had to be able to sense and regulate its internal pH. This is because maintaining a stable internal pH is essential for cells to work properly, as slight variations in pH can result in protein function, and therefore in cell and organism’s function. In humans, imbalances in pH are associated with several diseases, for example cancer. In marine organisms, pH sensing and regulation is essential to be able to carry out key functions such as photosynthesis, calcification, and metabolism. Several environmental stressors (including but not limited to ocean acidification), might challenge internal pH balance, so how organisms compensate for this type or stress (or not) is very important for their well being and survival.
What will you be bringing with you to SEA days?
I will be sharing some images and shark biofacts that support my work.
What is the best advice you have for people interested in becoming involved in your field of research?
Learn the basic, fundamental concepts in “hard” sciences. Don’t be intimidated by seemingly complicated subjects,
What is your favorite ocean organism?
I can’t pick just one. I equally like sharks and corals, hagfish and diatoms, orca whales and bone-eating worms. To me, the fascinating thing about biology is that such diverse organisms are very similar or even identical at the cellular level.
Please join Birch Aquarium in welcoming Dr. Tresguerres at SEA Days Shark Celebration on Saturday June 20!