Skip to main content

An Interview with Dr. Jenna Judge, Marine Biologist

by Talya Klinger, MSS Intern

Driftwood is a common sight on beaches, but what happens to driftwood when it sinks to the seafloor? Dr. Jenna Judge, a recent doctoral graduate of UC Berkeley’s Department of Integrative Biology, researches evolution and ecology in deep-sea habitats, such as driftwood, as well as hydrothermal vents and sunken whale bones. Her research shows that these unusual substrates host diverse, lively communities shaped by the wood they inhabit. Attend her research presentation at Terra Linda High School, Room 207, from 7:30-8:30 pm on September 9th.


In Dr. Judge’s words:


1.   Why did you decide to become a marine biologist in the first place?

Well, I grew up in the mountains, but I was always interested in nature and science. I also loved the beach when my family would go on camping trips to the coast. However, I really decided to pursue marine biology in high school after learning about extreme deep-sea environments and the strange animals that live there from my AP Biology teacher. From there, I looked for colleges that offered a marine biology major for undergraduates and went to UC Santa Barbara. My interests in the ocean and the deep sea in particular were reinforced with each class I took and especially the semester abroad I spent in Australia doing a marine biology program. At the time, the obvious next step for me to take was to apply to graduate school to pursue a career as a marine biologist. While this route has served me well, I usually advise college students to take some time after graduation to explore options before jumping into graduate school. It is a big decision, and it’s important to have a strong sense of yourself and what you want to get out of an advanced program before choosing a program and an adviser.

2.  How did you decide to research driftwood?

I ended up studying sunken wood as a habitat for deep-sea animals after learning that the communities on wood are similar to other deep-sea ecosystems I was initially interested in, but had been much less studied. These ecosystems were hydrothermal vents (basically deep-sea volcanoes), cold seeps, and whale falls, which I’ll explain more about in my talk. Due to a series of conversations with scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, I was given the opportunity to test whether the kind of wood matters in shaping animal communities by sinking a bunch of wood at about 2 miles deep and waiting 2 years to see what happened. You’ll see what happened during my talk.

3.   How does your work on communities that form around driftwood relate to other ecosystems?

The experiment I did on sunken wood showed that, like forests and other terrestrial (land) ecosystems, the immediate habitat can act as a filter that shapes the community that colonizes that habitat. This means that the ocean isn’t just a big bathtub with a soup of organisms floating or swimming through it, but that even on small scales, the complexity of a habitat can significantly affect who decides to settle down there. I see all ecosystems as a connected web across the Earth, and I am especially interested in links between the land and the ocean, like wood, but also how the increase in artificial materials like plastic is affecting marine ecosystems.

4.  What advice do you have for high school students who aspire to be biologists?

Follow your curiosity! Ask questions and read about what interests you to keep learning and following your interests. Reach out to people who are doing things you find interesting. Scientists are always happy to hear from people who appreciate what they are doing, and it will help you learn more about what it might be like to pursue certain career paths. And once you have some ideas, research colleges that will support that passion and allow you to fully explore and develop your passion. You might find that the best program for you isn’t at the “top” university in the state or the country. For me, I was only looking at CA schools, and I was really excited about marine biology. So, I focused on applying to schools that had specific aquatic or marine biology majors like UCSB and UCSC, but I did not bother applying to UC Berkeley or UCLA even though they rank higher overall. I encourage you to find a good fit for your interests (and of course a good personal fit!) when choosing a college, and if you don’t have a clear idea about what you want to pursue (most people don’t, I was unusually focused), take your time. If you are looking to pursue marine biology in particular, here is a good site that lists all the programs across states: http://marinebio.org/marinebio/careers/us-schools/.

5.  One final question: do you have a favorite driftwood-dwelling creature?

My favorite wood-dwelling creatures would have to be limpets, since they are what led me to studying sunken wood in the first place. Limpets are snails that have no coil in their shell and a particular group of them are specialized to live in a wide range of deep-sea habitats, including hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, whale falls, and sunken wood. They also  live on empty shark egg cases, crab carapaces, worm tubes, squid beaks, algal holdfasts, and likely other organic substrates that sink to the bottom. 

Join us Wednesday, September 9th, 2015, 7:30 - 8:30 pm at Terra Linda HS, 320 Nova Albion, San Rafael - Room 207 - to hear Dr. Judge talk about her work.  Link to Dr. Judge's Marin Science Seminar profile. 
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Invention in Medicine this Wed. 10/26/16

Marin Science Seminar for Teens & Community Presents Invention in Medicine How Medical Devices get Invented and Go to Market with Art Wallace MD PhD of UCSF & VAMC SF
Wednesday, October 26, 2016 7:30 - 8:30 pm Terra Linda High School, Room 207 320 Nova Albion, San Rafael, CA 94903 


Art Wallace started out in experimental surgery and radiology studying imaging of the heart using CT
scanners. He has worked on a number of devices that originally were built for experimental studies that evolved into clinically useful devices including a cardiac output monitor, the off pump CABG, off pump aneurysm surgery, electronic sedation, and a selective coronary vasodialtor. Dr. Wallace will explain his experiences with the inventive process using examples from both device design and drug development. There will be a brief discussion of the importance of intellectual property, patents, venture capital, FDA approval, and business development in completing the invention process. There will …

An Interview With Diara Spain, Ph.D

By Rachael Metzger, MSS Intern

Ocean acidification is an issue becoming apparent in the effects on both sea creatures and humans. Diara Spain, the Associate Professor of Biology at Dominican University, came to Marin Science Seminar to talk to us about her studies in marine invertebrates and the damage ocean acidification is causing them. 

To learn more about Diara Spain and what inspired her studies we conducted an interview:


1. How did you get interested in biology? Is there a time, event, 
or person in your life that inspired you to pursue the study? I've always been interested in biology, really science in general. I grew up in rural North Carolina and as a kid it was expected that you'd spend most of your free time outside playing with your friends and pets.  One thing that sparked my interest in marine organisms were the summer vacations at the undeveloped beaches in North Carolina. 
2. Why did you specifically decide to focus on functional morphology, locomotion in echinode…

Marin Science Seminar Internships Still Available

Marin Science Seminar still has two high school student internship spaces available. Interns must be able to attend science seminars on select Wednesday evenings at Terra Linda High School in San Rafael. Interns arrive at 7 pm to set up, assist with the seminar, and can leave when the seminar is cleaned up by 8:45 pm. Specialties are also available for students interested in writing, photography, videography, and social media.

Start your application online today at this link!
See the calendar here: http://www.marinscienceseminar.com/calendar.html

More information about MSS internships can be found on the website at this link:
http://www.marinscienceseminar.com/interns.html

 Join us and learn!