Skip to main content

Integrative Biology - An Interview with Richelle Tanner

By Rachael Metzger, Marin Science Seminar Intern

Richelle Tanner, a PhD Candidate in UC Berkeley's Department of Integrative Biology, is bringing her extensive knowledge of how climate change affects neural plasticity and growth within the Eelgrass Sea Hare to Marin Science Seminar on SEPTEMBER 27th, 2017. Details here.

Richelle Tanner's passion for the ocean and its inhabitants was sparked at a young age through growing up in the coastal city of Seattle and spending her summers in Honolulu. Tanner stated that since she was young she "always enjoyed reading books about seashells and learning about the diverse array of animals in coral reefs and tide pools." This youthful exploration prompted her to search for a career within the area of her passion, leading to her studies in Integrative Biology. "Being a scientist, especially a field biologist, is a career of constant exploration and discovery," she expresses, "this is why I became interested, and why I am still passionate about my work."
Eelgrass Sea Hare (Source: NOAA.gov)

Scientific research is not Tanner's only passion. Since she was four years old, music has been an integral part of her life. She took music into college, gaining one of her undergraduate degrees in jazz studies. When asked how her two paths of studies connect she says, "Music has helped me stay creative in my ideas, develop leadership and teamwork skills, and given me an intense work ethic." She explains how she compares her research development process to that of an improvised jazz solo. "You have a framework of what you would like to accomplish, but you have to base your future actions on what has already occurred to compose a complete story." Tanner believes her two disciplines have led to a more well balanced approach in both fields.


As the name of this month's seminar reveals, "Not Your Mother's Genes: How Maternal and Developmental Plasticity Shift Climate Change Responses in the Eelgrass Sea Hare," Tanner has chosen a very specialized area to study. The Phyllaplysia Taylori, or Eelgrass Sea Hare, is an excellent subject to study in relation to climate change. Tanner tells us more about this important creature.

"Phyllaplysia taylori, or the eelgrass sea hare, is an important grazer in the eelgrass ecosystem that is so prevalent in San Francisco Bay. Since eelgrass is really important for biological, oceanographic, and human processes, it is a natural focus when we are considering future climatic scenarios. I came to this sea hare chiefly because I have a love of all things sea slugs and nudibranchs. They are brilliantly colored, have amazing defenses, and are just plain cool by my standards. It was important for me to find a sea slug playing a large role in an ecosystem that would be impacted by climate change so I could bridge my two fields of physiology and ecology to answer some questions about how the ecosystem would be impacted by future changes. As I progressed in my work, it became clear that this sea hare is a great way to study climate change because it is tough enough to withstand some pretty extreme environmental conditions. Pushing these animals to their limits can tell us a lot about what the future holds for the ecosystem they play such a large role in. Coupled with observations of their current role, we can paint a pretty complete picture of where we are on the spectrum within their limits and inform future climatic predictions for the eelgrass ecosystem."

As Tanner expresses above, field work is a large part of her job, and it is also her favorite. Although getting up at 3:30 am, "to put on an already-wet wetsuit to crawl through three feet of mud in the dark looking for tiny sea slugs," might be a lot of work and something to complain about, she emphasizes that getting to travel all over the world observing animals in their natural habitats, collecting data, and bringing samples home, is well worth it. She encourages those who wish to follow in her footsteps to keep exploring different kinds of research just as she explores with field work. She has never said no to a research opportunity, she accentuates how it has greatly impacted her own work, and she urges others to do the same. Tanner also recommends getting involved with other people who appreciate and have similar interests. She drives home that "Staying excited about what you do is key to accomplishing your goals."

Richelle Tanner is happy to answer any specific questions about how to become a scientist at: rtanner@berkeley.edu. Join us Wednesday, September 27th, 2017 at Marin Science Seminar.

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Birth of the Universe, through Today's Telescopes

by Sandra Ning, Terra Linda HS

A nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Though nebulae are often the focus of space appreciation in pop culture, the universe encompasses billions more phenomena. (source)
     A story is typically told from the beginning, but oftentimes the universe is an exception. As a society, time is measured in days and nights, hours, minutes, and seconds. But even more so, time is apparent to us through the peachy sunrise of dawn, the angry grumbles of an empty stomach at noon, and the fatigue that settles with the darkness of night. It's hard to imagine any of these things in relation to the universe, with its sleepless planets and nomadic asteroids, all swallowed up in an unimaginably large blanket of space. If the universe is a story, and all the galaxies, comets, and stars its characters, where does it all begin? 
     Luckily, scientists have already delved into the origins of the universe, and have resurfaced with new and exciting insights regarding these qu…

"Gnashing, Gnawing, and Grinding: The Science of Teeth" - An Interview with Tesla Monson of UC Berkeley

by Shoshana Harlem, Terra Linda High School

Dr. Tesla Monson studies mammals, especially their skulls and teeth. She is a researcher at UC Berkeley and has a BA in cultural anthropology, an MA in biological anthropology, and PhD in Integrative Biology. 

1. What made you want to study mammals?
Growing up in Washington State, I was always really interested in biological life, and particularly animals and plants. When I first learned about Paleolithic cave art in my undergraduate anthropology class, which is some of the oldest and most beautiful art, dated to more than 30,000 years ago, I became fascinated with the seemingly timeless question, "What makes us human?", "What makes me, me?, "What makes humans unique from other animals?" And "What makes non-human animals different from each other?" Because these questions are focused on trying to place humans within the context of evolution and life on this planet, and because humans are mammals, I have been …

All About Lysosomes

by Angel Zhou, Branson School

Lysosomes, discovered and named by Belgian biologist Christian de Duve, who eventually received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1974, are membrane-enclosed organelles that function as the digestive system of the cell, both degrading material taken up from outside the cell and digesting obsolete components of the cell itself. The membrane around a lysosome allows the digestive enzymes to work at the pH they require. In their simplest form, lysosomes are visualized as dense spherical vacuoles, but they can display considerable variation in size and shape as a result of differences in the materials that have been taken up for digestion. Lysosomes contain an array of enzymes capable of breaking down biological polymers, including proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and lipids.

The lysosome’s enzymes are synthesized in the rough endoplasmic reticulum. The enzymes are released from Golgi apparatus in small vesicles which ultimately fuse with acidic vesicles ca…