#Scifund Round 3 is underway and each day I will highlight a new proposal from the Challenge to give you a more in-depth understanding of each participant and their research.
Today I present Alex Warneke. Her research looks at how heavy metal contamination affects the predator-prey relationship of algae.
Tell us about yourself, where you are from, and where you see yourself going.
Hello all! My name is Alex Warneke and I am a first year Masters student in Dr. Jeremy Long’s lab at San Diego State University. Currently, I am just starting out with my thesis looking at how human contaminants like heavy metals and other horrible things that we unfortunately let into our oceans are messing with chemically-mediated interactions between algae and the consumers that eat them. But more on how I became interested in this later. Beyond the lab, I am also quite passionate about public outreach which is why the #SciFund challenge is something near and dear to my heart. Getting people excited about science and research in unique and interesting ways is probably my favorite thing to do. In the future, I am hoping to merge my two loves of science and outreach to work for an NGO at the grassroots level, where I can encourage society to alter their perspectives and behaviors to preserve aquatic ecosystems.
How did you get involved in your research project?
Funny story actually…In the third year of my undergraduate work, I took a Chemical Ecology class with my current adviser. One of the requirements for the course was to create a music video explaining a topic we had learned about in class. This is where it all started for me. My peers and I created a video on Chemical Defenses (http://www.youtube.com/watch?
Wanting to continue on in this field (because it was awesome), I mulled the topic of chemical defenses over in my head for a while. For my graduate work, I knew I wanted to do something 1. With chemical defenses and 2. That looked into how we as humans were interfering with the oceans. After a substantial review of the literature, I realized that the chemical contaminants ending up in our oceans are doing more damage than we might know. I had read that many algal species could absorb these contaminants at levels that were not toxic to the algae. This got me thinking… how would this effect the natural chemicals that some species already have to defend against their predators and how would this interfere with this basic predator-prey interaction? Thus, my masters research was born.
Why is your research important to you? Why should others fund it?
Growing up in Southern California, the ocean has always been a playground for me. I was literally SCUBA certified at the youngest age you can possibly be certified at and I can still vividly remember the first kelp forest I ever frolicked through. It was pristine and beautiful and ultimately a life-changing experience. Eight years later, I still play and work in those same kelp forests, but they’ve changed and it hasn’t exactly been for the better. Pollution in our oceans is a problem plain and simple… and just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. I am hoping the research that I am doing will further our knowledge on how human pollutants are altering aquatic ecosystems and help to inform managers and improve risk assessments. More importantly, I hope that I can help educate people around me and engage them in what I am doing so that they too can be invested and realize that our actions do matter in bigger ways than we might think.
Why did you decide to particpate in the SciFund Challenge?
As I said before, I love getting people involved and excited about Science. #SciFund is allowing me to do just that. Yes, getting money to do my research is definitely a cool thing and this is way more fun than all the other grants I have been writing. But at the root of it all, I just want people to believe in the work that I am doing and want to get involved too.
What was the most difficult aspect of building your SciFund Proposal? What was your favorite?
Most difficult, I would have to say…Coming up with rewards. Holy cow…trying to think of cool things that people will actually want AND can’t get anywhere else…that mess is hard. Favorite thing…DEFINITELY putting together my #SciFund REMIX video. I LOVE to rap about Science and I love to dance. This video allowed me to do both. My little brother makes fun of me for it, but haters gonna hate. I just hope that people will enjoy it and actually learn something. And at least I know now…if Marine Ecology doesn’t work out as a good career path…the Music industry is waiting. Move over Kanye West.
Tell us something random. Something funny. Something borrowed. Something blue.
Top 3 people I would give anything to have lunch with: 1. Sylvia Earle (renowned ocean explorer) 2. Eminem (the second best rapper of all time) 3. Dr. Seuss (the first best rapper of all time).
While I believe Eminem is an excellent lyricist, I disagree about his lyrical flow, sound, and hip-hop beats. Thus I’d put him a lot lower on the all-time rapper list. But anyone who would give up their ankles to have lunch with Dr. Seuss is ok with me!
Thanks Alex for sharing your science! And to save you time from scrolling up, you can read about her project and contribute here.