In this article, published in the November 2019 issue of Limnology and Oceanography Bulletin, Dr. Latz recounts the making of Infinity Cube, a bioluminescence art exhibit that was displayed at the Birch Aquarium of Scripps Institution of Oceanography during 2017-2018. In collaboration with London-based artist Iyvone Khoo, Infinity Cube consisted of a dark ‘sensorial space’ of video projection and sound within a reflective cube to create an immersive experience, with accompanying graphics to explain the science concepts. #infinitycube
The dinoflagellate Noctiluca scintillans was described as ‘animalcules’ in the 1750’s using early microscopes and is now known as a major source of bioluminescence in the world’s oceans. But reports going back to the 1960’s describe non-bioluminescent Noctiluca along the west coast of the USA. In this study, published in the November 2019 issue of Limnology and Oceanography, an international team of scientists including Dr. Latz investigated the mechanisms behind the loss of bioluminescence in this Noctiluca population using molecular, cellular and biochemical analyses of isolates from different geographic regions. Non-bioluminescent Noctiluca lacked luciferin, the substrate molecule for the bioluminescence chemical reaction. The gene for the catalyst luciferase was present but was not expressed as mRNA, most likely because of potentially deleterious mutations. Phylogenetic analysis based on the large subunit rDNA showed no divergence between non-bioluminescent and bioluminescent populations; the only morphological difference was that non-bioluminescent cells were 43% smaller. The ecological significance of the loss of bioluminescence in this population is unknown, as dinoflagellate bioluminescence serves in predator avoidance. The loss of this important functional state provides an opportunity to investigate the evolutionary and ecological mechanisms involved in intraspecific variation in natural populations.
This article is highlighted on the Scripps Oceanography web site.
The article “Bioluminescent Bays Shine Light on Puerto Rico’s Resilience” published on Nova Next, the digital publication of NOVA, the PBS science documentary series, features the bioluminescent bays of Puerto Rico, and discusses the impact of Hurricane Maria, which slammed into Puerto Rico in September 2017 as a Category 4 hurricane.
An article published in the online Signal to Noise Magazine titled “Putting the Spotlight on Artists Who Glow” focuses on the art and science of bioluminescence. One of the features is the installation Infinity Cube, a collaboration between artist Iyvone Khoo and marine biologist Dr. Michael Latz, that was on display at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps during 2017-2018.
Jim Rohr had a 30 year career with the Department of Defense at Spawar Systems Center (SSC) Pacific in San Diego, first as a research physicist studying fluid mechanics, underwater acoustics, and marine biology. He obtained a Ph.D. in Engineering Physics at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). He served for several years as a research associate at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and lectured at UCSD in the Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Department.
After helping manage SSC Pacific’s research portfolio, he was asked to champion a new outreach program, the purpose of which was to attract more U.S. students to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This program grew exponentially and through an army of volunteers soon provided over 200 events a year, involving thousands of students and over a hundred teachers. Retiring from the DoD in 2015, he continued his outreach efforts through the National Marine Mammal Foundation.
Jim was a personable and energetic scientist and educator, infecting others with his enthusiasm and love of science. We worked together on many projects involving the flow stimulation of bioluminescence. The highlight was studying dolphin hydrodynamics using bioluminescence as a flow marker; Jim arranged for us to work with Navy dolphins at SSC Pacific.
Jim received major awards for community outreach: Spirit of Preuss Award – 2015; Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely, Jr., STEM and Diversity Champion of the Year – 2014; UCSD Distinguished Service Award – 2013; DON Meritorious Civilian Service Award – 2012; SSC Pac Center Team Achievement Award – 2011; Navy Key Influencer Award – 2009; SSC Pacific Technical Director’s Award – 2008.
The U.S. Postal Service has issued stamps related to bioluminescence. From their web site:
Bioluminescence – the ability of some living things to generate their own light – occurs on many branches of the tree of life. With this sheet of 20 stamps, the U.S. Postal Service showcases 10 examples of Bioluminescent Life.
The stamps feature: deep-ocean octopus, midwater jellyfish, deep-sea comb jelly, bamboo coral, marine worm, crown jellyfish, sea pen (photos by Edith Widder), a second type of marine worm (photo by Steve Haddock), mushroom (photo by Taylor Lockwood), and firefly (photo by Gail Shumway). The selvage features a transparent deep-sea comb jelly (photo by Gregory Dimijian), surrounded by images of the firefly squid (photo by Danté Fenolio). The stamps and selvage were designed by art director Derry Noyes.
A 1989 paper by John Dodge rocked the dinoflagellate community. The much loved and studied dinoflagellate Gonyaulax polyedra, known for its spectacular bioluminescent displays and red tides in southern California and elsewhere, was renamed based on new insights into its morphology and to align the name with that of its spiny cyst, then known as Lingulodinium machaerophorum. So the motile form of the dinoflagellate, originally described by Stein in 1883, was changed from Gonyaulax to Lingulodinium because you can’t have two names for the same organism.
Reluctantly we adopted the new name and used it in our publications. However, Lingulodinium polyedra didn’t seem right, based on the word endings, so Lingulodinium polyedrum became commonly used, even though we cited the Dodge 1989 paper, which called it Lingulodinium polyedra. Out of 220 publications since then, 95% used L. polyedrum. Now it’s time to change again. Based on the Latin derivation, polyedrum is incorrect.
According to Brown’s “Composition of Scientific Words” (p. 715):
sessile, sedentary, stable, steadfast; hedranon, n. abode, dwelling, seat;
ephedra, f. a sitting by, siege; ephedros, sitting upon; kathedra, f. seat of a
bishop, abode, fundament, rump: hedrocele, tetrahedral, dodecahedron, octahedrite, cathedral, Sanhedrin, chair, chaise, Edrioaster[Hedrioaster] saratogensis (a cystoid), Ephedra distachys (a joint-fir), Gonyaulax polyhedra (a flagellate).
This is how it is explained in the taxonomic resource AlgaeBase:
The epithet “polyedra” is a noun in apposition and is non-declinable, so use of the epithet “polyedrum”, supposedly to agree with the gender of the genus name, is incorrect. ICN Art 23.5 [Melbourne Code]: “The specific epithet, when adjectival in form and not used as a noun, agrees grammatically with the generic name; when it is a noun in apposition or a genitive noun, it retains its own gender and termination irrespective of the gender of the generic name. Epithets not conforming to this rule are to be corrected (see Art. 32.2).” – (6 Jan 2018) – M.D. Guiry
The correct name, Lingulodinium polyedra, now appears in AlgaeBase and the World Registry of Marine Species (WoRMS). In a recent publication we referred to it as Lingulodinium polyedra (F. Stein) J. D. Dodge 1989 (formerly Gonyaulax polyedra; by many authors Lingulodinium polyedrum).
Thanks to Michael Guiry for assistance in resolving this issue.
On September 20, Hurricane Maria slammed into the VIrgin Islands as a category 5 hurricane and pounded Puerto Rico as a category 4. With torrential rain and wind gusts up to 200 miles per hour, it caused widespread devastation including loss of electricity and cell service for the entire territory.
In a new article, Dr. Latz explores his artist collaborations in expressing the aesthetic beauty of nature in a creative way that avoids the technical details and jargon that tend to limit the effectiveness of science communication. The objective of the artists’ works is to engage the viewer and perhaps provide the opportunity to educate the curious about science. The article describes the motivation behind the collaborations and includes representative artwork.
You can download the article here: Latz2017_artistry of dinoflagellate BL
Infinity Cube, an innovative exhibit featuring bioluminescence, opened April 7 at the Birch Aquarium of Scripps. In collaboration with Dr. Latz, London-based artist Iyvone Khoo has created a dark ‘sensorial space’ of light projection and sound within a reflective cube to create an immersive experience.
Art is a creative way to express the beauty of nature and communicate what science seeks to understand, without the jargon and technical details. An innovative aspect of Infinity Cube is the use of haiku, a Japanese form of poetry, to communicate science concepts. Visitors learn about luminescent organisms, how bioluminescence functions as a form of communication, its chemistry, and the need for protection of bioluminescent bays. The synergy between artist and scientist provides an opportunity for engage, inspire, and explore.
Infinity Cube was generously supported by Patty and Rick Elkus; the interpretative component was funded by the National Science Foundation.