Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego's previous and current directors, Charles Kennel and Tony Haymet, have been honored with the launch of an innovative student exchange program with Australia.
Nick Wegner, a graduate student working in Scripps research physiologist Jeff Graham's laboratory, is the first recipient of the Kennel-Haymet Graduate Student Travel Fellowship, a new program designed to exchange students between Scripps Oceanography and its long-term partner in marine and atmospheric research, Australia's CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation).
An anonymous donor has funded the fellowship to Australia for three years. CSIRO has funded reciprocal fellowships to Scripps' La Jolla campus. The fellowship was created by Scripps to celebrate the leadership of former director Charles Kennel, who oversaw a graduate student population increase from 180 to 250, and CSIRO to honor former CSIRO Chief Tony Haymet, who established joint Ph.D. programs with the University of Tasmania. As a measure of the closeness of the institutions, Haymet's predecessor in Hobart, Dr. Nan Bray, was lured from Scripps to lead CSIRO.
During his two-week tour of Australian museums and oceanographic organizations, Wegner advanced his studies of fish gill ventilation systems and related structural features in continuously swimming fish species, including tunas, mackerels and marlins. Such fish rely upon unique structural adaptations that allow fast, continuous water flow through gills for efficient, sustained aerobic swimming. While details of these features are known in certain fish species, others remain a mystery.
Wegner described Australia as an "ideal" location to examine preserved specimens critical to his investigations and to collect fresh tissue samples from species in that region. One species, for example, the Papuan seerfish (Scomberomorus multiradiatus), is exclusively found off New Guinea and was only identified 25 years ago. Wegner presented the details of his work during a seminar in Australia and on May 7 at Scripps.
"Nick gave a fantastic seminar on 'high-performance' fish. He grabbed an opportunity and took it far beyond what we hoped for," Haymet said.
Wegner's Australian tour included CSIRO's Marine HQ in Hobart, which houses Australia's National Fish Collection; Cairns, to work with local fishermen for specimen collection; Sydney, to visit the Australian Museum Fish Collection; and Brisbane, to work with researchers at CSIRO's Cleveland laboratory and the University of Queensland.
"The close historical relationship between the directors of CSIRO and Scripps now becomes one between students that can last for their lifetimes. This gives me great satisfaction," said Kennel.
Wegner considered the trip a huge success, as he has now collected gill tissue from fish genera key to his doctoral research. The new samples give him fresh resources to further study questions related to the acquisition and evolution of unique gill structures.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, is one of the oldest, largest, and most important centers for global science research and education in the world. Now in its second century of discovery, the scientific scope of the institution has grown to include biological, physical, chemical, geological, geophysical, and atmospheric studies of the earth as a system. Hundreds of research programs covering a wide range of scientific areas are under way today on every continent and in every ocean. The institution has a staff of more than 1,400 and annual expenditures of approximately $195 million from federal, state, and private sources. Scripps operates oceanographic research vessels recognized worldwide for their outstanding capabilities. Equipped with innovative instruments for ocean exploration, these ships constitute mobile laboratories and observatories that serve students and researchers from institutions throughout the world. Birch Aquarium at Scripps serves as the interpretive center of the institution and showcases Scripps research and a diverse array of marine life through exhibits and programming for more than 430,000 visitors each year. Learn more at scripps.ucsd.edu and follow us at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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