Around the Pier: Scripps Postdoctoral Scholar Wins Award Honoring Scripps Legacy


Katie Barott, a postdoctoral scholar at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, has been honored for her work conducted at Scripps and around the world with a prestigious award named after a successful Scripps marine physiologist.

Barott attended the American Physiological Society’s (APS) Intersociety Meeting in San Diego on October 5-8. There she submitted her project, "Cellular Mechanisms by Which Coral Cells Can Promote Photosynthesis by Their Symbiotic Algae,” and was awarded the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology Section Scholander Award, named after the late Per Scholander.

Scripps marine physiologist Per Scholander was a pioneer in documenting the unusual anatomy of sea lion and seal lungs, and became the director of the Physiological Research Laboratory at Scripps in the 1960s.

“It is a real honor to be selected for this award,” Barott said, “especially given Scholander's connection with Scripps.”

Barott said she was amazed to have her project compared to the fundamental marine physiology research conducted by Scholander, as she strives to use his methodology and ambition in her own research.  

“I recently read his autobiography,” said Barott. “His intense curiosity about the natural world and innovative approach to answering scientific questions are two things I aspire to bring to my own research.”

The APS Intersociety Meeting, described as an event to “draw comparative and evolutionary physiologists from around the world to present and discuss recent advances in animal physiology,” grants this award to an outstanding young researcher who presents cutting edge work at the meeting.

“It is one of the most prestigious awards for young scientists in our field,” said Martin Tresguerres, a Scripps marine biologist and Barott’s postdoctoral advisor.

Barott has been working for two years on understanding how corals interact with their algal symbionts and how that affects their ability to survive on the reef.

In this time, she received an opportunity to spend four months in Monaco, furthering her work at the Centre Scientifique de Monaco with the world’s leaders in coral physiology, Ph.D.s Alex Venn and Sylvie Tambutte.

“I learned a great deal during my time there,” said Barott. “It was also fun to work in a place so closely affiliated with the great ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau. I don't know if Cousteau and Scholander ever interacted, but they were of the same era and both studied diving physiology–Cousteau as the inventor of SCUBA diving and Scholander as a pioneer in the physiology of diving marine mammals.”

With an ongoing love for the sea, Barott has used her passion to drive her to academic achievements. In order to conduct research at Scripps, she  received the National Science Foundation (NSF) postdoctoral fellowship, and is currently working towards her postdoc.

“Growing up in Santa Barbara, I have always been happiest when I'm out on the water,” said Barott. “It wasn't until I was in college that I realized I could make a career of studying the ocean, and I haven't looked back since!”

Receiving a fellowship and this award are only a few of Barott’s many academic achievements. She received two undergraduate degrees, one in zoology and one in biochemistry and molecular biology, from Michigan State University and continued on to receive her Ph.D. in biology from San Diego State University and UC San Diego’s Joint Doctoral Program, where she worked in the lab of microbial ecologist Forest Rohwer of SDSU.

“Since my background is in microbiology and ecology, it was really useful for me to see all of the great work being done in comparative physiology at this meeting,” said Barott.

Read more about the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology Section Scholander Award

-Mia Mendola is a public relations intern for Scripps Institution of Oceanography communications office and a graduate from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo journalism department. 


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