17 January 2013

February Science Café: Grouper sex and other salty stuff


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Marine biologist Felicia Coleman has the answers to some juicy sea-creature questions — and she’s ready to reveal them on Feb. 5 at the MagLab’s first Science Café of 2013.

Marine biologist Felicia Coleman.Marine biologist Felicia Coleman will speak at the February 2013 Science Café.Take grouper sex, for example. Coleman, the director of the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory, has the down low on an amazing gender-transforming scenario that regularly plays out beneath the waves. Given the right circumstances, some types of grouper switch from female to male. Why? How? Not surprisingly, learning the answers to those questions helped lure Coleman into her specialty: marine ecology and reef fish.

“When I found out about the sex-change aspect, I was hooked,” says Coleman, who is also the scientific director of the Deep-C Consortium, a long-term, interdisciplinary study of deep-sea-to-coast connectivity in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

If you’d like to discover more secrets about the sea and its denizens, head to Science Café at Ray’s Steel City Saloon, 515 John Knox Road, on Feb. 5. The MagLab- sponsored event starts at 6:15 p.m. and wraps up by 7:30 p.m. Get there early to grab a seat and order something tasty to nosh on.

Coleman will also talk about the grouper’s homebuilding proclivities. Some grouper dig — yes, dig — giant holes that other marine animals like to hang out in, including shrimp, lobster, coral, anemones and more. These busy beavers of the fish world have been spotted digging holes more than 16 feet across and 9 feet deep! Their engineering skill also has weighty implications for what may happen if humans continue to ignore the role these amazing fish play in the marine world.

After Coleman wows you with stories about some of the strange goings-on in the ocean, the winter Science Café line-up will continue monthly through May with a stellar cast. In March, the intrepid Darrel Tremaine, a young MagLab scientist in chemical oceanography, will talk about his trek into caves such as the Dragon'€™s Tooth for clues to our climate'€™s history. April presents a special treat, bringing former MagLab scientist Jennifer Stern to the venue to talk about being a scientist who works on the Curiosity Mars Rover — and what we’ve discovered so far. In May, FSU’s new vice president of research, Gary Ostrander, will wrap up the series, which then takes a break for the summer.

Science Café, held the first Tuesday of the month, is free and gives you a chance to ask the experts your own questions. See you there!

The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory is the world’s largest and highest-powered magnet facility. Located at Florida State University, the University of Florida and Los Alamos National Laboratory, the interdisciplinary National MagLab hosts scientists from around the world to perform basic research in high magnetic fields, advancing our understanding of materials, energy and life. The lab is funded by the National Science Foundation (DMR-1157490) and the state of Florida. For more information, visit us online at nationalmaglab.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest at NationalMagLab.