Tools of the Trade

Tools of the TradeFrom the purely practical to the sorta sentimental, these are some of the must-have research tools of our faculty.

1. Microphone and Sound Recorder

“I study the biology of birds, focusing on both avian evolutionary biology and diversity, and the interactions of birds with their parasites and pathogens — arthropod parasites such as lice; protozoan parasites such as Plasmodium, which causes malaria; and bacterial pathogens such as Borellia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease. I conduct traditional biodiversity surveys of birds and their parasites in remote and unknown regions of our planet. Every morning when I’m in the field and walk into the forest to survey birds, I almost always have my sound recorder and shotgun microphone with me. These devices allow me to record and play vocalizations back to birds, which helps us to document, identify and characterize the birds in a given area.”

2. Nikon D700

“I work with independent musicians, outsider fashion labels, bloggers, photographers, and other ‘do-it-yourself’ creative laborers who make use of new digital technologies to produce and circulate their work. I am interested in the impact of digital technologies on creative laborers and how they are shaping the cultural industries within which they work. Since my work is largely about visual aesthetics, my camera has become a critical research tool and a way to capture those intangible elements that field notes can’t quite reproduce. I have used a number of cameras over the last decade, but my favorite is my Nikon D700, a real workhorse that takes amazing images no matter the lighting conditions.” (Note: Camera pictured is a different model.)

3.Rock Pick

“I study volcanic eruptions, both modern and ancient. For ancient eruptions, I focus on very large-scale volcanic events and their impact on their environment. For modern eruptions, I aim to develop new monitoring tools in the hope of improving our capacity for hazard mitigation. I am most attached to my rock pick. Every geologist loves their hammer; it’s usually the first tool they buy and they can keep it their whole career. There are many like it, but this one is mine.”

4. iPhone

“I investigate how environmental conditions impact health from the perspective and experience of patients, caregivers and communities, and how people engage their surroundings to improve health conditions. My research focuses on asthma and air quality, a longstanding public health problem. I always bring my iPhone into the field — it gets me to, from, and around sites. I use it to take pictures, videos, and record interviews. Its note-taking feature allows me to easily tag, organize and share data with my team. In fact, I was recently invited to speak at a national conference about mobile apps as research tools.”

5. Nail Polish

“My research is focused on a protein called Tip60 that is found in the brain and promotes memory formation. Remarkably, we find that if we increase this protein in the brain in a Drosophila (fruit fly) model for Alzheimer’s disease, we can rescue the learning and memory defects in this neurodegenerative disorder. We use nail polish to mount the brains of the Drosophila, which are about the size of the head of a pin. We put the brains on a slide, put a cover slide over them, and seal the edges with nail polish. This is the best way to make a strong seal to preserve the brain. Lab members color-coordinate the slides with different shades of nail polish.”

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