After lunch, it was time for cuttlefish.
So 13 of us — the 2016-17 KSJ fellows, a spouse, and staff members — crowded around a pair of tray-like tanks at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, to watch the senior scientist Roger Hanlon demonstrate the astonishing ability of these cephalopods to alter their skin colors at will. Before our eyes, as they flashed through the tanks, they changed from mahogany-brown to a luminous, ghostly white to Abstract Expressionist patterns of black outlines on a shifting light background.
Before that display, Hanlon had treated us to a TED Talk-like lecture about his specialty, marine camouflage, including a for-the-ages video that accompanied a paper in The American Naturalist with the startling title “Dramatic Fighting by Male Cuttlefish for a Female Mate.”
It was just one highlight in the two-day reel that was the annual KSJ visit to Woods Hole on May 4 and 5. “Two intensive days of learning in which we traveled, at the most pure style of Captain Nemo, to the depths of the ocean,” as fellow Iván Carrillo put it.
Our stops included a collecting trip on the MBL’s research vessel Gemma (sea stars, crabs, clams, and tiny, immature swimmers in a rainbow of species), dinner in the spacious old-money mansion that now houses the National Academy of Sciences’ Jonsson Center (lobster, strawberries, sunset, and another not-to-be-missed video, by Meera Subramanian), and a tour of the underwater observation vehicles (Jason, Medea, Remus) in the science arsenal at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
We listened. We gawked. We asked questions. We took pictures, hundreds and hundreds of megabytes of them. Here’s a sample.