What’s Living Under These Elephant Seals?
Elephant seals weigh tons, are made of hundreds of trillions of individual cells, and are big enough to spot from the small plane as you come in for a landing on the smaller islands in the Falklands (Malvinas).
Standing on one of these beaches, most tourists, including most of the scientists at the recent pan-American Falkland Islands Science Symposium lead by the UK Science and Innovation Network, will stare at these behemoths, transfixed by their arresting presence. Not Ginny Edgcomb. She looks past the giant seals and stares at the dark brown pool in the peaty soil next to them. She gets out a small plastic vial and dips it into the water.
Later, under a microscope at the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI) lab, she explores the world of single-celled organisms, including highly active, animal-like protozoa. In any biology class you’ll get an introduction, but if you have any real impression of them, it likely comes from reading “The Far Side” comics. “Gary Larson has done more for protozoa being recognized than any of our textbooks,” she says.