2013-10-25 / Society

Do fish like icy water?

By Warner M. Montgomery, Ph.D.


David Brinkman (l), chair of the Greater Piedmont Chapter of The Explorers Club, welcomes Dr. Sean Place, professor at USC. David Brinkman (l), chair of the Greater Piedmont Chapter of The Explorers Club, welcomes Dr. Sean Place, professor at USC. Dr. Sean Place spoke to the monthly meeting of the Greater Piedmont Chapter of The Explorers Club October 11. He received his Ph.D from the University of Santa Barbara then joined the faculty at USC in 2009.

This native of New Mexico’s desert admitted he has found happiness in the frigid environment of Antarctica. He became curious how some organisms have adapted to rapidly changing environments, even in polar waters. Using a $2.4 million grant (part of a larger National Science Foundation initiative under the Ocean Acidification theme of Climate Research Investment), he packed his best winter clothes and went south to investigate the effects of environmental stress on Antarctic fish.

It wasn’t easy since the fish refused to talk to him. But being an eager young scientist, Dr. Place drilled a hole in the ice and dropped his hook, line, and sinker in the water. He caught six different species of fish, dumped them in tanks with varying combinations of temperature and concentrations of carbon dioxide, took samples from their gills and livers, and tested their metabolic rate. He wanted to determine their cellular and molecular response and the effect on their genes...not an easy task. He is now examining the results and plans to return for a second year of icy experimentation.


Scientists Sean Place (l) and Mackenzie Zippay fish for specimens on the sea ice of Antarctica. Scientists Sean Place (l) and Mackenzie Zippay fish for specimens on the sea ice of Antarctica. Founded in New York City in 1904, The Explorers Club promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air, and space by supporting research and education in the physical, natural, and biological sciences. Club members have been first to the North Pole, first to the South Pole, first to the summit of Mount Everest, first to the deepest point in the ocean, and first to the surface of the moon. For information on club activities, contact David Brinkman at www.dobrinkman.net.

Return to top