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A Shaker of Science

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shaker of science logo 

A Shaker of Science is a pay-what-you-wish, interactive virtual happy hour where Academy scientists and staff can share their stories and adventures in a casual setting.

A Shaker of Science: Steinbeck, Algae and Clams
Friday, January 22, 2021
5:30pm–6:30 p.m.
Zoom; Pay-What-You-Wish with registration

Join us for a virtual live happy hour and unwind with Academy scientists Rick McCourt, PhD., Toko Mori and Lincoln Rehm.

What do John Steinbeck, the New Jersey Pine Barrens and giant clams have in common? Turns out the answer is seaweed, algae and this month’s A Shaker of Science! Take a cruise (metaphorically – please don’t go on an actual cruise right now!) through the Sea of Cortez in the wake of John Steinbeck and some astounding seaweed collections. Reach back 10,000 years in time through the Pine Barrens to discover beautiful algal spores that paint a picture of a long past environment. Then dive down to tropical coral reefs where giant clams team up with microscopic plants to survive.

Pour a drink, sit back and find out there is a whole lot more to plants than the trees and shrubs outside your door as we toast to the oft forgotten world of seaweed and algae!

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Scientist Recommended Libations:

Beer: Modelo Especial Pilsner-style Lager

When studying algae in the Sea of Cortez, it’s only appropriate to refresh yourself with a Mexican beer!

Cocktail: Sea of Cortez Gel Cocktail

Did you know agar-agar powder, commonly used for vegan jello, is made from red algae? Channel the power of the sea for this delicious jiggly cocktail! In a small saucepan, combine ¼ cup lime juice, ½ cup orange juice, ¼ cup water, ¼ cup sugar and 1 tsp of agar-agar powder. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 1/3 cup Crème de cassis and 2/3 cup blanco tequila. Stir thoroughly and portion into small glasses. Chill until jiggly and enjoy with a spoon!

Temperance Cocktail: Lincoln’s Kava Tea

Enjoy a traditional relaxing and slightly intoxicating non-alcoholic herbal tea from Lincoln’s home country, the Republic of Palau. Place 1-2 tablespoons of Kava powder in a tightly closed cloth bag (a few layers of cheesecloth or a nutmilk bag work well) in a bowl and pour 1- 1 ½ cups boiling water over the bag. Let steep, gently kneading the bag occasionally until the tea resembles a watery hot-cocoa color. Serve in a coconut bowl.

Note: Kava may interact with certain medications and can cause certain other physical effects. Please consume responsibly.

Wine: 2013 Château Montrose, Saint-Estèphe, France

Several vineyards in Bordeaux and in Cognac have been testing using brown algae derived solutions to combat downy mildew on grapevines as an alternative to a traditionally used copper-based solution. Decant this delicious classic Bordeaux for at least 30 minutes before the start of the event.

About the Speakers:

Rick McCourt, PhD, studies the ecology and evolution of algae and plants. His doctoral dissertation was on intertidal algal ecology in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. His current research is on the biodiversity, evolution, ecology and systematics of green algae, specifically a group known as charophyte algae. These green algae are among the closest living algal relatives of land plants and include some well-known algae such as stoneworts and Spirogyra. He is working on reconstructing the evolutionary tree of these algae, which are the distant evolutionary cousins of land plants. Rick is curator of the Lewis and Clark Herbarium of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. He also works on historical botany collections, such as the Lewis and Clark Herbarium at the Academy. With co-author Earle E. Spamer he produced a Special Publication CD-ROM and numerous peer-reviewed papers on the Lewis and Clark Herbarium and has lectured widely at scientific and public venues on this historical collection.

Toko Mori is a researcher who started working at the Academy in spring 2020. She is interested in freshwater green algae, especially in exploring their local diversity. Before joining the Academy, Toko was a curatorial assistant of the fungal collections at the Bell Museum of Natural History of the University of Minnesota. She has a master’s in plant biology from the University of Minnesota.

Lincoln Rehm is a graduate student working with Rick McCourt. He has always had a fascination with the marine environment, especially coral reefs, which led him to work at a research facility in Palau. His work there directly impacted conservation efforts in Palau, inspiring him to seek a future in similar types of applicable research. Currently studying the symbiosis between giant clams and zooxanthellae, Lincoln hopes his work positively impacts the conservation of these organisms.