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March 31: Evolution in Action

Thursday, March 31, 2011

FREDERICK, Md.—A noted marine biologist and chief scientist on the federally funded investigative expedition following the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will give a lecture about his work there April 11 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the Whitaker Campus Center at Hood College.

Charles Fisher, Ph.D., professor of biology at The Pennsylvania State University, will give a talk titled “Life in Chemically Extreme Environments: Evolution in Action.” He will give an overview of the lush ecosystems that live at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, the ways in which those animals have adapted to an extreme environment devoid of energy from the sun and the impact of the recent Gulf oil spill on the seafloor communities.

Fisher’s research focuses on the physiology and ecology of the close interactions between deep-sea marine microbes and their invertebrate hosts. The self-sustaining microbes have the ability to synthesize their own food from inorganic chemicals, which in turn supplies the nutritional needs of their hosts. Studying life at the bottom of the ocean provides insight into how organisms may have evolved millions of years ago.

Fisher has made dives to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico since the oil spill and seen some of the damage firsthand. He and a team of marine scientists aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research vessel discovered large areas of coral and other marine organisms that were thought to have been damaged or were dying from exposure to the toxic substances that drifted through the deep ocean last spring in the weeks following the April 20, 2010, Gulf oil spill. At the time, the discovery of dead corals offered the strongest evidence that oil from the BP well may have harmed marine life in the deep ocean, of which the long-term effects are unknown.

The lecture is co-sponsored by the biology, chemistry and physics departments and the Office of the Provost at Hood.

For more information, contact Sue Carney, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, at (301) 696-3648 or by email at