In her PhD, Dani Crain spent most of her time cutting apart layers in whale earwax.
Yes, whales have ears! But unlike you and me, they can’t clean their ears. So earwax builds up in their ear canals over their entire lives, forming layers like tree rings. In my PhD (expected graduation in 2021), I use this plug of earwax, or earplug, to investigate the long-term trends in stress and sex hormones in baleen whales.
I am an ‘‘Endochronologist,’’ because I am broadly interested in using using animal bits that grow over time (like claws and baleen and baleen whale earwax!) to track how the environment impacts trends in stress, reproduction, diet, and location. The biomarkers I use to investigate this are steroid hormones (like progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, and corticosterone) and nitrogen/carbon stable isotopes. I have been a researcher with the Alaska Department of Fish & Wildlife and am currently a researcher with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
I am always interested in talking science, please contact me if you’d like to chat!
In my off time, I enjoy powerlifting, knitting, drinking copious amounts of coffee, reading science-fiction/fantasy, baking, and cooking.