Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why the Endolymph?

Who am I?

Well, my name is Dan.  I am currently a biology graduate student in eastern North Carolina.  I am studying nursery habitat and migration patterns of river herring (alewife and blueback herring) in tributaries of the Albemarle Sound.  If you are familiar with the area the tributaries I am focused on are the Chowan River, Scuppernong River, Perquimans River, Alligator River (which you may have driven over on your way to the Outer Banks), and the world famous Roanoke River.

However, more interesting than actually simply studying river herring is the method with which I am utilizing.  I am using a technique called otolith microchemistry.  I won't get into the nitty gritty details right now (just wait) but here is a quick overview.  Bony fish have structures in their heads, in what is essentially their ear, called otoliths.  There are three pairs of otoliths, that help the fish hear and stay balanced in the water.  Otoliths are made of calcium carbonate, however, trace elements, such as strontium, barium, manganese and magnesium, may substitute for calcium in the otolith.  Water bodies and habitats have different ratios of trace elements in the water, and these ratios are often reflected in the otoliths of fish.  This allows us to track habitat usage, natal origins, migratory patterns, and allows for stock discrimination.  It all seems very complicated, and it is, but I hope to break things down enough so that if anyone winds up reading this they don't start bleeding from the ears. 

Anyway, elements come together to form otoliths in the endolymph fluid, located in the endolymph sac, hence the name of the blog.  My goal is to bring many thoughts together into one tangible thingy (aka blog).  While I will try and focus on new and exciting happenings in the world of otoliths, namely my own otolith research, I will also probably post on interesting happenings (if such things exist) in my life, and yes I will probably write a little (probably a lot) about hockey.