Every Species Needs a Hero

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | October 22, 2007 12:08 pm

sea_cucumber_300_196.jpgAs someone who’s spent a heck of a lot of time studying sea cucumbers, I’m the first to know when these critters make the news. It’s not because I follow the literature, but rather that everyone who does feels the desire to forward me related articles. Despite that this is an extremely charismatic animal, I’m not sure I’m completely comfortable with the association. I’ve definitely waded into many other (arguably as interesting) areas since my early days with echinoderms. Still, I’m beginning to recognize the reputation will follow me regardless.

Well, every species needs a hero and I’ve been a denialist long enough. Friday, this article hit my inbox a total of 28 times.

Sea cucumbers will probably provide us with the key to deciphering how to regenerate our tissues, or at least find out what is needed to do this.

Now sea cucumbers have long been involved in eastern medicine touted as ‘Ginseng of the Sea‘ and among other uses, have purported aphrodisiac qualities. I have no basis for comment and am admittedly skeptical – particularly of the latter. However, their curious regenerative abilities are undoubtedly real and understanding the mechanisms responsible provides tremendous potential in medicine. Perhaps ‘Stem Cells of the Sea’ would be a more apt title. Thus, today I embrace my roots in sea cucumber-ology and encourage everyone to learn more about the wonderful world of this stimulating holothurian.


Comments (14)

  1. “stimulating holothurian”? LOve your word-play πŸ˜‰

  2. Speaking of word play….I hope you realize that your title has had me singing Tina Turner all day.

  3. I knew you’d love it Bora πŸ˜‰

    Chris, the thought of you singing ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’ leaves me intrigued… That is to say, I’ll be looking forward to the live performance next time we’re together. It may even be a reasonable pick for next year’s Mooney-Kirshenbaum kareoke duet.

  4. Philip H.

    Miss Sheril,
    Stimulating and holothurian are not words I normally string together, under any circumstances. Of course, being a bivalve guy, I’m just as guilty of reverting to a love of the simple as the next invert biologist. So thanks for taking me back!

    Now, if you REALLY want to cause a stir in the Bio-Blog world, I suggest a long piece on “nudi”branchs is in order.

  5. What I have always wondered is why we don’t have a superhero with the mutant powers of a sea cucumber.



    While this is an intriguing idea, they mainly expel their gonads and thus, it wouldn’t quite make for an adequate Saturday morning cartoon. They do, however, secrete some super mysterious toxin. That’s a nifty superpower too, no?

  7. While this is an intriguing idea, they mainly expel their gonads and thus, it wouldn’t quite make for an adequate Saturday morning cartoon.

    That’s okay, comic books are for adults now too! We could get Frank Miller to draw it; he’s all about the gonads.

  8. We could get Frank Miller to draw it; he’s all about the gonads.

    I like it Coin, definitely potential here. If you secure the artist, I will agree to work on the story line. There are so many directions one can go that would be novel given the possibilities of an underwater comic world.

  9. Oliver

    Sheril, just counter Chris’ Tina Turner with an ample dose of Bonnie Tyler, she’s still holding out for a hero. πŸ˜‰


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.


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