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Nudibranchs in Antarctica

By: Brendan Atkins, Category: Science, Date: 21 Jan 2011

Meet Dr Nerida Wilson, one of several new recruits who are boosting the Museum's research capability. Nerida specialises in sea slugs and sea snails.

Nerida Wilson

Stuart Humphreys © Australian Museum

Describing herself as a broadly based biologist, Nerida’s special interest is nudibranchs (sea slugs). ‘I fell in love with nudibranchs long ago and they’re the reason I studied science. Of course I’ve since realised that other animals are interesting too.

‘At university, I was interested in taxonomy but encouraged to do something “more academic” by various professors, by which they meant looking at [biochemical] cellular processes and structures. So I did, and in hindsight it was good to gain the broader experience, but at the time I was irritated that taxonomy [systematics] was seen as somehow too specialised.’

Nerida is working to understand the evolutionary (phylogenetic) relationships of nudibranchs. In particular, she is studying a large species complex found in Antarctica. ‘The species look similar in different locations, yet there is only limited gene flow between them’, she said. ’It’s a classic case of cryptic radiation.’

When asked about the practical function of such work, she bristles slightly. ‘To me, science helps people connect with the living world in unpredictable ways. I like to pursue new knowledge, and I don’t accept that every outcome should be known before you begin.

‘It’s like evolution – you don’t have to “believe” in it; you listen to the facts and what they’re telling you.’
 

1 comment

Lynda Kelly - 12.01 PM, 24 January 2011

Nicely done Brendan and welcome Nerida! Look forward to more interesting snippets on science bytes in the future.

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