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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

Nerida Wilson
Photographer: 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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