Saturday, December 06, 2008

Experts in a Lesser Known Phylum

Ask most people to name some phyla of animals and they will just look at you funny. Those who do know what you are talking about are likely to name Chordata, Arthropoda, Annelida, or maybe Mollusca. Most people will run out of Phyla long before getting to Rotifera. We humans tend not to pay a lot of attention to a Phylum whose members are mostly microscopic and don't cause any known disease. This is true not only among lay-folk, but among scientists as well. Web of Science, a catalogs of the scholaraly articles from about 8700 publications, lists fewer than 100 papers focusing on rotifers in the last year. Arthropoda, by comparison, gets more than 38,000 hits in the same period. So rotifers are not the best studied group in the world.
But those almost a hundred publications had to derive from somewhere. That somewhere is a scattering of experts across the globe. And it gets lonely being the only one in your city, state, country or continent with a strong interest in rotifers. (For example, I think I my lab is the only one in California which focuses on rotifers.) So what's a lonesome rotiferologist to do? Organize a conference, of course. Every two or three years there is a Rotifera conference somewhere in the world, and I have just found out that Rotifera XII is in Berlin, Germany next August. I very much plan on going, and hope to give a short talk on my work. They have about 60 slots open for presentations, which I think means almost everyone who studies rotifers will be there presenting. It should be interesting.


jte said...

I once dreamed of becoming the world's foremost expert on squid. Didn't happen. But you've got a good shot at this rotifera thing. Maybe you can get two slots at the Berlin conference.

Dan Levitis said...

Hmm, there are enough people who know more about rotifers than I do that I think I am only slightly more likely to become the world's rotifer expert than you are to become the squidman.