Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ceibas Centenarias

Today's post has a very special meaning to me. When I was an undergrad at UPR Rio Piedras, working under the watchful eye of Richard Thomas, I asked Richard for the names of people whose research I should become familiar with. I have to admit, at the time, I had no idea that I would be given the opportunity to actively participate in research, and I couldn’t even comprehend that Academia was feasible for someone like me. I loved fieldwork and was relatively good at it, but doing research was for smart people -- that was not me. Two of the names at the top of his list were Raymond B. Huey and George Gorman. At the time, I remember reading the papers of Dr. Huey and Dr. Gorman many times, and always wondering myself how a person can have so many great ideas, resulting in such a huge number of interesting papers. Also, I always wondered what the likelihood was that I would have the opportunity to meet them or, even better, help them in the field. Both Dr. Huey and Dr. Gorman were at the top of my list of "academic idols." At the time, and even today, every time I go back and read a paper by Ray I encounter a new small or sometimes GIGANTIC insight into the field of thermal physiology that Ray was able to figure out way ahead of most people. In the case of George, not only did he publish a significant number of papers, he did so in a relatively short period of time and across many areas. In my humble opinion, George was ahead of his time in being what now is called an "Integrative Biologist". I should point out that Paul Hertz and Brad Lister will be joining George and Ray in a couple of days, rounding out the group of Ceibas Centenarias -- a gathering that has resulted from a recent NSF-funded grant -- congrats.

Check this out: I am here in the field with both Ray (left) and George (right); and better yet trying my best to help them find anoles.
Last but not least, for those who are relatively young and experiencing the nice amount of research that is currently going on with anoles, please take the time to read the early FOUNDATIONAL papers. For most of us, our current success was paved by the work done by: Ray, Gorman, Paul Hertz, Tom Schoener, Stan Rand, Tom Jenssen, Judy Stamps, Rodolfo Ruibal, a very select group, most of whom have a direct connection to Ernest Williams, who a few decades ago placed Anolis on the scientific map as a great system to address questions from a diversity of angles. As they like to say in Jamaica, "respect, man, respect." As a side note, students in my lab are required to read "old" literature, and the complete folders from Ray, George, Tom, Stan, Leo Fleishman (he is a little younger, but the JEFESISIMO of anole color vision and motion discrimination), Rodolfo, Paul and Judy, are at the top of my MUST READ papers. Yes, they also read the papers by Jonathan, but only after reading the generation that came before him.

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