Ten years after retirement, Bill Jeffries is a presence on campus—and now on the World
Wide Web. The professor emeritus of biology and his collaborator since the mid-1970s, former
Assistant Professor of Biology Harold Voris, launched a Web site in August offering scholarly
resources on gooseneck barnacles of the genus Octolasmis. The site is supported by Chicago’s
Field Museum of Natural History.
|On one of his excursions, Jeffries pauses to rest outside his lodgings for the evening
in Chumphon Province, adjacent to Mu Ko Chumphon Marine National Park, Thailand.
Jeffries explains that his research partnership with Voris “started
out of a friendship developed here at Dickinson.” Voris taught biology at Dickinson from
1969-73, then joined the Field Museum, where he now is curator and head of the division of
amphibians and reptiles in the zoology department.
While doing research on sea snakes during
the mid-’70s in Malaysia, Voris found interesting
animals, epizoites, on the snakes. He removed several barnacles from the sea snakes and sent
them to Jeffries for identification.
“During the summers of 1974, 1975 and 1976, I examined
over 1,300 sea snakes in the Field Museum collection, found several different species of barnacles,
and we became interested in one kind in particular [the Octolasmis],” says Jeffries.
Jeffries and Voris traveled to Ko Phuket, an island off the western coast of Thailand, in
the early 1990s to conduct research. At the Phuket Marine Biological Center they began examining
the common edible mangrove crab, Scylla serrata, and its barnacle epizoites.
was to establish what species of Octolasmis were present and to determine when, in the life
cycle of the host, barnacle infestation begins,” says Jeffries. “The
long-range objective was to evaluate what impact the barnacles are having on their hosts and
what impact they may have on the crab-fishing industry.”
Looking back, Jeffries is quick
to credit the role Dickinson students have played in the research, especially since some 22
Dickinson-affiliated names are listed as supporting colleagues on the Web site. Students have “done
everything from helping to dissect specimens to making original observations to making drawings
for publications,” says Jeffries.
Some students helped with grant-funded research and
had work published, which is fairly uncommon for undergraduates, according to Jeffries. “It’s
great to be at an institution where you can work with students who are interested enough and
good enough to become seriously involved.”
Marcus Key, associate professor of geology,
is featured on the site as a co-author. While examining the sea snakes in the Field Museum,
explains Jeffries, “I collected detailed information
on everything I observed.” He passed on to Key data on Bryozoa, animals somewhat resembling
coral and lacking a backbone.
“I recorded my detailed observations, and [Key] organized
and analyzed them, thereby exposing their significance,” Jeffries explains. “This
is one of the happiest circumstances that develops out of working together.”
Jeffries and Voris returned to Thailand to collect more specimens—“to
survey the Gulf of Thailand for Octolasmis and to assess different populations for possible
genetic differentiation,” according to Jeffries.
During a five-week stay, they lived mainly
on the Chulalongkorn University campus. With graduate students as interpreters, and a rented
van and driver, they visited much of the western coast of the Gulf of Thailand, making a southern
trip toward Burma and, later, a second trip along the eastern coast of the Gulf toward Cambodia. “Our
strategy was to stay very close to the coast and stop at fishing villages [and] talk with local
fishermen,” says Jeffries.
As in previous trips to Thailand, Jeffries and Voris worked
with Thai students. They spoke to a graduate biogeography class and offered a seminar on the
“Our trip was quite successful in that we were able to make many
contacts within the Thai scientific community as well as in the fishing industry and, thereby,
build a foundation for future research,” Jeffries notes. “The Thais are a friendly
and industrious people, and they are eager to collaborate and learn with us.”
aftermath of the Dec. 26 tsunami, Jeffries was relieved to hear that his Thai colleagues were
safe. “All of our travel was east of that [damaged] area, along the perimeter of
the Gulf of Thailand.”
Jeffries’ recent trip was made possible, in part, by a Dickinson
College Research and Development grant.
“I’m very grateful, I truly am, [to this]
institution—it makes it all possible
for people like me,” he says. And, though retired, Dickinson has provided him research
space. Of his continuing opportunities, Jeffries observes, “There aren’t many retirees
who have the energy and enthusiasm to do this, but I’m lucky enough to have both.”
this research Jeffries believes that he and Voris “have been able to add, in
very substantial ways, to man’s knowledge of these organisms.”
He adds, “The
response [to the Web site] from our colleagues around the country has been very gratifying.
In our field of study, published research papers address a small percentage of the academic
community, so why not create a Web site and share our knowledge of these little-known barnacles
with as large an audience as possible?” •
For more information, go to: www.fieldmuseum.org/barnacles/