I am a graduate student at UC Berkeley studying the diversity and evolution of whelks. This summer I was sponsored by the NSF (USA) and JSPS (Japan) to work with Dr. Seiji Hayashi at Nagoya University in Japan to collect buccinid gastropod (whelk) tissue samples and examine whelk shell collections at musems throughout Japan. Sugoi! Some of the snails that I study are pictured to the right.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Nagoya City

Nagoya is the fourth largest city in Japan (2.2 million) and the home of much of its automotive industry, as well as ceramic manufacturing. Although about two-thirds of the city was damaged or destroyed during WWII air raids, it was rebuilt and has since expanded.Its more romantic personality traits include that is; a former samurai city, home to famous Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and castles, the capital of Aichi Prefecture, the birthplace of pachinko(!), and home to especially delicious miso. Below are some highlights from a brief tour around the city.
The Nagoya water-strider Tatami makingCandySnacks (okashi)The phenomenon of "replica food."Green Buddha near Nagoya UniversitySee this slide show for more.

Friday, June 27, 2008


My third tier of the Maslowian hierarchy of needs was met today by labmates and faculty. My new lab friend Hideko-san made this sign.This was the restaurant. Here I think I am searching for "vegetarian" (unsuccessfully) in a Japanese/English phrase book.This is a popular Japanese soup called nabe. In this case, with kimchi! After most of the vegetables, etc. in the nabe are eaten, udon noodles are added.

Tsubu gai in the flesh...

The second night of the homestay near SOKENDAI, my hosts took me to a sushi-conveyer belt restaurant. Sugoi! I was quite unfamiliar with the menu, however I was excited (?) to see that it included my study organism, the mighty whelk. The first picture is of the menu, the second is of tsubu gai sashima, the next is my host Tomoki-san about to enjoy it, and finally the sushi belt in all its glory.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


To introduce us to Japanese culture and people, the JSPS (Japanese Society for the Promotin of Science) organized for each of us to spend the first weekend that we were in Japan with a host family. The couple that hosted me were in their 70s and retired, and were awesome! This is a grasshopper on a hydrangea at a park near their home.
Lunch on the first day. Mmmm...This is a touch tank at teh Kannonzaki Museum of Natural History where I saw my first marine snail in Japan! This museum covered topics of regional as well as general interest. It did it thoroughly and had very clear exhibits. For example, the evolutionary arms race (G. Vermeij`s "escalation" concept) is well displayed here. As crabs get better at prying open snail shells, natural selection favors snails with better defenses against crab predation, and only crabs with claws particularly good at getting into defended snails eat enough to survive, and snails that...well you get the picture. And this escalation goes on for millions of years. Beautiful.

JSPS Orientation

How many engineers and materials chemists can you fit in a room? LOTS! Only one paleontologist though. I am sitting in the first row third from the left. Arrigato, National Science Foundation! Our orientation was at SOKENDAI, the Graduate University for Advanced Studies, in Kanagawa Prefecture.