The first time I met Eleanor Bors, we were crammed into a very hot transport bus on our way to Nautilus. People and luggage were piled high in every available place. Ellie had two especially sensitive pieces to transport- her biological sampling equipment case and her cura (description follows). I found later that this snapshot of Ellie is actually a good one. The biological sampling case made sense. Ellie is working on her PhD through a joint program with MIT and WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) with Co-Chief Scientist Dr. Timothy Shank. The purchase of the cura, a traditional Turkish stringed instrument, shows another side of Ellie. She graduated from Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music in 2009 with a Bachelor of Music in cello performance and a Bachelor of Arts in biology. As well as being a serious scientist, she is a serious musician. She plays the cello and still works on keeping it up. Learning another instrument makes sense.
Upbeat, creative, and patient, Ellie is quite the teacher to the honors students, interns, and Educators at Sea. Her time on Nautilus includes hours of processing specimens, standing watch, and still cheerfully answers questions about her science. I have seen her smiling away as she takes pictures of amphipods (tiny crustaceans), dissects tube worms, and looks at hundreds of critters found on wood that has fallen to the sea floor. I also have seen her playing with her new instrument and dancing skillfully around the ship. Ellie knows her stuff and is a quintessential explorer.
Ellie’s passion is to understand population diversity so that better marine management can occur. If we know how species spread from place to place in the vast ocean, then perhaps we can better conserve the organisms and the habitats. This is a look at connectivity on a molecular level. One of the important things about this study is that it is not species specific. In order to have a more complete understanding of marine communities, she is sampling several different species rather than specializing in one area. Although this may mean there is less specific knowledge it gives an overall picture of what is going on in the biological communities. We can look at how the same species differ genetically from place to place, and we can also see how the type of organisms are different from place to place. At this time we do not know a lot about how organisms and their larvae move about the ocean when some areas are far apart. This expedition is trying to find some more pieces of the puzzle so that we can better understand and manage biological populations. This is science at its purest form, and Ellie is one of the worthy pioneers on board of E/V Nautilus.