John Pearse, Ph.D. Emeritus Professor/Research Professor of Biology University of California, Santa Cruz, California
John Pearse retired from the Biology Department at University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) in 1994, and continues to write and conduct research and science-related activities at the Joseph M. Long Marine Laboratory of the Institute of Marine Sciences. While he no longer sponsors graduate students in biology, he still co-sponsors students and serves on committees in both biology and ocean sciences. Pearse, his wife, Vicki and father Ralph Buchsbaum, are revising the invertebrate zoology textbook Living Invertebrates, which was published in 1987. The first edition of Living Invertebrates proved an invaluable resource during the creation of The Shape of Life series.
Pearse's research focuses on the reproductive ecology of marine animals, including hybridization among sea urchins. He also explores the rich and diverse intertidal habitats of central California, and develops programs that can be used to monitor changes occurring in them. This task involves outreach to schools and other interested groups.
Pearse is also currently President of the California Academy of Sciences. UCSC and the Academy recently established links which allow graduate students with interests in systematic biology to be co-sponsored by Academy scientists (www.calacademy.org). He is currently serving as Program Officer for the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology, an international society especially concerned with promoting student careers in organismic biology.
Don Wobber, M.Sc., has always had an interest in the sea. As a youngster, he climbed the coastal rocks and explored the tide pools along the northern California coast. Even during his twenty-year partnership in the family printing business, he indulged in diving every chance he got.
Wobber's passion for the sea is both artistic and academic. For over fifty years he has been diving for jade from which he creates his sculptures. He took up underwater photography in the 1950s when he traded a jade stone for an underwater housing which he converted to fit his 35 mm Leica M-3. His biology career began in 1968 when he sold his share of the family printing business and went back to university to study marine biology. Shortly thereafter, he received a Master's degree from San Francisco State University.
Wobber's master thesis, "Agonism in Asteroids", was published in Biological Bulletin in 1975. That same year, Wobber went on extended trips to the Red Sea, Great Barrier Reef, New Zealand and Samoa. In each location, he saw the same type of intraspecific sea star "bouting" behavior he had photographed beneath his home waters in Monterey, California. Wobber's paper opened the door to future studies of echinoderm social behaviors.
John Pearse, how did you choose your present profession?
I don't remember choosing my profession in any conscious way. However, I spent a lot of my childhood in the woods and streams around Washington, DC, and in the deserts and mountains around Tucson, Arizona, and these childhood experiences led to my love of nature. Throughout that time, I had a menagerie of animals in cages and loose in our houses -- insects, spiders, fishes, reptiles, birds, small mammals (my parents were very supportive of these interests).
I also spent a lot of time in the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum and other museums, zoos, and botanical gardens in the Washington DC area, and worked while in high school at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona. My first year in college was at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, where I discovered marine life in the Mediterranean and Red Sea (my father was in the US AID program then). The remainder of my college years were at the University of Chicago (my father's alma mater), where I dreamed of marine creatures. Graduate work at Stanford University allowed me to follow those dreams and led me into a career in academia.
Dr. Pearse, what would you recommend for students wanting to pursue a similar career?
Follow your passions; look for patterns in nature and ask why; learn all you can and challenge your teachers (they appreciate that too).
Dr. Pearse, what do you like best about your profession?
Working with fascinating organisms in beautiful places all over the world, and being surrounded by bright, challenging, young people throughout my career.
Dr. Pearse, what web sites and references would you recommend for viewers interested in your work that was featured inThe Shape of Life series?
The Echinoderm Newsletter
More general websites:
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
California Academy of Sciences
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Seymour Marine Discovery Center
Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans
American Microscopical Society
References (of course!):
Ralph Buchsbaun, Mildred Buchsbaum, John Pearse, and Vicki Pearse. Animals Without Backbones, Third Edition. University of Chicago Press, 1987
Vicki Pearse, John Pearse, Mildred Buchsbaum, and Ralph Buchsbaum. Living Invertebrates. Blackwell Scientific Publications and Boxwood Press, 1987.
Colin Tudge. The Variety of Life. Oxford University Press. 2000.
Libbie Henrietta Hyman. The Invertebrates: Echinodermata. McGraw-Hill Book Company. 1955.
Edward F. Ricketts, Jack Calvin with Joel W. Hedgpeth, revised by David W. Phillips. Between Pacific Tides, Fifth Edition. Stanford University Press. 1985.
Lovell Langstroth and Libby Langstroth. A Living Bay - The Underwater World of Monterey Bay. The University of California Press/ Monterey Bay Aquarium. 2000.