Now, I am in an old cafe in Kobe, a historical port town in Japan, and listening to a record of languid JAZZ music. I stayed in the Netherlands (Arctic station, University of Groningen) and some other European countries for nine and a half months from March 2017 to January 2018. In particular, it was an amazing experience to stay and research in Spitsbergen Island, Norway, with Dr. Maarten J.J.E. Loonen and his Dutch team for two months during summer. Now I close my eyes and vividly remember the fantastic days in Spitsbergen Island again. That was an incredible, much like a beautiful dream – a priceless experience.
My main project in Spitsbergen Island was "Can snails fly in the sky?: Testing hypothesis of long distance dispersal of snails by migrant birds". It sounds ridiculous but is highly plausible that snails migrate with birds, as suggested by several recent researches of some snails being able to survive the passage through a bird’s digestive system. However, it is unclear whether or not snails can migrate over a long distance with birds, so I wanted to test this hypothesis. Spitsbergen Island has three advantages for this project. 1) It is far enough from continental Europe (by approximately 600 km), so snails should have really few chances to reach the island. 2) It receives a vast number of migratory birds every year during summer, which might be important for migration of small organisms. 3) It was totally covered with glacier at the last glacial period (from 70,000 to 10,000 years ago). Thus, almost all organisms on Spitsbergen Island have likely migrated after the last glacial period. A 10,000-year period is too short to accumulate mutations on DNA sequences hence, organisms on Spitsbergen Island should have very similar DNA sequences to the original populations. This means that it is then possible to define the original populations of organisms on Spitsbergen Island with the comparison of DNA sequences between the populations on Spitsbergen Island and those on wintering grounds for migratory birds. Fortunately, I could find some well-preserved snail shells in common eider's feces thereby allowing me to collect hundreds of feces and bring them back to Japan.
And now, I am in Kobe, a historical port town in Japan. I have completed the extraction of DNA from my samples and passed them on to my colleagues. Hopefully, we will get some results this summer. Temporally released from my important task, now I am listening to a record of languid JAZZ music. I vividly remember the beautiful days on Spitsbergen Island behind the closed eyelids, having a smirk on my face.
More information and articles about my research and stay in Spitsbergen Island can be found in the following webpages. If you are interested in my research, please contact me (Yuta Morii Website: http://yutamorii.wordpress.com).
Yuta MORII(Hokkaido University)