Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Virtual Science Café: Sexy Corals, Unassuming Fish, and Assassin Flies

Archived Webinar

This Zoom webinar with Jennifer Sneed, Torsten Dikow, Adela Roa-Varón aired October 1, 2020, as part of the Virtual Science Café series. Watch a recording in the player above.


In this video, we explore cutting-edge research taking place at the Smithsonian to illuminate some of the unsung heroes playing a significant role in the balance of Earth’s ecosystems.  

“Microbes, Chemistry, and Coral Sex,” by Jennifer Sneed, Biologist

Summary: Jennifer Sneed is a marine microbial chemical ecologist working for the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce, Fla., who regularly finds herself swimming through a dark soup of coral eggs and sperm. How did she end up here and, more importantly, why? She shares her journey and the reasons everyone should be excited about the small, but mighty, microbes influencing the future of coral reefs.

“Discovering Biodiversity Through Desert Flies,” by Torsten Dikow, Research Entomologist and Curator of Diptera

When you think of deserts — with their sprawling landscapes, elusive predators, and picture-perfect plants — do you ever think of flies? Probably not, yet even insects play a part in the balance of desert environments. In his talk, Torsten shares stories of his research on assassin and mydas flies in the Namib Desert in Southern Africa, including the discovery of new species that reveal the diversity of desert environments.

“A Tale of Uncharismatic Fishes,” by Adela Roa-Varón, Ichthyologist

Take a dive into the world of Gadiformes, aka cods, hakes, and grenadiers. This unassuming, yet abundant, group of fish includes some of the most important commercially harvested fishes in the world. Adela takes us into her world of morphology and DNA research to identify and help conserve the endangered species within the group.

Moderator: Naimah Muhammad, Public Programs Coordinator

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Life Science