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Undisciplined: It's Snot What You Think

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NOAA OKEANOS EXPLORER Program, Gulf of Mexico 2014 Expedition
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All across the world’s oceans, you can find creatures known as larvaceans – free-swimming invertebrates with a superpower, of sorts. 

They make huge structures out of snot. 

And that might sound gross, but it turns out that there’s a lot we can learn from these animals, and this week we’ll talk to a researcher who has just made a breakthrough in our ability to do just that.

Joining us on the line from the California coast is Kakani Katija, the principle engineer for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, where her work is focused on bio-inspired engineering design, experimental fluid dynamics and the feeding ecology of marine organisms.   

Matthew LaPlante has reported on ritual infanticide in Northern Africa, insurgent warfare in the Middle East, the legacy of genocide in Southeast Asia, and gang violence in Central America. But a few years back, something donned on him: Maybe the news doesn't have to be brutally depressing all the time. Today, he balances his continuing work on more heartbreaking subjects by writing books about the intersection of science, human health and society, including Inheritance with geneticist Sharon Moalem and the Nautilus Award-winning Longevity Plan with cardiologist John Day. His forthcoming book, Superlative, will look at what scientists are learning by studying organisms that have evolved in record-setting ways.