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BEES Scientist to Lead International Society for Diatom Research

October 22, 2012

Dr. Marina Potapova has been elected vice president of the International Society for Diatom Research (ISDR), an organization whose goal is to educate the public about diatoms and promote the importance of diatom studies. Potapova is an assistant professor in Drexel's Department of Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science and assistant curator of diatoms at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, home to one of the largest diatom collections in the world. Potapova manages the Academy's Diatom Herbarium.

Dr. Marina Potapova collects diatoms from Cole Run

Dr. Marina Potapova collects diatoms from Cole Run, a headwater stream in northcentral Pennsylvania.

Diatoms are one-celled algae that are found in every water body on Earth. Though they can only be seen with a microscope, diatoms produce one-fifth of all the oxygen on the planet and are a common tool for monitoring environmental conditions, particularly water quality.

Potapova was elected at the recent International Diatom Symposium in Belgium. A diatom curator at the Academy since 2008, Potapova’s research focuses on the taxonomy, ecology and biogeography of freshwater diatoms of Europe, Asia and North America. She and her team are working to digitize the Academy’s Diatom Herbarium of about 200,000 slides, many dating to the 19th century, so that they can be more accessible to researchers around the world through a computer.

“It is a great honor to serve the International Society for Diatom Research,” Potapova said. “I look forward to working with members of our society on advancing diatom studies by facilitating access to scientific resources, engaging the next generation of diatom researchers, and promoting international collaborations.”

Diatoms lie at the base of the food chain, and fossil and molecular evidence shows they originated around the Jurassic Period, 200–145 million years ago, when large reptiles dominated the land and before giant plant-eating dinosaurs began to proliferate. In the 1940s, the Academy’s Dr. Ruth Patrick pioneered the study of diatoms for determining whether a body of water was polluted.

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