Dr. Gary Grothman studies tardigrades
They waddle slowly on eight legs, happily munching on moss and other microscopic organisms until the moss dries up. Then they crumple down to resemble a speck of dust, living up to ten years in a desiccated state until conditions are right to resume munching and waddling again. They’re incredibly hardy creatures and are the only organisms to have survived the radiation and vacuum of space.
Scientists affectionately call these fascinating invertebrate organisms “water bears” or “moss piglets”, but they’re technically known as tardigrades. With no known economic benefit or threat of disease from them, however, tardigrades haven’t been well studied by biologists, especially in North America. Dr. Gary Grothman aims to fill this void, searching for and characterizing tardigrades in nearby Fish Creek Provincial Park and other areas of Alberta. It’s still a long ways off, but unlocking the secrets of how tardigrades survive could lead to discoveries related to the storage of living tissues and other applications. In the meantime, simply studying and learning about these poorly understood organisms is highly interesting. Read more about Dr. Grothman’s research on his profile page.