07 August 2015

The chapter of desperation

Back about a year and a half ago, I was writing my little butt off. And one of those projects was a book chapter that has come out this week.

And yes, that’s my name on the cover of the book. I helped a little.

I first met lead editor Tadashi Kawai at the International Association for Astacology conference in 2010. Our paths crossed again when Tadashi organized a special session on crayfish at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in early 2013. Tadashi had wanted the session to be a symposium, but the SICB programming folks are very reluctant to hold taxon specific symposia. Papers from the symposium are published in the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology, and issues revolving around a specific group of animals hurts the journal’s Impact Factor. So the choice of symposium is very definitely affected by what they think will help the journal.

Tadashi is tenacious, however, and this book sort of arose, phoenix-like, from that SICB session. Originally, it was to be more focused on Marmorkrebs, but the book expanded significantly, and the final product is a big, substantive book almost 700 pages long.

Tadashi is Japanaese, and the other co-editor of this book, Gerhard, is German. Although both of these fine people have published many papers in English each, I think I was sort of brought on board as the “native English speaker” to assist with the editing! I want to give full credit to my co-editors, who I am sure did much more for this book than I did. I was pleased to help.

The chapter itself was a tough assignment. There was the timing. As I mentioned, it was coming due right around the time when I was preparing to co-host the SICB symposium on parasite manipulation, not to mention give a talk and poster there, plus write up a lot of other manuscripts. I just had to lay in a lot of text very fast.

Luckily, I had been blogging about this marbled crayfish for about seven years at that point, and thanks to blogging, I knew the literature and the issues reasonably well. I had a back catalogue to draw from. I dipped into a lot of information and ideas that I had previously treated on the Marmorkrebs blog, and sometimes from this one, too.

Worse, though, was that Tadashi had asked me to write a chapter about two quite different things: Marmorkrebs as a model organism in the lab, and Marmorkrebs as an invasive in the field. I struggled and struggled to make the chapter cohesive. And ultimately, I could only do so much, and the chapter has two very distinct sections. But... I think I found a way to join the two widely divergent streams into one river at the end of the chapter. Here’s an excerpt from near the end (my emphasis).

This series of events has been fortuitous in that it has created a framework for Marble crayfish research that unites basic, curiosity driven bench science and applied, pragmatic field science. ... This level of integration is unusual for an emerging model organism. Despite thousands of published research articles on the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, mostly its genetics, the ecology and natural history remains ‘mysterious.’ There seems little impetus for improvement on that point for C. elegans, but the pressing concerns of the potential economic impact of Marble crayfish provides a clear reason for cross-pollination of research. It is, and will continue to be, important for the basic bench research and applied field research programs on Marble crayfish not to operate in largely independent tracks, but to intersect as often as possible.

That was one thing I was happy about. I was also happy that I snuck in some previously unpublished data in the chapter! I had a little data about the escape neurons in Marmorkrebs that I had presented, but hadn’t found a home for, because I didn’t have a complete narrative yet. I was able to show that yes, the marbled crayfish does have giant interneurons and a specialized motor giant (MoG) fast flexor motot neuron. Nowhere near enough to make a paper out of, because it is completely unsurprising, but it is an original observation, so I documented it in this chapter.

Because this was a book, I submitted the figure in black and white, because I didn’t even know we were allowed to have colour figures. Colour plates are typically still an expensive luxury in most books. So I’ve put the colour version here and on Figshare.

I can also give you a peek at some of the other cover designs that were considered:

As you can see, both cover designs were more similar to each other than the one that was eventually used.

One thing I liked about these unused covers because they show crayfish diversity, which fits the subtitle, “A Global Overview”. However, the final cover is a more striking, bolder piece of design. And it doesn’t have all the human hands and fingers intruding, like on these two unused covers.

My name is one one other chapter in this book, but that’s another blog post for another time.


Faulkes Z. 2016. Marble crayfish as a new model organism and a new threat to native crayfish conservation. In: T Kawai, Z Faulkes, G Scholtz, eds. Freshwater Crayfish: A Global Overview, pp. 31-53. Boca Raton: CRC Press. https://www.crcpress.com/Freshwater-Crayfish-A-Global-Overview/Kawai-Faulkes-Scholtz/9781466586390

Faulkes Z. 2015. Motor giant synapses of Procambarus clarkii and P. fallax f. virginalis. figshare. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.1500912 Retrieved 15:47, Aug 04, 2015 (GMT)

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