Charles Amsler (above), Maggie Amsler, and James McClintock study the defense mechanisms of bottom-dwelling organisms such as sponges, microalgae, and seaweeds in the chilly waters of Antarctica.
Birmingham is not the place you would expect to find a polar biologist, but the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics has two: James McClintock, Ph.D., and Charles Amsler, Ph.D., plus McClintock’s research associate and Amsler’s wife, Margaret Amsler. UAB’s polar team has spent decades at the bottom of the ocean on the bottom of the world, investigating the weird and wonderful macroalgal and invertebrate populations that live on the Antarctic sea floor. Their work is important to medicine as well as biology—one species of sea squirt (tunicate) they discovered contains a potential cancer-fighting compound. Studies by the National Cancer Institute have found that it is highly potent against melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.
Did You Know? UAB’s polar team has left its mark in Antarctica: The Amslers have an island named in their honor, while McClintock’s name is on a point of land.
Elsewhere in this issue, James McClintock offers his thoughts on the future of Antarctica.
Read more breakthrough stories in UAB Magazine's new fall issue.