Born and raised in Michigan, Jennifer Polinski knew she would go on to become a marine biologist at the ripe age of 10 years old after her very first SCUBA dive on a family vacation in Maui. She stuck with that plan and eventually moved to Florida, where she used DNA sequencing to characterize zooxanthellae (single-celled algae living in symbiosis with corals) in coral reefs and completed a MS in Marine Biology. Over the course of her graduate research, she completed 68 scientific dives as an AAUS Scientific Diver at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.
In 2017, Jennifer became one of the first members of the Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute’s research team. Her work at GMGI uses DNA sequencing to answer a wide variety of questions about a vast array of organisms. She’s sequenced the genomes of the American lobster and Jonah crab, providing her colleagues with valuable tools for studying population structure, and uncovered patterns of aging and genes that may contribute to longevity in the genome (DNA) and transcriptome (RNA) of the long-lived red sea urchin.
Currently, a majority of her research focuses on ecosystem-wide biodiversity, using environmental DNA (genetic material left behind in the environment, e.g. water or sediment) to characterize and monitor everything from the smallest bacteria to the largest whale.
Originally a warm water diver, Jennifer Polinski did not expect to dive locally when she moved to Massachusetts. However, thanks to the active and welcoming New England dive community, she now dives locally year-round, with nearly half of her over 200 logged dives in New England! As an amateur underwater photographer, her favorite subjects are anemones and nudibranchs.
To Follow Jennifer's adventures, check out her pages below:
Google Scholar Page: Jennifer's Google Scholar page
Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute addresses critical challenges facing our oceans, human health and the environment through innovative scientific research and education. By bringing world-class science and transformative workforce development to Gloucester’s historic waterfront, GMGI is catalyzing the regional economy.
"Consider the American lobster—a bottom-dwelling crustacean that lives up to 100 years in the wild. Scientists have long wondered at its astonishing longevity: Lobsters do not grow weaker with age and only rarely suffer from cancers. Now, researchers have published the first high-quality draft of the lobster genome, yielding surprising insights about the animal's immune system and genomic stability that may one day help answer fundamental questions about aging—not only in lobsters, but also in humans."
Read the full science.org article
"We were fortunate to simultaneously receive funding to sequence the Jonah Crab genome and use it for a population structure study. I’m currently looking at the sequence to better understand their biology since we know very little about Jonah crabs and their life history, as they’ve only recently become a valuable fisheries species.
At the same time, I shared the genome sequence with out our fisheries team and they’ve been conducting a population structure study. It’s very exciting because they’ve been in direct contact with managers to make sure these data are included in the current stock structure assessment (population structure analysis led by fisheries scientist Tim O’Donnell and Dylan Comb, not me)"- Jennifer Polinski
"At GMGI, we are using sea urchins as models to unlock the genetic secrets of living a long and healthy life. Some species of sea urchins can live to extraordinary old ages (more than 100 years) with life-long growth and reproduction, no evidence of age-related decline, and no reported cases of cancer. Because sea urchins share a close genetic relationship with humans, they are ideal models to investigate the molecular and cellular pathways contributing to longevity and disease resistance with direct relevance to human health."
Read the full GMGI article
Making Waves Across New England
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