Spring 2001 Table of Contents
Smolowitz in not afraid to look death in the eye. . . or the gill,
shell, mantle, or siphon. The aquatic veterinarian and pathologist
at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole specializes in
Smolowitz is in the midst of several WHOI Sea Grant-supported research
projects to "re-examine old diseases using new techniques."
Her work with QPX, or quahog parasite unknown, has proven that the
organism is directly transmissable from one quahog to another, and
that no intermediate host is required to pass on the disease. sThe
organism is also pathogenic, as many suspected.
Laboratory experiments with QPX have also resulted in a better
understanding of the organisms preferences: salinities 28
parts per thousand or higher, water temperature 24 degrees Celsius.
Smolowitzs recent work with oysters, in cooperation with
colleagues in Connecticut and Virginia, has shown that diseases
dont always behave the way they are "supposed to."
One example involves the oyster disease SSO, for seaside organism.
Smolowitz recently confirmed its presence in oysters from Marthas
Vineyard, where it was originally thought to be MSX, or multinucleated
sphere unknown. (MSX, a more severe disease, has afflicted the islands
oysters for years.)
The coexistence of two diseases confounds not only the diagnosis,
but the management approaches as well. "Unfortunately,"
says Smolowitz, "its not clear cut. There is no neat
little package for MSX or SSO, and it will be even harder
to distinguish between them and to tell whether one or both are
To add to her disease repertoire, Smolowitz and a New York colleague
have received funding from Connecticut Sea Grant to look at shell
disease in lobster. Shell disease has been identified all along
the coast from outer Long Island Sound to Buzzards Bay for the last
three years and appears to be heading north into Cape Cod Bay. Smolowitz
wonders if the migration is a normal variation or perhaps a change
in microbial distribution in the ocean due to global warming.
And if all of her scientific questions dont keep her busy
enough, Smolowitz, who has two sons and a granddaughter, also owns
and operates Coonamessett Farm with her husband, Ron, an engineer
who designs fishing gear and whale release devices to prevent entanglements.
The Falmouth-based, pick-your-own farm features several animalsalpacas,
Nigerian dwarf goats, shetland sheep, and miniature donkeysthough
nothing with shells.
Tracey Crago, WHOI Sea Grant