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New Mono Lake alkali fly research

November 20th, 2017 by Arya, Communications Director

Last summer Floris van Breugel, who studies alkali flies at Mono Lake, stayed at the Mono Basin Field Station and gave a fascinating talk about his research at the Mono Lake Committee.

This mesmerizing video, posted by National Geographic upon the paper’s release, is a must-see:

Using a combination of high speed videography, force measurements, scanning electron microscopy, and manipulations of water chemistry he is working toward understanding what makes these flies so unique—research which, on top of being really neat, has implications in the world of multi-factorial data sets and their application to machine learning. And today, the research paper, “Superhydrophobic diving flies (Ephydra hians) and the hypersaline water of Mono Lake,” by Floris van Breugel and Michael H. Dickinson came out! You can find the paper abstract here.

Van Breugel is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Washington, funded by a joint Moore-Sloan Data Science fellowship at the eScience Institute, and a Sackler Scholarship in biophysics. You can find more on his research here.

Mono Lake’s alkali flies are just about the coolest flies ever. We call them scuba-diving flies because they trap a bubble of air around themselves when they walk under water so they can breathe while eating algae off of tufa towers. You can actually see them doing this if you visit Mono Lake in the summer. Plus, the flies (specifically their pupae) are a major food source for millions of migratory birds that stop at Mono Lake. You can find more neat info on the flies here.

Huell Howser, legendary enthusiastic California adventurer, really got a kick out of the flies. Congratulations Floris, and we hope to see you back at Mono Lake again soon!

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