Hair, the Call of the Wild

Jack London once said that he would "rather be ashes than dust."

Brendan Maher(bmaher@the-scientist.com)
Sep 11, 2005
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Getty Images/Renee Lynn

Jack London once said that he would "rather be ashes than dust." The distinction between the two might be difficult to make by naked eye, but a scanning electron microscope could reveal a world of difference. So says John Weisel, a University of Pennsylvania cellular and structural biologist who has spent decades divining the mechanics of the very small, particularly the biophysics of blood clotting But he, like London, has heard the call of the wild. And it's taken him places miles from power lines, let alone electron microscopes. It's what drew him to spend several weeks of his sabbatical on the remote Isle Royale in Lake Superior.

The 134,000-acre island has been home of the longest running predator-prey study in the world. There, researchers follow the tightly linked fluctuations in moose and wolf populations. Isolated from most other predators and prey, the animals provide a unique...