More than 80 percent of the planet's living organisms exist only in aquatic ecosystems. Some may harbor secrets to human origins, and clues, treatments--perhaps even cures--for human disease. Some are critical bioindicators that portend the health of the biosphere. Yet, overall, scientists know little about the biochemical processes of these life forms. The vast, rich knowledge within the oceans and freshwater systems on Earth remains virtually untapped, because in the world of biological research, mammals rule.

A pool of aquatic researchers convened recently at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) in Salisbury Cove, Maine, to figure out how to change that. These investigators shared research findings, successes, failures and insights, and participated in workshops to devise strategies on how to raise their collective profile and put the water world on the research map.

"We've been dealing with a very human-mouse centered culture of science," says MDIBL director John N....

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