Person holding mussel specimen

Sean Keogh

Research Q & A

What’s your hometown?

I’m from Plymouth, Minnesota.

What are you currently working on?

I am using the Bell Museum award to support micro-computed tomography scanning of freshwater mussel shells. Scanning specimens will allow me to quantify morphological traits of interest to better understand how freshwater mussels adapt to their environments.

Where are you working on research/field work?

I am away from Minnesota for the 2021-2022 academic year, studying at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Washington DC. The (NMNH) has one of the largest natural history collections of freshwater mussels in the world which I am using as a data repository to quantify the shell shape, thickness, sculpture, and size of mussels.

What will your next steps/research be?

The next step in my dissertation research will be conducting biomechanical experiments to translate morphological variation of freshwater mussels to functional variation. For example, do certain shell shapes facilitate faster burrowing? Increased stabilization/anchoring?

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?

First I’d say follow your interests however niche or crazy they may seem. I love this quote by E. O. Wilson which I think better summarizes what I’m trying to say: “Love the organisms for themselves first, then strain for general explanations, and with good fortunes discoveries will follow”.

Lastly, which I think is equally important, find mentors who will support you.


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