In a laboratory at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland, zoologist Rob Aguilar examines bottles containing preserved specimens of an astonishing array of different varieties of aquatic life.
“We have speckled swimming crabs, long finned squid, jackknife clam, ponderous arc,” said Aguilar, scrutinizing a thick mussel with a serrated shell. “This is a fish-gill isopod. And this is a big marine leach that prefers to be on skates and rays.”
Aguilar is engaged in a project to study the genetic codes of numerous species in the Chesapeake Bay. He and colleagues record them in public databases called GenBank and the Barcode of Life Database, so that researchers around the world can use the information to identify fish and other critters.