Mission to understand evolutionary changes in Drosophila launches IU's Dan Tracey on three-month voyage across the Lesser Antilles.
For Indiana University laboratory biologist Dan Tracey—who set sail Feb. 1 to study the evolution of genetically isolated fruit flies on the volcanic islands of the Lesser Antilles—the chance to collect data on these insects during a months-long sea-faring adventure is both a scientifically significant endeavor and the realization of a longtime dream.
Growing up near Buffalo, New York, Tracey grew up sailing with his father on Lake Erie. Being out on the water on their boat was a large part of their life together. But it wasn't until Tracey's father passed away from cancer last year that he started to seriously think about turning his dream research mission—which he often talked about with his father—into a reality.
"I started thinking, 'What would I do if I could do anything I want?'" said Tracey, a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biology and a Gill Chair in the Linda and Jack Gill Center for Biomolecular Science. "What would my dream research project be?"
With support from Jack M. and Linda Gill of Texas, whose generous gift to IU established the Gill Center in 1999, Tracey is retracing the steps of William B. Heed, a well-known biologist who conducted a similar expedition in the Caribbean in 1959.