School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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On the Shoulders of Others

Ask A Biologist volunteers

Ask A Biologist has become a great resource for students, parents, teachers, and life-long learners.

How have we done this? By relying on the knowledge and devotion of our volunteers.

The majority of our volunteers are scientists, but we also have volunteer illustrators, translators, editors, and teachers. We couldn't think of a better way to thank our volunteers than to compare them to a fascinatingly intelligent creature: the veined octopus.

Growing Talents

Jake Brashears compared to a coconut octopusThe veined octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus) is also known as the coconut octopus. It is a small cephalopod, with a main body that is roughly three inches long.

This little multi-legged brainiac can move on only two legs and has been seen carrying tools to hide or defend itself from predators. The talents of the veined octopus don't appear to develop all at once, but are formed over time.

 This is much like the volunteer efforts of our scientists at Ask A Biologist.

Below, we've outlined the development of our volunteers alongside the life stages of this clever cephalopod, the veined octopus.

Eggs: Waiting to Hatch

Giant octopus eggs

Veined octopus eggs are laid in chains called festoons. They can be found on coconut shells, broken bottles, or other objects on the sea floor. Under the quiet care of their mother, the eggs lay in wait for nearly 20 days before hatching.

At Ask A Biologist, we have a lengthy list of action-ready volunteers. However, some haven't yet had the chance to hatch and swim in our volunteer waters.

We still thank these volunteers for their willingness and readiness to help.

Larvae: Small Movements that Matter

Octopus larva

Hatchling veined octopuses are sometimes called paralarvae and they look like near-microscopic adults. Now and then, they are said to live a planktonic existence at the mercy of the currents, but they can swim forward and backward.

Our larval volunteers are just starting out with Ask A Biologist and have answered questions from two or three students or made some other initial contribution to the site. These volunteers are extremely important, especially for the question and answer feature at Ask A Biologist.


Volunteers who have answered a few questions, translated a story, or made some other contribution to the site:

  • Angel Arcones
  • Yaiyr Astudillo-Scalia
  • Scott Bessler
  • Jonathan Bobek
  • Abra Brisbin
  • Christina M. Burden
  • Arianne Cease
  • Michelle C. Chirinos-Arias
  • Jessica Corman
  • Francisco Costela
  • Cera Fisher
  • Marie L. Fujitani
  • Tara Furstenau
  • Joan Fuster Monzo
  • Ana Lucia Garcia
  • Tony Go
  • Jessica Guo
  • Nicole Gravagna
  • Laurel Hester
  • Matthew T. Hilton
  • Katherine Huxster
  • Christopher Jernigan
  • Brita Jessen
  • Lijing Jiang
  • Brian Johnson
  • Cherie Alissa Lynch
  • Carol Martin
  • Nick Massimo
  • Brett W. Merritt
  • Sylvia Moeller
  • Joanna Palade
  • Theodore (Ted) Pavlic
  • Danielle Protas
  • Jilma Rios Kotliarova
  • Julie Ripplinger
  • Giselle Rivera
  • Charles Rolsky
  • Damien Salamone
  • Jason D. Schooley
  • Patricia Schuler
  • Paula Sicsu
  • Susan Spiller
  • Amanda Suchy
  • Ingeborg Swart
  • Christopher Trautner
  • Allison Tu
  • Mari Turk
  • Anna Van Bellinghen
  • Dustin Wolkis
  • Tyna Yost

Juveniles: A Growing Impact 

Veined octopus in shellJuvenile veined octopuses start at about the size of an olive, so they can hide under all kinds of objects. They've been seen hiding in clam shells and even under bottle caps.

Our juvenile volunteers are also very capable and creative. They contribute to Ask A Biologist in many ways.

Some have been volunteers for years and have gone above and beyond to answer question after question we floated their way. Others have created rich, engaging activities or stories for the site, or they may have translated existing stories.

Some may have even come to in-person outreach events to represent Ask A Biologist. All of them have had a huge impact on the success of Ask A Biologist.

Volunteers who have answered lots of questions, written a story for the site, or who've written, translated, or edited multiple stories:

  • Alexis Abboud
  • Christofer Bang
  • James Baxter
  • Matthew Bellefleur
  • Javier Benítez
  • Ioulia Bespalova
  • Meenakshi Balakrishnan
  • Ashley Boehringer
  • Jason Borchert
  • Jake Brashears
  • Evan Brus
  • Thomas Bucci
  • Mike Butler
  • Paula Carlson
  • Elizabeth Cash
  • Matt Chew
  • Eugene Chung
  • Melissa Comstock
  • Kimbal Cooper
  • Corrine Corte
  • Pierre Deviche
  • Aïcha Dede Djigo
  • Adam Dolezal
  • Darilyn Ebert
  • Abby Finkelstein
  • Michael L Fisher
  • Sis Gao
  • Josh Gibson
  • Elliott S. Goldstein
  • Mariana Bortoletto Grizante
  • Brian Haney
  • Tate Holbrook
  • Tanvi Honap
  • Genevieve Housman
  • Zach Hughes
  • Shannon Jewell
  • Mimi Kessler
  • Kathy Larrimore
  • Nicholas Lessios
  • Russell Ligon
  • Danielle Lussier
  • Elizabeth Makings
  • Maria del Mar Mancha-Cisneros
  • Peter Marting
  • Yev Marusenko
  • Melissa Meadows
  • Eric Moody
  • Maria A Nieves Colon
  • Diana Nucuta
  • David Nyer
  • Martine Oudenhoven
  • Rick Overson
  • Kim Pegram
  • Drew Peltier
  • Gina Piedra
  • Tyler Quigley
  • Michael Quinlan
  • Jorge Ramos
  • Ron Rutowski
  • Richard Simpson
  • Andrew Smith
  • Michelle Sullivan
  • Julie Valastyan
  • Shelley Valle
  • Emily Venskytis 
  • James Waters
  • Melinda Weaver
  • Robert Wildermuth

Adults: The Heavy Hitters

Veined octopus Amphioctopus marginatusVeined octopus adults may seem small at only 6 inches long, arms and all. But these sage swimmers are the big thinkers of the cephalopod world. They walk on two legs while carrying objects, they use tools, and they even plan for the future. Some have been spotted carrying coconut shells to use as a shelter, keeping their own defensive structure in tow as they move.

Our 'adult' volunteers at Ask A Biologist have devoted much of their time and effort to improving the site. They may have answered many questions, created many stories or other types of content, or edited lots of content. Though these volunteers are few in number, the site would be drastically different without their efforts.

Multi-faceted volunteers who've answered over 30 questions and/or have written, illustrated, translated, or edited many stories for the site:

  • Page Baluch
  • Rebecca Clark
  • Sabine Deviche
  • Connie McGovern
  • Pat McGurrin
  • Karla Moeller
  • Dave Pearson
  • Jacob Sahertian

Didn't find your name in the acknowledgements but want to be included? Interested in volunteering?

Email dr.biology@asu.edu


Additional images via Wikimedia Commons. Giant Pacific Octopus by Bachrach44.

Enteroctopus dofleini

The Giant Pacific Octopus is thought to be the largest octopus, with one individual having an arm span of 32 feet.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.

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Enteroctopus dofleini

The Giant Pacific Octopus is thought to be the largest octopus, with one individual having an arm span of 32 feet.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.