Dani Crain in the lab wearing a lab coat and gloves about to work with a baleen whale earwax sample. Photo provided by Dani Crain
Dani Crain in the lab wearing a lab coat and gloves about to work with a baleen whale earwax sample. Photo provided by Dani Crain

Dani Crain studies the earwax of baleen whales. Yes, whales have ears! But unlike most humans, they can’t clean their ears. So earwax builds up in their ear canals over their entire lives, forming layers like tree rings. Dani uses this plug of earwax, or earplug, to investigate the long-term trends in stress and sex hormones in baleen whales.
Dani likes to joke that she is an “Endochronologist,” because she is broadly interested in using using biological matrices (like earwax, baleen, claws, etc!) that grow over time to track how the environment impacts trends in stress, reproduction, diet, and location. The biomarkers she uses to investigate these trends are hormones and nitrogen/carbon stable isotopes.
Pronouns: she/her/hers

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Early Bird

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?

Yes! I have a pibble named Neko who is the light of my life and two cats, both with Harry Potter themed names, Nagini and Merlin.

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

Yes, of course! I have a lot of art with whales on it, but my favorite is a poster showing the evolutionary history of whales, dolphins, and porpoises from when they were terrestrial mammals until now!

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?

I speak Spanish and recently started learning how to talk about my research in Spanish.

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

Bookstore/coffee shop owner for sure.

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

I wouldn’t! Marine mammal science is categorically the best.

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?


11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Breathing underwater

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

I’m a big nerd for fantasy/sci-fi books, so I always recommend Tamora Pierce, Tomi Adeyemi, and Brandon Sanderson.

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Bake bread, make yogurt, go to the gym, go on a long walk with my dog and partner, and watch a movie!

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

Dogs, coffee, and my partner.

15 What beverage gives you life?


16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

All books by Tamora Pierce have amazing and strong women lead characters!

17 What did you want to be when you grew up?

First a veterinarian, then a scientist.

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

My mom inspires me a lot – she always keeps trying, no matter what, and I take that to heart!

19 What got you excited in science?

When I first learned that there were animals in the ocean that breathed air and were mammals like humans?? That broke my brain and I wanted to know more.

20 What excites you about science now?

I am completely thrilled about the direction of science right now – open science, sharing data, science outreach!

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Nothing! I take no shame in the things I love. I even love Pokemon!

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

I am extremely good at taking naps.

23 What is your favorite game?

Monopoly, hands down!!

24 What is the last book you read?

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

From my mom: ask for what you want.

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

This might sound a bit arrogant, but I try everything I want to do! Being scared hasn’t stopped me.

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

Keep being you!

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

I take baths, read for fun, powerlift, smoosh my dog’s face, and bake or cook!

29 What is the last thing you watched?

The Spy Who Dumped Me

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

I literally carry around a 3D printed baleen whale earplug so I can show it to whoever wants to hear about whale earwax! I also sometimes bring a fake earplug I made out of high density foam that I modeled and painted to look like an earplug cut in half so you can see the layers.

31 What is your favorite animal?

Humpback whale, of course.

32 What is your favorite book?

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce (I feel like I’ve talked about her a lot as an author during these questions haha)

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Cereal – every kind except grape nuts (barf).

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

Halloween! But after so much Bob’s Burgers, Thanksgiving is becoming a new favorite.

35 What is your favorite plant?

All succulents, all the time.

36 What is your favorite science fact?

That baleen whales have earwax!

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

Freshly baked bread and library books.

39 What is your favorite sound?

The sound of my dog snoring.

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

That I’m a badass bitch.

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?

Chueca (crooked in Spanish) but also skedaddle or scamper.

42 What is your proudest moment?

Starting STEMculture Podcast with some great people at my university. We want to demystifying the culture of STEM and highlight stories of perseverance and persistence in STEM beyond our own. You can learn more about us at https://www.stemculturepodcast.com/ or find us on Twitter @STEMculture or Instagram @STEMculturepodcast.

43 What kind of tree would you be?

California redwood

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

Easy access to fresh made tortillas at HEB!

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

I have a fair number of tattoos and piercings and my favorite hobby is powerlifting (makes me feel strong and like I can do anything!).

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Twitter: @superchiasmatic, @prasha88, @hood_naturalist