The first thing James Monaghan, an associate professor of biology at Northeastern, does on a normal day when he walks into his lab is check the animal room, where hundreds of little pink axolotl salamanders greet him as he enters. The Mexican amphibians come up to the front of their water tanks, pointing their smiling faces, adorned by fern-like gills, toward Monaghan.
But nothing is normal in 2020. And walking into his lab regularly was something Monaghan, who has been studying the salamanders because of their exceptional ability to repair injured or lost body parts, had been unable to do since March. The pandemic forced his and many other labs around the world to go on hiatus.
Monaghan’s team continued to work remotely, analyzing data. They revamped their operation to sharpen important skills, such as improving data measurement. But it was still a difficult time for someone like Monaghan, who has been studying—and spending time with—salamanders for the past 17 years.