- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Water warriors Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor of entomology with a joint appointment with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, and research scientist Christophe Morisseau of the Hammock lab proved to be “The Splash Brothers,” much like basketball superstars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors.
But they did it with water balloons, not with a basketball.
It was all part of the 13th annual Hammock Lab Water Balloon Battle, dubbed “Balloon Battle at Briggs” last Friday afternoon. The 40 participants, including professors, researchers, graduate students, staff, students and family members, tossed 3000 water balloons in 15 minutes on the thirsty Briggs Hall lawn, as the temperature soared to 97 degrees. As the supply dwindled, they dumped the remaining water from the buckets on each other.
A highlight: “Splash Sister” Alifia Merchant of the Hammock lab, who just received her master's degree in agriculture and environmental chemistry, managed to sneak up on Hammock and drench him.
Hammock launched the annual event in 2003 as a form of camaraderie and as a means of rewarding the lab members for their hard work. The international Hammock lab includes 7 researchers, 9 postdoctorates, 3 graduate students, 10 visiting scholars, 3 staff and 1 undergrad. They represent Barbados, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United States, Ukraine and Uruguay.
When UC Davis police officer Stephen Jerguson passed by on foot, he was invited to join in on the fun. Seven-year-old Jasmine Morisseau, daughter of Christophe Morisseau, handed him a water balloon for safe-keeping as he watched the fun-in-the-sun event from the sidelines. At the end of the battle, he handed it back to her. He then joined the group in cleaning up the balloon remnants.
Hammock, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, directs the campuswide Superfund Research and Training Program, an interdisciplinary program funded by the National Institute of Environmental Sciences (NIEHS) that has brought in almost $60 million to the UC Davis campus. The Hammock lab is also the home of the National Institutes of Health Training Grant in Biomolecular Technology. The lab alumni, totaling more than 100 graduates, hold positions of distinction in academia, industry and government as well as more than 300 postdoctorates.
The “Balloon Battle at Briggs” was canceled last year due to the severity of the California drought.
In 2014, the water warriors took drought-conservation precautions as they did this year.
“We devised a filling station out of drip line and valves so we could fill the balloons outside and also turn off the water when not in use,” said Hammock lab program manager Cindy McReynolds. “Water conservation was a big topic surrounding the (2014) event, so we also used it as an opportunity to discuss ways we have changed our daily routines to conserve water."
As an extra bonus, the annual battle provides a little water for the thirsty Briggs Hall lawn, which is used by campus wildlife, including ducks, turkeys, squirrels, birds, butterflies and bees.