Michele Nishiguchi, Las Cruces, N.M.

Michele "Nish" Nishiguchi is a biology professor who enjoys tromping around marine habitats looking for squishy invertebrates and the bacteria associated with them (in particular, squid). She lives in the state otherwise known as the Land of Enchantment (New Mexico) and must travel quite a few miles from her desert home to the watery places where squid like to hide out (Australia, the Philippines, Hawaii, France, Thailand and Indonesia, just to name a few). She's racked up more than 100,000 Advantage miles a year during her travels - it's just too bad her squid don't qualify to earn miles as well. When she is not collecting squid from around the world or teaching students about marine biology and microbial genetics, she loves running trails along the Organ Mountains with her running mates and her dog, Saupa. She spends a lot of time on her bike, as well as training for marathons, triathlons or just any endurance race held in a beautiful place.

Nish grew up in Gilroy, Calif., (aka, the Garlic Capital of the World). Although she never became a Garlic Queen, she loves cooking with the aromatic bulb and learning from her mother how to roll sushi the perfect way. As a first-generation college student, her love of the ocean and curiosity for all things small (microbes) led her to the world of symbiosis - organisms living together. Teaching at New Mexico State University for the past 14 years, she has grown to appreciate the community of diverse people around the Las Cruces area and tries to bring her love and appreciation of the ocean to those who have not had the opportunity to visit the coast.

Challenge #1

Write an essay describing why you should win this year's Road Warrior Contest. And here's the rub, you need to include 10 idioms throughout your story if you know what's good for you.

*An idiom is the language or expressions used by a specific group of people. Example of idioms: We're pleased as punch that you decided to enter the 11th Annual American Way Road Warrior Contest! So, step up to the plate and give it your best shot. (Limit of 600 words or 3,000 characters).

I fly with squid, or rather I should say, squid fly with me. Being a marine biologist conehead who works on squid is not really rocket science, but trying to bring the ocean to the desert (where I work and live) is no piece of cake either. My two main study sites are Hawaii and Australia, and I have to first go and hunt for the critters at night, and then bring them back to my laboratory in New Mexico. Since I have been doing this for over 14 years, my preparation for transport is somewhat like a well-oiled machine: permits in hand, ice chests ready to carry squid, import/export documentation, my university ID which states I am a card carrying scientist. Given all that, I have had my Sputnik moments with both the airline personnel and the Agricultural Inspection checkpoints. For example, I oftentimes get my wires crossed with the agriculture folks as they x-ray my ice chests full of squids (you have to realize that the squids I work on are only 4-6 cm in size, and glow in the dark due to the luminescent bacteria they carry). Out of curiosity they ask me what I work on while scanning the animals. When I tell them that I am transporting live squid, they jump back, thinking that a giant squid may jump out and grab them. Too many B-movies! I let them know that they are not used for molecular gastronomy (although as an antipasto, they do taste good), but are fantastic models to examine how beneficial bacteria work with their animal hosts. Normally they take this with a grain of salt, but after doing my normal song and dance routine that I usually do in my general public outreach speeches, I have the agents on the same wavelength, laughing and joking about calamari the rest of the day (and I taught them something important about biology!). I have also had a grandmother cell moment, where the Qantus/AA agent in Sydney recognized me from a previous trip that I had made and said "There is the squid lady again!". I know that my job can be challenging at times, but in this case I would rather not blow a fuse but instead convince that my research animals are the best things since sliced bread (or in this case, fried calamari). I have also had to change horses in midstream when shipping the animals with a different carrier (not mentioned here, I do not use them anymore), when they refused to ship my newly arrived Australian squids due to our account not being current (by a few weeks). I realized that my account with AA was current, and instead of blowing a fuse, ran the squids over to AA Air Cargo to ship them safely back to New Mexico from Los Angeles (thank you AA!). But despite my hardships and triumphs between ocean to airport to desert, I still love my job because it takes me to exciting and new places, where I get to meet and work with scientists, students, and their local communities from different cultures and backgrounds. The beauty of traveling so much is that you not only get to experience how diverse other places are, but you also get to share your expertise, knowledge, creativity, and skills to other people that may not have the opportunity to travel and work here in the US.

Challenge #2

Give us your 5 Warrior W's (Limit of 70 words or 350 characters for each answer):

Who are you?
I am an ocean critter stranded in the middle of the desert. Flashback to 1970, sounds of the ocean emanate from the television. "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteu". I take a deep breath, pull my mask on my face, and dive off the living room couch into the depths of the great shag carpet. I can feel the water flow across my cheeks, hear the sounds of the regulator as though Darth Vader were s

What do you do?
I am a Professor at New Mexico State University in the Department of Biology. I love to teach students about marine critters, learning how to do research, and interacting with my community and their understanding of basic science.

Why do you fly so much?
I must travel to places where there is saltwater and look for night crawling, luminescent producing bobtail squids. I then collect them and ship them back to New Mexico State University where they get all the food and sex they want in exchange for being research animals.

Where do you go?
My travels take me primarily to the Indo-West Pacific (Hawaii, Australia, Thailand, Philippines), as well as Europe (Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas), but I also visit colleagues and attend meetings in India, China, and both North and South America. I have even been to the Antarctic (but not on AA) to work with scientists at the US McMurdo Base.

When did this lifestyle begin?
This type of travel for field work began when I started my graduate studies at UC Santa Cruz back in 1994.

Challenge #3

Describe a typical 2-week time period in your life of flying American Airlines' routes, cities visited, miles flown, etc. (Limit of 300 words or 1,500 characters).

One of the longest, convoluted trips I took was going to work with colleagues in Kolkata India (via AA/BA from El Paso through DFW, then London Heathrow and finally Kolkata, approximately 8500 miles), spending one week there, and then flying down to Sydney Australia (via Qantus, 5700 miles) to collect squids. From Sydney I flew to Perth, Australia (again with Qantus, 2100 miles), drove up to Exomouth, then back again. I flew back to Sydney (via Qantus, again 2100 miles), and then to Mumbai, India for a previous students wedding (via Qantus, 6300 miles). I finally flew home from Mumbai back to El Paso, TX (via BA/AA-London Heathrow to DFW to ELP, about 9000 miles). This was a little over 3 weeks, but it was one of the most hectic travel itineraries I had (not to mention that I had to collect squid while in Sydney and ship them back to the US before heading back to India.

Challenge #4

What revs your 777 engine?

Favorite snack food(s): Edamame

Favorite candy(s): Dark Chocolate covered Taleggio cheese truffles (Vosges)

Favorite grab n go drink(s): Zico coconut water- chocolate flavored

Favorite smart phone app(s): Siri