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Managing local impacts to protect coral reefs

Published 2020-03-02

Photo: Luiz Rocha/California Academy of Sciences, ABC News Climate change is increasing the severity and frequency of coral bleaching events as a result of rising sea surface temperatures. The coral animals that build the foundation framework of coral reef ecosystems are sensitive to these thermal stress events that occur in the marine environment and can respond to this stress in a visually striking way known as coral “bleaching”. When corals bleach, the symbiotic algae held in their tissues are lost, generating the stark white color giving this response its name. Under normal... (more)

Microbial hitchhikers: The “Plastisphere”

Published 2020-01-03

Image: Figure 4 of Schlundt et al. (2019) Studying the microscopic world is a challenging task and requires the use of innovative visualization and genomic tools to understand the role and function of the diverse microbial players in an ecosystem. Using culturing, staining, and sequencing methods, researchers can gain a more detailed view of the microbial world. Recently, detailed in a study published in the journal Molecular Ecology Resources, researchers developed a new method called CLASI-FISH (“combinatorial labeling and spectral imaging fluorescence in situ hybridization”) to... (more)

Discovery of a whale fall in the deep sea

Published 2019-11-04

Photo: E/V Nautilus Recently, the Exploration Vessel Nautilus, operated by the Ocean Explorer Trust, discovered a community of organisms consuming a baleen whale carcass on the Davidson Seamount in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary at a depth of 3,240 m. Unlike many other discoveries of whale falls in the ocean, crew on the Nautilus found this relatively recent fall in a mid-stage of ecological succession, providing an exciting look into life in the deep sea. Whale falls are importance influxes of nutrients and energy to the deep sea. This pulse in food availability becomes... (more)

Loss of coral reproductive synchrony

Published 2019-09-05

Photo: SECORE Synchrony of reproduction is an important strategy used by both terrestrial and marine organisms to maximize their reproductive success. Depending on the ecological context, synchronization of reproduction may offer advantages in increasing fertilization success, reducing predation through “swarming”, and ability to locate mates. Timing of reproduction and large reproductive events in a population is dependent on the “clock” set by environmental cues, such as temperature, chemical cues, irradiance, lunar cycles, tides, wind or current patterns, and timing of... (more)

Science from the poles: Penguins and microbes

Published 2019-07-29

Photo: Australian Antarctic Division, Kristin Raw Polar ecosystems of the earth have significant influence on the climate of our planet and are important habitats for organisms uniquely adapted to survive in harsh conditions. Although the regions are vastly different from each other, Arctic and Antarctic systems are among the most impacted by global climate change. However, the remote nature of these areas makes scientific study of organisms and the environment difficult and expensive. Recently, two studies provide further insight into the biology and ecology of organisms in these extreme... (more)

CO2 levels highest in human history

Published 2019-05-14

Within the past week, sensors at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii recorded carbon dioxide levels reaching 415 part per million, the highest in human history. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas released by the burning of fossil fuels including coal, oil, and natural gas, which then trap solar radiation in the Earth’s atmosphere. Anthropogenic, or human-caused, release of carbon dioxide is responsible for global temperature increases associated with climate change. In 2018 alone, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increased 2.7% (approx. 2.5ppm) and this rate is expected to... (more)

Climate Change Outpacing the PETM

Published 2019-02-21

56 million years ago, the planet warmed due to greenhouse gas emissions from methane hydrates, permafrost thawing, and volcanism, during a period known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). This event, which occurred over several thousand years, raised global temperatures by 5-8°C and altered marine and terrestrial environments and climate. The PETM is the warmest period on earth since the extinction of dinosaurs approximately 66 million years ago. During the PETM, the poles were almost tropical and did not have ice. The oceans increased in temperature, became more acidic, and... (more)

Megalodon & the Dwarf Lanternshark

Published 2019-02-05

From the 20cm dwarf laternshark to the prehistoric 40-50 feet-long Megalodon, sharks species display wide ranges of shapes and sizes. Stories of “The Meg”, like the 2018 film of the same name, ignite curiosity in how these marine animals can reach such large sizes – and why are there so few large shark species? Researchers at Swansea University, Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science, DePaul University, University of Cambridge, and Stony Brook University published a collaborative research article in the journal Evolution, to try to answer these questions. The... (more)

“Wilson”: The Ocean Cleanup Project

Published 2018-12-27

Photo: The Ocean Cleanup Project In October 2018, “Wilson”, or System 001 of the Ocean Cleanup Project, was deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with the purpose of catching and containing floating trash. Quickly after deployment, the team of engineers and developers working on the project noticed that while the barrier was collecting trash, it was also losing it. The barrier system is a 600m long, solar-powered apparatus with a 3m deep skirt, cameras, sensors, and satellite antennas designed to trap floating debris. Now that the system has been tested in the marine... (more)

Highlighting Citizen Science Projects

Published 2018-11-16

Photo: iNaturalist Observation is the foundation of scientifically studying the natural world. Citizen science programs allow anyone who is interested to record observations and learn about the natural world while contributing to research and conservation of important organisms and environments. Here are a few citizen science programs that allow volunteers to participate in data collection and observation of the marine environment. There are many citizen science programs out there, so check out other programs in your local community to learn how you can get involved! 1. iNaturalist:... (more)