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Expanding the Papahanaumokuakea Monument

Published 2016-08-31

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (PMNM) are home to some of the world’s most northern and healthy coral reef ecosystems. Blue whales, albatross, Hawaiian monk seals, turtles, and the oldest living animals on Earth, black corals, are all found in these Pacific waters. Many of the organisms found on the reefs, seamounts, and sunken islands of the PMNM are found nowhere else in the world, with many remaining to be discovered. You can read more about one of these newly discovered creatures, the white octopus called Casper, here:... (more)

A new microscopic view of the marine world

Published 2016-08-02

Researchers at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of San Diego are changing the way marine scientists can use microscopes to study life in the ocean. The team of researchers have successfully developed an underwater microscope (the Benthic Underwater Microscope, or BUM) that can observe marine organisms in their natural habitat at the scale of nearly one micron resolution. At this scale, the BUM is capable of imaging single cells underwater. To do this, it is built as a two-part system including a computer with a diver interface connected to an imaging unit. The imaging... (more)

A complex story for deep-water corals

Published 2016-07-12

Photo: NOC Eight years after the establishment of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) off North West Scotland in the Rockall Trough, scientists have found a complex story for deep-sea coral reefs. Deep sea corals are different from their tropical counterparts in that they do not form a symbiotic relationship with dinoflaggelate algae, and can therefore survive in colder, deeper, and darker waters. Similar to tropical reefs, cold-water corals provide habitat for many other organisms, including commercially important fish species. Unfortunately, this means that cold-water corals are often in areas... (more)

The 3rd hot year for corals

Published 2016-06-28

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is advising the public, scientists, and ocean resource managers to be on watch for a 3rd consecutive coral bleaching event this year. The NOAA Coral Reef Watch program predicts that there is a 90 percent chance of a widespread coral bleaching occurring once again during a probable the La Nina cycle. The combined effects of climate change and an intense El Nino cycle led to an increase in sea surface temperatures and triggered coral bleaching starting in mid-2014. Since then, 70 percent of United States coral reefs, for example, have... (more)

Coral spawning triggered by temperature

Published 2016-05-31

Photo: Australian Geographic As summer approaches in the northern hemisphere, coral colonies of certain species are preparing for mass spawning events, in which coral parents synchronously release egg and sperm into the water to be fertilized. Following fertilization, the embryos develop into swimming larvae, which will seek a suitable substrate upon which to settle and metamorphose into a polyp. During these mass spawning events, timing of release of egg and sperm by coral colonies on a reef is key. Scientists are still perplexed by the processes that trigger spawning release in... (more)

Largest biomass of sharks in the Galapagos

Published 2016-05-17

The Galapagos Islands were made famous by Charles Darwin’s expeditions and explorations of the islands’ flora and fauna. Today, the terrestrial and marine ecosystems of these islands are still a source of inspiration and curiosity for scientists. Recently, scientists from the Charles Darwin Research Station and National Geographic reported that the Darwin and Wolf Islands of the Galapagos are home to the world’s largest biomass of sharks at 12.4 tons per hectare. This assessment puts the biomass of sharks in the Galapagos above that at Costa Rica’s Cocos Island National Park and the... (more)

Explore the Mariana Trench with Okeanos

Published 2016-05-03

Scientists, engineers, and technicians aboard the NOAA Okeanos Explorer began a journey in 2016 to map and explore deep and remote areas of the oceans surrounding the Hawaiian Archipelago, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Wake Atoll, and the Marianas Trench National Monument. The 2016 field season for the Okeanos Explorer marks the second year of the Campaign to Address Pacific Monument Science, Technology, and Ocean Needs (CAPSTONE). The purpose of this campaign is to collect baseline biological, geological, and oceanographic information to support science and management of... (more)

Coral bleaching in a global index

Published 2016-04-19

In a world of growing scientific knowledge and an explosion of data, it is a difficult task to synthesize a high number of studies to make conclusions that drive political, management, and research decisions. In the field of coral reef science, the literature on coral bleaching and the susceptibility of corals to thermal stress is rapidly expanding. In an attempt to gather and group this information for coral reef conservation, Swain and colleagues (2016) have conducted a major meta-analysis of the coral bleaching data currently available and created a “global index” of the most sensitive... (more)

Tidepools sensitive to acidification at night

Published 2016-03-29

Researchers from Carnegie Institution for Science, the University of California Davis and the University of California Santa Cruz have found that ocean acidification may actually impact calcifying organisms in coastal tide pools more at night than during the day. Ocean acidification is the process by which carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, changing the chemistry of the seawater and making it more acidic. This increase in acidity is a problem for organisms that extract calcium carbonate from the seawater to deposit shells and skeletons, making it more difficult for... (more)

Discovery of a Bluefin Tuna Spawning Area

Published 2016-03-15

The recent discovery of an Atlantic Bluefin tuna spawning area has researchers and fishery officials talking about a new approach to stock assessment. During the summer of 2013, scientists with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service and the University of Massachusetts in Boston recorded evidence of Bluefin tuna spawning activity in an area called the Slope Sea, off the coast of the northeastern United States. Previously, Bluefin tuna were only known to spawn in the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea. What does the discovery of this spawning area mean for stock assessments of this... (more)