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Dolphin Mortality and the Deepwater Horizon

Published 2015-06-16

In April of 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill became the largest offshore oil spill in US history. Even five years later, cleanup efforts are continuing and researchers are paying close attention to any lasting effects of the spill on marine organisms. In a recently published study, researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report that stranded dolphin deaths are definitely linked with exposure to petroleum. In the study, researchers looked at the lung and adrenal cortex of dolphins that died in the Gulf of Mexico and from dolphins that died at different... (more)

Invisible borders to shifting habitat niches

Published 2015-06-09

Ecologists often study organisms' ecological niches, or the specific environmental conditions needed for an organism to live. Global climate change is altering environmental conditions worldwide, and thus, will likely affect the areas where organisms can live in the future. Most scientific studies suggest that organisms will move poleward as the Earth warms, but two new studies published in the journal Science this week suggest that just because habitats farther north may be warmer, they may not be hospitable for a variety of marine organisms to live. A study by Deutsch et al. identified... (more)

Tackling the Garbage challenge

Published 2015-06-02

A non-profit organization in Japan has taken a major step in combating the problem of increasing garbage and waste from human populations in our oceans. The groups has developed a plan to deploy a garbage cleaning device in 2016 that collects plastic, debris, and other types of trash. The CEO of the organization called The Ocean Cleanup announced that the cleaning system would be deployed off the coast of the island of Tsushima, located between Japan and South Korea. In Tsushima, about one cubic meter of plastic per person per year is released into the ocean. In addition to efforts to... (more)

Investigative journalism and climate refugees

Published 2015-05-26

It seems that every day we are bombarded with news about climate change and associated catastrophes that are expected in the next century, but how do we present this information in a way that is meaningful enough to encourage people to change their behaviors? John D. Sutter, a CNN columnist and investigative journalist, is trying to spread this message loud and clear in a surprisingly refreshing way. For the past several years he has let voters democratically decide his next project, which has taken him all around the globe. For the next year he’ll be focusing on climate change, and the... (more)

Shifting Baselines and Shifting Communities

Published 2015-05-19

The word “pristine” is often used to describe ecosystems like coral reefs, mangrove forests, or rocky intertidal zones that are relatively undisturbed by human impacts in comparison to others. We often compare these less disturbed ecosystems to those that are extremely degraded, damaged, or changing in structure to establish a baseline and to determine the desired habitat state in areas that are targeted for management. Scientists lack complete descriptions of the biological and physical state of these ecosystems before humans began making impacts in the marine environment. In the past,... (more)

What about the parasites?

Published 2015-05-12

Much research has supported that primary productivity and fishing pressure shapes the abundance, species composition and diversity of marine life, but few studies have characterized this relationship in communities that are difficult to survey with the naked eye. A study recently published in the journal Ecology investigated the effects of productivity and fishing pressure on variation in parasitic communities in the Line Islands, equatorial Pacific. The authors of this study wanted to know if parasites respond to productivity in the same way as free-living marine species respond to... (more)

Polluting our Oceans with Light

Published 2015-05-05

Aside from city runoff, coastal pollution, and garbage disposal, coastal urban areas are producing yet another type of pollution: light. New research from the University of Exeter describes the effects of night-time light on marine ecosystems and found that artificial light altered the behavior of coastal organisms. As light pollution from coastal communities, shipping, and offshore developments increases, it is important to understand its effects on organisms so that management decisions can be made to minimize negative impacts on marine life. Dr. Tom Davies and other researchers used a... (more)

How connected are marine populations?

Published 2015-04-28

The spatial range occupied by any species is largely driven by dispersal (species movement) and plays an important role in population dynamics and evolutionary processes. In the marine environment, dispersal refers to the movement of larval, juvenile or adult stages. Scientists once believed that the ocean was barrier-less, enabling marine organisms to disperse far and wide, especially species with long pelagic larval duration (PLD). However, that theory of marine population connectively is tenuous at best, as mounting evidence suggests strong structure within marine populations driven by... (more)

Training Corals on Environmental Treadmills

Published 2015-04-21

During the summer of 2014, coral reefs in Hawaii experienced a large bleaching event due to higher than normal sea surface temperatures. This massive bleaching event had detrimental impacts on the growth, survival, and reproduction of corals, also affecting fish and invertebrates that call the reef home. Unfortunately, El Nino conditions forecast another massive bleaching event in the upcoming summer of 2015. Researchers at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) immediately began monitoring reefs in Hawaii during the last bleaching event to understand the extent of the disturbance and... (more)

How long until fisheries recover?

Published 2015-04-14

In order to develop viable management plans for fisheries recovery in coral reef regions, it is crucial to understand expected biomass in the absence of fishing and expected time ranges for full recovery. Until very recently however, these seemingly simple and obvious metrics were not well understood. MacNeil and colleagues recently published their research in the journal Nature focused on exploring the status of reef fish biomass and assemblages at 832 reefs worldwide along a gradient of exploitation to answer these questions. Using this massive data set, they were able to determine... (more)