May 15, 2009
Several of my brilliant classmates managed to get themselves into the local paper, the San Diego Union-Tribune. They’ve written short essays on everything from shark fin soup to solar energy. These are conservation issues that the public needs to know about, and despite the Union-Tribune’s troubles, the newspaper still reaches over a quarter million people every day.
Unfortunately, my classmates’ essays are not reaching nearly that many people, as they are currently buried very deep in the vast U-T site where no one will ever stumble across them. If you’re interested in encouraging budding scientists to communicate directly with the public, they would appreciate it if you would say so in the comments section.
May 13, 2009
My father (Hi, Dad!) sent me this NYT article on the Rutgers University glider program. Gliders are little ocean-going robots that dive down, take measurements, and surface to email their data back to you. Since ship time is so expensive, having a glider noodling about on its own is incredibly helpful in figuring out what the ocean is doing. The NYT article definitely brought home the “gliders! yay!” message, but what excited my father was this:
Through its novel glider program, Rutgers is trying to drum up interest in ocean science at a time when federal officials are alarmed about a shortage of scholars in a field considered crucial because of growing concerns about ocean health as a result of climate change and overfishing.
The federal Departments of Commerce and Education, in a report last fall focusing on a branch of marine science that assesses fish stocks, said the National Marine Fisheries Service was “now experiencing a perfect storm.” Citing many imminent retirements, an increased workload and a “decreasing supply” of such scientists, the report called on Congress to bolster financing to expand the number of graduate students.
Really? This doesn’t really jive with the grad student scuttlebutt about the job market – it’s hard to find reliable work. Many of the federal agencies hire postdocs on 1-year contracts, which is extremely stressful for people who need a steady income to raise their family. But nothing would make this grad student happier than the promise of good employment in about 3.5 years, so tell me I’m wrong!
May 5, 2009
I’m back and digging out from vasty piles of email and work. In the meantime, check out this supercool opportunity from Woods Hole. It’s a fellowship for journalists and communicators to learn about ocean science:
Through seminars, laboratory visits, and brief field expeditions, Ocean Science Journalism Fellows gain access to new research findings and to fundamental background information in engineering, marine biology, engineering, geology and geophysics, marine chemistry and geochemistry, and physical oceanography. Topics range from harmful algal blooms to deep-sea hydrothermal vents; from seafloor earthquakes to ice-sheet dynamics; from the ocean’s role in climate change to the human impact on fisheries and coastline change; from ocean instruments and observatories to underwater robots.
April 8, 2009
• Lobster, lobster everywhere, and not a one for eating. No doubt you ocean people are already in the know about the fabled blue lobster, or the one with the fake eyes, or even the half-and-half lobster (above). A lot of these images are of rare genetic abnormalities in lobsters, but bizarre nevertheless. [Thanks, Greg]
• Oopsie! Here in San Diego, Poseidon, inc. has spent the last several years persuading various regulatory bodies to give them a permit to build a desalination plant to provide water for the area. They were all set to get their last approval today when someone noticed they had underestimated the amount of fish kill by factors of four or seven. Poseidon claims it was a math error. D’OH!
• Two years Before the Mast, by Enric Sala – OK, Prof. Sala probably will not be, nor has ever been, a foremast jack. In fact, he’s leading a cruise to the Line Islands sponsored by National Geographic. The cruise will be amply documented at a dedicated wesite called Ocean Now. [Thanks to Intelligent Traveller]
• The law of unintended consequences strikes the paper industry. In the name of fostering more reliance on green fuels, the federal government is providing massive subsidies to the paper industry to actually use conventional fuels where it never did before. In exchange for this, the feds are giving paper mills millions of dollars. [Thanks Max]
March 26, 2009
Both the House and the Senate have approved increased funding for ocean research! Sheril broke the news yesterday:
The package includes ocean exploration, NOAA undersea research, ocean and coastal mapping integration, the integrated coastal and ocean observation system*, federal ocean acidification research and monitoring, coastal and estuarine land conservation, and lots more…Folks, this is as much a bill about the environment as it is about people and our collective future.
The bill will now to to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law. Congratulations to all who worked hard to get this bill through!
For more ocean policy goodness, check out this NYT profile of Jane Lubchenco, the head of NOAA. She plans to create a climate observation service similar to the National Weather Service and to tackle the problem of overfishing.
Dr. Lubchenco, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a MacArthur grant recipient, said she did not take the NOAA job thinking it would be another chance for her to chip away at the culture of science — not consciously, anyway. “I took the job because I had the chance to be helpful,” she said.
March 9, 2009
NOAA is seeking “shovel-ready” coastal and marine restoration projects. You can restore valuable habitat while virtuously stimulating the economy (not to mention having your research actually get funded.) Proposals are due April 6.
From the press release:
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is seeking applications for projects that will restore coastal and marine habitats under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, in an unprecedented effort to jumpstart the economy, create save several thousand jobs, and restore valuable coastal and marine habitat. Congress has entrusted NOAA with up to $170 million for habitat restoration in coastal areas including the Great Lakes. NOAA is accepting applications for a variety of habitat restoration projects – including wetlands restoration, dam removals, shellfish restoration, and coral reef restoration.
March 7, 2009
The National Park Service named four new national natural landmarks. The lucky places include a Texas cave, Pensylvania meadows adapted to naturally toxic soil, and a Kentucky Pleistocene fossil site. But my favorite is the Chazy Fossil Reef in Vermont and New York.
The Chazy reef, located on an island in Lake Champlain, is thought to be the oldest fossil reef in the world. It contains gorgeous fossils from the dawn of ocean ecosystems 450 million years ago. From the Smithsonian Magazine:
The Chazy Reef is the oldest reef in the world built by a community of organisms (a few older reefs are made up of one species only). Its foundation was built by Bryozoa, animals that preceded coral by millions of years but exist in similar forms today. The soft-bodied animals, a fraction of an inch long, resemble twigs and gumdrops in shape.
In the next horizon we find the stromatoporoids, extinct relatives of sponges. Then comes an extinct type of algae, followed by actual sponges, more algae and the oldest-known reef-building coral. The coral species found in the Chazy Reef are also extinct. Some looked like flowers, others like organ pipes or honeycombs.
In its heyday, the reef was also home to a bizarre menagerie of other marine life. Large tentacled cephalopods, ancestors of the squid and nautilus, scarfed up trilobites. Crinoids, delicate animals related to starfish that looked like flowers atop a long stem, waved back and forth in the currents. Gastropods, or large snails, proliferated—some of the fossil swirls that “mar” radio black limestone.
March 4, 2009
The Intersection and Questionable Authority report that the confirmations of Jane Lubchenco (to lead NOAA) and John Holdren (to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy) have been held up in Congress by multiple anonymous holds.
John P. Holdren, nominated to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Jane Lubchenco, picked for undersecretary of Commerce for oceans and atmosphere, had been expected to receive a quick floor vote. They received an amicable confirmation hearing Feb. 12 and plaudits from the science community otherwise.
But Holdren, a Harvard University physicist, and Lubchenco, an Oregon State University marine biologist, may have to undergo an extra round of review, Senate style.
Multiple senators have placed anonymous holds on the science advisers’ nominations, according to John D. Rockefeller IV , D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which has jurisdiction over the nominations.
“It’s infuriating,” said Rockefeller, who backs Holdren and Lubchenco’s hiring. “They’re brilliant scientists.”
This is bad because there’s $21.5 billion dedicated to science in the economic recovery package, and these people need to be in place to funnel it to the right sources. Questionable Authority has details on what you can do to get Congress to stop playing politics with critical science funding.
January 21, 2009
My officemate Marco alerted me to The End of the Line, a documentary about overfishing screening right now at Sundance.
The End of the Line, the first major feature documentary film revealing the impact of overfishing on our oceans, will have its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. Sundance takes place in Park City, Utah, January 15-25, 2009.
In the film we see firsthand the effects of our global love affair with fish as food.
It examines the imminent extinction of bluefin tuna, brought on by increasing western demand for sushi; the impact on marine life resulting in huge overpopulation of jellyfish; and the profound implications of a future world with no fish that would bring certain mass starvation.
Because I’m a terrible person, I find it hilarious that they have the exact same tagline (“Imagine a World Without Fish”) as A Sea Change, the ocean acidification movie. Here’s the trailer:
January 19, 2009
Black abalone, a mollusk once plentiful in California tidepools, will be listed as endangered starting next month. They were eliminated by overfishing and withering syndrome, a disease that shrunk the abalone’s foot and made it impossible for them to cling to the rocks.
The black abalone will be the fourth marine invertebrate listed as endangered. The other three are the white abalone and two species of Caribbean coral. Notably, all of these species are broadcast spawners – they release sperm and eggs into the water and hope they meet. When their populations are low enough, the sperm and eggs don’t meet, and it becomes very difficult for the population to recover.