Hot air for windmills, oceans get layered, and North Korean ghost ships – What’s up with the Oceans this Week

Nothing but hot air. Trump bans windmills. The President made bemused news last week during his oddly partisan attempt to ban offshore oil in several key states (though for some reason, seismic testing in those states continue, making it seem less like a ban and more like a request to “stand by”). Unsurprisingly, the offshore oil ban also brings coastal wind farm development to a halt.

The oceans are norming. In addition to everything else facing the oceans, they are increasingly stratifying. This layer cake effect could disrupt ecological processes around the world and creating new and more pronounced ocean dead zones. It’s some bad cake.

Don’t call them ghost ships. North Korea’s fishing policies are forcing fishermen to fish father afield, dangerously under supplied and under fed. Hundreds of North Korean fishing vessels, barely large enough to be called a ship and carrying, in many cases, their dead crew, are washing up along the Japanese coast.

Upwelling

Last night, the President of the United States refused to condemn white supremacists terrorist group Proud Boys, called for illegal election interference from his supporters, and threw a variety of tantrums related to his horrifically terrible tenure. Though Climate Change made a small appearance at the debate, unsurprisingly, ocean policy issued were sidelined so that POTUS would have enough time to mock a dead soldier.

Tear gassing fish, new NOAA chief, and Facebook’s flop – What’s Up With the Oceans this Week?

Tear gas is bad for fish. Surprising no one, if you unlawfully unload tons of tear gas into a peaceful crowd of protestors in order to create chaos as a precedent for state violence, that tear gas will eventually find its way into drains and all drains lead to the ocean. And that is bad news for marine life.

More turnover at NOAA. NOAA has appointed meteorologist and climate change contrarian Ryan Maue to replace Dr. Craig McLean as Chief Scientist.

Facebook continues to Facebook. Facebook vowed to fight climate change denial and uplift climate science. Instead, they censored hundreds of climate activism who were protesting the Coastal Link pipeline.

How anglerfish hack their immune system to hang on to a mate

This article originally appeared in the August/September 2020 issue of the Deep-sea Mining Observer. It is reprinted here with permission. For the latest news and analysis about the development of the deep-sea mining industry, subscribe to DSM Observer here: http://dsmobserver.com/subscribe/

When you live in the darkness of the abyss, finding a partner is hard and keeping a partner is even harder. Deep-sea anglerfish, one of the iconic ambassador species of the deep ocean, have found a novel solution to this problem–dwarf males are sexual parasites that latch onto the body of the much larger female anglerfish and then physically fuse to their partner, becoming permanently attached to the point where they share a circulatory and digestive system. 

Parasitic dwarf males are uncommon, but not unheard of, throughout the animal kingdom. Osedax, the deep sea bone eating worm, also maintains a harem of dwarf males in a specialized chamber in their trunk. But few species, and no other vertebrates, go to quite the extremes of the anglerfish. And with good reason. 

Vertebrate immune systems have a long shared history. The Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) is a suite of genes shared among all gnathostomes–the taxonomic group that contains all jawed vertebrates, from fish to fishermen. It creates the proteins which provide the foundation for the adaptive immune system, the core complex which allows bodies to tell self from no-self, detect pathogens, and reject non-self invaders. Suppressing the MHC seriously inhibits a vertebrate’s ability to fight off infection. 

Incidentally, not all deep-sea anglerfish have parasitic dwarf males, and the species most often presented as a type specimen in the popular press, the humpback anglerfish Melanocetus johnsonii, is one of several that do not have permanently attached parasitic dwarf males. M. johnsonii males are free-swimming throughout their life, they’re just small and clingy.

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The climate denial industry in full swing, 5 storms rage across the Atlantic, and Orcas seek vengeance – What’s up with the Oceans this week?

Denial Incorporated. Over the weekend, the Administration announced the appointment of David Legates, an anti-science activist embedded in the climate denial industry. Legates will answer directly to acting NOAA administrator Neil Jacobs. Expect to see Legates making the media rounds downplaying the impact of climate change on the occurrence of more frequent and powerful tropical storms because…

There are currently 5 active tropical cyclones in the Atlantic. This has only ever been documented once before. Historically, we are just entering the most active part of the Atlantic Hurricane season and it’s already time to move on to Greek letters. The next earliest 20th named storm was Tropical Storm Tammy, which formed October 5, 2005.

Killer whales are attacking boats in the Mediterranean. Ok, then.

Upwelling.

This is possibly the grimmest climate change model I’ve seen in a long time: New Climate Maps Show a Transformed United States.

Great Whites get down to business, the Ocean Cleanup flounders, and a livestock carrier goes down – What’s up with the Ocean this week?

Frisky business for Great White Sharks. For only the second time since western scientists began studying the ocean, Great White Shark mating has been documented in the wild. Shark sex is infrequently observed in the wild, and this fisherman’s observations can provide invaluable insight in the lives and loves of this iconic species.

The Ocean Cleanup. Dr. Rebecca Helm of UNC Asheville spent the last week doing an extensive dive into the problems surrounding the Ocean Cleanup Project. The who thread, including all the updates, is worth a read for anyone interested in tackling the global problem of ocean plastics with practical solutions that don’t increase harm to marine ecosystems.

Search called for Gulf Livestock 1. The livestock carrier Gulf Livestock 1 capsized last week amidst heavy storms. Though three crew members have been found, the remaining crew, as well as the ship and its 6000 cattle, are still missing. The search was suspended earlier this week, due to weather.

Upwell

Burning Man, the legendary gathering in the Nevada desert, had its own shark jumping moment. After cancelling the main event due to the pandemic raging across America (and pretty much under control almost everywhere else), organizers decided to hold a mini-Burning Man on the actual playa–San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. It was a reckless and selfish gathering of 1000 people that put people’s lives at risk and forced the mayor to shut down beach access, depriving many city-dwellers of their nearest connection to nature in an age of lockdowns and limited travel.

New dives to Challenger Deep raise old questions about privatization and exploration

This article originally appeared in the June/July 2020 issue of the Deep-sea Mining Observer. It is reprinted here with permission. For the latest news and analysis about the development of the deep-sea mining industry, subscribe to DSM Observer here: http://dsmobserver.com/subscribe/

Featured Images: Friends of the Mariana Trench during the 2008 campaign to obtain Marine National Monument status
Featured Images: Friends of the Mariana Trench during the 2008 campaign to obtain Marine National Monument status for the Mariana Trench and surrounding island and seamounts.

For over 50 years, deep-ocean explorers have been able to claim that more people have walked on the moon than have dived to the deepest point on the Earth. Only two men descended into Challenger Deep in the 20th century–Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard–they were joined in the early 2010s by director James Cameron. Earlier this year, Victor Vescovo became the fourth to reach the bottom of Challenger Deep and, over the course of several subsequent dives this summer, the ranks of those who’ve reached the deepest ocean has swelled. 

Astronaut, oceanographer, and former NOAA Administrator Kathy Sullivan and explorer and mountaineer Vanessa O’Brien became the first and second woman to dive to the bottom of Challenge Deep aboard the privately owned HOV Limiting Factor, piloted by Vescovo and his team. 

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Dead dolphins wash up in Mauritius, mining for cobalt on the bottom of the sea, and Norwegian whaling – What’s up with the Ocean this week?

The disaster continues in Mauritius. With the cleanup and salvage well underway, Mauritius has begun assessing the broader impacts of the disastrous bulk carrier wreck. Fishermen have reported seeing 30 to 30 dead dolphins floating in a lagoon near the wreckage including mothers and calfs. Dead whales, as well as sick and injured whales, are also being recovered close to the site of the spill.

Deep-sea mining cracks the crust. The world’s first experimental deep-sea mining operation for cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts has successfully recovered ore from the seafloor. For a deeper looking into the development of the deep-sea mining industry, subscribe to the DSM Observer.

The mining machine on the seabed. Photo courtesy JOGMEC.

Whaling in Norway. Commercial whaling in Norway has reach a four-year-high. As of last week, Norwegian whaling vessels had killed 481 minke whales this season. The Norwegian whaling season is not over.

Upwelling.

I don’t have a huge soapbox to stand on this week, but there have been several good balanced articles about deep-sea mining that are worth a read, including this from Scientific American – Deep-Sea Mining: How to Balance Need for Metals with Ecological Impacts – and this by the Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, which oversees seabed mineral rights in areas beyond national jurisdiction – How to Mine the Oceans Sustainably.

Taking the bait, chopping up tankers, the calamari comeback, and some #scicomm advice– What’s up with the Ocean this week?

August 26, 2020

Don’t take the bait. Baiting fish for the sake of tourists has always engendered a fair bit of criticism. New research out of the Cook Islands demonstrates that frequent baiting at popular snorkeling sites alters fish behavior and causes harm to the reef ecosystem. Just don’t do it.

Etat-major des Armees/EPAhandout

More trouble in Mauritius. The government of Mauritius has begun the process of scuttling the bulk carrier that ran aground and spilled thousands of gallons of fuel oil in one of the worst environmental disasters for this small island nation. Though the cleanup is underway, the impacts will be felt for generations. Local reports are already showing a 5-fold increase in the level of arsenic found in fish near the wreck site.

All hail the Calamari Comeback State. Why is Rhode Island the Calamari Comeback state? Climate change and overfishing. Squid are moving north into Rhode Island’s waters and all their other major seafood products are becoming increasingly depleted due to overfishing and environmental degradation. What a comeback!

Upwelling (the part where Andrew gets on his soapbox)

Last week on Twitter I did a little a little briefing on competence laundering and how science communication can lend credibility to un-credible individuals by over-analyzing inane statements. Edited and reprinted below.

Sometimes, the current POTUS will go off on a weird nonsense ramble about a topic your have expertise in. There is a huge, natural desire to contextualize those statements and find the nuggets of reality in them.

This is competence laundering.

I’m guilty of it too. It’s so hard to resist talking about the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act when the President says we should buy Greenland. I was more vigilant during yesterday’s shark nonsense. Trying to contextualize what he’s really talking about is to ascribe a level of understanding to a topic that he clearly does not have.

Maybe he saw a thing about great whites on Fox News. Maybe he got a briefing about seal and salmon conflict in the Pacific Northwest. Or maybe he saw the Shark Week Mike Tyson Special and can’t tell the difference between the heavyweight champion of the world and the man who sung Kiss from a Rose because he’s an unrepentant racist.

You don’t know which it is. Trying to contextualize the inane ramblings of an incurious man does nothing but obscure the profound incompetence. It’s competence laundering. We don’t have to be complicit. The answer to what the heck he was talking about [last week] is “I don’t know and he doesn’t either.”

Facebook ditches drilling gear, Mauritius copes with a crisis, and a new giant rises from the deep – What’s up with the Ocean this week?

August 19, 2020

Facebook is a hardware company. This week Oregonian revealed that Facebook quietly abandoned drilling equipment off of the Oregon coast. Fifty feet below the seafloor, heavy drilling equipment designed to lay fiber optic cable was damaged and abandoned by the social media company’s subsidiary. Facebook has no plans to recover the abandoned 1,100 feet of pipe and 6,500 gallons of drilling fluid.

The Crisis in Mauritius. The bulk carrier the ran aground in Mauritius split in two. Though authorities were able to pump out much of the stored fuel oil, the tanker still leaked over 1,900 metric tons into the Indian Ocean. This is projected to be among the worst ecologic disasters in the nation’s history. The captain of the MV Wakashio has been arrested.

New giant deep-sea isopod. Bathynomus raksasa is a newly described species of giant deep-sea isopod found in the water of Indonesia. at 33 centimetres, it doesn’t quite match up with the one true king of giant deep-sea isopods Bathynomous giganteus, but it is a solid contender. And, for your situational awareness, you can catch giant isopods in Animal Crossing.

Upwelling.

Politics aside, just watch the amazing Roll Call Across America from last night’s Democratic National Convention. An absolutely amazing tour of the 50 states and seven territories of the United States.

The true, essential, and definitive guide to looking like a professional while teaching from home.

Our world is in turmoil. From the chaos rises a new breed of academics, dedicated to the proposition that, amidst the fire and fury, with the seas rising around us and pandemics descending upon our communities, they alone have the foresight to lead you into the light, to guide you towards a greater good,  to brace the walls and cry out, with clarity of purpose, “No More!” They will  raise a clarion against that greatest of tribulations: looking sloppy while teaching on Zoom. 

I get it. It’s frustrating right now. We’re all trying to figure out how to be good educators and mentors and colleagues in a new, uncertain semester of hybrid classes, asymmetric learning, and teaching from a home that perhaps reveals a little too much about the grim prospects of academia to our bright eyed students. There are ways to make it better, and there are faux pas to avoid but no one has any idea what “professionalism” looks like in the age of Zoom.

This is new ground. We are the professionals. Whatever we need to do to make the class work, provide our students with an enriching and valuable education experience, and not collapse, exhausted, into a three-week-old laundry pile where we lie, like a barnacle, until the next lecture, is professional. 

But given all that, there are a few things you can do to improve the teach-from-home experience for you and for your students.

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