Andrew David Thaler • deep sea, marine science, Natural Science, Science • December 17, 2014 •
Locations of sampling sites of bottom sediment and deep-water coral where content of microplastics was investigated. From Woodall et al. 2014.
Ocean plastics is one of the most pernicious problems facing the ocean. One-time use plastics, which, ironically, can persist for thousands of years, often find themselves carried downstream, settling on our beaches, our coastlines, and in large aggregations within oceanic gyres. We’re still trying to cope with the extent to which plastics, and particularly microplastics–tiny photodegraded plastic particles, impact marine ecosystems. Earlier this year, ocean plastics made major waves when it was reported that not only do we not know how much damage they really cause, but we don’t even know where most of them go: 99% of the plastic that should be in the ocean is missing.
It looks like we found the missing plastic.
Chuck Bangley • Conservation, fisheries, sharks, Sustainability • December 16, 2014 •
Though the fisheries news cycle has mostly been taken up by the 15-year anniversary of the Sea Around Us project (and some choice words between researchers), today also marked the official announcement of the 12-month finding on the petition to list dusky sharks on the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Long story short, the National Marine Fisheries Service has decided that the dusky shark population in the Northwest Atlantic doesn’t need ESA protection to avoid extinction. While it may be tempting to decry NMFS’ decision as falling short for a species that has long been a prime example of declining shark populations, what it actually means is that things are looking up for the dusky shark. Finding that out only takes a little reading into the decision documents.
Kersey Sturdivant • biology, Fun Science Friday, Science Life • December 12, 2014 •
Happy Fun Science FRIEDay!!
This week we bring you work from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where they discovered a new method to “hijack” cells. Think about it, if we could make our own cells do our bidding, we could reprogram them to do all sorts of wonderful things for us, such as manufacture insulin, attack tumors, etc. But hijacking a cell is no easy venture. In nature viruses can be quite efficient at hijacking cells, and because of this current methods employed by researchers to hijack cells entails penetrating the cell’s wall with a virus. The biggest issue with this method is that it tends to inflict permanent damage on cell.
Image of a virus attacking a host cell. (Photo credit: dbscience3 @ https://dbscience3.wikispaces.com/Sienna)
Guest Writer • Conservation, marine science, Natural Science, sharks • •
Dr. Christopher Neff is a Lecturer in Public Policy in the Department of Government at the University of Sydney. He completed the first PhD on the “Politics of Shark Attacks” and has been published in Marine Policy, Coastal Management and the Journal of Homosexuality.
Jaws is a great horror movie. Personally, it’s one of my favorites. Politically, it kills me. While it has certainly inspired generations of marine biologists, researchers and social scientists (like me) since its release in 1975, it has also served as the most powerful vehicle to advance public fear of sharks in modern history. These two different implications become problematic because while sharks make for great movies, movies make for lousy public policy. When tragic shark bite incidents occur, there is a classic Jaws-esque analogy just waiting to be made. And sometimes the media circus turns into policy.
I recently wrote an article called “The Jaws Effect” for the Australian Journal of Political Science comparing policymaking in Western Australia and the movie Jaws. While, we see some of these comparisons in real-time the reason it is important to study this formally is because these moments can tell us about the tensions between politicians and scientists that lead to myth-based policies.
Andrew David Thaler • Blogging, Science • December 9, 2014 •
Several years ago, the ocean blogosphere experienced a moment which can only be described as a Great Convergence. Numerous popular independent blogs, either seeking refuge from The Event, looking for a broader audience, or undergoing life transitions that made it impossible to maintain the high volume of new content, merged under the aegis of the Southern Fried Science/Deep Sea News aegis. For a while, the ocean blogosphere felt empty, with few giants roaming the internet depths (once one-man shows, Craig McClain now shares Deep Sea News with 8 current writers, the addition of Michelle Jewell brings Southern Fried Science up to 11). For a while the mighty Sea Monster filled the void, but they have slowed in recent months.
I miss the days when we had to check a dozen links each morning for the latest and greatest in ocean science writing. Fortunately, as often happens when ecologic niches are left empty, new species emerge to fill them. There is a new crop of excellent ocean blogs rising up from the deep. Here are five of my favorite new* ocean blogs that you should already be reading. (more…)
Chris Parsons • Life in the Lab, Science, Uncategorized • December 4, 2014 •
In the film Notting Hill, the character Max (Tim McInnerny) turns around in his car to face the passengers squabbling about the route to take, tells them to shut up because he’ll decide the route, and exclaims:
“I bet James Bond never had to put up with this $%&#!”
This is something to which many biologists can sadly relate.
Thanksgiving has just finished in the US, and many scientist friends and colleagues have returned with tales of relatives (who have no science expertise) expounding to them on why scientists are wrong on a myriad of issues such as: MMR vaccines causing autism and other medical issues, the non-existence of evolution and, currently, their opinions on how to deal with Ebola.
Why is it that Americans have such a poor understanding of biology, and have so little respect for the opinions of those that are trained in the field? You don’t hear members of the public weigh in on the nature of mesons, bosons, or string theory, and we would certainly not take their opinions seriously in a policy setting when set against the opinions of a trained physicist. So if, like James Bond, physicists and mathematicians don’t have to put up with this, why do biologists? The media often give equal credence to the opinions of the general public, with only a high school level of biology, compared to expert scientists. Even worse, policy makers with little understanding on biology weigh in with opinions on biological matters with confidence, despite a lack of training and understanding. (more…)
Guest Writer • Blogging • November 28, 2014 •
Andrew Wright is a British marine biologist that has been working on the science-policy boundary around the world for over a decade. His experiences have led him to champion a better communication of science to policy makers and the lay public. His research has included a population viability analysis for the vaquita, sperm whales bioacoustics and the impacts of noise on various marine mammals. Andrew is currently working on several projects, most relating to investigating either sleeping behaviour or chronic stress in wild cetaceans. He is also spearheading efforts to bring more marketing techniques into conservation outreach.
As most of you know by now, on November 12th, the European Space Agency (ESA) landed a probe (Philae) on the surface of a comet (67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko) as part of the Rosetta mission. However, perhaps some of you are unaware that NASA cut a strikingly similar mission (Comet Rendezvous Asteroid Flyby) due to budget constraints. NASA basically had to choose between two missions and picked the other one (the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn). That forgotten mission was scheduled to touch-down on the comet Kopff in 2001, and its cancellation left the ESA to grab first prize for a soft-landing on a comet.
Kersey Sturdivant • biology, Blogging, Fun Science Friday, Natural Science, Uncategorized • •
Happy Fun Science FRIEDay!!!
It’s the Turkey Holiday, and aside from eating and socializing, I suspect quite a many of you have also been getting lots of sleep!
Despite how little of it some of us get during our normal routine, sleep is important… right? We know that sleep has tons of benefits for the body such as allowing our muscles and bones to repair themselves, and keeping our immune system healthy. Sleep is also important for our brains, allowing for memories to be consolidated and other important functions to be performed.
Sleeping is like recharging your batteries. ^u^
(Photo credit: Chibird, http://rebloggy.com/post/cute-sleep-animation/42472951026)
Chuck Bangley • A Renewed Sense of Wonder, Conservation, Environmentalism, evolution • November 26, 2014 •
This time of year, it’s appropriate to think of things to be thankful for. This being an ocean-focused blog, I’d like to share something ocean-related that I’m thankful for, and hopefully spread a little Ocean Optimism in the process. What I’m thankful for is that Carcharocles megalodon is extinct. This may not seem like cause for optimism, but honestly the present-day ocean and Megalodon are better off without each other. And while we may not have 50-foot sharks around anymore (at least not the superpredatory kind), there are actually a lot of species we know and love that have either outlasted Megalodon or are only around because the big beast isn’t around anymore.