Until March 9, 2013, I’ll be at sea. I love that phrase. At sea. For this expedition, we’re leaving from Jamaica, returning to Antigua, and spending several days on a research program separate from ours. I have a lot of travel and a little downtime to look forward to. When I started going to sea almost a decade ago, this meant that I carried a couple books and dozens of research papers, and traded them around with the rest of the science team, the crew, and the ship’s library.
Now, thanks to kindles and other e-readers, I can carry entire libraries with me, loading them up with all the books I want to read and stockpiling thousands of research papers. This. Is. Awesome.
So, if you find yourself with a kindle and a long stretch of travel time, consider checking out some of my favorite ebooks. I’ve read all of these over the last year and they all look great on an e-reader. This reading list should keep you occupied during the quieter moments of your travels.
Continue reading What to read while you’re at sea: Southern Fried Science’s favorite ebooks for a multi-month research cruise
In just three weeks, the American Elasmobranch Society and the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists will hold their annual meeting. This year, it will take place in Vancouver, British Columbia as part of the World Herpetology Congress. I’ll be presenting, and I’m looking forward to seeing many of our readers there. Those of you who will be attending this conference, as well as anyone with an interest in sharks and other marine fishes, may be interested in these great new marine science books!
1. Groupers of the world: a field and market guide (by Matthew Craig, Yvonne Sadovy de Mitcheson, and Phillip Heemstra). Grouper are some of the most economically important fish in the ocean, and it’s important that scientists, managers, and eco-conscious consumers have access to the latest scientific and conservation information about these fish. As fisheries landings have increased greatly in recent years (the 300,000 tons landed in 2008 are 10 times the landings from the 1950′s), many species are rapidly declining in population. Recent research showed that 12% of known grouper species are Threatened (Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered according to IUCN Red List standards) and another 13% are Near Threatened. Mating behaviors like spawning aggregations and the tendency to change sex further complicates management.
In addition to introducing readers to the field and summarizing the latest scientific discoveries, this book serves as a detailed reference guide to the 163 known species of grouper. The authors demonstrate how to identify each species using more than 300 beautiful color photographs and line drawings, and detailed maps show where each can be found. The population status (including major threats and some proposed solutions), IUCN Red List conservation status, life history information and known feeding behavior is also reviewed for each species. $79.95, CRC Press.
Continue reading Books reviews: read up on sharks and grouper before the AES/ASIH meeting
Fossil fuels, photovoltaics, clean coal, wind turbines, hydroelectic dams, nuclear reactors, hydraulic fracturing. For all the discussions of energy independence, sustainable energy, renewable fuels, one word is often painfully absent: grid. America’s electrical grid has evolved from Edison electric generators and a few, uninsulated, wires in New York and Wisconsin to a massive, and massively inefficient, network of power lines, control stations, and generators that crisscross the country in three power blocks. This mycelial behemoth serves one function–to keep the electrons flowing. In Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us, Maggie Koerth-Baker strips the wires of the United State’s electrical grid bare, revealing how it works, how it doesn’t work, and what we can do to make it work better, increasing efficiency, decreasing atmospheric carbon dioxide production, and securing America’s energy infrastructure.
Before the Lights Go Out begins with a bold and inspired move by Koerth-Baker. By choosing to focus on the development of our energy infrastructure and the challenges inherent in the current model, she bypasses the common stumbling block of “energy crisis” arguments in the United States–the unwillingness of some groups to accept the uncontroversial recognition of anthropogenic climate change. Improving the efficiency of the grid, incorporating alternative energy sources into our infrastructure, reducing waste which cost energy producers and consumer real capital, these are not goals that require an a priori understanding of climate change to make sound economic, social, and political sense. Koerth-Baker deftly skirts around the quagmire of one of our most baffling political debates and dives straight into solutions.
Continue reading Before the Lights Go Out — Alternative Energy and America’s Grid
If a picture is worth a thousand words, than Man and Shark is a must for anyone interested in shark fisheries and conservation issues. This book by Alex Hofford and Paul Hilton features a collection of incredible photographs of sharks and shark fishing from all over the planet, from the fishing ports of the developing world to the markets of Asia and the kitchens and restaurants where shark fin soup is prepared and served. The list of 14 contributing conservation photographers features some of the world’s best.
Each chapter features a brief introduction (in both English and Mandarin Chinese) explaining key points about shark biology or conservation, followed by a series of stunning, and in some cases horrifying, photos which showcase both the diversity of living sharks and the global industrial scale of shark fisheries. Photos of finned sharks lying on the seabed paired with interviews from fisheries biologists and conservationists gets the message across concisely, directly and effectively.
Man and Shark is a passionate call for humans to change our relationship with the oceans, and I commend Paul and Alex for their excellent contribution to the world of shark conservation.
Last week I flew out to Salt Lake City for the bi-annual Ocean Sciences meeting, bringing together 4300 scientists from around the world to discuss the current state of the ocean and present their latest findings. To mark the occasion and pass the time on a series of long flights, I loaded my kindle with my latest addiction, Amazon singles – short form ebooks, longer than a standard article, but shorter than a full book (and really convenient for an hour layover). In honor of the Oceans meeting, the flavor of the downloaded books was disaster and survival at sea.
Continue reading Three Stories of Shipwrecked Sailors
What is it about the ocean that inspires otherwise precise and stoic scientists to cast off the shackles of structured, rigorously defined scientific language and swim, instead, through a sea of verse and meter. You can find examples littered across the internet, from Kevin Zelnio’s song lyrics featured in the Open Lab, to my own pedestrian attempts at Hardtack and Sardines. Of course, some poets rise above our amateur attempts and merge a deep understanding of the natural world with a precise eye for beauty, bringing both together in a sea of verse which stirs the soul and challenges the intellect. That is exactly what Katherine Larson has done with her first book of science-inspired poetry: Radial Symmetry.
It may seem a strange book for a marine science blog to review, but Larson, a molecular biologist by training, has captured a the spirit of scientific inquiry and the ocean in a way that few other mediums can. Her poetry evokes the thrill of discovery as well as frustration. How many practicing scientists can’t relate to Love at thirty-two degrees, a poem that begins by observing the branchial hearts of a squid, when she announces:
Continue reading Radial Symmetry — the poetry of Katherine Larson