Chris Parsons • Challenging the Conventional Narrative, Conservation, Uncategorized, Underrepresented Issues in Marine Science and Conservation • September 30, 2016 •
A few years ago, we organized a group of marine conservation scientists to meet to discuss, and list, the most urgent issues that need to be studied. The resulting paper came up with 71 questions which urgently needed to be addressed, because a lack of an answer was severely impeding marine conservation. However, during this exercise we also came up with a list of other questions – these were issues that were controversial, that everyone knew were important, but were unwilling to raise as being an issue. These were the Voldemorts of marine conservation questions (they that shall not be named), the elephant (or elephant seal) in the room questions …. or as we more aquatically termed them: “the kraken in the aquarium” questions.
Guest Writer • fisheries, marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharks • September 29, 2016 •
Seb Pardo is a biologist currently doing a PhD at Simon Fraser University in Canada. He is broadly interested in the biology, ecology, and conservation of sharks and rays. At present, his research is focused on borrowing tools from evolutionary biology to predict the biology and extinction risk of poorly studied sharks and rays. By using these data-poor methods, he hopes to make the most out of currently available data to inform policy decisions relevant for the sustainable management of sharks and rays. His twitter handle is @sebpardo
Chilean Devil Rays (Mobula tarapacana) swimming in the Azores.
© Daniel Van Duinkerken — http://danielvandphoto.com — Instagram: daniel.van.d
Rays rarely get the same amount of attention as sharks do. Perhaps the most notable exception are the manta rays (genus Manta), which are charismatic, filter-feeding rays that inhabit warm waters throughout the world’s oceans. Their closest relatives, the devil rays (genus Mobula), are not nearly as “famous” — even though they are the only other members of the family Mobulidae. There are nine species of devil rays found throughout the world’s tropical and temperate oceans, and while they are smaller than mantas (only reach over 3 metres in width), devil and manta rays are so similar that they are sometimes confused with each other. Because devil rays garner less public interest, the are very few studies on their basic biology and ecology, hindering our ability to assess their status.
Devil and manta rays face similar threats. Both are often caught as bycatch in industrial and artisanal fishing operations, which may result in considerable mortality even after being released. On top of this, there has been an increase in the international demand for their gill plates, which are used a health tonic in Chinese medicine. This has increased targeted fishing and bycatch retention in many places around the world. However, because of the lack of information on devil rays, it is very difficult assess whether this level of catch and trade is sustainable. This is the key question we set out to answer.
Andrew David Thaler • Blogging • September 27, 2016 •
Over the weekend, I decided to try my hand at some deep-learning using recurrent neural networks to create a text-writing bot trained on old Southern Fried Science posts. After 48 hours of training, the Southern Fried AI was born. This is what it has to say about the future of ocean conservation.
In the future, ocean conservation priorities will be dictated by the conservation conservation project. In the post of energy sharks and most of the greatest over the study has been conservation and dedicated to watch of conservation, the all new way that was she than a community to show better some astronation there is a research work (and sharks) in a more server shows of the research design of a discovery of campaign that even the results of some of the operational shark sources in the Climate change for the ensing and make that it may also end in the science of the response to the population of positions of marine scientists with my most months of cheap more and the project of a shark (with sampling and interesting proposal great from the final fishermen in the science and species of mermaids and other projects with some of the career of the Sea How and has a project that will be a dogfish down their beran place to go as a restoration and the ocean that submerse to have interesting a public posting ocean deciding enough to be asking “we could can be among the transports that is a shark critical components.”
Guest Writer • marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharks • September 19, 2016 •
Erin Dillon is a PhD student at UC Santa Barbara studying how shark communities on coral reefs have changed over time. She graduated from Stanford University in 2014 with a B.S. in Biology and Honors in Marine Biology. Erin spent the following two years working with Dr. Aaron O’Dea as a fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, where she started exploring dermal denticles preserved in sediments as a paleoecological tool to reconstruct shark communities. She aims to develop this technique further as part of her dissertation to establish quantitative shark baselines and investigate spatial and temporal variation in shark assemblages on reefs. To do so, she has now set her sights on Curaçao, which is located in the southern Caribbean. There, she will work on validating the tool, explore differences in denticle assemblages between reef habitats, and provide estimates of relative shark abundance in data-limited parts of the island. Sharks are notoriously difficult to census, and it can be difficult to protect something that we rarely see. Therefore, the information provided by denticle assemblages extracted from reef sediments has critical implications for shark conservation, both in the Caribbean and worldwide. Erin is raising funds until September 22nd as part of Experiment’s Coral Reef Grant Challenge to unravel a pre-historical baseline of Caribbean sharks.
Sharks are important players on coral reefs. However, understanding the temporal and spatial dynamics of shark communities and how they are affected by human activities is challenging. Surveys and fisheries catch statistics reveal that shark populations worldwide have suffered significant declines over the past several decades due to overfishing and habitat degradation. But how many sharks should there be in a healthy coral reef ecosystem? The answer to this question is locked in the past. To address this issue, we turn to the recent fossil record to uncover clues about the sharks that used to roam the reefs of lore and paint a picture of how their communities have changed over time.
Chris Parsons • Conservation • September 16, 2016 •
When I was an undergraduate studying conservation in the dim and distant past, we were told that the way endangered species would be saved would be to give them a financial value, and “wise use” of these species would allow them to survive. Well, that worked well, didn’t it…? The poster species of the “wise use” movement (such as elephants) are much closer to extinction today than they were decades ago.
Chris Parsons • Reviews and Interviews • •
The so-called aquatic ape hypothesis is one that has attracted a lot of attention and much derision. In 1960, British marine biologist Alistair Hardy posited the idea that humans might once have had an aquatic phase (or more accurately a semi-aquatic phases, spending some time in a watery habitat but a significant amount of time on land). This was picked up highlighted in popular zoologist Desmond Morris’s book The Naked Ape . However, Elaine Morgan was one of the the hypothesis’ main promoters, writing a book called The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis . There have been several debunkers of the hypothesis including Southern Fried Sciences’ own David Shiffman although Jim Moore’s website is probably one of the most comprehensive debunking sites for the hypothesis . Today Alice Roberts and Mark Maslin posted a critique of the aquatic ape hypothesis, mostly in response to a new BBC radio series The Waterside Ape which is being presented by David Attenborough.
Andrew David Thaler • Book Review, Education, Popular Culture, Reviews and Interviews • September 15, 2016 •
As a few of you have noticed, we recently added a tiny new member to our little ocean outreach empire. A new baby opens up a chance for us to explore a whole new world of ocean-themed content tailored to our newest explorers. As a family of marine biologists, we very quickly accumulated a massive library of ocean-themed baby books, some amazing, some not-so-amazing.
After critical review by two PhDs in Marine Science and Conservation, for both scientific accuracy and pure delightfulness, here are my top 5 baby books to get your ocean education started off right.
I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry.
Sherry must have written this book specifically for me, since Sizing ocean giants: patterns of intraspecific size variation in marine megafauna is already my most widely distributed paper. I know a few things about giant squids. I really love this book. The art is colorful and engaging. The story has a hilarious twist. It’s grounded in real ocean critters (though there’s something funky going on with that jellyfish). And there’s an important lesson about hubris and trophic position in marine food webs. (more…)
David Shiffman • Academic life, Education, marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharks • •
The American Elasmobranch Society is the world’s oldest and largest professional association of shark and ray scientists
The American Elasmobranch Society, the world’s oldest and largest professional society focusing on the scientific study and management of sharks and their relatives, is now welcoming applications for the 2nd year of our Young Professional Recruitment Fund diversity initiative. Awardees will be given one year of Society membership, in addition to specialized professional development training, mentorship, and networking opportunities specific to their needs as scientists and professionals from developing nations or historically underrepresented minority groups.
Applications, which can be found here, are due by 5 P.M. U.S. eastern standard time on Tuesday, November 15th. All winners will be notified by Friday, December 16th.
To be eligible for a Young Professional Recruitment Fund award, applicants must fill out the application and demonstrate that they:
Andrew David Thaler • Conservation, Environmentalism, policy • September 13, 2016 •
Finally, after almost a year of silence, we have concrete responses from the leading presidential candidate about ocean health and, in particular, the state of America’s fisheries. Well, sort of.
ScienceDebate.org, a non-partisan science advocacy group, asked the four leading candidates a slew of 20 science-related questions, including the following about ocean health:
“There is growing concern over the decline of fisheries and the overall health of the ocean: scientists estimate that 90% of stocks are fished at or beyond sustainable limits, habitats like coral reefs are threatened by ocean acidification, and large areas of ocean and coastlines are polluted. What efforts would your administration make to improve the health of our ocean and coastlines and increase the long-term sustainability of ocean fisheries?”
Gary Johnson and Donald Trump declined to answer (Johnson declined to answer any question, Trump’s submitted boilerplate copy that makes no mention of the oceans or any ocean issue).
Jill Stein’s succinct response acknowledged the problems that overfishing, climate change, and ocean plastics pose to the oceans, but provides no specific policy recommendations. (more…)
David Shiffman • biodiversity, Conservation, Natural Science, Science • September 10, 2016 •
On September 24th, the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) begins. I’ve made a Storify guide to government agencies, scientists, activists, and environmental non-profits who will be tweeting updates from the event. If you want to follow along with these important conservation debates and votes on twitter, follow #COP17 and follow the accounts I’ve highlighted in this Storify.