Bioshock Oceanographic: How deep is Rapture?

marine science, Natural Science, oceanography, Popular Culture, ScienceFebruary 11, 20152

“To build a city at the bottom of the sea! Insanity. But where else could we be free from the clutching hand of the Parasites? Where else could we build an economy that they would not try to control, a society that they would not try to destroy? It was not impossible to build Rapture at the bottom of the sea. It was impossible to build it anywhere else.”

Andrew Ryan, Bioshock

Rapture, a city beneath the sea, the crowning achievement of Randian industrialist Andrew Ryan. This atmospheric world of technological wonder and urban decay serves as the setting for one of the greatest video games of all time, Bioshock. The player, finding themselves stranded at sea in a fiery plane crash, makes their way towards a lonely lighthouse, descends into the sunken, desolate city, and unlocks the mysteries surrounding the creation and destruction of a most unusual city.

Rapture. From Bioshock.

Rapture. From Bioshock.

Though many questions are answered as the player journeys into the heart of Rapture, collecting audio diaries of its residents along the way, one question still eludes: How deep is Rapture and where, exactly, is it?

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Fun Science FRIEDay – Those Genes Look Tasty

ecology, evolution, Fun Science Friday, marine scienceFebruary 6, 20150

In a very basic sense there is a general dichotomy in the grouping of organisms on this planet as either a plant or as an animal. Myself, like most of the rest of you, belong to the animal group, but there are those organisms out there that exists on the boundary; one in particular is the sea slug, Elysia chlorotica.

 

The sea slug Elysia chlorotica (Photo credit: Patrick Krug)

The sea slug Elysia chlorotica (Photo credit: Patrick Krug)

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Happy Fun Science FRIEDay – Change you DNA… One Step at a Time!

Fun Science Friday, ScienceJanuary 31, 2015

It’s around about this time of year when people begin to question their New Year’s resolutions to commit to better health. You know what I am talking about. Right after NYE the number of people at the gym swells to an unholy number of hopeful fitness do-gooders. Yet without fail, by the end of the month the gym population begins to stabilize back to its pre New Year’s resolution numbers. But maybe, just maybe, this article will convince you to stick with your commitment to better health, change your DNA regarding your approach to fitness, and keep on exercising! Because exercise, as a new study has found, does just that. Exercise changes the shape and functioning of our genes, an important step on the way to improved health and fitness!

Photo credit: precisionnutrition.com

Photo credit: precisionnutrition.com

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Fun Science FRIEDay – Darwin Says Survival of the… empathetic?!

Blogging, Fun Science Friday, Science, Social ScienceJanuary 23, 2015

Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology and founding faculty director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley has been pushing an idea – Humans are built to be good, because it aids in human survival.

Photo credit:  ThinkGeek @ shirtoid.com

Photo credit: Berkeley Social Interaction Lab, UC Berkley

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To dyke, or not to dyke: A debate coming to a town near you

#DrownYourTown, climate change, Conservation, marine science

Finally, President Obama’s state of the union called out Congress’s problem with climate change. Their denial is merely a symptom of overall scientific ignorance, a simply medieval issue that has temporarily stalled many great nations’ progress throughout history. Yet, President Obama’s points about climate change and it’s relevance to the nation gives one hope that there is a small smoldering ember of collaborative-driven leadership buried under piles of Benghazi reports, and it couldn’t come a moment too soon. The USA has stalled its scientific and technological growth at a key time in global history and is already generations behind the modern world in technological advancements to protect its people against a rising threat – the ocean.

Let me present you with a case study. I live in Zeeland in the Netherlands, and this area is protected by the world-famous Oosterschelde surge barrier; a 9km system of dams, movable concrete slabs, and artificial islands.  The Oosterschelde is one of many ocean barriers strategically placed along the Dutch coast and has been deemed one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.  During storm events, the Oosterschelde’s massive concrete slabs shut and cut off Zeeland’s waterways from the surge of the North Sea.

By Nils van der Burg from Madrid, Spain (IMG_7446) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Oosterschelde Delta Works – 9km long: By Nils van der Burg from Madrid, Spain (IMG_7446) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Unhappy feet – why we need more than a day of penguin awareness

climate change, Conservation, marine science, Natural Science, Science, Social Science, Underrepresented Issues in Marine Science and ConservationJanuary 22, 2015

A couple of days ago (20th January) was penguin awareness day1. But do we really need to be more aware of penguins?  Well, actually yes.

RSCN8435

 Photo by Chris Parsons

 We conducted a study a couple of years ago  (pdf also available) to look at public awareness of penguins (using university students as a sample) and found that nearly half (43%) of those questioned though that  penguins were protected under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) and were thus listed as  “endangered.” At the time only one penguin was listed on the ESA (the Galapagos penguin, Spheniscus mendiculus). The IUCN currently classifies five species of penguin as “endangered” 2 and six as “vulnerable” 3. The biggest threat to penguins generally is, unsurprisingly, climate change. The chicks of Magellanic penguins (S. magellanicus) in Argentina have experienced increasing mortality because of increasing numbers and severity of storms, and will continue to experience mortality as these further increase, in addition to additional mortality  from increasing rainfall and temperatures. Changing patterns of sea ice cover are impacting Adelie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) foraging at Ross Island, Antarctica. In various locations in the Antarctic Penninsula in particular, Adelie colonies are expected to be impacted by warming temperatures and changes in sea ice with perhaps as many as 75% of colonies decreasing or declining. Although in some locales, melting ice has increased potential Adelie habitat.  Chinstrap colonies have been reported to be in decline as well, despite this being a more open water species, that was previously being thought of as potential benefactors from melting sea ice – penguin nest occupation on Deception Island declined by more than third between 2002/2003 and 2009/10. These chinstrap penguins are likely being impacted by declining krill stocks, as will their  Adelie penguin cousins, in addition to ice loss which so affects this latter species. Overall, across the Antarctic Pennisula, there has been a decline in both Adelie and chinstrap penguin numbers. (more…)

Many scientists, conservationists and fishermen support our trophy fishing paper recommendations

ScienceJanuary 21, 2015

Last month, a team of marine scientists (which included Andrew and I) published a paper pointing out that intentionally killing the largest and most fecund members of IUCN Red List Threatened species is not a good thing and could be easily stopped (by stopping record awards entirely for these species or moving to a catch and release model)

Our recommendations were not universally supported by scientists, and we received criticism from respected colleagues largely in the form of “this isn’t a particularly big problem, no serious people care about it.” There was also an official response from the IGFA to this effect, which we issued an official response to. Sure. It isn’t the biggest problem in the world, but it is a problem. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a conservation problem that’s easier to solve.

A petition created by the Blue Planet Society based on our recommendations has, as of this writing, surpassed 6,000 signatures from all over the world, including many from scientists, fisherman and professional conservation activists. The paper has also been widely discussed on social media

Presented here are some quotes from scientists, fishermen and conservationists supporting our recommendations. While this support does not inherently mean that the issues we raise are important, it certainly shows that lots of serious people care about it.

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Beyond Ivory

Conservation

Dr. 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.

Dr. Naomi Rose is the marine mammal scientist for the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). She handles AWI campaigns to protect wild and captive marine mammals and is a member of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee. She has published popular and scientific articles, authored book chapters, and lectures annually at several universities. She participates in workshops and task forces at the international, national and state level.

credit needed

Photo by Andrew Wright.

What you are looking at is not a prop from a science fiction movie, but a very earthly (or more accurately marine) wildlife organ that is causing Mexico quite a bit of trouble. It’s the swim bladder of the totoaba fish. Unrelated to bladders with which people are more familiar, it is a collagen-rich organ that the fish fills with air in order to remain buoyant in the water column and save energy when swimming. It is, quite literally, a bag of hot air. This one is dried and ready for shipping – it is prized as a delicacy in China, where it is believed to rejuvenate skin and (of course) act as an aphrodisiac. (more…)

Sizing Sizing Ocean Giants: Patterns of #scicomm outreach in a marine megapaper

#OceanOptimism, Blogging, Conservation, marine science, ScienceJanuary 20, 2015

Last week, Craig McClain and many friends published Sizing Ocean Giants: patterns of intraspecific size variation in marine megafauna, a research paper that would better be described as a monograph. The response to the paper has been overwhelming.

Since it’s publication last Tuesday, Sizing Ocean Giants has been viewed almost 44,000 times by 38,000 people and downloaded 1200 times. If this seems like a lot for what is essentially a natural history monograph, you are correct. According to Altmetric, a service that measures the non-citation impact of scientific papers, Sizing Ocean Giants is the most discussed and shared article in the history of PeerJ. With a score of 546 (most papers average a score of 5, PeerJ papers average about 20), our paper has climbed into the 99th percentile of all articles ever tracked.

We’ve been covered in the Washington Post, Newsweek, National Geographic, and Scientific American, as well as numerous non-English media outlets from Mexico to Greece. Opa!  We’ve seen a small attention spike on twitter and tons of shares (almost 12,000) via Facebook.

So how do we account for the huge success of this massive paper?

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The dangers of excessive self-citation

Science LifeJanuary 18, 2015

Warning: This blog contains themes of a professional ethical nature that some readers may find offensive. Intended for a mature academic audience only.

As I was spending a lazy Sunday morning, tucked up in bed fiddling with my iPad, a perky little blog came across my Twitter feed (read it here). Some rather sad data were contained within: approximately 82% of journal articles in the humanities don’t get cited (within the first five years of publication anyway) and just over a quarter (27%) of natural science articles don’t get cited either. I was actually surprised that the percentage of non-cited paper was that low, until I read down the article and noticed that the analysis didn’t include self-citations. Scientists, especially marine biologists, are particularly bad at excessively self-citing, or as I like to call it, #citurbation.

Self-citations are the guilty secret of science researchers. Let’s face it, we’ve all done it at some time. Now I’m as guilty as the next scientist – late one Friday night I’m still working and on the computer screen in front of me I have a half-done editorial and, guiltily,  I slip in a self-citation. Or in the final throes of a massive multi-authored monograph, I toss in a self-citation from left field. But why is it that marine biologists so often self-cite? Is it because of lack of attention? Biomedical articles rarely go uncited (and their journals typically have much higher impact factors). Is it because marine biology journals tend to have low impact factors and marine articles are spread across so many journals that they don’t get the same prominence (see this previous SFS blog, he says in a blatant example of self-citing)?

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