Andrew David Thaler • Blogging • July 14, 2015 •
I’m going to have to start with an apology. I intended to get to this chapter before #JacquesWeek kicked off and sucked up all of my time, but I just couldn’t. This chapter was… not fun and not particularly informative.
In the longest chapter of the book, Jackson’s fails to hunt Nutria for 90% of the story. This chapter drags on. It could have easily been 70% shorter without losing any of the actual information. I get that Jackson is a hunter and like to wax poetic about the process, but much of that process has already been covered at length. If this were a standalone story, and I get the feeling it was originally written as such, that extra detail would have been welcome, but here it just feels redundant.
I just don’t have much more to say. The anti-government stuff common in other chapters was subdued because local authorities were more interested in killing nutria than following the letter of the law and I would have loved to read more about the history of Nutria and the fur trade, but those details were sacrificed to make more room for complaints about his photographer and how many cottonmouths he found.
In the end, the chapter wasn’t great, but if it’s the worst of Eating Aliens, I’m not going to be too disappointed. Next week, catfish!
David Shiffman • marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharks • July 13, 2015 •
These reviews were all posted on my Facebook Fan Page the night each special aired, and are stored here for easy retrieval.
Here’s my review of Shark Week Night 1!
1) Shark Trek! The latest in a series of good specials about Dr. Greg Skomal’s research on great white sharks in New England. Last year they upped the ante by adding an underwater robot that followed and filmed sharks, and I wasn’t sure how they could top that. This year, they added an adorable ten year old shark-o-phone named Sean, and brought Greg down to Florida. He also went diving with several other species of sharks, including my favorite, the sandbar shark! We also got to see Bulls, blacktips, a great hammerhead, and a tiger. A solid natural history and science documentary. A-
2) Island of the mega shark. This special was…not good. It chronicled the efforts of non-scientists doing what they referred to as scientific research. They claimed that no one had ever used a clear shark cage before, but it’s even been shown on past Shark Week specials. Also, this cage was apparently not safety tested before they put someone in it around great whites- he couldn’t close the door! They also had a silly floating shark-shaped ruler, which is not useful in measuring sharks unless they swim right next to it. They referred to a fat shark as “clearly pregnant,” when in reality this method is about as reliable for sharks as it is for humans. On the plus side? No wildlife harassment and no completely made up nonsense. D-
3) Monster Mako. This special focused on efforts by the Texas A&M Center for Sportfish Research to study the world’s fastest shark. Some needlessly dramatic narration, but the content was great! Lots of amazing footage of makos and of spinner sharks, including an amazing breach! I’d happily watch a version of this special for dozens of other shark species. Another solid natural history and research documentary! A-/B+ (some marks off for goofy narration).
Shark species seen so far: 8
Female scientists seen so far: 1
Megalodons seen so far: 0
Conclusion: So far? Shark Week 2015 is much better!
David Shiffman • marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharks • July 12, 2015 •
I’ve collected 1,000 Shark Week 2015 tweets from myself and other marine biologists and conservationists. They include fact-checks, commentary, reviews of each special, and suggestions for improvement. I’ll post my own more detailed reviews of each special tomorrow.
Andrew David Thaler • Science Life • July 10, 2015 •
Over the last few months, I’ve been putting together short tutorial videos on how to pilot an OpenROV or other MicroROV. The forth installment, Seagrass: Friend or Foe, just went up, so now ia a good time to take a look back at the playlists. Enjoy!
Guest Writer • marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharks • July 9, 2015 •
Bryan Keller just graduated with his M.Sc. from Coastal Carolina University. For his thesis, he investigated the effect of familiarity on the social preferences of lemon sharks while researching at the Bimini Biological Field Station. Bryan and his team showed that lemon sharks do indeed prefer familiar individuals. Imagine this: You have two classes of kindergarten students that remained separated for one school year, and at the end of the year, the classes are mixed. More often than not, students would choose ‘friends’ based upon whom they are most familiar with, in this case that would be their classmates. Lemon sharks are the same way, they showed a preference for their ‘classmates’.
Offshore wind farms offer countless benefits, but will there be environmental costs? To help answer the looming question, we will tag a population of bonnethead sharks in South Carolina. The tags will communicate with acoustic receivers, and when the sharks swim close enough to the receiver, its presence will be documented. By using a series of receivers, we will be able to determine where a shark spends most of its time. After we know where the bonnetheads are spending their time, we will be able to conduct laboratory trials to determine if the introduction of offshore wind farms can displace the shark from this area. Recent work in SC showed that bonnetheads returned to the same estuary each year and from this, we know that the sharks aren’t randomly distributed throughout the environment. What if they can’t get back to the habitat they occupy every year? If offshore wind farms disrupt the marine ecosystem and prohibit sharks from returning, then there could be serious repercussions.
Guest Writer • marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharks • July 8, 2015 •
Cynthia Wigren co-founded the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy and the Gills Club. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Management and a Masters in Business Administration. She is an avid traveller and a scuba diver with a deep appreciation for wildlife on land and sea. Her underwater experiences with whale sharks, great hammerheads, nurse sharks, and great white sharks led her to leave the corporate world and establish a non-profit to support shark research and education programs.
This year, Shark Week has promised us more science and no fake documentaries (thank you Rich Ross!), but their ‘Finbassabor’ line-up leads me to believe that the majority of researchers featured will be men, once again. As long as Shark Week ditches mockumentarties for real science does it matter which researchers it features? With 42 million people tuning in during the week, I believe it does.
Guest Writer • marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharks • July 7, 2015 •
Rachel Pendergrass is a writer, performer and science communicator in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the assistant director of the Dragon Con Science Track, a program contributor for the Atlanta Science Festival, and producer/host of a monthly science variety show called Solve for X. When she’s not sciencing, you can find her performing as a storyteller, making nerdy sketch comedy videos with Dragon Con TV, enthusiastically ranting about sharks, or working on her sommelier skills by drinking fancy wine. Find her on Twitter at @sharkespearean.
Shark Week started on Sunday. This week long celebration of all things elasmobranch (Okay, let’s be honest, mostly Great White sharks and very little else) has inspired artists, comedy shows, and even possibly Super Bowl halftime shows!
Shark Week has also inspired more than a few musicians to show their love for fintastic festivities through song. Even Billy Idol got in on the Shark Week song action!
Here are the top 12 picks for your Shark Week playlist.
Andrew David Thaler • #OceanOptimism, Education • •
Carcharocles megalodon is the largest shark that ever lived. It roamed the oceans from 15 to 2.5 million years ago. Its teeth can be found at fossil beds around the world, but especially in Yorktown and Pungo River formations in the coastal Eastern United States. Megalodon teeth are incredibly useful teaching tools, allowing educators to convey just how massive these animals were and open up discussions about evolution, extinction, and ecology while instilling a sense of wonder.
Now you can print your own piece of prehistory with this 3D printable Megalodon tooth!
Guest Writer • marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharks • July 6, 2015 •
Jonathan Davis is a marine biologist, shark researcher, and Fish and Wildlife Tech for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department based out of Sabine Lake, Texas. He has researched elasmobranchs for over 10 years all around the world from New Zealand to Australia and along the U.S. coast from Massachusetts to Texas. Currently, he is continuing research as part of his PhD along the Texas coast focusing on bull shark ecology. In addition to research, Jonathan does outreach to inform the general public about sharks and inspire interest rather than fear to promote conservation rather than destruction.
This year marks the 27th Shark Week. For the past 27 years, Discovery Channel has had the unrivaled and incomparable attention of the world for one week in regards to all things ‘shark’. These 27 years have brought out the best in shark science in the beginning but have sadly declined by bringing out the worst in fear-mongering and sensationalist misinformation more recently. As a shark scientist who grew up watching Shark Week for the science the last several years have been disheartening to say the least. The science seemed to all but disappear and replaced by completely inaccurate information, scary attacks that never happened, and an epidemic of Megalodon sized proportions. Not to mention the fact that my lifelong dream of being on Shark Week was fulfilled only to have my research superimposed into a show about a ridiculous mythical shark #VoodooShark. In the midst of all these years of Shark Week, real shark science has been increasing and advancing. Sharks are an integral part of our ecosystems but many are endangered and in need of conservation. This is why shark scientists work in the background to learn as much as possible about these creatures that spark such awe and interest worldwide, not to feed fear-mongering and sensationalist desires of money hungry producers. With that being said, it would behoove all of us to utilize the unparalleled platform that is Shark Week to spread correct information and promote shark conservation.
Andrew David Thaler • #OceanOptimism, Blogging • •
Last night, I was in the mood for some Cousteau. The classics from the Undersea World, Odyssey, River Expeditions, and host of other long running series, still hold up as some of the best ocean documentaries of all time. So I picked a few of my favorites, pulled some people together online, and called it #JacquesWeek, an alternative to Shark Week for those who either don’t get the Discovery Channel or just want something different.
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
Jacques Yves Cousteau
I’ll be honest, I’m burned out on Shark Week. After several years of intense livetweeting, post-show debunking, and high-level critique (look for my and Shiffman’s paper on best practices for responding to fake mass media documentaries in Ocean and Coastal Management later this year), I find that I just don’t have much more to say. Some shows will be good. Some shows will be great. Some shows will be bad.
Jacques Cousteau has never let me down. Sure, sometimes the science is off (pretty much everything in Blind Prophets of Easter Island is incorrect, for example), but that’s because the Calypso crew was working at the boundaries of human knowledge, and their work comes off earnest, heartfelt, and compassionate. And so full of wonder. Much of what Cousteau’s team did was done for the very first time.