Andrew David Thaler • Science • April 8, 2015
I submitted the following to the FAA regarding docket number FAA-2015-0150: Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Comments can be filed online, but I also sent an actual, physical letter. If you care about the regulation of drone in US airspace, you have until April 24, 2015 to submit you own.
I am a marine ecologist based in Virginia, with plans to operate small Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the conduct of marine ecologic research.
With regards to the FAA’s recently proposed regulations for the Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, I find that the vast majority of suggested restrictions and requirements to be both reasonable and not particularly onerous for those wishing to operate UAS’s for commercial purposes. I commend the FAA for taking a pragmatic approach to UAS regulation. In particular, I support the requirement for a comprehensive knowledge test, which will be separate from and less expensive than a full pilot’s license. I also appreciate the recognition that UAS technology is advancing so quickly that a certification of airworthiness for specific airframes will place an undue burden on commercial pilots and force them to operate vehicles several generation behind the state of the art. I also approve of a special exemption for “microdrones”, which have significantly a lower safety risk and allow UAS pilots additional freedom in their use of very small vehicles.
I approve of the requirement that operators maintain visual line-of-sight, however, in the proposed regulations, there are make no provisions for autonomous flight. Autonomous flight dramatically changes the relationship between the aircraft and the operator and is an essential component of ecological surveys, allowing drones to fly straight transects and pinpoint sampling sites. This points to a more specific problem with the proposed regulations: in current form, there is little clarity regarding the role of scientists and other researcher in relation to UAS use. Will ecologists fall under the same restrictions as commercial drone pilots, or will they be treated more similar to hobbyist?
I urge the FAA to adopt a “Science Flyer” certification, similar to the American Association of Underwater Scientists “Science Diver” program. To wit, science divers have enhanced training requirements over recreational SCUBA divers, but less than professional commercial divers. A Science Flyer program could span a similar gap, with more training requirements than a hobbyist but fewer restrictions than a commercial UAS operator and could also provide additional training and certification to allow for autonomous operation.
Guest Writer • Blogging, Conservation, fisheries, marine science, Natural Science, Science • April 6, 2015
Stacy Aguilera is an Abess Fellow at the University of Miami. Her dissertation research focuses on why certain small-scale fisheries in California are relatively successful, from a social and ecological perspective. Follow her on Twitter here!
As my favorite little green guy once said, “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” Yoda may have never shared some brewskies after work with a bunch of fishery managers, but boy would they cheers to this. Managing fisheries is a tough job, especially considering all the many factors that can quickly and drastically change a fishery. We’ve got markets bouncing here and there, climate varying in short blurps and over a long time, technology is getting better, and new regulations are proposed and passed all the time. You have to think about all the people involved while also thinking about the species and broader ecosystem as a whole. All these things happening at once means fishery managers, and especially fishermen, processors, and buyers, are dealing with an uncertain future and while some things are predictable, the future is indeed difficult to see.
So how do we manage and fish to keep our fishing industry alive, while also keeping our oceans healthy and full of life? One way is to manage for flexibility. As our recent paper published this March in PLoS ONE explains, managing fisheries adaptively is difficult, but allowing participants to fish multiple fisheries is a strategy that can help. When fishery participants can access many fisheries, they can then support themselves and the local fishery in difficult years, tapping in to multiple resources. This in turn also helps the environment, as shifting fishing effort from one species that isn’t doing so well relieves pressure when fishing then targets another species that may be doing much better at that time.
Guest Writer • Blogging, marine science, Natural Science, Science • April 3, 2015
Geoffrey Shideler is the Assistant Editor at Bulletin of Marine Science, an independent peer-reviewed journal at the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami.
Studying the ocean at night can be difficult. Yet this is precisely the time when many fish are most active. Scientists have found that many important processes occur at night, such as spawning, larval settlement, migrations, feeding, and more. Many organisms rise toward the surface, creating massive pulses of biodiversity and biomass. In nearly every aquatic environment, from open waters to coral reefs, what one observes by day can be quite different from what is happening after the sun sets. At the same time, in polar seas and at great depths, “night” can span, months, years, and beyond. Fish and fishers in these dark systems have adopted tactics and strategies that take advantage of low-light conditions and their study may offer solutions to problems in warmer, shallower habitats.
Kersey Sturdivant • biology, Fun Science Friday, marine science, Natural Science, toxicology •
Most people have heard of cone snails. They are the genus of venomous marine snails that shoot a poisonous “dart” (hypodermic-like modified radula tooth attached to a venom gland) to attack and paralyze their prey before feeding on it. Smaller cone snails primarily hunt and prey on marine worms, while the larger ones hunt fish. To humans the sting of a smaller cone snail is similar to that of a bee, but contact with larger cone snails can be fatal! Basically they are the badasses of the snail world.
Cone snails are venomous! Their toxin is estimated to be 1,000 times more powerful than morphine. (Photo credit: http://www.siart.karoo.net)
Andrew David Thaler • #OceanOptimism • April 1, 2015
David is a legend in the online ocean conservation world, but that doesn’t mean he’s a legend of style. Everywhere, in every picture, he wears these:
Let’s be clear: these sunglasses, if you can even call a second pair of glasses worn over his normal glasses that, are ugly. Really ugly. Distractingly ugly. In an non-parametric, multivariate analysis of his outreach effort, David is 7% less effective* at disseminating ocean content than he should be, given his follower base and content stream. I believe that the majority of this deficit can be directly attributed to his sunglasses.
It’s time to change that.
David Shiffman has spent his life saving sharks. Isn’t it time he did so in style? I think so. And I hope you do too. Let’s buy him some sunglasses that reflect how cool his shark conservation work really is. Support our efforts to buy David less ugly sunglasses on Indiegogo.
Michelle Jewell • climate change, Natural Science • March 26, 2015
Our human history is measured in a sequence of “epochs”, periods of time defined by events or advancements. Today, we are entering the epoch of climate change. In this era, Lindsay Graham acknowledges that climate change is real and humans are causing it. Conversations finally turn away from “Do we need to do anything?” to “What are we going to do now?”
This question terrifies conservative political parties across the globe. “What are we going to do now?” cannot be answered by old techniques aging politicians are comfortable with. The beginning of the climate change epoch is the end of their political/economical relevance just as the DVR was the death of Laser Disc. We cannot save our economies and address these new challenges by using strategies developed 30+ years ago during a completely different environment. (more…)
David Shiffman • Blogging, fisheries, marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharks • March 23, 2015
Many of the U.S. state-level shark fin bans which make it illegal to buy, sell, or possess shark fins include exemptions for smooth and spiny dogfish, i.e. by far the most common species of sharks caught by U.S. fishermen. Some of these fisheries have significant conservation concerns associated with them. Much of this fishing is not currently subject to catch limits or other basic management
You would never know that most locally caught sharks are not affected at all by fin bans by reading most of the action alerts that some conservation organizations send out to encourage ocean lovers to support these laws, by following most of the media coverage of these laws, or by reading most people’s excited posts after these laws pass. Many of these inaccurately say that shark fin bans “protect all sharks.”
I have a request to make to the conservation organizations supporting these laws, journalists covering them, and the shark and ocean lovers celebrating when they pass. If you want to support laws with an exemption for dogfish sharks, that’s fine, but let’s have an open and honest discussion about why you are doing this instead of just acting like it isn’t happening.
Chris Parsons • Uncategorized • March 19, 2015
So you’ve just spent the last few years of your life working on your research project, and now in front of you, you have the final thesis, all smartly bound with a rather dashing cover that would not look out of place in Mr Darcy’s library, with your thesis title and your name glistening in silver or gold lettering. You have a sense of achievement. It has been a difficult labor, but finally your baby has been born, and you cradle it in your arms lovingly as you walk it to the library, and hand over your precious bundle of academic joy to the librarian. They take it from you and head back to the dusty shelves where theses of thousands of past graduate students have accumulated, the place where your dissertation will go to…to die.