A request to environmentalists and journalists discussing shark fin ban legislation

Blogging, fisheries, marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharksMarch 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.

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The disastrous feedback of what happens when fisheries funding dries up

Aquaculture in NC, Conservation, Environmentalism, fisheries, fisheries, Highlighting the Rural VoiceMarch 20, 2015

Last week I had the good fortune of attending the NC Oyster Summit, hosted  by the NC Coastal Federation in the Museum of Natural Sciences. We talked about the wonders that oyster restoration and aquaculture development can do for water quality, economic development, and taste buds. We enjoyed the demonstration of ‘merriore’, or the taste of the sea that lends a particular flavor to each oyster that captures the ecosystem it grew in. Yet, the fact that stuck with me most is that despite all of these wonderful celebrations of the oyster for the health and well-being of NC’s coastal communities, funding cuts of around 40% to the Department of Marine Fisheries mean that a large portion of the Albemarle Sound remains closed to harvest or aquaculture because there are no staff to check those oysters for public health risks.

The “Administrative Closure” of the most northern stretches of the state’s prized Albemarle-Pamlico estuary system is a worrying precedent in many ways that highlight how leadership withdrawal of support for science can trickle down to real economic, environmental, and cultural harm.

Economic flight (more…)

The place where dissertations go to die …

UncategorizedMarch 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.

Nawlins_cemetary_ECMparsons

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Dipping a Toe in the Confluence

A Renewed Sense of Wonder, oceanography, Personal StoriesMarch 17, 2015

North Carolina is well known for both its distinctive barrier islands (making Pamlico Sound the largest lagoon in the U.S.) and highly productive fisheries.  Both of these features exist in large part because North Carolina sits that the point where two of the largest ocean currents in the Atlantic meet. From the north, the Labrador Current meanders from the Arctic Circle along the Canadian, New England, and Mid-Atlantic shorelines and crashes into the Gulf Stream at Cape Hatteras, deflecting this warm current off its own shore-hugging course from the south and out across the Atlantic Ocean.  Aside from literally defining the shape of the Outer Banks, the collision zone represents the boundary between temperate waters to the north and subtropical waters to the south.  This presence of this border means that, depending on the time of year and local weather conditions, you can catch just about any marine fish native to the Northwest Atlantic Ocean off of the Outer Banks.

This satellite image of sea surface temperatures shows the Gulf Stream (warm red current coming from the south) meeting the Labrador Current (cold purple current coming from the north). Image from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (whoi.edu).

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How to write and publish a scientific paper in the field of marine ecology and conservation

Blogging, ScienceMarch 6, 2015

Author’s note: The following blog post is an adaptation of a professional development training workshop that I gave to our lab’s interns. It is intended to serve as an introductory guide for advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate students who have never published a scientific paper before. It’s a combination of advice I’ve received from teachers, colleagues, and training workshops. This advice has worked well for me personally in the fields of marine ecology and conservation; as of this writing I have 14 published papers and have served as a peer reviewer for 26 different journals. However, there are lots of other strategies out there, and you should seek them out and figure out what works best for you, particularly if you’re in a radically different academic discipline. 

Part 1: What is a scientific paper?

The process of writing and publishing peer-reviewed scientific papers can be confusing and intimidating to beginning students, who may know that these papers are professionally important but not how to create their own. Different in scope, style, and significance from a class term paper or thesis, these papers are formal, technical writeups of a scientific research project or idea. They are written by scientists or technical experts, and peer-reviewed by other scientists or technical experts who (ideally) provide constructive criticism.

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17 actually worthwhile things to know about mosquitoes

BloggingMarch 3, 2015

ATanjim Hossain is an NSF graduate research fellow at the University of Miami. His research focuses on the intersection of microclimatology and mosquito vector ecology from an epidemiological perspective. Follow him on twitter here

BuzzFeed: the epitome of unnecessary hyperbole and an amalgam of often unoriginal content. I’ve long been convinced that this website is a waste of time and that it parrots bullshit in exchange for pageviews. Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw a recent article headlined, “17 Things Only Chronic Mosquito Victims Will Understand.”For a brief moment I was encouraged, hopeful even, that BuzzFeed might have turned a page and published something worth reading. You, wise reader, likely know this this turned out. Below I present 17 things which I think are actually worth knowing relevant to mosquitoes.

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What Leonard Nimoy and Spock meant to me as a Jewish conservation biologist

BloggingFebruary 27, 2015

Earlier today, the New York Times reported that actor Leonard Nimoy had died at the age of 83. Coming just two days after the death of Genie Clark, this means that I’ve lost two of my childhood heroes in one week. I’ve already briefly written about what Genie meant to me and to my friends here and here and am quoted here, but Leonard Nimoy’s impact on me  is a little harder to explain. I hope our readers will indulge me in an unusually personal post.

I’ve been a big fan of science fiction, something I’ve always loved sharing with my mother, since I was a kid. A world where science and intellect and technology, not brute force, are used to solve problems holds obvious appeal. To a kid who grew up struggling with some anti-Jewish discrimination, the diversity featured on shows like Star Trek was inspiring. People that were different didn’t have to hide their differences and lay low and try to avoid standing out in a crowd of people different from you, like I did. Not only did the main characters not tease and attack each other because they were different, but this behavior was actively portrayed as a problem on several episodes. The Federation wasn’t successful despite including different cultures and religions and even species, they were successful because of it.  The environmental conservation message in Star Trek plotlines like “the Voyage Home” made a budding young conservation biologist relate to it even more.

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Fun Science FRIEDay – Ocean Acidification, More Than Just pH

climate change, ecology, Fun Science Friday, marine science, Natural Science

You have probably heard that as the global climate changes due to human influence the sea surface is going to rise and the oceans will get warmer and more acidic. The bit about the oceans increasing in acidity is particularly troubling because it implies calcium carbonate based organisms (oysters, snails, corals, etc.) will simply dissolve in this future dystopian acid-ocean (that is a bit of an oversimplification, but you get the idea).

Ocean acidity is determined by measuring the pH, which relates acidity based on the number of hydrogen ions found in the water. So long story short, as more and more carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted into the atmosphere, it in-turn fluxes into the oceans forming carbonic acid which results in the release of hydrogen ions lowering the pH. Simple logic would suggest that this spells bad news for calcifying organism (poor Mr. Snail).

Healthy Pretopod shell (left) and degraded Pteropod shell due to ocean acidification (right). (Photo credit: NOAA [climate.gov])

Healthy Pretopod shell (left) and degraded Pteropod shell due to ocean acidification (right). (Photo credit: NOAA [climate.gov])

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Set research free with IGoR!

Citizen Science, Natural Science, ScienceFebruary 26, 2015

Dr. Mickey von Dassow is a biologist who studies how biomechanics affects development-environment interactions. He received his PhD in Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley, studying how fluid flow affects colonial marine animals. As a postdoc (U. of Pittsburgh), he studied the mechanics of tissue movements that shape amphibian embryos. Currently he is a guest research scientist at the Duke Marine Lab, and works primarily on sea urchin embryos.


"IGoR! Fetch me a protocol!" Provided by Michelangelo Von Dassow.

“IGoR! Fetch me a protocol!” Provided by Michelangelo von Dassow.

Can everyone do scientific research? I hope to convince you the answer is “yes.” I’m trying to develop an online platform (http://IGoR.wikidot.com) to help amateur scientists and other science enthusiasts do their own scientific research, while at the same time helping experienced scientists tap into the skills and creativity of a broader community. I hope you’ll love the idea and want to help me spark IGoR to life*.

Currently, the vast majority of scientific research is done by professionals supported by big institutions, such as universities, government labs, or corporations. It’s difficult for even a trained and experienced scientist to find the resources and time to do research without this backing. There are pockets of science where amateurs frequently make substantial contributions (e.g. amateur astronomy and taxonomy). However, it wasn’t that long ago that the majority of science was done by people – such as Darwin and Wallace – who were outside academia. In fact, the great intellectual revolutions that created modern science were not started by trained scientists: there were no trained scientists at the time!

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#SciSpends : Scientists are paying to do their jobs

UncategorizedFebruary 25, 2015

edd_headshotDr. Edward Hind is a marine sociologist who specializesin the research of local ecological knowledge. He has spent the last five years investigating how the knowledge of fish harvesters may support marine management in both Ireland and the Turks and Caicos Islands. He was recently a lecturer at the School for Field Studies and is the current Communications Officer of the Marine Section of the Society for Conservation Biology. Having returned to his native UK, Edd is currently looking for new teaching and research opportunities. He has authored peer-reviewed papers in a number of fisheries management and marine policy journals. Follow him on twitter here

My name is Edd and I’m a postdoctoral academic. In the last 12 months I have spent (US)$307 on conference travel, $300 on conference fees, $76 on printing a conference poster, $150+ on non-alcoholic food and drink whilst at conferences, $60 on memberships of professional societies, $35 on academic software, and almost $100 on academic books. That’s over $1000 of my own money. I have a problem. If you’re a scientist, I bet it’s your problem too.

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