No Endangered Listing for Dusky Sharks (and That’s a Good Thing)

Conservation, fisheries, sharks, SustainabilityDecember 16, 2014

Though the fisheries news cycle has mostly been taken up by the 15-year anniversary of the Sea Around Us project (and some choice words between researchers), today also marked the official announcement of the 12-month finding on the petition to list dusky sharks on the U.S. Endangered Species Act.  Long story short, the National Marine Fisheries Service has decided that the dusky shark population in the Northwest Atlantic doesn’t need ESA protection to avoid extinction.  While it may be tempting to decry NMFS’ decision as falling short for a species that has long been a prime example of declining shark populations, what it actually means is that things are looking up for the dusky shark.  Finding that out only takes a little reading into the decision documents.


Fun Science FRIEDay – Cell Hijack!

biology, Fun Science Friday, Science LifeDecember 12, 2014

Happy Fun Science FRIEDay!!

This week we bring you work from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where they discovered a new method to “hijack” cells. Think about it, if we could make our own cells do our bidding, we could reprogram them to do all sorts of wonderful things for us, such as manufacture insulin, attack tumors, etc. But hijacking a cell is no easy venture. In nature viruses can be quite efficient at hijacking cells, and because of this current methods employed by researchers to hijack cells entails penetrating the cell’s wall with a virus. The biggest issue with this method is that it tends to inflict permanent damage on cell.

Image of a virus attacking a host cell. (Photo credit: dbscience3 @

Image of a virus attacking a host cell. (Photo credit: dbscience3 @


What Jaws Teaches Us About Scientists and the Future of Shark Bite Politics

Conservation, marine science, Natural Science, sharks

neffDr. Christopher Neff is a Lecturer in Public Policy in the Department of Government at the University of Sydney. He completed the first PhD on the “Politics of Shark Attacks” and has been published in Marine Policy, Coastal Management and the Journal of Homosexuality. 

Jaws is a great horror movie. Personally, it’s one of my favorites. Politically, it kills me. While it has certainly inspired generations of marine biologists, researchers and social scientists (like me) since its release in 1975, it has also served as the most powerful vehicle to advance public fear of sharks in modern history. These two different implications become problematic because while sharks make for great movies, movies make for lousy public policy. When tragic shark bite incidents occur, there is a classic Jaws-esque analogy just waiting to be made. And sometimes the media circus turns into policy.

I recently wrote an article called “The Jaws Effect” for the Australian Journal of Political Science comparing policymaking in Western Australia and the movie Jaws. While, we see some of these comparisons in real-time the reason it is important to study this formally is because these moments can tell us about the tensions between politicians and scientists that lead to myth-based policies.


Andrew’s five favorite “new” ocean blogs

Blogging, ScienceDecember 9, 2014

Several years ago, the ocean blogosphere experienced a moment which can only be described as a Great Convergence. Numerous popular independent blogs, either seeking refuge from The Event, looking for a broader audience, or undergoing life transitions that made it impossible to maintain the high volume of new content, merged under the aegis of the Southern Fried Science/Deep Sea News aegis. For a while, the ocean blogosphere felt empty, with few giants roaming the internet depths (once one-man shows, Craig McClain now shares Deep Sea News with 8 current writers, the addition of Michelle Jewell brings Southern Fried Science up to 11). For a while the mighty Sea Monster filled the void, but they have slowed in recent months.

I miss the days when we had to check a dozen links each morning for the latest and greatest in ocean science writing. Fortunately, as often happens when ecologic niches are left empty, new species emerge to fill them. There is a new crop of excellent ocean blogs rising up from the deep. Here are five of my favorite new* ocean blogs that you should already be reading. (more…)

I bet James Bond never had to put up with this … why are there so many “experts” on biological issues?

Life in the Lab, Science, UncategorizedDecember 4, 2014

In the film Notting Hill, the character Max (Tim McInnerny) turns around in his car to face the passengers squabbling about the route to take, tells them to shut up because he’ll decide the route, and exclaims:

I bet James Bond never had to put up with this $%&#!”

This is something to which many biologists can sadly relate.

Thanksgiving has just finished in the US, and many scientist friends and colleagues have returned with tales of relatives (who have no science expertise) expounding to them on why scientists are wrong on a myriad of issues such as: MMR vaccines causing autism and other medical issues, the non-existence of evolution and, currently, their opinions on how to deal with Ebola.

Why is it that Americans have such a poor understanding of biology, and have so little respect for the opinions of those that are trained in the field?  You don’t hear members of the public weigh in on the nature of mesons, bosons, or string theory, and we would certainly not take their opinions seriously in a policy setting when set against the opinions of a trained physicist. So if, like James Bond, physicists and mathematicians don’t have to put up with this, why do biologists? The media often give equal credence to the opinions of the general public, with only a high school level of biology, compared to expert scientists. Even worse, policy makers with little understanding on biology weigh in with opinions on biological matters with confidence, despite a lack of training and understanding. (more…)

Seals use signals from acoustic tags to find fish

Blogging, Conservation, marine science, Natural Science, Science

michelleMichelle Jewell is a Zoologist specialized in predator/prey behaivour and the Scientific Communicator for EDNA Interactive.  She has spent the past 4 years studying the behaviour of white sharks and Cape fur seals at Geyser Rock, ‘Shark Alley’, South Africa.  

Anyone who has worked with seals knows they are crafty critters that will always find the easiest way to eat fish.  Take the rise and fall of acoustic deterrent devices in aquaculture farms that were designed to scare away seals and other predators.  They had limited success and resident predators habituated to the sound when they realized there was no immediate danger.  These devices have been shown to actually attract more predators over time, especially passing pinnipeds.

Scientists have used acoustic tags to monitor fish movements since the 1950s, and hundreds of species have been implanted with these tags (a ‘few’ studies listed here) throughout rivers, lakes, estuaries, and the ocean.  Could marine mammals associate tag signals with food and do they do this in the wild?  A recent laboratory study from St. Andrews (free to download here) answers the first half of this question, showing that grey seals Halichoerus grypus  were able to use the signals transmitted from Vemco V9–2H tags to identify boxes that contained fish.


Here lies American science

BloggingNovember 28, 2014

wrightAndrew 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.


As most of you know by now, on November 12th, the European Space Agency (ESA) landed a probe (Philae) on the surface of a comet (67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko) as part of the Rosetta mission. However, perhaps some of you are unaware that NASA cut a strikingly similar mission (Comet Rendezvous Asteroid Flyby) due to budget constraints. NASA basically had to choose between two missions and picked the other one (the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn). That forgotten mission was scheduled to touch-down on the comet Kopff in 2001, and its cancellation left the ESA to grab first prize for a soft-landing on a comet.


Fun Science FRIEDay – Beauty Sleep

biology, Blogging, Fun Science Friday, Natural Science, Uncategorized

Happy Fun Science FRIEDay!!!

It’s the Turkey Holiday, and aside from eating and socializing, I suspect quite a many of you have also been getting lots of sleep!

Despite how little of it some of us get during our normal routine, sleep is important… right? We know that sleep has tons of benefits for the body such as allowing our muscles and bones to repair themselves, and keeping our immune system healthy. Sleep is also important for our brains, allowing for memories to be consolidated and other important functions to be performed.

Sleeping is like recharging your batteries. ^u^  (Photo credit: Chibird,

Sleeping is like recharging your batteries. ^u^
(Photo credit: Chibird,


Ocean Things to Be Thankful For: Megalodon is Dead, but We Still Have Sharks (and Whales)

A Renewed Sense of Wonder, Conservation, Environmentalism, evolutionNovember 26, 2014

This time of year, it’s appropriate to think of things to be thankful for.  This being an ocean-focused blog, I’d like to share something ocean-related that I’m thankful for, and hopefully spread a little Ocean Optimism in the process.  What I’m thankful for is that Carcharocles megalodon is extinct.  This may not seem like cause for optimism, but honestly the present-day ocean and Megalodon are better off without each other.  And while we may not have 50-foot sharks around anymore (at least not the superpredatory kind), there are actually a lot of species we know and love that have either outlasted Megalodon or are only around because the big beast isn’t around anymore.


Ocean things we’re thankful for, West Coast Edition

Blogging, Personal Stories

As some of you know (especially if you follow us on OpenExplorer), Amy and I have once again made the vast, continent-spanning migration from the Pacific to Atlantic coast, this time settling down in rural Virginia. While we enjoyed our time out in the weirdly foggy, impossibly dry San Francisco Bay Area, we also learn that the southeast US is our ecological niche. Even so, we met hundreds of new and interesting people, got to play with some tremendous tech, and had a great time. So here are the top five San Francisco Bay Area ocean things we are thankful for.

1. Vallejo

Of all the cities that comprise the “Bay Area”, Vallejo, the smallest and furthest from the heart of San Francisco, feels the most maritime, by far. With a downtown only blocks from the waterfront, an expansive city park right at the edge, and an active ferry terminal for commuters, people with a nautical cut to their jib will feel right at home. Though smaller and more suburban than most Bay Area cities, it’s also a whole lot cheaper, with 2 bedroom houses renting for the cost of hot swapping* a futon in San Francisco.


Staff: Andrew David Thaler (973), David Shiffman (465), Amy Freitag (226), Guest Writer (44), Kersey Sturdivant (26), Chris Parsons (18), Chuck Bangley (15), Michelle Jewell (5), Iris (1), Administrator (1), Sarah Keartes (1), Michael Bok (0), Lyndell M. Bade (0)
Connect with SFS
  • Categorical Archives
    Chronological Archives

    Join 176 other subscribers