Watch James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge and tweet along with us Tuesday at 8 p.m.!

BloggingApril 13, 2015

AThere are still a couple of days left to donate to the most important marine science and outreach crowdfunding campaign of our time, “buy David Shiffman a less ugly pair of sunglasses.” In the meantime, new rewards have been unlocked! For a $30 donation, you’ll receive a small 3D printed megalodon tooth, one of the first of its kind  anywhere in the world! And, as a special reward for everyone who has been helping us to support this cause, Andrew and I will do a synchronized Netflix viewing of James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge tomorrow (Tuesday) at 8 p.m. eastern! To participate, start the documentary on Netflix streaming at exactly 8 p.m. eastern time on Tuesday evening, and follow along with #DeepSeaChat on twitter!

Thanks for your support of marine science and outreach!

Become a Citizen Scientist with SharkBase

marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharks

KempDr. Ryan Kempster is a shark biologist in the Neuroecology Group at the University of Western Australia.  Ryan founded the shark conservation group Support Our Sharks to inform the world about the plight of the most vulnerable shark species. His research focuses on the sensory biology and conservation of sharks and rays.  Sharks have always been his passion, and protecting them his goal.  To do this, Ryan has embarked on a career in research to better understand sharks. He takes every opportunity to communicate his findings to the general public in the hope that he can inspire others to follow in his passion for protecting these amazing animals.

Effective management of sharks starts with an understanding of their population status, which ultimately instructs their future conservation. Unfortunately, many shark species are at significant risk of unrecoverable decline, with some species having declined to near extinction in recent years. We believe that Citizen Science could hold the key to improving our understanding and management of shark populations, whilst also advancing community education. This is why we have developed SharkBase, a global shark encounter database helping to map the distribution and population structure of sharks worldwide (you can also record ray and skate sightings).


How a 10 Million Year old fossil, a smart phone, and a 3D printer recharged my #OceanOptimism.

#OceanOptimism, Popular Culture, ScienceApril 10, 2015

3dtootLast week, we launched a novel little experiment in crowdfunding marine science and conservation – Buy David Shiffman a Less Ugly Pair of Sunglasses – ostensibly about replacing David’s legendarily hideous sunglasses with something a bit more aesthetic. Of course, anyone digging into the stretch goals quickly realized that this was less about sunglasses and more about funding some cool research and outreach projects we’re currently working on; projects like a hammerhead conservation genetics analysis, building a marine ecology drone, and sending students from underserved schools of a shark tagging trip. This was made more explicit when we hit our first goal in the first 36 hours of funding.

With the first funding goal achieved, I decided we needed a cool perk, something not particularly expensive to produce but completely novel and cool enough to justify making a heftier donation. And, of course, it needed to be thematically related to the spirit of the project.

Enter the Megalodon.


Science Flyers: My comment to the FAA regarding proposed new drone regulations.

ScienceApril 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.


Yoda, Yoga, and the Fish of Cannery Row

Blogging, Conservation, fisheries, marine science, Natural Science, ScienceApril 6, 2015

unnamedStacy 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.


Fish at Night: Announcing a symposium focused on nocturnal fish

Blogging, marine science, Natural Science, ScienceApril 3, 2015

AGeoffrey 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.

AStudying 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.


Fun Science FRIEDay – Weaponized Insulin

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:

Cone snails are venomous! Their toxin is estimated to be 1,000 times more powerful than morphine. (Photo credit:


What Conservationists Need to Know About Surveys

Science, Social ScienceApril 2, 2015

This post in the first of a new series entitled “The Basics of the Human Dimensions”, which gives the most basic tips for how to work with social scientists and social questions in marine conservation efforts. Whether you are the stakeholder, the collaborating natural scientist, or both, this series will hopefully make the journey into the human dimensions easier. 

Whether someone has emailed you a survey asking for your expert opinion on something or you would generally like to poll the audience of your research about their thoughts, the basic survey is often the first experience with social science one encounters. And yes, these surveys come in a wide variety of forms and quality, and you are right to judge and raise an eyebrow at them to a certain degree, whether that is out of sheer curiosity or justified skepticism. If you are on the side of wanting to deploy a survey, my best piece of advice would be to hire or consult with a survey writer, particularly if you’re not crystal clear on how the questions and the later statistical analysis will relate. But there’s some more subtle things you should know in dealing with surveys at all stages of the process.

When someone asks you to take a survey


David Shiffman wears ugly sunglasses. We need to fix that. For the sharks.

#OceanOptimismApril 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:

Just terrible.

Just terrible.

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.

Buy David Shiffman a less ugly pair of sunglasses.


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.


The War on Climate Change is a Guaranteed Job Creator

climate change, Natural ScienceMarch 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…)

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