Fisherman catches cosmopolitan planktonic tunicate. You’ll never guess what various news agencies are calling it.

biology, marine science, Natural Science, ScienceJanuary 22, 2014

“Translucent fish leaves New Zealand fisherman stunned” ~UK Metro

“Shrimp-like Translucent Sea Creature Found off Northland’s East Coast” ~Science World Report

“Now that’s a jelly fish! Stunned fisherman catches wobbly shrimp-like creature” ~Daily Mail

And another half-dozen variations on translucent, fish, shrimp, and baffled.

article-2543194-1AD845CC00000578-850_634x476This creature, whose image has gone viral in the last few days, is a salp. Salps are pelagic tunicates that drift through the open ocean, sometimes solitary, but often in large aggregations. It both swims and feed by pumping water through its body, filtering out plankton and expelling a jet of water from an organ called the excurrent siphon. In the water they look quite majestic.

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Quick Tips for Graduate Student Life – Ask for Free Textbooks

Science Life

Over the last few years, I’ve written several posts on surviving graduate school, including dealing with expectations, managing your finances, coping with failure, and some more general advice. During that process, I’ve also come up with some small, helpful tips that just don’t fit into a broader theme. It seems a shame to let those tips disappear, so, for the next week I’ll be posting Andrew’s Quick Tips for Surviving Graduate School


Tip #3: Ask for free textbooks

This one is so simple it’s often completely overlook. Textbooks are expensive. They get more specialized and more expensive as you advance. If you’re lucky, you have access to an awesome library that will stock whatever you need. Sometimes, you won’t be that lucky.

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First systematic threat analysis reveals that 1/4 of sharks, rays, and chimaeras are threatened with extinction

Conservation, marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharksJanuary 21, 2014

It took a team of over 300 scientists nearly two decades, but the first systematic analysis of the conservation status of chondrichthyans (sharks, rays and chimaeras) has been completed. The results, published today (open access) in a paper titled “Extinction risk and conservation of the world’s sharks and rays,” are chilling.

“Our unprecedented analysis shows that sharks and their relatives – which make up one of the earth’s oldest and most ecologically diverse groups of animals  –  are facing an alarmingly elevated risk of extinction,” said Dr. Nick Dulvy, IUCN SSG Co-Chair and Professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.

As of the writing of this paper, the IUCN Shark Specialist Group recognized 1,041 species of chondrichthyans. However,  a new species is described, on average, every two or three weeks! Out of these 1,041 species of chondrichthyans, approximately one in four are considered “Threatened” by IUCN Red List criteria;  113 species are Vulnerable, 43 are Endangered, and 25 species are Critically Endangered. 487 species are considered Data Deficient, but the IUCN Shark Specialist Group estimates that 68 of them are likely to be Threatened as well! Most alarmingly, only 23% of known chondrichthyan species are considered Least Concern, the lowest percentage out of any group of vertebrates on land or sea!

A hierarchy of IUCN Red List categories. Note that "Threatened" includes Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically Endangered

A hierarchy of IUCN Red List categories. Note that “Threatened” includes Vulnerable, Endangered, and Critically Endangered

One of the two main factors influencing Threatened status is the size of the animal. Larger bodied species are sensitive to overfishing because they typically have a life history with slow growth, late age at maturity, and relatively few offspring. Additionally, living in coastal habitats (in other words, close to humans) makes a species more likely to be Threatened.

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Quick Tips for Graduate Student Life – Invest in a Good Navy Blazer

Science Life

Over the last few years, I’ve written several posts on surviving graduate school, including dealing with expectations, managing your finances, coping with failure, and some more general advice. During that process, I’ve also come up with some small, helpful tips that just don’t fit into a broader theme. It seems a shame to let those tips disappear, so, for the next week I’ll be posting Andrew’s Quick Tips for Surviving Graduate School


Tip #2: Invest in a good navy blazer.

We’ve all heard the line: “you can dress however you want, as long as you do good science.” This is a lie. Don’t believe it. You will, during the course of you graduate student career, actually find yourself in situations where you will, most certainly, need to dress a bit more professionally than ripped jeans, keens, and a t-shirt. Scientific conferences, professional workshops, or meeting the people who fund your grants all require at least an attempt a formality. And for that, there is the Navy Blazer*.

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Quick Tips for Graduate Student Life – Get a Shop-Vac

Science LifeJanuary 20, 2014

Over the last few years, I’ve written several posts on surviving graduate school, including dealing with expectations, managing your finances, coping with failure, and some more general advice. During that process, I’ve also come up with some small, helpful tips that just don’t fit into a broader theme. It seems a shame to let those tips disappear, so, for the next week I’ll be posting Andrew’s Quick Tips for Surviving Graduate School


Tip #1: Get a Shop-Vac

Bear with me, here.

There’s a million different kinds of vacuum cleaners on the market, from super-cheap uprights to $1,500 technological behemoths. Unfortunately, graduate students live on a small-stipend, and cheap vacuums are cheap for a reason: they just don’t last. During my graduate school career, I burned through three dirt-cheap models (granted, we had a lot of square footage thanks to the low cost-of-living in rural North Carolina). You could scale up, get one of those nice, $200+ models that should last for years, but there is another option. (more…)

Fun Science Friday – Mars One

Fun Science FridayJanuary 17, 2014

Theoretical schematic of the Mars One habitat,  Photo Credit: Mars One

Theoretical schematic of the Mars One habitat,
Photo Credit: Mars One

Maybe you have heard about it, or maybe you haven’t, but Man… Man is headed to Mars! …. or at least Man is going to try!

In recent years space expeditions have shifted focus towards reaching the red planet. Of the different campaigns to travel to Mars, Mars One has probably gotten the most press recently. As stated on their site, Mars One’s goal is to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. Crews of four will depart every two years, starting in 2024, with a first unmanned mission in 2018.

For good or bad, Mars One is taking the Colonialism Era approach. Send out explorers without the guarantee of return and see what happens. And despite the obvious one-way ticket approach of their endeavor, there are an abundant source of participants ready to step up for this, literally and figuratively, ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity.  Mars One had over 200,000 applicants, and recently whittled  that field down to a little over a thousand. Over the next few years these individuals will undergo training that should in theory prepare them for one of the most daunting missions mankind has ever undertaken.

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SciFund challenge background: 6 questions you can answer about shark feeding ecology with stable isotope analysis

marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharksJanuary 14, 2014

scifundAs many of you have heard, I have a project in the 4th SciFund Challenge, a scientific research crowdfunding organization.  My project, entitled “You are what you eat: non-lethal feeding ecology to help conserve threatened sharks,” is part of my Ph.D. dissertation research. You’ll be hearing a lot more about it over the new few weeks here, on twitter, and on my Facebook page once the challenge officially starts on February 1st. I’d really appreciate your support of my research!

I’ll be using a research technique called stable isotope analysis to study the diet and food web interactions of shark species in Florida. My project (and the research technique) will be briefly explained on my SciFund site, but I wanted to go into more detail about the type of research questions that stable isotope analysis can answer, as well as why this kind of data is significant.

Feeding ecology is important to the conservation and management of sharks.

An emerging trend in marine conservation is “ecosystem based fisheries management”, which means that managers would consider the diet and food web interactions of species of interest. An effective ecosystem-based fisheries management plan would require, among other things, detailed diet and food web interaction data. We can better conserve and protect threatened marine life such as sharks if we better understand their biology and ecology, including what they eat. Over 100 priority research questions for shark conservation were identified in a 2011 research paper (available open access here), and several of these are related to feeding ecology and ecosystem role.

The traditional method for studying the diet of sharks is called stomach content analysis, which typically involves cutting open the stomach of a shark to examine what is inside. Southern Fried Science writer Chuck used a non-lethal alternative that involved pumping the sharks’ stomachs, but that is far less commonly performed. While direct and effective, this kind of lethal sampling research may not be appropriate for certain threatened species of sharks. Stable isotope analysis, which requires only a small tissue sample, can be performed non-lethally.

Stable isotope analysis background information

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Public passion for shark finning bans is great. How do we channel it towards other issues?

Conservation, fisheries, marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharksJanuary 9, 2014

A recent proposal in New Zealand to outlaw shark finning received more than 45,000 public comments from all over the world, a staggering amount of public interest in fisheries policy. This is great news, because though many activists don’t really know what it means, shark finning is a major threat. Shark finning may well be the most brutal and wasteful method of gathering food in the history of human civilization, and  New Zealand was one of the few developed nations that still legally allowed any form of  the practice. Though there are still some significant issues with New Zealand’s proposal, it was  still very exciting to see so much public passion for an issue that few cared about, or even knew about, when I was growing up.

However, a finning ban is merely a first step, for the most part only controlling how sharks are killed, not how many are killed. A recent study showed that finning bans alone were insufficient to ensure sustainable fisheries. In many nations (including the United States), the interested public has a role to play in implementing all or most of the next steps a comprehensive sustainable fisheries policy for sharks and other fishes. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen anywhere near the same level of public engagement in other shark conservation issues as we see for big, flashy issues like bans on finning.

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Are you Prepared for the end of the world? An excerpt from my latest novella

Fleet, Popular Culture, Science FictionJanuary 8, 2014

preparedPrepared: A novella from the world of Fleet went live in the Amazon Kindle store this afternoon. This short story expands on the world the we first encountered in Fleet, where sea level rise and global pandemic have reduced human civilization to a few scattered enclaves. In Prepared, we are taken to the beginning of the end, the fall of the last major coast metropolis, where a small group of doomsday preppers are making their final stand.

You can find Prepared on Amazon and at Smashwords. Nook, iBook, and other editions are coming.

Excerpted below is chapter 1: Bug Out.


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Debunking Fukushima: Your Radiation Roundup

Blogging, Science

Fukushima continues to dominate the ocean news cycle, and while no one is denying that it is a real and ongoing tragedy, the woo is strong in the Fukushima fear-mongering community. Fortunately, the scientists are out in force, debunking the bunk and cutting through the crap to keep you informed. Here is a handy collection of detailed links, from trusted source, tackling some of the most egregious pseudoscience coming out of Fukushima.

Southern Fried Science

Deep Sea News

Skeptoid

If you know of any other good articles debunking Fukushima fear-mongering, please leave them in the comments below.

If you feel the need to accuse any of the authors above of being shills for Big Nuclear, The Government, any Secret Board of Shadowy Figures, Tepco, or any combination thereof, I have an experiment for you: This website is ad free and run entirely by volunteers. Head on over the our “Support Southern Fried Science Page” and make a donation help to keep us running. Maybe, if you donate enough, we’ll start shilling for you (disclaimer: we won’t, but we will continue to produce high quality marine science and conservation articles from a diversity of voices).

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