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.


Fun Science FRIEDay – Death Star

Blogging, ecology, Fun Science Friday, marine science, Natural ScienceNovember 21, 2014

Happy Fun Science FRIEDay!

While Ebola wreaks havoc on Homo sapiens in the terrestrial world, there has been an even more virulent disease causing the destruction of a marine animal, the sea star. Today we talk about this deadly condition impacting sea star populations and the recent discovery of just what is causing this affliction.


Royal starfish (Astropecten articulatus) on the beach. (Photo credit: TheMargue -

Royal starfish (Astropecten articulatus) on the beach.
(Photo credit: TheMargue –


Agents of seal: stealthy seals use subsurface structures to sneak by sharks

Blogging, marine science, Natural Science, Science, sharksNovember 18, 2014

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.  

Predators are highly influential in ecosystems because of the many top-down effects they can have.  The most obvious and direct way predators influence an ecosystem is by eating and reducing the number of prey animals in the system, but another equally important way is the indirect influence they have on the behaviour of prey animals.

If you have avoided parking on a risky-looking street, taken a different route between classes to avoid a bully, or abandoned a forest hike because of snapping twigs in the distance, you have been indirectly affected by perceived ‘predators’.  In the wild, prey animals will also change their behaviour when they perceive that predators are around, and these altered behaviours often influence other species, ultimately shaping the ecosystem.


Fun Science FRIEDay – The Origin of HIV

Blogging, Fun Science Friday, History of Science, Science, Social ScienceNovember 14, 2014

Happy Fun Science FRIEDay


After a hiatus, I hope to get back to regularly writing these pieces. This week I was particular inspired to focus on an article I read about the discovery of the origins of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and subsequently the origins of AIDS.

Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 (in green) budding from cultured lymphocyte. Multiple round bumps on cell surface represent sites of assembly and budding of virions. Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 (in green) budding from cultured lymphocyte. Multiple round bumps on cell surface represent sites of assembly and budding of virions.
Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

AIDS burst onto the scene like a bat out of hell, wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting human population. First recognized in the early 1980s by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, better known as the CDC), AIDS went on to cause approximate 36 million deaths globally becoming one of the most devastating diseases in human history. But where did this affliction come from and what were the chain of events that led to the pandemic?


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