Ocean Conservation Priorities for 2041

Field Notes from the FutureJanuary 7, 2016

On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.


Another year, another set of ocean conservation priorities. As with the last 5 years, there will be some new ones, and some repeats. The biggest issues shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, plastics have been an issue forever and global norming is rapidly taking over the broader ocean conversation. For a refresher, check out our priorities for 2036, 2037, 2038, 2039, and 2040.

Sea Level Rise Induced Habitat Loss: This has been a big one on the docket the last few years. As the ocean rises many species are experiencing dramatic loss of habitat, especially sensitive coastal nursery grounds. Although we’ve known about this for a while, we haven’t even begun to quantify the extent of damage to marine populations. Salt inundation is also compromising coast terrestrial habitats, driving essential species further inland. (more…)

How cyborgs are like old wooden ships

Field Notes from the FutureJanuary 6, 2016

On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.


It is not an easy task to repair a historic ship, especially one that still sails. Centuries of saltwater have crept into her planks, rotting wood and rusting iron. Eventually, everything needs to be replaced, the ship that sailed 400 years ago shares no original parts with the ship that sails today under the same name, under the same flag.

Stop. Go back. Let’s talk about cannons.

In the 17th century, we decided that we could own the sea, or rather, nations decided that they could lay claim to their coastal waters. In De dominio maris (1702), Cornelius Bynkershoek proposed a 3 mile limit for territorial seas. Coastal countries began laying claims, annexing oceans as they still annex new land. Eventually, the 3 mile limit expanded outward, first to 5, than 12, then finally 200 miles, staking claims against not just a coastline, but an entire continental shelf, a nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Even today, some nations continue to exert and maintain extreme control over their 3 mile limit.

Why three miles? The best cannons of the era could shell a ship from 3 miles away. This provided a strategic advantage for coastal cities, who could maintain heavier artillery than a warship could carry. Three miles meant that a state could fire upon an enemy entering its territory before the vessel brought its own guns within range.

That limit is now meaningless, and indeed, was rendered obsolete within a few decades of its adoption. Technology moves faster than law. Today, we can fire upon an enemy from anywhere in the world, at any time, without warning. And yet, the 3 mile limit remains, informing shipping, fishing, diplomacy, and resource management, long after the long guns it was created to thwart have rusted away. (more…)

Twenty Years Later, the Identity of Johnny Milkweedseed Finally Revealed

Field Notes from the FutureJanuary 5, 2016

On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.


A team of journalists from WIRED have finally cracked the case on a twenty year mystery that, by now, has become almost the creation myth of the modern, radical techno-environmentalist movement. The identity of Johnny Milkweedseed, the name given to the anonymous person or persons responsible for the great milkweed explosion of 2021, was revealed to be Leslie Johnson of DuBuque, Iowa, now deceased.

The journalists re-opened the search for the mysterious actor after last year’s discovery of the original lab that was used to create the hybrid milkweed disseminated by Johnson in the summer of 2020. After tests confirmed the archive of plasmids indeed contained the roundup resistant gene found in milkweed 247a, a number of journalists followed them back to their source – an overgrown farm in Dubuque. The lead turned out to be Johnson’s nephew, Mark Lee, who had kept the garage biolab located in the back barn of the property in nearly perfect condition since his aunt’s passing in 2036. By then, she had moved onto more modern equipment that she was using to create apple and strawberry varieties for her farm, but the lab still housed a number of the classic devices Johnson used for that initial prototyping of milkweed 247a: petri dishes to grow bacteria, micropipettes for implantation, a huge archive of plasmids, as well as the DNA synthesizer that she used, which, as far as Lee knew, was “probably a second-hand machine she found on eBay.”   (more…)

Ocean Kickstarter of the Month: Control ocean plastic with BioBooms

Field Notes from the FutureJanuary 4, 2016

On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.


“Two thirds of “collected” ocean plastic end up back in the ocean. Why scoop it when microbes can poop it?”

BioBooms: Eat the plastic out of our oceans, one trawl at a time.

broken

We’ve seen nearly 3 decades of ill-conceived ocean cleanup projects, and we’re still dealing with many of the same issues that arose when the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was first discovered. Adding insult to injury, a recent study revealed that almost 70% of all garbage collected during these ocean cleanup operation has ended up back in the ocean thanks to poor downstream control and a limited understanding of the plastic lifecycle on the part of these programs. Indeed, without longitudinal support, these plastic sucking boondoggles tend to be all flash and no pan. The point-source operations, like Waterwheel Global, have fared much better, but still do nothing for the plastic that is already out there. 

BioBooms has the potential to change that. Using a proprietary plastic consuming microbe, the BioBooms team hopes to break down ocean plastic in situ, converting photodegraded plastics into fuel that will then be used to power their ships. (more…)

Southern Fried Server Error: Please Stand By

Field Notes from the Future

Something strange is happening at Southern Fried Science.

Over the weekend, the Southern Fried Servers experienced a bizarre and unaccountable server error. Our regularly scheduled content was apparently and inexplicably replaced by what appears to be authentic articles from Southern Fried Science, circa 2041. While it warms my heart to know that our little blog will endure through the next quarter century, I recognize that Field Notes from the Future may be disconcerting and disturbing to some readers.

I am working diligently with our webhost to correct this problem. Unfortunately, the glitch also overwrote my admin account, so while I can push an update from 2016 onto the frontpage, I can’t delete the errant posts. I have managed to sneak some code into the current anomalies to help temper potential confusion, but it seems as though large chunks of HTML5 are not future proof, leaving us with few options for editorial control.

Until then, we’ll just have to trust that the Southern Fried Science authors of 2041 are as committed to an honest, open, and critical assessment of marine science and conservation as their contemporaries.

Paradoxes notwithstanding, I, for one, am excited to see what Team Ocean accomplished in the next 25 years.

Still time to get your Oceanography for Everyone microsatellite onto the next payload!

Field Notes from the FutureJanuary 3, 2016

On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.


Do-it-together satellite builders, there’s still time to get your microsatellite onto our next payload. We’ve got 18.3 kilograms left on the next Mares Antares launch. As was the case last time, we’ve coordinated with a cohort of ocean conservation foundations, including Oceanography for Everyone, to cover the cost of shipping for this launch.

Did you miss this round of DIT Ocean Data Satellites? Don’t worry, we have another launch scheduled in 18-months, right after this round of satellites burn up in the atmosphere. With government satellites committed exclusively to infrastructure support, the only environmental data comes from foundation and citizen-owned satellites, as well as from the few private surveillance firms gracious enough to open-source their data post-monetization. Launches like this are mission critical for continuing to produce high-quality global ocean data.

Fortunately, the cost of materials has shrunk to the point where any capable student group or citizen scientist collective can build their own microsat (as a geneticist, it still annoys me that the DIT satellite community co-opted the term for my favorite old-school DNA assay). Getting your tiny data angel into space is our job. If you haven’t had the chance to build your own, the Microsatellite Foundation provides tons of instructions and resources for you.

And for all you interplanetary microsat makers, the Titan launch is only 6 months away!


On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.

Site-wide Notice

Field Notes from the FutureJanuary 2, 2016

On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.

A Mega Apology for Megalodon

Field Notes from the Future

On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.


brokenLast April I did something dumb. As longtime readers no doubt know, in the last few years the April Fools pranks between me and David Shiffman have gotten… excessive. After he had my favorite dog cloned a dozen times (thanks for that, buddy, they’re all doing great), I had to step up my game. Well, it looks like all these years of continuously one-upping each other, we have finally found the upper limit.

David has been railing against the non-existence of Megalodon for decades. It is the myth that will not die. Ages ago, I naively thought after Shark Week 2015 and our paper, we would finally be done with the Megalodon Conspiracy, but, unlike its namesake, the legend persists.

So, early last year I used CRISPR-CRASS to do something I’ve always wanted to try. With the help of some students, who will remain unnamed, I de-extincted Carcharocles megalodon and quietly deposited it in one of his unused behavioral test tanks. He returned from the field to discover that, finally, the monster shark lives.

brokenWe thought it was hilarious. A couple months later, I wrote about the process of garage de-extinction for Mouthfeedr (seriously, how cool is it that you can bring a species back from oblivion with the tools available in a modestly well-equipped bio-shack?). (more…)

Founder effects in a deep-sea invasive: Easter Limpets

Field Notes from the FutureJanuary 1, 2016

On January 1, 2016, the Southern Fried Science central server began uploading blog posts apparently circa 2041. Due to a related corruption of the contemporary database, we are, at this time, unable to remove these Field Notes from the Future or prevent the uploading of additional posts. Please enjoy this glimpse into the ocean future while we attempt to rectify the situation.


Global Norming marches into the deep sea. We’ve been watching with concern the gradual shift towards the normalization of species distribution due to the widespread introduction of marine invasives. Thanks to a general lack human habitation on the seafloor, the deep sea has remained largely exempt from this phenomenon. It takes a lot of technanthropic migration to normalize an ecosystem.

In the past, scientists have observed small numbers of deep-sea species transported into new biogeographic regions on the backs of research submersibles and industrial equipment, hinting at the potential for deep-sea invasion. Thankfully proactive mitigation measures have mostly prevented large scale deep-sea invasions. Range expansion due to climate change is generally considered to be the greater threat to deep-sea ecosystem stability.

In a recent paper, Plough and friends (2040) identify a large-scale species invasion at hydrothermal vents in the Caribbean. Lepetodrilus johnsonii, a limpet species common at hydrothermal vents around the equatorial extent of the East Pacific Rise have established themselves at vent fields around the Mid-Cayman Spreading Center, just south of the Cayman Islands. As the Pacific and Caribbean are separated by continents, it is unlikely that this invasion happened without human assistance.

Using next-generation Yotta+ environmental holome sequencing, Plough and friends were able to trace the invasion to a relatively small founder population, at most 23 individuals, which we’re likely transported sometime in the last 6 years. (more…)

The power of coffee … a comfy sofa and a bit of a chinwag

Academic life, Science LifeDecember 31, 2015

When I was an undergraduate I walked into the coffee area of our zoology building and was informed that “some of the most important papers on animal behavior were written here”.  It was a somewhat ugly coffee area in an ugly concrete building, with vinyl covered plywood tables and bright orange upholstered bucket chairs that looked like they had escaped from Austin Power’s 1960s love pad. The coffee wasn’t even good, in fact the zoologists were highly envious of the botany department who had a tea trolley with excellent tea and chocolate covered cookies, but I digress… The coffee area was the place to be as that was where everyone in the department congregated, talked about what they were reading or working on, and most importantly, brain-stormed ideas.  Sure there was a certain amount of procrastination going on, with faculty avoiding having to go back to grading, hiding from sheets of data that had to be entered onto excel spread sheets, or balking at yet another hundred samples to analyze back in the labs. But the collegiality that there was in that coffee area: with undergrads chatting to the “silverbacks” of the zoology faculty, sharing their innovative ideas, and getting mentoring advice in return; or scientists from different disciplines advising on different or new techniques to colleagues that had encountered a brick wall in their research progress; was quite frankly more valuable than many lectures, and worth the price of a disgusting cup of instant coffee. Our department was not alone. At the famous big science facility CERN, home of the large hadron collider, there are whiteboards in the lunchrooms because when the scientists there get together they can’t but help brainstorm ideas, and this is encouraged as some of these lunch time collaborations have yielded important scientific fruit.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that conferences are a necessity for the growth of an academic. They give you a chance to share your ideas with other academics to receive support, or possibly criticism, so that you can strengthen and refine your analysis and your interpretation of your data. They are important events to find out the methods and results of peers in your field, information that could be incorporated into your own studies. Informal places where you can get advice, share ideas and develop research and writing partnerships. Rare is the conference where I don’t come home with a note book full of contacts to email, studies to cite and methods to try out. You can travel around the world to find a venue to discuss and debate with your peers. But isn’t it ironic that there are often few of such places within a university?

(more…)

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