Andrew David Thaler • #OceanOptimism, Blogging • November 14, 2016
We stand at a crossroads.
Southern Fried Science has occupied a unique niche in the online ocean community. We have defended commercial and recreational fishers as often as we have opposed them. We have at times stood behind ocean conservation policy and at times pushed back against excessive legislation. We have criticised those within our community and those without. We have been radically libertarian and radically socialist and every label in between.
We are comfortable joining the long call, the great song that booms from the belly of a blue whale, and circles the world as it echoes through the community.
We are comfortable being the lone cry of dissent, pushing back against the onslaught of righteous exuberance.
We have never sought consensus, only common ground.
For almost a year now a phrase has been rattling around inside my head. At first it was just catchy cadence, something to use on the next article. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to understand what it really means; how deeply it permeates almost every aspect of life on this planet.
Diversity is resilience. (more…)
Kersey Sturdivant • biodiversity, Citizen Science, deep sea, ecology, Fun Science Friday, marine science, Natural Science, Open Science, Public perceptions of wildlife, Science, Uncategorized • November 4, 2016
Happy FSF! As some of you may know (and for those who don’t), I study the bottom of the ocean, and I do so primarily using innovative technology to image the seafloor (e.g., Wormcam). The interesting work I’ve conducted has resulted in me having the opportunity to present my work to a larger lay audience, in the form of a TEDx presentation.
(Photo Credit: TEDx Newport)
I am giving my TED talk with my good buddy and colleague Steve Sabo. In our talk, “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Worms”, Steve & I will illustrate the significance of the ocean floor through advancements in underwater camera technology and data visualization, making complex science more accessible for everyone.
Our TED photo (Photo credit: Meg Heriot)
Andrew David Thaler • #OceanOptimism • November 3, 2016
Southern Fried Science loves giant isopods. There are few deep-sea animals more iconic, more charismatic, more weird and wonderful, than the deep-sea isopod. The biggest of the deep-sea isopods, the giant deep-sea isopod, Bathynomus giganteus, is a quintessentially American beast. It dwells in the deep Gulf of Mexico. The bulk of its known range falls within the United States Exclusive Economic Zone. It was first collected by American scientist Alexander Agassiz (though it was formally described by his colleague and collaborator French zoologist Alphonse Milne-Edwards). Tough on the outside, soft on the inside, fiercely independent yet able to work in massive aggregations to consume the bloated carcass of a whale, alternately terrifying and adorable, I can think of no better animal to represent the deep water of the United States better than our own Bathynomous giganteus.
So today, with an historic election looming, we decided it was past time to reflect on the things we love, the things that unite us, the things that fill us with wonder, and call upon Congress to officially adopt the giant deep-sea isopod as the National Deep-sea Animal of the United States. (more…)
Andrew David Thaler • #OceanOptimism, deep sea, Education, Science •
Picture a pill bug, roly poly, woodlouse, or doodle bug, an animal found under rocks and logs throughout the United States. Now picture an animal similar to that pill bug, but as big as a cat, crawling across the Gulf of Mexico. That is the giant deep-sea isopod.
The deep waters of the United States’ Exclusive Economic Zone is home to this large, recognizable animal, which can reach almost 2 feet in length. Since their discovery in the late 19th century, giant isopods have captured the public’s imagination, acting as an Ambassador Species for deep-sea ecosystems. Ambassador Species are important for education, exploration, and conservation as they provide a charismatic icon to help introduce people to new and unfamiliar places.
Andrew David Thaler • Animal welfare, Conservation • November 1, 2016
Learning to hunt by Kimberly Fraser / USFWS.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is adapting new technology to the business of saving and endangered species: they’re sending in the drones.
Pellet drone in flight by Randy Matchett/USFWS
Black-footed ferrets are a small, solitary, extremely territorial weasel-like animal that lives in the American west. Once abundant in central North America, today, their wild population stands at around 500. Black-footed ferrets were decimated by sylvatic plague (a close relative of the bubonic plague), as well as habitat loss and an early eradication campaign.
Andrew David Thaler • Popular Culture, Science Fiction • October 25, 2016
A bit of Academic science fiction for your Tuesday morning enjoyment.
A reminder: Southern Fried Science is entirely supported by contributions from our readers. Head over to Patreon to help keep our servers running and fund new and novel ocean outreach projects. And if you like my occasional forays into fiction, you’ll find a lot more over there.
“I’m sorry,” the dean said as he rested his coffee mug on the heavy stack of CV’s littering his desk, “we just don’t have any demand for your class this semester. Maybe in the Spring.”
“What if I add another core credit? I could include a writing module. I could add a history component.”
The dean leaned forward. “You know I can’t do that, Doctor…”
“Dr. Thomas. It wouldn’t be fair to the students. We’re not going to pad out a class just so you can get paid. I’m sorry. It’s just not in the cards. Maybe next semester you can stir up some interest in Introduction to Genome Editing.”
“So what do I do now?”
“Well,” the dean paused, earnest and thoughtful, “if you want to keep your office, you’ll have to volunteer to TA one of the chemistry lab units. Otherwise, I’m afraid your campus access expires at midnight this Friday.”
Kersey Sturdivant • A Renewed Sense of Wonder, biology, ecology, Fun Science Friday, marine science, Natural Science, Science • October 14, 2016
Pollination. I think most people understand why this is important (or maybe I should say, I hope). To put it simply, the process of pollination facilitates reproduction in plants by transferring pollen from one plant to another. In the terrestrial world, this can be mediated by physical forcing (e.g., wind) or by animals (e.g., insects) – and its why people are freaking out about the loss of bees due to pesticides (because they are a primary pollinator), but I digress. Until relatively recently, pollination by animals was not thought to occur in the ocean. Unlike on land, where most flowering plants rely on creatures to carry pollen, plant reproduction in an aquatic world was surmised to rely exclusively on currents and tides. However, a team of researchers led by marine biologist Brigitta van Tussenbroek revoked the long standing paradigm that pollen in the sea is transported only by water, discovering and documenting the process of zoobenthophilous pollination (a term they coined).
Gamarid amphipod feeding on pollen of a male
flower of the seagrass Thalassia testudinum at night. (Photo credit: Tussenbroek et al. 2012)
Chris Parsons • Challenging the Conventional Narrative, Maritime history • October 10, 2016
Today is Columbus day in the US, and so I technically have a day off from teaching. However, despite a day of alleged freedom (I still have a stack of grading to do) the fact that we get a holiday to celebrate Columbus galls me. Firstly, because he was responsible for mass enslavement of indigenous people (over 1000 in just one round up, of which 550 were sent to Spain, with about 40% dying en route), sending an estimated 5000 Taino, Arawak and other indigenous peoples to Europe. His treatment of these enslaved people was barbaric – they were forced to bring him gold and failure to do so led to mass amputations and death. An estimated quarter of a million indigenous people died in Haiti alone due to resisting Columbus’ Governorship of Hispaniola, and many more died from diseases he and his crew introduced to the Caribbean.
However, secondly, he doesn’t deserve recognition for discovering North America. He never set foot on the North American continent*. If we should be recognizing someone from this era, it would be John Cabot.
Chris Parsons • #SciComm, Education • October 9, 2016
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
I think everyone would agree that the current US presidential election has been one for the history books … and not in a good way. One of the running themes in this election has been how many people do not understand the difference between a verified fact and something they saw on “the interwebs”. That “doing research” to far too many in the US means Googling until they find a website that supports their opinion (and ignoring any other source that does not). Those involved in science communication have long been aware of this problem, especially those involved in communicating issues such as climate change, evolution and health issues. However, perhaps now more of the country is aware that the lack of public understanding of what a fact is has become a major problem, and how substantive the proportion of the country is that can’t tell the difference between a fact and a belief or opinion or, quite frankly, a bold-faced lie. Perhaps now more people realize how dangerous it can be when facts no longer matter.
Andrew David Thaler • #OceanOptimism, deep sea, marine science, Natural Science, Popular Culture, Science • October 6, 2016
Giant Isopod. Photo by author.
I love giant deep-sea isopods (Bathynomous giganteus if you’re fancy).
I’ve written quite a few articles about giant isopods. Giant isopods were prominently featured in our epic ocean monograph, Sizing Ocean Giants. I’ve even been fortunate enough to observe novel giant isopod behavior in the deep sea. If Southern Fried Science had a mascot, it would have to be the giant isopod.
When I started Scanning the Sea, I knew that a giant isopod would have to be part of the collection. There was just one problem: 3D scanning marine critters is an imprecise art, and you need to start with a very clean specimen. Most of the giant isopods I had access to had been floating in formalin for decades, or came up in pieces, or were preserved in a twisty, roly-poly ball. They weren’t good candidates for scanning. (more…)