Today marks the last day of Craig McClain week for our friends over at Deep Sea News. We’ve celebrated his science, his outreach, and his tremendous spirit. Over the last decade, I’ve been lucky enough to co-author two papers with Craig: Digital environmentalism: tools and strategies for the evolving online ecosystem and Sizing ocean giants: patterns of intraspecific size variation in marine megafauna, both of which have quickly become seminal in their related fields. Craig is a titan, and my one regret is that I didn’t try hard enough to convince him to determine the author order for Sizing Ocean Giants by our respective sizes.
One time, in New Zealand, he tried to impersonate a Sasquatch. Read More
There’s been some amazing things happening around the oceanosphere, none of which are particularly related. All of which are pretty awesome (or super bogus). Here we go!
1. Robots to save the ocean. Last weekend I was in Miami at We Robot 2016, a meeting about the future of robotics and the law, repping for OpenROV and talking about the wide, wild world of underwater robotics. Joining me was Polk State College’s Joey Maier, presenting his awesome and innovative STEAM outreach program with OpenROV. You can watch the whole talk here (talk begins at about 10:25):
2. Celebrating Craig McClain. Dr. M has been overlord of the venerable Deep Sea News for over a decade. His loyal school of cuttlefish have secretly declared this to be Dr. Craig McClain Week, a tribute to the man and the living legend. Craig spawned Kevin Zelnio, who ultimately inspired the creation of Southern Fried Science, which makes Craig McClain the Grand Nagus of the ocean blogosphere.
3. Triton gills, definitely a scam. The sketchy Triton gills project refunded all of its donor last week, then promptly relaunched with a new, equally tenuous bit of psuedo-technology. At this point, the internet is lousy with due diligence, so really, it’s on you whether or not to back this obviously non-functional product.
4. The worst/best Tinder date in the history of What the Farm?! My *other* project, a podcast about farming just published its 14th episode. The entire last 7 months have been leading up to this incredible, ridiculous, episode, in which my co-host goes on a tinder date and ends up processing his surprise rooster. It’s the best/worst Tinder date ever!
5. Revisiting seaQuest DSV. Remember seaQuest? That amazing, Star Trekkie ocean show from the 90’s? I do. I’m over on the Mary Sue rewatching old episodes of seaQuest DSV and analyzing their science. Enjoy!
In The Mass Extinction of Scientists Who Study Species, Dr. Craig McClain argues that we are loosing a fundamental unit of biological science – the Taxonomist. He’s right, of course. Taxonomy is a shrinking field. Entire phyla sit, unstudied, as the expertise necessary to understand them retires and expires. With few to train the next generation of taxonomists, the field could slowly vanish. Molecular tools are supplanting traditional taxonomy (once described to me as “the ability to identify hundreds of species of centimeter-long worms by counting ass-hairs under a microscope”) as the de rigueur method for identifying organisms.
I do not disagree with Craig. Losing skilled taxonomists is tragic for the biological sciences. Unlike many leading the charge in support of taxonomy, I did not benefit from a rigorous taxonomic study in my early career. I fall into the same camp as Dr. Holly Bik, relying primarily on molecules, not morphology, to draw the distinctions between my samples. I never identified species by counting the ass-hairs on a worm, and my education is poorer for it.