Chasing Genius, aquatic brain blobs, hurricanes, bats, and more! Monday Morning Salvage: September 4, 2017

Fog Horn (A Call to Action)

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

Read More

One-eyed sea eagles, deep reefs, crispy jellyfish, and more! Monday Morning Salvage: August 7, 2017.

Fog Horn (A Call to Action)

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

Read More

Half-safe, climate change, deep-sea mining’s last frontier, and more! Monday Morning Salvage: Junes 12, 2017.

Fog Horn (A Call to Action)

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

Jetsam (what we’re enjoying from around the web)

The view from Long Bridge Road on Tangier Island. Credit Andrew Moore for The New York Times

Read More

Parasitic barnacles, a code of conduct for marine conservation, #BillMeetScienceTwitter, and more! Monday Morning Salvage: May 22, 2017.

Fog Horn (A Call to Action)

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

Jetsam (what we’re enjoying from around the web)

Read More

Monday Morning Salvage: January 2, 2017

Welcome to 2017 and the ninth year of marine science and conservation at Southern Fried Science!

Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)

  • Alex Warneke knows exactly how to push all of my ocean outreach buttons: Low-cost teaching tools? Check! Hands on student engagement? Check! Open-source materials and datasets? Check! 3D Printing? Check! Meet 3D Cabrillo:

Courtesy A. Warneke, DSN.

Jetsam (what we’re enjoying from around the web) Read More

Dying for Reason in the Rational Utopia

When Neil deGrasse Tyson proposed his “Rationalia” thought experiment several months ago, I thought is was cute but misguided. Now that he’s doubled down on the concept, I can see exactly why it is such a naively flawed idea. Rationalia would be a disaster for conservation. This short science fiction story illustrates why.


ration

“Oyez, oyez, oyez!  This, the 107th session of the 16th Superior District Court, is hereby gavelled to order. Please be seated.”

Cope Johns remained standing. He surveyed the crowd, an odd assortment of bystanders, tourists, and his few supporters. Chief Justice Carlsson entered the hall, climbed onto his podium, and looked down on the assembled masses. Somewhere amid the crush of bodies, an elderly lawyer took his seat. All eyes turned to him. He timidly rose to his feet.

“Today we hear Dr. Cope Johns, on behalf of the Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), versus the Free Republic of Rationalia. Make note that, as evidence suggests that timeliness is required in this decision, we have elected to expedite deliberations. The court has been briefed extensively on this case and requires no additional background. Dr. Johns, your opening statement?”

Cope approached the stand. The bailiff placed his left hand on the near-field ID scanner, confirming his identity. Cope raised his right hand to nothing and swore under his breath.

“Thank you, your honor. The Vaquita is a tiny porpoise that has been on the verge of extinction for the better part of a century. Its only remaining habitat is in the Gulf of Reason, where the Free Republic of Rationalia intends to establish the Lost Lobos tidal energy farm. This farm will displace the Vaquita breeding grounds and will likely drive the species over the brink to extinction.” Read More

The greater good: animal welfare vs. conservation

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.

The ever-logical Spock once said “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Then he didn’t. Then he did again. (Thanks J. J. Abrams.)

But I digress.

Regardless of which Spock you are listening to, the logic is still sound. For example, most people would agree that it is sometimes necessary to put a few people in harm’s way to protect the entire population of a nation. Likewise, a system that taxes a few of the world’s wealthiest to help out the masses is generally accepted as a good idea.

The logic also holds when it comes to helping endangered species survive and recover. Decision-makers essentially try to maximise the returns of their investments, making sure that the greatest number of animals are protected for the all-too-limited funds available to take on the task at hand.

Read More

Marine Conservation, Inspiration and a Great Big Geek

From 14-18th August 2014, the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress was held in Glasgow, Scotland. The IMCC meetings are the largest international academic conferences on marine conservation. IMCC3 had over 700 presentations ranging from fisheries science to how marine scientists could better interact with the media, from Marine Protected Area effectiveness to the ethical treatment of marine species, from the impacts of oil spills and debris in the marine environment   to how to better use social media and storytelling to communicate marine conservation science to the general public. For a glimpse of some of the topics covered at the meeting and key information and quotes, look for #IMCC3 on Twitter.

I got several requests to post my closing speech – although the number of requests might partly because people wanted to count quite how many geek references I managed to sneak in. There are 13, can you find them all?

The IMCC3 Chair’s Closing Speech

So here we are on the raggedy edge, at the ending of IMCC3, the third one. I’ve received many positive comments about the content of this meeting and I’d like to give you a quote with exemplarizes what people have been saying:

“In my department, I was told not to step out of the ivory tower, that if I wanted to engage with marine conservation more than just doing the science, then I was being a bad scientist. I was made to feel that I was a freak for wanting to do so. But after this meeting I know that I’m not alone. I have a huge community that feels the same way and who are supportive. I feel like I can finally come out of the conservation closet as a scientist”

A famous professor from a nearby academic institution, Albus Dumbledore, once said: “dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when one must choose between what is easy and what is right”; the situation in the oceans is so dire we must now do what is right!

A major theme of this meeting has been… well, conservation, this word does not mean what you think it means. Conservation is very unlikely to happen if you just publish a paper and nothing further. Don’t get me wrong, papers are important – they give vital evidence on which to base good conservation decisions. But, you need to get that science into the right hands, at the right time, in the right format. Some of our community are excellent communicators … so we’ve got that going for us, and that’s nice. But some of us don’t feel so comfortable about putting ourselves out there quite so much.

The good news is though that there are many people who will gladly help you to get your science into the right hands, and minds. “There can be only one” is not the tagline for marine conservation. As Sesame Street would extol… cooperation, and collaboration, is the key.

This meeting has showed that marine conservation scientists are making a difference. It’s important that we remember that scientists can, and have, changed the world. Once upon a time, a Fellow of the Royal Society was frustrated with the inequality of the world and collaborated with a science nerd colleague, who was an eloquent writer, and came up with an idea… which we now call the United States of America.

(Incidentally had the internet existed in Benjamin Franklin’s time he would have had quite an impressive h-index, including highly cited publications on oceanography)

Another one of my favorite sayings coined at this meeting  by the SCB [Society for Conservation Society] Marine Board was “don’t just whine about it, do it!”

This has been most apparent this meeting with the case of the Vaquita,* the Gulf of California harbor porpoise. There are only 97 individuals left of this critically endangered species, with maybe just 25 reproductive females. The science is in for the vaquita, we know what it will take to fix this crisis, it will cost $60million. So yesterday the SCB marine section decided to do something. We didn’t want yet another dolphin to go extinct on our watch. We put in seed money to pay for a fund-raiser/lobbyist to raise that $60million and we challenge other NGOs to match us and contribute.** We can make a difference, this is a species we can save so easily. We can fix this, yes we can! So come on NGOs and governments !  As Yoda says “do or do not, there is no try!”

Time is fleeting and I can’t talk for very much longer, so I would like to finish off with a quote from an undergraduate student who told me last night (admittedly they were somewhat in their cups) “I learnt more about what I want to do with my life these past 4 days than in the last 4 years at my university”.

A key theme for this meeting has indeed, been inspiration and #oceanoptimism***. Scientists can indeed make a difference. So now everyone just go, and walk out that meeting door, take what you’ve learnt from this meeting, and “engage”. ****

*For a truly geeky site with information about the vaquita go to the Vaquitas are Browncoats Facebook site. Another great site is Viva Vaquita who also have a Facebook page.

** Anyone wishing to give a donation to the fund, please send a check to “Society for Conservation Biology” at Society for Conservation Biology, 1017 O St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001, USA. Please note that the money is for the Vaquita fund.

*** Another relevant quote from Albus Dumbledore would be that “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light” #oceanoptimism.

****So geeky references include: Firefly, Sharknado 2, Harry Potter, the Princess Bride, Caddyshack, Highlander, Sesame Street, Bob the Builder, the  Empire Strikes Back, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Star Trek: the Next Generation.

Biodiversity Wednesday: The Sea of Cortes

The Sea of Cortes (commonly referred to as the Gulf of California) lies between the Baja Peninsula and mainland Mexico. Glorified in Steinbeck’s narrative The Log from the Sea of Cortes, detailing his adventures with Ed Ricketts during a six-week collecting trip, the region is rich in both history and biodiversity. The sea is formed by the separation of the Pacific and North American tectonic plates. The East Pacific Rise runs through the Sea of Cortes and continues north to become the San Andreas Fault. The Colorado River empties into the sea at the Colorado River Delta.

Read More