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The Original. Accept no imitations.

The best tool for the job is you

I know, I know. I started this series and then totally lost track of it. It needs an update and a fresh coat of finish. Fortunately, a few chats about getting started in woodworking inspired me to put some more work into my ridiculous woodworking manifesto.

This is Part 5 of Built to Last: A Reflection on Environmentally Conscientious Woodworking.

I’ve been woodworking my whole life, but this merger of science, conservation, woodworking, and the environment began with what remains one of the most popular articles on Southern Fried Science: How to build a canoe from scratch on a graduate student stipend. That was my return to serious woodworking after almost a decade and one fun way to celebrate passing my prelims.

So what do you actually need to get started woodworking?

You really don’t need nearly as much to get started as the woodworkers of YouTube may lead you to believe. Sure, as you progress you may want a really nice sander, you may find a domino joiner appealing, you might want to drop $1000 on a full set of nice hand planes, or maybe you start investing on milling machines.

But, at the beginning, you need something that cuts and something that connects. My freshman year of college, David Shiffman and I started a ridiculous company that recovered used lofts from dumpsters and dorm rooms at the end of the year, stored them over the summer, and then sold them back at a steep discount to incoming students as a recycled alternative to building a new loft. They had character.

We had exactly two power tools between us. A corded Skil drill that I paid $20 for and didn’t even have variable speed, and a very old corded jigsaw from a brand that doesn’t even exist. A hammer, a cheap handsaw, and the screwdriver that came in my truck’s spare tire kit rounded out our arsenal. We disassembled, rebuilt, and modified thousands of lofts using those tools. It really doesn’t take much.

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A roundup of recent deep-sea mining news

The author, pondering a polymetallic nodule.

The third part of the 27th session of the International Seabed Authority, a meeting where the rules and regulations about how the deep ocean will be mined, begins today. If process is your jam, you can watch the UN negotiations here: https://isa.org.jm/web-tv

For a very concise overview of where we currently stand, I published the transcript of my recent talk, here: Deep-Sea Mining: A whirlwind tour of the state of the industry and current policy regimes

Some recent press to get you up to speed

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So Elon Musk bought Twitter…

For a while it seemed like the deal wasn’t going to go through. After his initial offer, Elon Musk tried everything he could to back out of it, short of sitting for a deposition in the resulting law suit. But, at the end of the day, it went through, and Elon Musk now owns Twitter.

Lots of folks are worried about what a Musk-controlled Twitter will become. His conditional commitment to press freedom depends entirely on how much praise is heaped upon him. His record as an employer is a mess. And now he controls one of the most potent, though slowly waning, outlets for public engagement, and certainly the preferred medium of journalists and politicians.

I’ve taught Social Media for Environmental Communications at Duke University for the last 11 years. Every year there’s been some big social media shakeup, and every year we look at how that shakeup will impact professionals using social media primary as an outreach and engagement tool. This has the potential to big the biggest shift in how folks approach social media that we’ve seen in a long time. But it also could be a whole heap of nothing. It all depends on the whims of a single, inconsistent owner who may not really know what he has or what his vision for it is.

So what will this new Twitter look like? I suspect that we won’t see tectonic shifts in how Twitter operates immediately. It will take months for any of Musk’s vision to trickle into the user experience. I don’t get the impression that there are many people left for whom an ownership change is going to push them to finally get a Twitter account. The platform seems largely out of its growth phase. So there will likely be a slow and steady attrition of users as they get less and less out of using Twitter. They won’t be replaced.

Long-term, I expect to see a hard push towards monetization of an increasingly small active user base. Which, in itself, will make that user base even smaller.

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Deep-Sea Mining: A whirlwind tour of the state of the industry and current policy regimes

On April 28, 2022, I was invited to give a short talk to a gathering of Environmental NGO representatives to provide an overview and my perspective on the current state of development for deep-sea mining. Below is the transcript of that talk.

Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me. Today I’m going to give you a very brief whirlwind tour of the current state of deep-sea mining and the policy regime around this developing industry.

The first thing I need to highlight is that we often talk about deep-sea mining as one cohesive thing, but it’s really four separate and distinct industries, all developing in tandem, with significant differences in the types of metals targeted, the technology necessary to exploit those metals, and the motivations for doing so.

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Community Oceanography with low-cost, open-source CTDs

On September 14, 2022, I gave a talk on community oceanography and the OpenCTD for the AtlantOS Ocean Hour “Democratizing ocean observations through low-cost technologies” workshop. Below is the transcript from that talk.

Good morning and thank you for inviting me.

Access to the tools of science is not equitable, and nowhere is this inequality of access more pronounced than in the ocean sciences, where all but a few entities have the capital to mount major oceanographic research campaigns. I come from the world of deep-sea ecology, where budgets can quickly climb into the tens of millions of dollars. But even small-scale coastal research can be stymied by the need for vessels, equipment, and instruments, access to which is often controlled by research institutions.

As the need to understand the dramatic changes happening both at the surface and beneath the waves accelerates, barriers to access that precludes the participation of the full breadth of ocean stakeholders erodes our potential to understand, anticipate, and mitigate those changes.

One of the missions of my post-Academic career has been to make the tools of ocean science more accessible to more people. I believe that the ocean belongs to everyone and that the tools to study the ocean should be available to anyone with the curiosity and motivation to pursue that inquiry.

Chief among those tools is the workhorse of oceanography, the CTD.

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Two Years of Deep-sea Mining in Review: For Deep-sea mining, battery technology is the ultimate x-factor

As in-person negotiations on the future of exploitation in the deep ocean resume this week in Kingston Jamaica, we reflect back on the last two years of development as reported on our sister site, the Deep-sea Mining Observer. This article first appeared on August 26, 2021.


Deep-sea mining is frequently framed as a race to the seafloor. While that is not technically true–deep-sea mining has, in fact, been incredibly slow to develop as an industry, with nearly half a century of technological innovation, diplomatic negotiation, and environmental exploration under its belt without producing a single ounce of commercial ore–the deep-sea mining industry is in a race against the one major technological innovation that could upend the industry’s claim to being a foundational technology for the renewable resource transition. 

The race is not to the bottom of the sea before fossil fuel consumption creates runaway global warming (with a 30-year-horizon, deep-sea mining is well positioned to facilitate the long-term transition to renewables, but is unlikely to make a major impact in the resource demands needed to meat the IPCC 2030 targets). The race is to reach commercial production before the evolving state of battery technology renders the majority of seabed resources superfluous. Battery chemistry is the x-factor that will shape the long-term prospects for the viability of deep-sea mining. 

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Two Years of Deep-sea Mining in Review: Major Brands Say No to Deep-sea Mining, for the Moment

As in-person negotiations on the future of exploitation in the deep ocean resume this week in Kingston Jamaica, we reflect back on the last two years of development as reported on our sister site, the Deep-sea Mining Observer. This article first appeared on April 15, 2021.


On Wednesday, March 30, several major technology and automotive companies joined the deep-sea mining moratorium movement. Google, BMW, Volvo, and Samsung SDI (a Samsung subsidiary responsible for manufacturing small lithium-ion batteries for smartphones and other applications) signed on to the World Wide Fund For Nature’s Global Deep-sea Mining Moratorium Campaign. These are the first major corporations to commit not to source minerals from the deep seabed or finance deep-sea mining activities, and to exclude seafloor minerals from their supply chain. 

“Sustainability leaders should be concerned about how their green image could be affected by incorporating deep sea minerals into their metal supply chain,” says Kristina M. Gjerde, Senior High Seas Advisor to the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme. “Deep sea minerals are not solving the problem of harmful impacts, just relocating it elsewhere, where the affected communities are less able to speak for themselves. Moreover, it should be clear by now that relocating mining to the deep sea is unlikely to reduce the issues associated with terrestrial mining. By increasing the availability of minerals, deep sea mining could in fact make it harder to clean up terrestrial mining activities.”

As major automotive manufacturers in the midst of a pivot to electric vehicles, BMW and Volvo’s announcements represent a potential threat to the deep-sea metal market. BMW expects 50% of all its vehicle sales to be electric by the end of the decade, with several BMW subsidiaries, including Mini, producing only EVs by 2030. Volvo, who also intends to be fully electric by 2030, recently shipped its first all-electric vehicle to the United States, though software issues caused the long-awaited XC40 Recharge to be held in port pending a critical system update.

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Two Years of Deep-sea Mining in Review: Delegates struggle to develop Regional Environmental Management Plans during a global pandemic

As in-person negotiations on the future of exploitation in the deep ocean resume this week in Kingston Jamaica, we reflect back on the last two years of development as reported on our sister site, the Deep-sea Mining Observer. This article first appeared on January 29, 2021.


Since the pandemic brought travel to a halt, the International Seabed Authority has been working to meet contractor deadlines and make progress on a variety of issues revolving around finalizing the mining code, facilitating workshops, and engaging stakeholders and experts through remote meetings. These efforts include workshops on the development of Regional Environmental Management Plans (REMPs) for the Northwest Pacific and the Northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Though some stakeholders were satisfied with the efforts to move workshops online, many were left frustrated by a process that felt rushed, less transparent, and less inclusive of the breadth of stakeholders represented by the deep-sea mining community.

Regional Environmental Management Plans are one of the foundational policy instruments that determine how contractors act and interact within a geographic region. They provide guidance for not just individual lease blocks, but for how the whole of an area, including multiple lease blocks by multiple contractors, as well as areas of particular environmental interest and set asides will be managed. The process of negotiating a REMP is long and detail-oriented and includes the input of numerous stakeholder groups and expert advisors. So far, only a single REMP, for the Clarion-Clipperton  Fracture Zone, has been approved by the International Seabed Authority. 

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Two Years of Deep-sea Mining in Review: Has pulling the Trigger already backfired?

As in-person negotiations on the future of exploitation in the deep ocean resume this week in Kingston Jamaica, we reflect back on the last two years of development as reported on our sister site, the Deep-sea Mining Observer. This article first appeared on August 26, 2021.


The Republic of Nauru turned the deep-sea mining world on its head this summer when it invoked Article 15, colloquially known as the Trigger, starting a 2-year countdown on the finalization of mining regulations for polymetallic nodules in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This countdown means that commercial deep-sea mining could potentially commence within 3 years. But that commencement depends on a suite of benchmarks, both procedural and technological, that have yet to be met. 

While Nauru and its deep-sea mining contractor, Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (a wholly owned subsidiary of The Metals Company), emphasize the urgency of unlocking seafloor metals to accelerate the transition to a fossil fuel-free future, many stakeholders have expressed surprise at what they feel is a premature invocation of a rule designed to prevent oppositional member states from stonewalling progress on a mining code. 

The two year clock doesn’t guarantee that a mining code will be complete within that time frame, but rather that either the mining code be finalized or a submitted Plan of Work be considered by the Council based on current and best-available standards and guidelines. Though The Metals Company has stated in the past that it would not support invoking Article 15 unless it was certain it had the backing of the majority of the Council, those political winds could easily change in the next three years, and the Council retains the authority to reject a Plan of Work. 

It remains to be seen whether and if a mining code drafted under ticking clock of the two-year countdown will be more or less amenable to the preferences of deep-sea mining contractors and their sponsor states, but initial responses from delegations representing ISA Council members, the Legal and Technical Commission, and observers suggest that invoking Article 15 is just as likely to backfire on the Republic of Nauru and The Metals Company. 

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