Disaster in Mauritius. Mauritius, a small island nation off the coast of Madagascar, has declared a state of emergency following a massive oil spill. The MV Wakashio bulk carrier ran aground on the island’s fringing reef, spilling thousands of tons of fuel oil into the fragile ecosystem. Strapped for equipment, Mauritius is now soliciting hair donations (human hair will absorb oil, but not water) from its residents in a last ditch effort to get as much oil out of the wreck as possible before it breaks apart.
Collapsing Milne.Canada’s Milne Ice Shelf has collapsed. The last intact ice shelf in Canada split apart in the days leading up to August 2. The satellite images released by Planet Labs are truly astounding.
The only thing you should care about this Shark Week. Dr. Catherine Macdonald writes for Scientific American on the dark side of being a woman in shark science. Critical reading for anyone working or thinking about a career in marine science.
Upwelling (the part where Andrew gets on his soapbox)
Earlier this week, we got news of a Evangelical missionary flying into the highlands of Papua New Guinea to preach to an “uncontacted” tribe. Now, I’m just a humble country deep-sea ecologist, but I did teach a robotics class through the University of Papua New Guinea and I have more than a few contacts out there who were happy to point out that the uncontacted tribe was making fun of this dude on Facebook, but it makes me furious that during a pandemic, ostensibly religious folks would put their own personal need for pride and attention ahead of the health and safety of a relatively secluded group of people. We have the potential to be better than the worst of us.
How to Dismantle a Blue Whale: In Chile, a team of volunteers confronts stench and gore to ensure a new life for a dead whale. [Warning: Link contains graphic pictures of whale evisceration]
I’ve been following this project for almost 2 years. Awesome to see how far they’ve come. NinjaPCRis a WiFi enabled, Opensource DNA Amplifier and Thermocycler for Polymerase Chain Reaction developed by 2 hackers in Tokyo.
The fight for our Marine National Monuments isn’t over. We finally know *some* of the contents of Zincke’s monument review memo, and it’s not great. The DOI wants to see commercial fishing return to the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments. Longline fishing in these regions has historically been conducted by foreign fishing fleets which have been documented using slave labor. Many ecologists believe that maintaining these protected zones serve as a refuge that boost populations of many important commercial fish and improve the overall health of the fishery.
Here’s the good news: Any change to monuments created under the Antiquities Act must be approved by congress. You’ve got a lot of reason to call you representatives this week, so why not add “I opposed the reintroduction of ecologically and economically destructive commercial fishing to the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll Marine National Monument.” to your script?
Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)
Hero Shark, the shark who shows up to every flood, ostensibly to save us all from our own hubris, has a long a fascinating history. “Shark in flooded street” wasn’t even the first time that photo was used for fake news.
Many decades of experimental and theoretical research on the origin of life have yielded important discoveries regarding the chemical and physical conditions under which organic compounds can be synthesized and polymerized. However, such conditions often seem mutually exclusive, because they are rarely encountered in a single environmental setting. As such, no convincing models explain how living cells formed from abiotic constituents. Here, we propose a new approach that considers the origin of life within the global context of the Hadean Earth. We review previous ideas and synthesize them in four central hypotheses: (i) Multiple microenvironments contributed to the building blocks of life, and these niches were not necessarily inhabitable by the first organisms; (ii) Mineral catalysts were the backbone of prebiotic reaction networks that led to modern metabolism; (iii) Multiple local and global transport processes were essential for linking reactions occurring in separate locations; (iv) Global diversity and local selection of reactants and products provided mechanisms for the generation of most of the diverse building blocks necessary for life. We conclude that no single environmental setting can offer enough chemical and physical diversity for life to originate. Instead, any plausible model for the origin of life must acknowledge the geological complexity and diversity of the Hadean Earth. Future research may therefore benefit from identifying further linkages between organic precursors, minerals, and fluids in various environmental contexts.