Fun Science FRIEDay – Visualize the Seafloor

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)

(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)

Our TED photo (Photo credit: Meg Heriot)

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Weekly dose of TED – Kristina Gjerde: Making law on the high seas

The high seas are a black hole for ocean conservation. They lie beyond the jurisdiction of any single country and are largely open for unregulated exploitation. Even as we begin moving towards a pragmatic high seas conservation framework, we should keep in mind that many territorial waters are still left unprotected and open to illegal fishing and dumping.

I had a chance to sit down with Kristina Gjerde last year to talk about seabed management and the exploitation of hydrothermal vents in the high seas. Unlike the high seas, the international seabed is supposed to be held in trust as the common heritage of mankind, which means that the resources belong to all nations, not just those who get there first.Despite protection under the International Seabed Authority and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the only enforcement mechanism in place are compliance, and this mechanism has never been tested.

How do we protect the high seas and who has the right to exploit its resources?

Weekly dose of TED – Peter Tyack: The intriguing sound of marine mammals

That marine mammals have a rich sonic life has been well understood for several decades. What we didn’t understand until recently is how much we’ve changed the ocean soundscape, and how much we will continue to change the soundscape. Many of our new alternative energy plans involve maritime structures – offshore wind farms, wave energy converters, submerged turbines – that will contribute to this change. Are they worth the trade-offs? Assuming we have to move forward without sonic mitigation technology, how should we manage and regulate for a greener future with a bit of sonic?


Weekly dose of TED – Roz Savage: Why I’m rowing across the Pacific

I had the pleasure of seeing Roz Savage speak at the Nicholas School of the Environment last year. That talk was a slightly longer version of the one above, with the addition that she had finished her Pacific voyage in Papua New Guinea. The question I pose to our readers is, what effect do these large, but ultimately personal journeys have on conservation? Do you find them inspiring? Self-absorbed? Powerful? Inconsequential? Do conservation initiatives have more impact when they have a human face attached to them? Who else has inspired you?


Turtle excluder devices: analysis of resistance to a successful conservation policy

Conservation efforts often have an associated tradeoff, and many proposed solutions are shot down because the costs are perceived to be too high. A conservation policy that benefited a charismatic endangered species with very little cost should be popular and enthusiastically adopted. However, even though turtle excluder devices greatly reduce sea turtle mortality and have very low costs, they were vigorously opposed by shrimpers. Though many factors contributed to this opposition to turtle excluder devices, analysis of quotes from newspaper articles reveals that one of the major issues was a failure of the conservation community to educate and communicate with shrimpers.

The problem

Most species of sea turtles are either threatened or endangered. Although they face many threats, a 1990 National Academy of Sciences study reached the conclusion that “drowning in shrimp trawls kills more sea turtles than all other human activities combined”. Trawling consists of dragging a large net behind a boat to catch shrimp. This fishing method has one of the highest bycatch rates of any used today, resulting in over 11 million metric tons of bycatch a year. Sea turtles breathe at the surface, and being trapped underwater in a net can be fatal if they aren’t freed in time. Adult loggerhead turtles can hold their breath for up to 45 minutes, but trawlers often wait up to four hours before hauling in their nets. This resulted in an estimated 48,000 sea turtles caught in trawl nets each year from 1973-1984 in U.S. waters, of which 11,000 died . Gulf of Mexico shrimping was particularly hard on loggerhead and kemp’s ridley sea turtles.

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Weekly dose of TED – Stephen Palumbi: Following the mercury trail

For 2011 we’re going to do a bit more with our Weekly dose of TED series. Instead of just posting a video each week, we’re going to include a short discussion of either the entire talk or a point that could be expanded.

The idea that, when it comes to seafood, we may not know what we are actually eating is a major problem. Beyond the whale/dolphin debate, how many of us can honestly distinguish among all the seafood we eat? I once went into a few local restaurants to surreptitiously test the tuna they served. Some tuna was tuna, some was grouper, some was Nile perch, but all of it looked the same when cooked. In many cases this is not a case of restaurants misleading customers, or even being mislead themselves, but simply a problem with the length of the supply chain. The more intermediates that a piece of fish has to go through to get from the boat to your table, the more chances there are for it to be misidentified. In general, the places serving local fish were far less likely to have something misidentified. The problem is that this really throws a wrench into the principle of supply side conservation if we are unable to honestly choose our seafood.

~Southern Fried Scientist