Posted on November 25th, 2009 No comments
I’m recently home for the Thanksgiving holiday and was watching the nightly news with my parents last night. While I’m usually not a fan of the excessive crime updates and consumer reports, I was especially excited about one segment. And I have to say, I fell in love. Meet wolframalpha.com. Wolfram is smart, fun, and never runs out of conversation. and while he is a math whiz (think Mathematica and the derivative of x^4 sin x), he also has a soft spot for the sciences. The guy on the news said that Wolfram was actually capable of answering questions unlike regular search engines. Wow. A real online man.
Wolfram and I initially had a rough time getting to know one another. Communication was our biggest issue. But then I checked out examples of searches and starting asking about, for instance, what good ole Wolfram knows about the sequence AAGCTAGCTAGC. TA DA! Illustrations, locations on chromosomes, amino acids coded for, etc. Very cool! I could really feel our relationship blossoming. So then I thought, if this is going to work out, we’ll need to share a love for the ocean. Wolfram seems to like scientific names (be still, my beating heart) so I asked him about Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. Hm. He wasn’t sure but guessed this was the purple urchin. Ok. We can work with this. So then I thought, we’ll do common names. How’s “blue tang“? WHOOPS! Wolfram gave me the prevelance of the surname “Blue” and the surname “Tang” in the world. He just has an overwhelming desire to calculate.
Our relationship hasn’t been the same since. When I asked Wolfram about overfishing, he asked if I meant “overfitting.” Oh, well. I guess he wasn’t designed to solve the problems of overfishing, ocean acidification, global warming, and coastal pollution. But he sure knows his corals from his sea lions. And if you need help on those physical oceanography problem sets, he just might be your man.
Posted on November 21st, 2009 2 comments
It’s been 11 days since the state’s MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force(BRTF) announced and voted on it’s integrated proposal to submit to the Fish and Game Commission for approval and the universal groan of disappointment was heard from every Southern California stakeholder group save for perhaps two. The communities of Redondo Beach and Malibu in Los Angeles County came out basically with what they wanted. In a compromise that was supported by both city and county councils, a large section of the waters off Pt. Dume in Malibu were designated no-take reserves while in Palos Verdes, the northern side of the peninsula looks to remain open.
These 2 very different outcomes I think are reflection on the inclusionary nature of the process and the desire of the BRTF to make it work for all Californians while still living up to the letter of the law. In Malibu, there was overwhelming public support for a large state marine reserve by community members and it was reflected in a resolution vote by the Malibu City Council to the BRTF supporting that desire. The city of Redondo Beach on the other hand was concerned about a projected $17.3 million loss if King Harbor fishers couldn’t access the rocky reefs on the front side of PV. The RB City Council therefore voted on a resolution rejecting the proposed reserves that would close this important area. To crystallize the public resolve from both cities, LA County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Don Kanabe also added a county resolution to the BRTF supporting their respective desires. There was so much working together that you would have thought they were getting ready to sing kumbayah and hold hands. I’m talking community here.
On November 10th, both communities got what they wanted. The BRTF listened and then modified the proposed closures by taking a socioeconomic argument over a scientific one. This compromise may not have met the spatial science requirements of the MLPA but for these 2 communities, it was the right move.
Posted on November 18th, 2009 1 comment
Hi, gang- I have recently become aware of an AMAZING HILARIOUS blog called fupenguin.com. The contents of which may need to be “bleeped” somewhat if you have delicate ears (/ eyes). The blog focuses on making fun of cute animals and I have to say, for you marine lovers, the post on the nudibranch photo made me fall out of my chair it’s so funny.
To add to the love-fest for cute animals on the web, I thought I would make a plug for the cute and tiny among us. And no, not tiny like “oh, look at that cute little lab puppy!” No, no, no. I mean like “oh, I love my research where I look under the microscope and pull tiny little organisms off of an invasive alga to find out what’s living there and what impact the alga is having on the intertidal community” (we can discuss this more, too, if you’re interested). So here you have it- total mini cute-ness (all with faces this time. don’t worry, there are more!)- which makes all the microscope weird eye-bugging-out time worthwhile. Featured here before I preserve the cute little guys in ethanol… doh!
Posted on November 15th, 2009 6 comments
Do you know what a persimmon is? I grew up near Persimmon Tree Rd in Maryland but never actually wondered what would be growing on a persimmon tree… clearly not using my critical thinking skills a la “orange tree”, “lemon tree”, “cherry tree”, etc. So thank goodness for the magic of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box!
All of this Permission Enlightenment, however, got me thinking about something I know many of us have pondered over the past few years and is certainly central to books like Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. That is, how in touch are we really with what we eat? Which leads me to the more fun question of “Do we know where our food comes from?”
While PETA has made a killing (ha!) off publicizing this issue for the mostly fuzzy land-dwelling animals, how are we doing on the scaley swimmers among us? We do seem to have a dialogue about sustainability, but assessment here is difficult, information complicated, and communication of this information even more challenging.
It’s always good to enjoy happy hour with friends, catch up, and talk science. But when the happy hour menu offers a delectable “Ahi Tuna Tower”, what to do?
Maybe a Hefeweizen and a “Persimmon Tower” instead.
Posted on November 12th, 2009 2 comments
Ever wondered how to take a good picture of a beluga underwater? Don’t swim towards it, run away from it. They are very curious animals, so they will follow you to check you out. Then, they will leave… and will come back with more buddies that will want to check you out too! If you follow them, you will scare them off!
This and many other fascinating stories are the ones that Paul Nicklen told yesterday during his talk at the National Geographic Society headquarters. But it wasn’t all fun and adventure stories. He also told us about the threats that the oceans and polar regions are facing: ovefishing, ocean acidification, pollution… and, of course, climate change.
Check out these two short videos with his stories on how he captured the awe inspiring series of pictures of leopard seals in Antarctica and the underwater picture of a polar bear and its reflection… and don’t miss his new book, Polar Obsession!
Posted on November 11th, 2009 No comments
One of the great things about the CMBC program is the emphasis that communicating the message of marine conservation is so much more than just writing scientific papers. I posted last weekend about one group of students efforts to discuss climate change. Today I’m posting a film project about shark finning on the Baja peninsula. As a marine ecologist, I’m having a gut check moment that makes me seriously angry at the idea that this prolific fining is going on within 100 miles of our campus. The film however, points out the complexity of applying first world values to a third world fishery. What makes me feel really good however is that this data in Baja collected by Scripps researchers is aimed at improving international management. Enjoy the film.
Posted on November 10th, 2009 No comments
Hey, gang- I’m currently working on a presentation tracing the history and classic papers of my dissertation topic for Paul Dayton‘s seminar this fall. For me, this includes research on invasive species / invasion. A few of us also recently ended up in a discussion about the Cane Toad documentary from 1988 and while doing some more internet background searching (clearly pure academic), I found this introduction to pique your interest in the film… and consider the wonders of invasive species. Sounds like there are some interesting initiatives in place now to collect cane toads, freeze them, and turn them into fertilizer. COOL! as long as their poison doesn’t result in some unhappy side effects for your delicious veggies.
Posted on November 8th, 2009 No comments
The culmination of the Summer session for incoming IGERT/MAS students at the CMBC is the workshop on film making. The idea is to explore better ways to communicate the message of marine conservation in mediums that are accessible to more than one audience. As a result, our intrepid newcomers are split up into groups to develop their own projects which generally feature SCRIPPS faculty and staff. We thought you might enjoy seeing them so we’ll be posting them from time to time. They are usually quite innovative and often quite surprising as this first example from Elizabeth Terk, Abbie Sloan, Lauren Frank, Matt Leslie and Megan Robertson will demonstrate. So without any further ado and with apologies to Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, I’m proud to present the noted climatologist Dr. Art Miller….
Posted on November 8th, 2009 1 comment
We here at CMBC are gearing up for a great event on December 4th focused on broadening the involvement in the IGERT program to include even more great minds- especially more great minds on upper campus. There’s more on this to come, but for now MARK YOUR CALENDARS for the IGERT Research Mixer!
Friday, December 4th. 3:00-5:00pm. Social Sciences Building room 101. Refreshments, brief (promise) presentations, good conversation, new collaborations, funding opportunities, and exciting ideas.
Posted on November 5th, 2009 7 comments
Halloween celebrations in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Outer Bay exhibit got a little out of hand and so the great white had to leave the tank! :) No, now seriously… after a stay of a bit more than two months, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s (MBA) great white shark has been released because of the aggressive behavior it showed last weekend. The Aquarium’s husbandry team decided to let her go after she was bitten by an exhibit-mate, and she was seen chasing scalloped hammerheads and biting a Galapagos shark (I would have loved to see that!!).
“I’ve always said that these animals will tell us when it’s time to put them back in the ocean. Now was clearly the time,” said Randy Hamilton, vice president of MBA’s husbandry to SeaNotes.
This is the fifth great white that the Aquarium has had on exhibit. The good news is that the shark has been tagged. This way, researchers will follow it for six months and record data on its swimming depth and water temperature. This effort is part of the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) research project that recently has published their findings in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.
Furthermore, having a great white in exhibit has brought nearly a third of a million people close to this majestic animal. They have had the opportunity to get informed and inspired by the life of sharks and the challenges they are facing today.
So… when will the sixth great white shark arrive in the Aquarium’s exhibit?!!