• I'd be miserable, too, if I were being fished to extinction

    Posted on January 30th, 2010 emily No comments

    Touted as “world’s most ‘miserable looking’ marine animal” in multiple headlines, this guy doesn’t have much to be excited about these days.  As an unfortunate resident of sea mounts in active bottom trawling locations like Australia and New Zealand, he’s in for a rough ride.  Unless…

  • High seas bottom trawling and underwater basket Weav(er)ing

    Posted on January 29th, 2010 emily No comments

    In a CMBC course led by Jennifer Jacquet and Jeremy Jackson this quarter, we’ve been discussing solutions to major fisheries / ecosystem challenges.  This past week, a group presented on bottom trawling and, to their credit, challenged the class to brainstorm solutions (and not just dwell on the problems) to bottom trawling.  Part of their presentation: the clip of the video “The Bottom Line”, narrated by Sigourney Weaver.

    Watch.  Consider.  and look forward to your comments on whether you think this is a compelling tool for building consensus on a moratorium of high seas bottom trawling.

  • Welcome to 2010… with Enric Sala

    Posted on January 19th, 2010 maria de oca No comments

    The International Year for Biodiversity has arrived. So, how are you going to contribute this year to conserve the world’s biodiversity? and, do you have any hopes for what will be accomplished in the next 12 months for the protection of marine life? Today I had the opportunity cover these issues with Dr. Enric Sala at the National Geographic headquarters. Here is his perspective on these issues:

    Maria (M): 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity. What do you hope that will be achieved this year to protect marine biodiversity worldwide?
    Enric (E): Firstly, I hope that we will see a big boost of the area of the ocean that is protected through the creation of some very, very large marine reserves that are in the works and, secondly, I hope that the follow-up from Copenhagen is going to include oceans as an integral part of the global debate and that some binding political agreements will be reached. Here, in the United States, I hope that the government will implement the National Ocean Policy, and that this is going to be an example for other countries to follow.

    M: So, you are definitely going to be very busy this year. Are there any upcoming events that you are particularly looking forward to?
    E: Yes, I am conducting two expeditions this year to a couple of pristine places as part of a series of expeditions to find, survey and help protect the last gems of the ocean.

    M: As a National Geographic Fellow and Emerging Explorer you are a major contributor to the defense of marine biodiversity. Please, tell us more about the projects you are working on here.
    E: One of our goals is to help create very large marine protected areas, to move from the less than 1% to something that is closer to the goals of the Convention of Biological Diversity of 10%, and we are working with some partners, including NGOs, in conducting expeditions to the last pristine places in the ocean, to describe these last ocean baselines, to help us understand what we have lost and, also, to help us decide what we want for the future. In the short term, the goal is to have these last healthy places protected as no-take areas.

    M: What are you finding most fascinating and most challenging of these projects that you are working on?
    E: The fascinating part is, of course, going to these pristine places, getting on the time machine and seeing raw nature without human intrusion. This is really, really satisfying and a spiritual experience. The most challenging aspect is to overcome all of the conflicts to get these places protected. Even those that are remote and uninhabited are difficult to protect. It is difficult to inspire the governments to protect them without very strong economic incentives.

    M: You recently went on an expedition to Cocos Island. Of the many findings you made, which impressed you the most?
    E: What impressed me the most was the biomass of fish in Cocos Island. You jump in the water and you have never seen so many fish in your life, nowhere else, including large abundance of top predators, like jacks and sharks. Schools of 200 hammerhead sharks, 100 whitetip sharks, 4000 bigeye trevally… It’s the marine naturalist’s dream come true.

    M: Is there a moment or image of the expedition that particularly marked you?
    E: There are so many, that it is difficult to choose… my first dive on the submarine on the seamounts around Cocos, reaching a seamount, 100m depth from the top. You know, it’s like climbing a mountain from the top, going from darkness to seeing deep corals and such abundance of fish and invertebrates crawling on every square inch of the bottom, that deeper biodiversity that is away from the SCUBA divers’ reach… that was a very special moment.

    M: And, finally, which remote marine ecosystem will you be visiting next?
    E: Sala y Gomez, an island 250 miles east of Easter Island and 2000 miles off mainland Chile. Its a black rock, less than a kilometer in length, in the middle of nowhere and we have no idea of what is underwater.

    M: Awesome, I look forward to hearing more about your adventures! Thank you.
    E: Thank you, Maria.

    Learn more about Enric’s work in the Ocean Now website!

  • It's an animal! It's a plant…? It's Elysia chlorotica!

    Posted on January 18th, 2010 emily 1 comment

    What’s cute in that non-traditional sort of way, leafy green, and can make chlorophyll a?  That’s Elysia chlorotica, the charismatic sea slug that’s taking the world by storm with its recently discovered ability to incorporate algal genes for chlorophyll a in its own genome.  While this sort of thing is pretty standard for you microbiologists out there, those of us who spend more time with larger organisms ( > 1 mm of the monstrous Thiomargarita namibiensis) can just enjoy what a neat twist of evolution this is.  Once Elysia chlorotica incorporates chloroplasts from an algal meal, it is able to continually fuel photosynthetic production with chloropyll a and other necessary compounds for the duration of its life.  Oh, to never be caught without your lunch…

    Elysia chlorotica

    Photo: Nicholas E. Curtis and Ray Martinez