Saturday, September 27, 2014

Deadly beauty

The Portuguese man-of-war—a colonial organism related to the jellyfish—is infamous for its painful sting, but one photographer finds the beauty inside this animal's dangerous embrace.
For nearly two years, retired U.S. Navy combat photographer Aaron Ansarov has collected and photographed man-of-wars that wash up on a local Florida beach.

From NationalGeographic by Jane J. Lee

The Portuguese man-of-war is infamous for its painful sting, but one photographer finds the beauty inside this animal's dangerous embrace.

The vibrant hues and ethereal body of the Portuguese man-of-war entice people to take a closer look, but beware—to those who draw too near, this delicate creature delivers a painful sting.
Being built like a glass-blown ship at full sail is what gave the man-of-war its nautical name.
It’s also what enables the creatures to go where the wind takes them—even when that means foundering on the beach.
This is where professional photographer Aaron Ansarov encounters them.
A retired combat photographer for the U.S. Navy, Ansarov has been collecting and photographing man-of-wars from a local Florida beach for the past two years now.
“It’s an opportunity to explore a new world,” he says, and part of a wider photo project Ansarov started after he left the military in 2007.
(Read about his project in National Geographic magazine.)

A Division of Labor

Colors are what first caught Ansarov’s eye when he saw a Portuguese man-of-war washed up on a Florida beach.
Most people think only about their nasty sting, he says.
But there is another side to this predator that Ansarov wanted to get to know.
The animal is actually part of a group related to jellyfish called siphonophores.
What appears to be one organism in this group actually is a colony.
Instead of having specialized tissues that form organs, as in other animals, siphonophores are collections of genetically identical individuals specialized for different tasks.
Some form tentacles (banded strands at the top of the image), while others form feeding bodies (brown speckled parts near the bottom), floats, or reproductive structures.

Deadly “String of Pearls”

The tentacles of the man-of-war capture and immobilize prey like young fish, small shrimp, or tiny crustaceans called copepods.
In this image, the tentacles are the long, banded strands near the bottom that look like blue or purple strings of pearls.
The tentacles contain batteries of cells that house miniscule, hollow harpoons called nematocysts.
Those barbed harpoons act like hypodermic needles, enabling the man-of-war to inject a potent mix of venom into a victim.

A Matter of Circumstance

The man-of-war’s sting is deadly to small swimmers except for the man-of-war fish, which lives and feeds among the siphonophore’s tentacles (purple strands at left in the picture above), unharmed.
But the danger for people from the man-of-war’s venom depends on the victim’s age and where they’re stung, says Angel Yanagihara, a professor who studies toxins in the group containing siphonophores at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.
Skin thickness varies in different parts of the body, and “women and children have thinner skin than men,” she says.
“If a child gets stung around the neck, it could potentially be a lethal event because so much of the venom can be injected into the bloodstream.”
However, if an adult man gets stung across the back, it might cause only an irritation similar to when splinters are stuck in the skin, she says.

A Deadly Cocktail

“There are many paths to destruction” among these creatures, Yanagihara says, and the Portuguese man-of-war employs them all in its venom.
One compound in the venom creates holes in a cell’s membrane, essentially killing it, she says.
Other compounds slowly break down the proteins and fats surrounding the cell, allowing the man-of-war to start digesting its prey on contact.

A Shared Meal

Once a man-of-war captures a meal, the tentacle brings its prey to one of several feeding bodies (the brown speckled structures across the center of the image above).
Since the “individuals” within the colony are all connected, after a stomach digests the meal, the nutrients get spread throughout the colony.
(Watch a video of Portuguese man-of-wars.)

Setting Sail

Portuguese man-of-wars ply the high seas aided by an asymmetrical, oblong-shaped float with ridges on top (center of image).
That float acts like a sail, allowing them to angle into the wind, says Casey Dunn, an evolutionary biologist specializing in siphonophores at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
Using that sail to move around is an amazing way to make a living, says Dunn.
“Most siphonophores are sit-and-wait predators,” he says: They park themselves in one spot for a time and wait for prey to blunder into their tentacles.
In contrast, Portuguese man-of-wars move around the ocean via their sail-topped float, trailing tentacles that dangle an average of 30 feet (9 meters) down into the water.
While their surface-skimming existence enables Portuguese man-of-wars to make a living, it also exposes them to constant bombardment by ultraviolet (UV) radiation, says Dunn.
“There are very few other animals that deal with that kind of UV exposure.”
High doses of UV radiation can result in damaged DNA, which in turn leads to mutated cells or cancer, the evolutionary biologist says.
But Portuguese man-of-wars are somehow able to avoid that fate. Dunn speculates that their brilliant colors may act as a kind of sunscreen, with their blue, violet, and purple pigments absorbing different wavelengths of UV light.

Unknowable Beauty

How man-of-wars tolerate high UV exposure is just one of many things researchers don’t know about them, says Dunn.
Their life span is another.
Their gelatinous consistency and open-ocean lifestyle make it especially difficult to study the creatures, Dunn says.
“You can tag a lion and follow it, but you can’t do that with Portuguese man-of-wars.”
And man-of-wars don’t do well in captivity. Researchers can keep them for a limited time but haven’t yet been able to raise them throughout their entire life cycle in the lab, Dunn says.

Deadly Intrigue

“They’re incredibly beautiful animals,” says Dunn.
The evolutionary biologist compares them to artwork created by renowned glass sculptor Dale Chihuly.
That beauty continues to captivate Ansarov, who plans to keep photographing the man-of-wars that wash up on his local beach.
In an age when everyone is constantly bombarded with visuals, it’s easy to take a quick look at an image and move on, he says.
“In nature, it’s become a bad thing because we see a living creature and we consume it visually and move on,” Ansarov says.
“[We] forget the fact that this is a living creature that’s struggling to survive.”
He hopes his images of Portuguese man-of-wars will help people cultivate an appreciation, or at least an understanding, of one of the ocean’s more intriguing animals.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A tale of two Poles : Arctic sea ice shrinks, Antarctic grows

acquired September 17, 2014
The yellow outline on the map shows the median sea ice extent observed in September
from 1981 through 2010. 


Arctic sea ice continued its long-term decline in 2014, as the ice reached its annual minimum extent on September 17.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), Arctic sea ice covered just 5.02 million square kilometers (1.94 million square miles) this summer, an extent similar to 2013 and well below the 1981–2010 average of 6.22 million square kilometers (2.40 million square miles).
The 2014 sea ice extent was the sixth lowest recorded in the modern satellite era.
The summer started off as a relatively cool one, and lacked the big storms or persistent winds that can break up ice and increase melting, said Walter Meier, a research scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
“Even with a relatively cool year, the ice is so much thinner than it used to be,” Meier said.
“It's more susceptible to melting.”

An animation of daily Arctic sea ice extent in summer 2014, from March 21, 2014 to Sept. 17, 2014 – when the ice appeared to reach it’s minimum extent for the year.
It’s the sixth lowest minimum sea ice extent in the satellite era.
The data was provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency from their GCOM-W1 satellite’s AMSR2 instrument.
Credit: NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Trent Schindler

The Northwest Passage remained ice-bound this summer.
But a patch of open water stretched far north of Siberia in the Laptev Sea, reaching 85 degrees north. It is the farthest north that scientists have observed open ocean water in the satellite era, Meier said.

While summer sea ice has covered more of the Arctic in the past two years than in the record low of 2012, it does not mean the Arctic is returning to average conditions.
This year's minimum extent fits with a long downward trend in which the Arctic Ocean has lost about 13 percent of its sea ice per decade since the late 1970s.

 Monthly sea ice extent arranged in a grid pattern with years running horizontally from 1979 to 2014 and months running vertically from January through December

To measure sea ice extent, scientists include areas that are at least 15 percent ice-covered.
The NASA-developed computer program, which is one of several methods scientists use to calculate extent, is based on data from sensors on the NASA's Nimbus 7 satellite, which operated from 1978 to 1987, and the U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, which has provided information since 1987.

The map (at the top) shows the extent of arctic sea ice on September 17, 2014.
The map is based data from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer 2 (AMSR2) sensor on Japan's Global Change Observation Mission 1st-Water (GCOM-W1) satellite.

Meanwhile, sea ice on the other side of the planet was headed in the opposite direction.
The second map, also based on data from the AMSR2 sensor, shows Antarctic sea ice on September 19, 2014.
While it was not yet possible to determine if the ice had reached its maximum extent for the year, the five-day average had already surpassed 20 million square kilometers (7.70 million square miles) for the first time in the modern satellite record, according to NSIDC.

 acquired September 19, 2014

“This is not unexpected,” said Nathan Kurtz, a cryospheric scientist at NASA Goddard.
He noted that many climate models actually predict a short-term increase in Antarctic sea ice.
Factors like increasing fresh water and higher wind speeds promote ice growth and expansion—factors that appear to be dominating right now.
In the long-term, Kurtz added, “increasing near-surface air temperatures are expected to have the stronger effect and begin to melt the ice and halt the expansion.”

Sea ice around Antarctica has been increasing, but not by much.
“The overall trend of sea ice expansion in the Antarctic is only one-third of the magnitude of the decrease in arctic sea ice,” Kurtz said.

Antarctic sea ice develops and evolves under vastly different circumstances than Arctic sea ice.
In the north, sea ice sits in a nearly land-locked ocean, while sea ice in the southern hemisphere exists in the open ocean surrounding an extensive land mass.
This geography affects how the ice expands and retreats in response to climate, leading in part to the differing sea ice scenarios at the two poles.

Links :

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Plans to protect square miles of ocean, working with world's governments

President Obama will use his legal authority
to create the world’s largest fully protected marine reserve in the central Pacific Ocean
The amount of US ocean highly protected just jumped from 6% to 15%.

From National Geographic by Brian Clark Howard
     & Washington Post by Juliet Eilperin

The National Geographic Society announced a major expansion Monday of its campaign to help protect the planet's most species-rich marine areas, with a goal of convincing governments to officially safeguard more than 770,000 square miles (two million square kilometers) of ocean.

The Society aims to help designate more than 20 new underwater locales as marine reserves in the next five years.
"Preserving our oceans is essential for protecting biodiversity," former President Bill Clinton said as he announced the Society's efforts at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York on Monday.
"The ocean is the world's largest natural resource," Clinton said, noting that it contributes more than $20 trillion to the global economy. Yet, "human impact on the ocean is undeniable."
The expanded effort will build on National Geographic's Pristine Seas project, which has financed 10 scientific expeditions to remote areas of ocean around the world, including in the South Pacific and off Africa, Russia, and South America.
New efforts will target the Seychelles—an archipelago in the Indian Ocean—northern Greenland, and South America's Patagonia region, Clinton said.

As a result of the program's work, government leaders have protected areas in the United States, Chile, Kiribati, and Costa Rica that cover more than 150,000 square miles (about 400,000 square kilometers).
"A few country leaders have already shown tremendous leadership in ocean conservation by creating the largest marine no-take areas in history," says Enric Sala, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who launched Pristine Seas in 2009.
"National Geographic Pristine Seas and our partners are excited to inspire other leaders to protect what's irreplaceable: the last wild places in the ocean."
Terry Garcia, National Geographic's chief science and exploration officer, pointed to overfishing, pollution, and climate change as major threats facing the ocean.

 Blacktip sharks, bluefin trevallies, and twinspot snappers swim in a lagoon off Caroline Island,
also called Millennium Island.
Photo Brian Skerry, National Geographic

If the campaign is successful, it will help countries meet the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity's target of protecting 10 percent of the world's oceans by 2020.
The Pristine Seas team is already working with national governments to help them create several new marine reserves.

 The waters around Caroline Island, part of the southern Line Islands in the central Pacific Ocean, were protected in part thanks to National Geographic's Pristine Seas project.

Another Pristine Seas project would create a reserve around the United Kingdom's Pitcairn Islands.

Partners announced for Pristine Seas include the Waitt Foundation, Prince Albert of Monaco, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the Jynwel Foundation, the Leona and Harry Helmsley Charitable Trust, Blancpain, Davidoff Cool Water, Lindblad Expeditions, Dynamic Planet, former President José María Figueres of Costa Rica, and individual donors.


 Footage from already-protected areas in the Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef,
courtesy of National Geographic.

President Obama will use his legal authority Thursday to create the world’s largest fully protected marine reserve in the central Pacific Ocean, demonstrating his increased willingness to advance a conservation agenda without the need for congressional approval. (see White House PR)

By broadening the existing Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument from almost 87,000 square miles to more than 490,000 square miles, Obama has protected more acres of federal land and sea by executive power than any other president in at least 50 years and makes the area off-limits to commercial fishing.
The proclamation will mean added protections for deep-sea coral reefs and other marine ecosystems that administration officials believe are among “the most vulnerable” to the negative impacts of climate change. 
While the new designation is a scaled-back version of an even more ambitious plan the administration had floated in June, it marks the 12th time Obama will have exercised his power under the 1906 Antiquities Act to protect environmental assets.
The decision to continue to allow fishing around roughly half the area's islands and atolls aims to limit any economic impact on the U.S. fishing interests.  

NGA chart with the Marine GeoGarage
 Under the new designation, the administration will expand the fully protected areas from 50 miles offshore from three remote areas — Johnston Atoll, Wake Atoll and Jarvis Island — to 200 miles, the maximum area within the United States’ exclusive economic zone.
The existing, 50-mile safeguards around Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll, as well as Howland and Baker islands, which are also part of the existing monuments, will not change.

Obama has protected 297 million acres of federal lands and waters through executive action, surpassing George W. Bush, who safeguarded 211 million acres.
While the islands in question are uninhabited, U.S. tuna operators and some officials in Hawaii and American Samoa have opposed the expansion on the grounds that it could make it more difficult to catch tuna and other species at certain times of year.
Fish caught in the area around all seven atolls and islands account for up to 4 percent of the annual U.S. tuna catch in the western and central Pacific, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. 

Matt Rand, who leads the Pew Charitable Trust’s Global Ocean Legacy project, said that because more than half-a-dozen other nations are considering creating new protected areas in the Pacific, “This could be the wave that ultimately propels these marine reserves to become reality.”
 Taken together with the U.S. announcement, these areas could encompass more than 2.3 million square miles of sea.

Links :

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hundreds of floating robots could soon surveil the oceans

 A brief description of how Liquid Robotics' Wave Glider works

From CNET by Daniel Terdiman

A deal between Boeing and Liquid Robotics, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, means fleets of seafaring robots will augment existing military aircraft and ships in monitoring the seas.

Boeing and Liquid Robotics today announced a partnership to make water-borne robots that can handle a variety of surveillance jobs, ranging from hunts for submarines to the detection of drug traffickers.

 Boeing and Liquid Robotics plan to produce seafaring robots
that can surveil the sea around the clock, augmenting existing systems.

Silicon Valley's Liquid Robotics is the manufacturer of the Wave Glider SV3, a $300,000 self-powered, seafaring data center that offers customers -- until now, mostly researchers and marine industry companies -- tools for investigating the open seas for months at a time.
SV3s have a hybrid propulsion system that can drive the robot with either solar or wave power. Boeing is the world's second-largest defense contractor.

The new deal is aimed at augmenting Boeing's existing maritime surveillance systems -- airplanes like the P-8 submarine hunter and the Maritime Surveillance Aircraft -- with autonomous devices that can monitor the seas around the clock.
The goal of the partnership is to provide Boeing's customers with "the missing link" in a collection of tools that can now span from undersea depths into space, according to Gary Gysin, CEO of Liquid Robotics.
The deal, likely to be worth many hundreds of millions of dollars, "makes the company," Gysin said.
Among the many options the substantial new revenue gives Liquid Robotics is a possible future IPO, Gysin added.

Liquid Robotics first introduced the Wave Glider in 2011.
Depending on the sensors deployed on the maritime robots, they can monitor large areas of the sea at the surface and can detect acoustically down to depths of 8,000 meters.
The Boeing partnership is the company's second major deal.
In 2012, Liquid Robotics teamed up with Schlumberger Oil and Gas, the world's-largest oil services company, to form Liquid Robotics Oil and Gas.
Customers include Conoco Phillips, Chevron, BP and others.

 A Wave Glider, deployed off a boat.

Gysin explained that Wave Gliders would likely be put to sea in fleets of hundreds or thousands, together acoustically sensing both below and on the surface, and transmitting what they find to Boeing aircraft or other vessels.
Surveillance aircraft and ships "are expensive, and patrolling is like looking for needles in a haystack," said Gysin.
"If you have fleets of Wave Gliders, doing the mundane [sea scanning], we can transmit [what they find] to the more valuable assets, and they can go interdict."

Added Egan Greenstein, senior director of autonomous maritime systems at Boeing -- a brand-new division -- "what you're seeing with the Liquid Robotics agreement is our efforts at stitching together what were standalone capabilities, successful on their own, into a network of solutions that can do maritime security.
That network is more scalable, affordable and persistent, and we think it breaks open the maritime surveillance market for a lot of customers that didn't know how they were going to solve these problems in the maritime space."

Greenstein explained that Boeing is likely to sell Wave Glider technology and services to both "defense and civil agencies," meaning organizations like the US Navy and Coast Guard, as well as foreign governments.

While the Wave Glider fleets will be helpful in detecting offensive threats, both Boeing and Liquid Robotics expect them to aid governments in tracking human or drug traffickers; island or border disputes; fish poachers; and other economic threats.
"Every nation with a coastline wants to see a little bit further what's going on," Greenstein said. "That's a very expensive endeavor to do persistently."

Greenstein added that though the Liquid Robotics technology is not cheap, it adds a cost-effective method for more fully monitoring the seas.

Ultimately, that's the major promise of the Wave Glider technology: giving its users the ability to watch the seas at all times.
With current surveillance systems, Greenstein said, it's too expensive to do that, meaning there are long stretches where no one is watching.

"What we're building with the Liquid Robotics product and technology," Greenstein said, "is the ability to put a grid of sensors out into the water, that can stay for....months or years, and put sensors on those that can act as an extension of the eyes and ears of military commanders."

Links :

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

US NOAA update in the Marine GeoGarage

As our public viewer is not yet available
(currently under construction, upgrading to Google Maps API v3 as v2 is officially no more supported),
this info is primarily intended to our iPhone/iPad universal mobile application users

(Marine US on the App Store)
and also to our B2B customers which use our nautical charts layers in their own webmapping applications through our GeoGarage API

 NOAA raster chart coverage

23 charts have been updated in the Marine GeoGarage
(NOAA update September 2014, released September 15th 2014)

  • 11392 ed 8 St. Andrew Bay - Bear Point to Sulpher Point
  • 11452 ed23 Intracoastal Waterway Alligator Reef to Sombrero Key
  • 11505 ed 5 Savannah River Approach
  • 11512 ed64 Savannah River and Wassaw Sound
  • 11539 ed20 New River Inlet to Cape Fear
  • 12255 ed18 Little Creek Naval Amphibous Base
  • 12284 ed17 Patuxent River Solomons lsland and Vicinity
  • 12287 ed19 Potomac River Dahlgren and Vicinity
  • 14971 ed22 Keweenaw Bay;L'Anse and Baraga Harbors
  • 16590 ed12 Kodiak Island Sitkinak Strait and Alitak Bay
  • 16723 ed16 Controller Bay
  • 11308 ed25 Intracoastal Waterway Redfish Bay to Middle Ground
  • 11380 ed3 Mobile Bay East Fowl River to Deer River Pt; Mobile Middle Bay Terminal
  • 11432 ed15 Everglades National Park Shark River to Lostmans River
  • 11478 ed24 Port Canaveral;Canaveral Barge Canal Extension
  • 11481 ed9 Approaches to Port Canaveral
  • 11489 ed40 Intracoastal Waterway St. Simons Sound to Tolmato River
  • 11514 ed31 Savannah River Savannah to Brier Creek
  • 14886 ed12 (Not Available) SMALL-CRAFT BOOK CHART - Inland Route. Cheboygan to Conway (book of 12 Charts)
  • 17368 ed8 Keku Strait-northern part. including Saginaw and Security Bays and Port Camden;Kake Inset
  • 25667 ed21 Bahia de Fajardo and Approaches
  • 13215 ed21 Block Island Sound Point Judith to Montauk Point
  • 13315 ed13 Deer Island Thorofare and Casco Passage
Today 1026 NOAA raster charts (2168 including sub-charts) are included in the Marine GeoGarage viewer (see PDFs files)

How do you know if you need a new nautical chart?
See the changes in new chart editions.
NOAA chart dates of recent Print on Demand editions

Note : NOAA updates their nautical charts with corrections published in:
  • U.S. Coast Guard Local Notices to Mariners (LNMs),
  • National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Notices to Mariners (NMs), and
  • Canadian Coast Guard Notices to Mariners (CNMs)
While information provided by this Web site is intended to provide updated nautical charts, it must not be used as a substitute for the United States Coast Guard, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or Canadian Coast Guard Notice to Mariner publications

Please visit the
NOAA's chart update service for more info or the online chart catalog

The UN's New York climate summit is guilty of a major sin of omission

Climate Change & The Global Ocean

From The Guardian by David Miliband, José María Figueres and Trevor Manuel are co-chairs of the Global Oceans Commission

Despite a key role in cutting emissions, the ocean is completely absent from Ban Ki-moon’s climate meeting for world leaders

On Tuesday, the UN headquarters in New York is hosting the largest gathering of world leaders ever to address climate change.
It is an enormously important event, intended to catalyze action ahead of next year’s Paris conference – where leaders have pledged to reach a new global climate agreement, and a great credit to secretary general Ban Ki-moon and his team.

But the summit is guilty of a major sin of omission: the ocean, over two-thirds of the planet, is completely absent from the programme.
It is neither one of the eight “action areas” on which governments and other key players are invited to announce bold new commitments, nor one of the “thematic sessions” where states and stakeholders will share solutions.
The summit is keeping its feet firmly on dry land and is highlighting the huge gap between scientific knowledge and political action.
The Global Ocean Commission is dismayed that the ocean appears to have been relegated to the status of an afterthought, something to bring up occasionally in the context of other, apparently more essential, concerns.
This is particularly shocking coming at the end of a year in which the ocean has been consistently listed among the most critical elements of the climate change challenge, by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and numerous scientific studies and reports – including our own report released in June.

This short introductory video offers the opportunity to explore the complexity of the relationship between ocean and climate and the many ways they affect one another.

Science is showing us that there can be no solution to the climate challenge without a healthy ocean, which is currently in sharp decline.
The ocean absorbs a quarter of man-made CO2 emissions, and has taken on 90% of the extra heat generated since the industrial revolution.
Without the ocean to clean up our mess, the impacts of climate change would already be far more severe.

This is where the alarm bells about ocean health should start ringing: human pressures on the ocean – both its chemical composition and its immeasurable biodiversity – are undermining its ability to carry out the essential services on which we all depend.
The latest edition of the WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin warns that the increasing acidification of the ocean has caused its capacity to absorb our carbon emissions to drop to 70% what it was at the start of the industrial era, and this could fall to just 20% by the end of the century.

While ocean acidification is a big problem for marine life and humans, there are things we can all do to slow the rate of change.

Alarming current rates of ocean acidification, unprecedented in 300 million years, are directly caused by that fact that it takes in 4 kg of CO2 per day per person on the planet.
It is therefore right that the overriding goal of negotiations must be to reduce carbon emissions as much, as rapidly and as equitably as possible.
But, in parallel, we must boost resilience to climate change.
This includes taking urgent steps to reverse ocean decline and stimulate its recovery.

Sea creatures are not only valuable for food, they are directly involved in the climate equation.
A study we commissioned earlier this year found that deep-sea life alone absorbs 1.5bn tonnes of CO2 and buries half a billion tonnes of carbon on the seabed every year – a sequestration service worth US$148bn, compared with the paltry US$16bn that high seas fishing fleets get for their annual catch.
This adds up to a convincing climate argument for taking rapid steps.
It is ludicrous to perpetuate a situation where governments and businesses are scrambling to try and reduce their carbon emissions, while we carry on squandering a natural resource that is providing that service for free.

By omitting the ocean, the summit is sending a very negative message.
As an event billed as an opportunity to catalyze commitments to action in the areas most important for keeping global temperature increase below 2C.
Yet the message is painfully clear: despite the science, for some at least the ocean is not a top priority for climate action.
It is not enough for the ocean to be an uncredited crosscutting issue; it must be front and centre as the world puts together its long-awaited plan of attack.
The ocean is both a victim of, and a fundamental part of the solution to, climate change.
It is completely out of step with reality not to highlight it as a major concern at the upcoming climate summit or at forthcoming climate negotiations and meetings.
Even at this eleventh hour we believe it can and must be done.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Following Nemo: Clownfish make epic ocean journeys

From National Geographic by Jason Bittel 

Turns out finding Nemo could take a while. A new study reveals that baby clownfish can travel up to 250 miles (400 kilometers) in search of a new reef—an almost unthinkable distance for a creature just a few millimeters long.

Scientists already knew that clownfish larvae hatch in the safety of their parents’ sea anemone, but then leave this sanctuary in search of a home of their own.

A spine-cheek clownfish nestles in its bulb tentacle sea anemone. 
A spine-cheek clownfish nestles in its bulb tentacle sea anemone. 
Photograph by David Doubilet, National Geographic Creative

This is the opposite of the plot in Pixar’s Finding Nemo, in which a father clownfish, Marvin, sets out across the open ocean to find his son Nemo after he was caught in an amateur aquarist’s net.
(Read more about clownfish in National Geographic magazine.)
But until recently, scientists didn’t know just how truly epic the voyage was.
“This study is the first to directly measure long-distance dispersal [of clownfish larvae] over hundreds of kilometers,” study co-author Stephen Simpson, a marine biologist at the U.K.’s University of Exeter, said by email.

Fishy Accents

Tracking larvae has always been extremely difficult—after all, it’s not as if you can attach a GPS tag or GoPro camera to such a tiny organism.
So instead of tracking a single larva’s trek, Simpson and his team caught hundreds of Omani clownfish (Amphiprion omanensis) living in two coral reefs that are hundreds of kilometers apart off the southern coast of Oman. (See a map of where clownfish live in the world.)
The team removed a tiny part of each fish’s fin before releasing them unharmed into the ocean.
They then ran a DNA analysis on these fins, which revealed that fish living on Reef A have a different genetic signature than a fish living on Reef B, according to the study, published September 17 in the journal PLOS ONE.
The scientists liken these signatures to accents that are as easily recognizable as the difference between someone from New York City and someone from London.
By comparing the DNA signatures from the fin samples, the team proved what they’d long suspected—the two reefs were swapping clownfish despite being so far apart.
(See more coral reef pictures.)

“That larval fish can disperse between remote reef locations is impressive,” said David Coughlin, a professor of biology at Widener University in Pennsylvania who wasn’t involved in the study.
“However, it seems likely that some small number of larval fishes would end up at other reef locations as a matter of chance.”

In other words, the ocean’s currents probably have a greater impact on where the little fishies end up than which way they point their minuscule fins.
In fact, the team’s research showed that greater numbers of larvae traveled from the northern reef to the southern reef, and this mirrored the predominant current of the ocean.

Into the Great Wide Open

If you’re picturing a tiny, bright orange clownfish larvae plunging headlong into the high seas—stop.
Nearly see-through and smaller than a grain of rice, clownfish larvae don’t look much like Nemo. These defenseless youngsters also have it tough from the get-go.
The larvae can’t metamorphose into adults until they find a host anemone.
Other animals, like lobsters, may spend nearly a year in this open-ocean phase, called the pelagic larval duration (PLD).
However, the PLD of this species of clownfish lasts just two to three weeks, limiting the amount of time they can travel and find a new home. (See beautiful pictures of clownfish and anemones.)
And they’re easy prey: Of the many thousands of clownfish that hatch, only a lucky few will ever reach a reef—and most of those will be eaten within the first 24 hours, study co-author Hugo Harrison, a research fellow with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, said by email.

“These kids don’t have it easy,” Harrison said.
“Pretty much everything is out there to eat them!”
For instance, clownfish larvae must escape hungry mouths large and small, from enormous filter feeders like baleen whales to tiny jellyfish, shrimp, copepods, and even zooplankton.

Why Risk It?

If there’s so much danger in the open ocean, why do clownfish venture out at all?
Because dispersing to new environments is “crucial” for the animals, said Harrison.
Traveling far from home ensures genetic diversity among the fish, and mixing up genes serves as a buffer against extinction.
It also allows species to colonize new habitats as they become available or to recolonize areas that were previously disturbed or depleted.
(Also see “Do You Know Where Your Aquarium Fish Come From?”)
Overall, the paper’s authors think the research could shed new light on just how connected even seemingly isolated marine populations are and may even help scientists develop and better manage marine reserves in the future.
In any event, the next time your kids want to watch Finding Nemo, you can tell them all about the real-life struggles of clownfish and their young.
Though you might need to censor it a bit.  

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

I am a surfer

There isn't a whole lot of surfing going on in Alaska, but Homer based Scott Dickerson aims to change that.

Surfing in Alaska is experienced by a very few and forgotten by not one of them.
While we don’t always remember the individual waves ridden, or even the specific sessions, it’s the whole adventure that is so memorable.
It’s the rawness and beauty of the total wilderness that we discover waves in that sticks in our daydreams.
Those mornings after a long stormy night when there’s a bit of frost on the deck of the boat but the wind is calm, the stars are out and the only thing you can hear is the roaring of surf outside the bay.