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With Biosphere Expeditions, a group of citizen scientists will be surveying the Tien Shan mountains for signs of snow leopards, their prey and setting up remote cameras to better understand the movement of these elusive creatures in order to protect their populations.
I'm Abby McBride, a sketch biologist and Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow. I'm in New Zealand writing and illustrating stories about penguins, prions, shearwaters, shags, gulls, gannets, albatrosses, and all sorts of other birds that spend their lives on the ocean. Seabirds are declining faster than any other group of birds in the world, which is very worrisome indeed. Besides being beautiful and fascinating in their own right, these birds play an indispensable role in connecting marine and terrestrial ecosystems and act as canaries-in-a-coal-mine to warn us about problems in the environment. Why study them in New Zealand? This small island country has the most diverse and endangered seabirds in the world—and also happens to be a global leader in solving the plethora of problems afflicting seabirds, caused by humans past and present. Take the New Zealand Storm-Petrel, one victim of the rats that followed human colonists to New Zealand. So scarce it was thought extinct for the entire 20th century, this tiny seabird recently showed up nesting on an island 50 miles from Auckland. It owes its second chance to New Zealanders, working hard to control predators throughout the country. I aim to capture a sense of this seabird-saving grit and gumption and help pass it on. So I'm roaming the New Zealand coastline for nine months with my tent and kayak in tow. I'm sketching seabirds and taking part in seabird conservation and telling stories about it all.
Our pilot project is designed to provide ocean access and increased technological capacity in Trinidad and Tobago, a small island developing state. This approach will have three aims:1) Access to emerging ocean technology that can be used from any platform 2) Training for an in-country scientist, student, and communicator to enable use and dissemination of findings from that technology 3) Provision of a MSc scholarship for a student This three-pronged approach will build long-term in-country capacity for ocean exploration, detailed below: Aim 1: Technology: We will utilize innovative technology developed by OpenROV, National Geographic, and others. The tech can be used in a multitude of ways, including to determine species presence, check bathymetry accuracy, revisit sites over time, explore new locales, or image sites of interest (e.g. shipwrecks). Data collected may necessitate knowledge of species, habitats, image analysis and statistics. Aim 2: (a) In-country technology training: An engineer and another team member will travel to Trinidad to deliver the National Geographic Drop Cameras, and other technology to train a group of scientists, engineers, students, and communicators in their use. The OpenROV Trident will be delivered before so that exploration and training can start as soon as possible. Technology will then be left in-country with plans to deploy them at least ten times before (b). (b) In-USA analysis and media-products training: Following (a), we propose that three representatives from Trinidad and Tobago (a scientist, a student, and a communicator to be identified during (a)) travel to the USA for further training in data analysis and creating outreach materials. We envision that the scientist and student will collaborate to analyse the captured imagery, whereas the communicator will generate media products to disseminate information in-country, in whatever format they deem culturally-appropriate. Outreach and artistic materials will be created at the MIT Media Lab. This trip will coincide with the National Ocean Exploration Forum, so it is expected that partners will share their experiences and results there. Aim 3: Masters-level training: The OpenROV Trident will remain in Trinidad and Tobago, so that local scientists and students can continue to explore their own backyards, however, the interpretation and use of data will require higher capacity. For example, how will a country know if a new species has been discovered without taxonomic or ecological expertise? To enable lasting scientific capacity, we propose to have a student matriculate in a masters program at Boston University, which will enable students to engage more fully in the global community of benthic marine experts. MSc-level training is part of our program to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago has the necessary tools to put their exploratory findings into the relevant scientific context. The appropriate student will be identified during Aim 2 via a scholarship RFP in-country. Applicants will be evaluated by the team and asked to apply to the appropriate graduate program; if accepted, the scholarship will be applied towards their degree. We plan to visit Trinidad in early August 2018 to start the deep-sea journey with the Drop Cameras, but exploration and outreach using the OpenROV Trident will begin in July 2018. Project collaborators: Randi Rotjan, Diva Amon, Brennan Phillips, Alan Turchik, Katy Croff Bell, Rafael Anta, Gerard Alleng, Kristina Gjerde, Gil Montague, Kate Furby, Alexis Hope Trinidad and Tobago collaborators: University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, SpeSeas, National Institute for Higher Education, Science and Technology (NIHERST) and the COAST Foundation/Offshore Innovators. This project will have a twin pilot in Kiribati, which you can read here: Kiribati Ocean Exploration Stay tuned for updates coming soon! This post was written by Diva Amon of SpeSeas, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Natural History Museum, London, UK.
Our research, in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia, Canada seeks to aid in uniting ecological science and Indigenous knowledge towards achieving conservation goals and national recognition of Indigenous management rights. As part of the Central Coast Rockfish project, I partner with Dr. Natalie Ban at the University of Victoria, Dr. Alejandro Frid, and the combined force of the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance, alongside the Kitasoo/Xai’Xais, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk and Wuikinuxv Nations, to explore the traditional ecological knowledge of First Nation fishers and knowledge-holders, and assisted in on-going ecological surveys. Our work is supported first and foremost by Central Coast First Nations and empowered by their knowledge, vision, and collaboration. It is additionally sustained by the National Geographic Society, and The Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) of Canada. I am of course supported by the tireless work of my many academic collaborators, friends, family, and colleagues. My research is reinvigorated daily by my experiences in the beautiful world that is BC’s Central Coast and Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest.
Fishermen as Citizen Scientists: Giant Freshwater Stingray As I head upstream from Phnom Penh, my first stop is near the small town of Kratie (a spot famous for its freshwater dolphins). I meet with the wife of a fisherman who occasionally catches giant freshwater stingray. The giant freshwater stingray is certainly a contender for the title of the world's largest freshwater fish, with documented catches of around 500 pounds. The giant freshwater stingray is one of three species of freshwater stingray (giant freshwater stingray, Australian whipray, and short-tailed river ray) that are among the top 10 world's largest freshwater fish. I've asked the family to help me document the frequency and size of these catches using an old-fashioned technique: an instant camera. Not all fishermen have cameras or camera phones, so I'm hoping that the novelty of an instant camera will be motivation to document their catches. I'll visit this family every few months to see what they've caught and if they were able to take a photo to document the catch. Video by Stefan Lovgren
Life after fieldwork: where the real magic begins! Life doesn’t stop after completion of fieldwork, this is where the real magic behind science begins! After two months of diving to the seafloor, spying on our superstars and their inhabitants, we have gathered a tremendous amount of data. Now we take ‘dry days’ (sit at our computer rather than the bottom of the ocean) to create graphs that highlight patterns hidden behind the vast sea of numbers we’ve generated. So, what do these graphs tell us? How intimate is the relationship between feather stars and their micro-world? If you recall, we played a little game of Magic Cup, shuffling shrimp and lobsters from one feather star species to the next, some had different colours, others had the exact same - we wanted to see if they would go back to their original host. The graphs unveil a remarkably close relationship between squat lobsters and feather stars, and one that isn’t so clear for shrimp. They tell us squat lobsters are picky when it comes to selecting a forever home, with the majority returning back to their exact host after a matter of hours (we call this ‘individual fidelity’). Shrimp on the other hand show ‘species and colour fidelity’ (not individual fidelity), only reshuffling themselves if the exact colour of their new home doesn’t match theirs. It seems feather stars might in fact be a perfectly engineered home after all, providing inhabitants with everything they desire in a safe haven.
August 5th 2018 After marking the wreck with a buoy we return to the cabin and begin prepping for the next phase of the search. Now it's the OpenROV Trident's turn. We grab a quick snack and head back to the site. The sonar measured the approximate depth at 41m - well within the Trident's depth range. The tether strap is affixed to the ROV's tail end. There are sure to be several tangle hazards present so we decide to position the inflatable well to one side of the wreck. If necessary we will reposition the boat later for the other side. The anchor is dropped, and a few minutes later the Trident is lowered into the water. It dives in a 90 degree angle and is at the bottom within 60 seconds. The bottom of the lake is hauntingly alien with no visible landmarks, just a nondescript foamy texture that becomes stirred up whenever the thrusters are used within a few feet of the bottom. In lieu of landmarks the Trident moves ahead at a vector of 70 degrees magnetic. Moments later the ghostly outline of the Bristol Freighter appears on the controller screen. It's little more than a shadow at first, but as the ROV moves in the image becomes clear. We are on the aircraft's port side, which is now to the right as the aircraft is resting on its back, confirming our sonar findings. The northern water seems to have done a remarkable job of preserving the wreck. The black, white, and orange paint is largely untouched, save for the dusting of organic matter on the flat surfaces, and, although the magnesium parts have started to melt away, the rust appears minimal. The Trident moves gently along the port engine, over the wing, and to the tail. The aircraft's port side door is missing; whether it was removed intentionally or torn off during its trip to the bottom is unknown. The aircraft's nose has been crumpled flat, most likely due to impact on the lake bottom. Long creases run the length of the fuselage, either from flexing or, as we suspect, from tearing through the surface ice on its final descent. The registration on the wing becomes visible. It's c/n 13074, aka CF-UME - the lost Bristol Freighter. By mid-afternoon the wind starts to pick up and we make the decision to return to the surface. We will return to the site tomorrow morning and attempt to capture images of the aircraft's starboard side.
Today I went over to the Newtown Gold Mine to take a look.Here is what we know about it: -“The first mention of any mining in Newtown occurs in 1764. In that year John Stanley Blackwell of New York leased a tract of land in Sandy Hook on what was then called Mt. Pisgah.” -“its location appears to be on the west bank of the Pootatuck River near Black Bridge. Blackwell was given the right to extract, “ore, mines, minerals, and fossil bodies of every sort and kind now discovered or to be discovered,” for a period of 40 years.” -“The Redding author and historian, Charles Burr Todd, wrote an essay entitled, “Mining in Connecticut,” which was reprinted in his 1906 book, In Olde Connecticut. In it he discusses the various mining activities of southwest Connecticut including a gold mine at Sandy Hook which was supposedly “worked by British soldiers in the Revolution and casks of its ore sent to England for treatment. From one pound of its ore 72 cents in gold and 11 cents of silver were taken, if the assayer is to be believed.” Unfortunately Todd cites no source for this and the fact that he has British soldiers actively and openly working in Fairfield County during the Revolution, apparently unmolested by the local militia or Committee of Safety, gives this quote the strong ring of local folklore. [Newtown was a center of Tory activity during the war, though].” -“In his report of 1837, Charles Upham Shepard notes that on the bank of the Pootatuck River in Sandy Hook, there was a tunnel dug through a quartz vein. He also noted it was locally referred to as a silver mine and in it he found traces of galena (lead ore with a metallic sheen) and iron pyrite better known as fool’s gold. Is it possible John Blackwell, while working his 40 year lease, managed to burrow into this quartz vein and retrieve some of the silvery lead ore along with the surrounding fool’s gold? It is not too difficult to see the rumor of such a gold and silver strike taking on a life of its own and, with the usual tendency of local folklore, become grafted onto a more romantic tale involving the British army working in this area during a mythological Revolutionary past.” -In 1889, according to a New York Times article, a 50’ deep shaft was cleared out with the hope of reworking it. I found the old shaft but it was full of debris although the vein of quartz they were following could still be seen. I also found a short tunnel that was driven through the vein that the stream now flowed through. The vein or ore could clearly be seen here.
Located just 25 miles from the coast of Los Angeles, Catalina Island feels world away. The cliffs of Catalina are brown and barren, but the ocean is bluegreen and rich. Looking down into the waters of Emerald Bay, part of the Arrow Point to Lions Head State Marine Conservation Area, my polarized glasses detect several shadows sliding over the white sand bottom below. We are at the Pennington Marine Science Center at Emerald Bay on Catalina Island diving and using the Trident ROV to look for sharks and determine how effective the ROV might be to film and recognize individual sharks through pattern and scar recognition. (Video) Sliding the ROV into the waters of the bay, our seventeen year old intern Alice drives the underwater drone into the shadows. Minutes after dropping the ROV into the water the monitor shows several Leopard sharks (Triakus semifasciata) milling in the shallows. We pilot the ROV to the sand and watch as the sharks approach the Trident undisturbed. These shy sharks casually circle the ROV and barely move when it approaches slowly, but quickly return. We also surprise a very large shovel nose guitarfish, a type of ray. Each year, mature leopard shark females enter the shallow warm waters to gestate. Generally found at Big Fisherman’s Cove next to the University of Southern California’s Wrigley Marine Science Center, the word is a preying sea lion have displaced the leopard sharks. Fortunately for us, the sharks are right where we are staying at Camp Emerald Bay. A graduate student of Dr. Chris Lowe of the CSU Long Beach Shark Lab is studying the movements of these sharks along temperature gradients. We are able to film at least ten separate sharks, and hope that a new algorithm being developed will be useful in identifying individuals. A few days later we enter the kelp beds near the Blue Cavern SMCA, another State Marine Protected in search of other sharks. Area, Large male sheepshead fish, scores of blacksmith and kelp bass swim among the fronds. The Pennington Marine team have reported seeing Soupfin sharks (Galeorhinus galeus) in the kelp and we decide to dive while Alice films from above with the Trident. These lovely houndsharks bear the unfortunate name of their favored appendage for shark fin soup, but are also called School shark or Tope sharks. In the early morning light we spy the sharks sliding along the far side of the fronds: it's like peeking at deer pass behind trunks in a forest. Our bubbles make the sharks wary and unless we are at the bottom holding our breath, the sharks twend to avoid us. Topside, Alice has captured several long clips of the sharks. The Trident, when steadied at a constant depth can hover in the light current, and pan with the onboard camera as the shark passes. The small electric current from the drone does not appear to attract the sharks like that of bigger video cameras I have used, where the electronics stimulate the shark's sensitive electro-receptor organs called the Ampullae of Lorenzini. One shark has a strand of monofilament and a hook, having escaped an anglers capture, but fearlessly passes the ROV time and again. The experiments were fulfilling and hopeful for surveying species and habitat in the marine protected areas. We are taking the ROV north and testing the ROV in the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary as part of our MPA Watch project. Follow the adventure, or join us aboard one of our education trips to the Golden Gate offshore MPAs with SharkStewards.org.
Meet seal E352, a third elephant seal pup out on her very first migration! She was born in late January 2018 at Año Nuevo State Park and was first seen without her mom on February 28th, 2018. Her mom, seal GU256, was born in February 2007 and has been seen a total of 98 times since then! She is 11 years old now and was last measured to beat 289 cm long (which is about 9.5 feet!) long and weighed to be 449 kg-- that’s about 990 pounds! In 2013, researchers wanted to study this seal mom’s migration and tagged her with a time-depth recorder (also called a TDR), a satellite tag and a jaw accelerometer tag. TDR tags help us find out when and how deep a seal dives, whereas and satellite tags show us where she went during her migration. A jaw accelerometer is a small tag that goes right under the chin and measures jaw motion-- this can help us figure out when and where GU256 feeds and what she’s feeding on! You can check out our previous posts for actual TDR dive data and satellite tracks from other seal moms, GT19 and X58! Have you ever wondered what it might be like to dive and feed in the ocean? Deep dive with U256 and explore where she went in 2013 with this fun 3D dive track! If you look closely in each picture below, you can see some of her individual dives throughout her migration!
For this shift, the interns shared their different experiences piloting the ROV Jacks Perspective Today, myself and two other interns took on the challenge of learning how to correctly assemble/disassemble, as well as operate, an ROV. After a few attempts of piloting the instrument in a straight line, everybody involved was able to navigate it through the intended transect. Field specialist Jesse De Vos taught us the history behind why the Open ROV Trident was invented and how the intended implementation of the instrument into the field of marine biology is important. With proper testing and correct piloting, the device will help further the knowledge of biodiversity within Mossel Bay and hopefully ecosystems around the world. Although the device was challenging to pilot at first, once I got the hang of how to navigate it I began to acknowledge the importance that the device could potentially have. While having humans go down and experience the world that lies underwater is a great method for research, there are certain situations that would not allow for a human to be present. The presence of a precise, accurately piloted device like a ROV is more suitable for certain research situations in regard to size and maneuverability. On top of the size advantage that a ROV possesses, it also possesses an advantage in regard to financial burdens. While the fields of marine biology/ecology and conservation biology/ecology are very important, the financial restraints that are coupled with them are often inhibiting. Finding techniques and using devices like the ROV are imperative for researchers because money and sponsors are not always promised. Finally, the discussion of safety is always one that should be present as people are the individuals that facilitate research. Being able to cut out dangerous situations like underwater diving is something that should be acknowledged and talked about if replacement methods, such as a ROV, can be used effectively. Jess and Sara’s Perspective Sara’s first ROV trip wasn’t as bad as it could have been. While the controls are sensitive, it wasn’t very hard driving it forward and backwards through the transects. I did have some trouble keeping the ROV deeper so it was easier to control but that was because of the strong surge, so this was out of the user’s hands. By learning to use this new type of technology here at Oceans Research, I hope to be able to bring this skill home to study fish diversity and population sizes in the Chesapeake Bay. Jack, Jess & Sara
Sunday, August 12th, we had a great little expedition. Lake Merritt Observatory's first. Katie Noonan organized the day bringing out her usual array of sampling equipment. Adrian Cotter set up the OpenROV (named RV Grebe, RV for research vessel :-) and after a little bit of worry and a couple of restarts, had it in the water and exploring for the next hour and a half. Raven, Davonte, and Angela were out to help: having a go at the ROV controls, helping with various sampling efforts, checking out what the ROV dragged up (at one point the tether brought up some seaweed, which we scooped up and poked around to see what might be living there), and Raven filled out our Lake Merritt Observatory whiteboard for the day (see photos). We had some learnings: an umbrella or some sort of sun blocker would come in handy turn off the HUD when you record! We still have to take some time to go through the video and catalog all that's on there: anemones, mussels, various little fish, seaweeds, tunicates, a crab hanging from the pylon, and more! We're looking forward to exploring some different parts of the lake, and figuring out how best to use the ROV.
A Tale of Two Cities: Trash By Land: Land management is crucial to sustainable development but few of us think about the management of garbage. Cuenca is a growing, affluent middle class city of over 300,000 citizens is breaking new ground with the installation of a community landfill which is generating clean energy. 428 tons of trash are collected a day, and collected in trucks which are weighed at the landfill's entrance. The landfill is run by the municipality and has negotiated an agreement with the surrounding community, to compensate them for the environmental impact . Private companies are charged a fee based on how much their trash weighs, and 5% is paid to the community, which adds up to $700k last year. The landfill was started in 2000, and is now in the process of capping off its second hill. It will be resodded with grass to contain any debris. The first heap is already planted; liners contain the runoff, and this liquid output or leachate is treated and sent to the liquid waste treatment plant. Most interesting is the chimneys, which reduce the carbon footprint and smell of the landfill by collecting methane. The methane is piped across the street, to a biogas processing plant which produces clean electricity for the region at a rate of about 22,000 volts a day (fueling 3000 households). In contrast to the 428 tons of garbage in the landfill each day, Cuenca only recycles 120 tons each month. One challenge is public education; awareness campaigns are in the works with plans to encourage sorting. Currently, there is no municipally organized collection of recycling, but individual microentrepreneurs are paid to collect material. There is no recycling facility in Cuenca so collected materials must be sent to Quito for processing, which is costly and discourages companies from stating initiatives. Plastic bags and tetra packs are especially problematic. Plastic bags cost 1 cent to make and 6 to recycle, and so economic incentives to overproduce must be met with changes in social values to advocate for reduced plastic consumption. For more information: Santana.com.ec By Sea: Single-Use Plastics in the Galapagos 8/5/18 Notes from a lecture by Elena Perez, MS, US Fulbright Student on San Cristobal “We've been accustomed to seeing plastic as a modern convenience, as a lifestyle, how easy!” Where does the trash go on an island? Sadly, ven in the protected waters of the Galapagos, at the dock one can easily see small pieces of hitching rope; plastic bags and more small waste floating in the water, on a sea turtle's back, or caught in mangrove roots. On our first evening in Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the Galapagos, with a growing population of 12,000, we watched a gecko walk across the powerpoint and discussed potential solutions to management of waste plastics in island ecology. The islands, a National Park and Marine Researve, used to hold a population of 0-5,000 inhabitants but recent economic booms are pushing population closer to 20,000. Ms. Perez is working with a team of local researchers to conduct citizen science seeking to determine the origin of the plastics found on the beach. Survey methods for collecting include simple beach walks with time constraints; but individual differences in vision, mobility, bias, or even time of day relevant to tide can make results challenging to disaggregate. Smaller pieces and microplastics, which make up the bulk of plastic on most beaches, are almost impossible to sort or id origins; and may difficult to detect among grains of sand. So Elena's local research hasn't been published in scientific journals yet but has been disseminated. Much of her work is focused on raising awareness and educating the population. She usually begins with a very brief survey: Please circle on a map: Where is your favorite place to connect to nature? 2) Where do you think the litter and trash is coming from? While the first impulse may be to blame tourists for litter, solutions include encouraging sorting of recycling to increase efficiency so that recycling can be transported off of the island. Local water is not potable and can be high in salmonella, so most people on the islands rely on bottled water, and in an unfortunate loop, plastic inevitably ends up in the water. Education for toursits is important too. Tourists often don't don't know there are alternatives – but alternatives to plastic bags and bottles are usually available if one asks. So the 3Rs become the 4Rs: “Reduce, reuse, recycle, reject” Elena uses of environmental pscyhology to investigate what influences our behaviors around plastics. Behaviors can change with attitudes, perceived responsibility, motivation, social norms, educational levels, experience/frequency of noticing litter, and values. She works a lot with local youth, and recently developed a series of various activities for “Shark day” to educate about whale sharks, microplastics, and interdependence. It's difficult for humans and nature to just catch the plastic material. Just as the mangroves stabilize beaches and prevent shoreline erosion by catching sand, they also catch plastics. There are also some areas of potential confusion. Some areas such as the boardwalk seem to have less plastic litter, but it may be that workers are cleaning streets to promote business, or that plastics are blowing into the ocean more easily because of wind. The Darwin Research Center is planning to kick off a larger plastics education campaign next year, including community beach cleanups and large scale public sculpture. Even though I brought my own refillable water bottle and tried to keep it filled from the large jug at my hotel, I probably used a dozen or so disposable bottles during my short stay in the Galapagos, many handed to me by guides. We all need to shift attitudes away from the convenience mentality of throw away plastics. There is no “away” to throw unrecycled waste – all results in the land or the sea.
A Tale of Two MPAS. Good-bye Borneo, hello California! We are leaving Pom Pom Island home to the Tropical Research Conservation Centre (TRACC) and the coral recovery and shark reintroduction programmes.Located in a region of high human impact including blast fishing that has destroyed the reef, the TRACC team has planted thousands of coral fragments and installed hundreds of reef blocks to stabilize the reef crest and recolonize this once healthy ecosystem. This example of citizen-driven and volunteer conservation is a signal of hope for other marine areas in need of restoration or protection. Our final day we flew the Trident over the reef crest from a kayak, searching for the sharks reintroduced to the reef in 2016. Stretching the limits of a curfew imposed by the marine militia to protect citizens and visitors from kidnappers, we cannot search for the nocturnal sharks at night. However, the LED lights on the ROV, combined with our baited underwater go pros have the potential to determine if the sharks are still swimming along the area where fishing is prohibited. The Sharkstewards.org adopt a shark program is helping support this conservation and research, and we hope to see one of the tagged and released bamboo or coral cat sharks we released. On this last flight, I didn't see a shark but I did see a shy Green sea turtle flying along in the blue. A protected species here, the green sea turtles are recovering and nesting along the beach on the island. Let's hope the sharks will also thrive in this safe harbor and the reef will one day return to the vibrancy and biodiversity of before. For now, I'm reeling in the cable and flying home to California to continue using the ROV looking for sharks and surveying benthic species and habitat in our state MPAs. Follow us on our Unsettled Waters Expedition and sharkstewards.org
This is the halfway point of interviews! We have successfully conducted ten interviews with wonderful New Orleanians who are passionate about their city and its survival. Some of the biggest points are: -Tourists should not expect a city to accommodate their specific tastes and needs -Please ride a bike only if you are okay with how New Orleanians drive -Eat as much as you can: it's cheaper than most places, it's much more delicious than most places, and it's all New Orleanians talk about. Stay tuned for more updates.
A second successful run with some guest drivers. I came down to the Lake Merritt Sailboat House again with Katie Noonan's Lake Merritt Observatory project and got in the water again.This time I had a new screen capture system ready, and off we went. I had some guest student drivers 6 to 17. We decided for next time we could do with some sort of umbrella -- it was very difficult to see what was on the screen in the bright sun. There was some funny things going on with the camera. It seemed to freeze at various points in a way that has not happened before whenever I took a picture or tried to move the camera. I rebooted in the water several times to get it back, but that was the only hiccup. I've also decided that I will install the depth control compass so that I don't necessarily need to see the ROV to know where it goes. Or at least give me a better clue. It made getting under the docks a little fraught. The stars of the video are mussels at work, but there are also anemones, a crab on the dock piling, and various little fishes darting about. And some etherial looking lights as we drove under the docks.
In 1927, William Beebe, Director of the Department of Tropical Research, began diving in Bermuda using a copper helmet and an air hose. Though typical at the time, this method limited how deep Beebe could descend before pressure would limit his ability to return to the surface. Standing on a precipice and staring into the vast ocean depths, Beebe was filled with an insatiable desire to find out just what kind of creatures were living farther down. Photo by John Tee-Van.
Today, we share the amazing 3D bird's eye view of the Fort of São Sebastião. Built on the Northeastern tip of the Island of Mozambique by the Portuguese sailors of the 16th century, it is a marvel to visit from the land and from the air. Will you be able to find the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte, oldest European building in the Southern hemisphere ?
Adventure Scientists is a nonprofit organization that recruits and trains volunteers from the outdoor adventure community in citizen science protocols. The volunteers collect data from the remote wilderness while they are on back country expeditions doing their adventure thing. The data, requested by a research or conservation organization, supports (not surprisingly) conservation research and outcomes. Recently, Adventure Scientists partnered with the University of Arizona on a project that seeks data on butterflies and their habitat in the back country to better understand pollinators in the wilderness. I have been aware of Adventure Scientists for a while but have just signed up for my first project, the pollinator project. I am pleased to share that I applied and was accepted to collect data on butterflies and flowers in the wilderness areas of Badlands National Park. I have tentatively selected a site near the Middle Fork/Sage Creek confluence in the Sage Creek Wilderness area where I have seen butterflies before. Below is a photo taken in the vicinity of my site last September. I believe it is of a Variegated Fritillary on rabbitbrush. I am also looking at the Deer Haven area in the Conata Basin Wilderness for a suitable site. My goal is to visit at least three times between now and the beginning of October. Adventure Scientists have a spiffy online training program to help prepare you for the field. Be aware. They have set high standards. You have to pass the online training quiz with 100% before you can collect the data. You can take the quiz multiples times and yes, that is what I had to do. Just remember what your 5th grade teacher told you about reading questions carefully. If you have done all the training thoroughly and not just skimmed the material you will have no problems. The data that is being collected are not butterfly specimens but rather observations which are then uploaded to iNaturalist.. Volunteers also observe flowers. Each observation session lasts an hour and a half. I've been contributing to iNaturalist for about three years now and I'm excited to be contributing to body of knowledge about wild pollinators.
Diver Profile: Meet Chris Honeyman! If there are three things Chris Honeyman wants you to know about him, it's that he's 6'5, outfitted for all outdoor activities, and "would rather be diving," as announced by his license plate frame. Since graduating from UCSB last year, Chris stepped up from undergraduate lab manager to full-time lab technician. He's a NAUI Divemaster who said he relates to the uniform point contact category "bare rock" because "my jokes tend to fall flat. Get it?" (Please disregard that and try to enjoy the rest of this interview.) Why did you decide to study marine biology? I think the ocean is a fascinating place facing a variety of change and challenge, both natural and anthropogenic. Working to study, understand, and protect such differing and diverse ecosystems via a variety of exciting means was something that attracted me as a young scientist. Plus you can practice it anywhere in the world! What advice would you give to someone who wants to get involved in diving and marine research? What are you waiting for? Just do it! Many institutions offer discounts on courses and rates for students and staff members, so take advantage of it while you can. The sooner you start the sooner you can get where you want to be! If you weren't a marine biologist, what would you do instead? Probably some sort of outdoor adventure guide. Or something similar that would grant me the opportunity to explore and enjoy nature. I’ve been trying to explore new forms of enjoying the outdoors: trail running, rock climbing, and stand up paddle-boarding have recently been a focus of mine. What does the future have in store for the "Honey Badger?" Eventually I’ll return to school in pursuit of a graduate degree, but for the time being, I couldn’t be happier with the exciting mix of lab and field work I’ve been exposed to. My experience has been nothing short of awesome!
I’ve never really strayed too far from the water throughout my life. In my early years I lived along the lake shore in Oakville only to find myself as a young teen watching the waves crash on the shores of the Atlantic while living across the harbour from Halifax. Throughout my adult life I’ve lived, lounged, loved, laughed and worked on the west coast with the mighty Pacific lapping at my feet. By plane, train, car and bus I’ve traveled the inner bits of our country, but it has always been the margins that have drawn me in; the coasts have always called my name. For the past 23 years, I have been incredibly fortunate to call Vancouver Island my home. Living on an island off the west coast of Canada with the Salish Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, one would be hard pressed to find a day where the ocean that surrounds us doesn’t make a significant impact on our lives. The daily weather we live with, the transportation of goods and people to and from our island, the industry and jobs we work at, the vibrant, dynamic and unique Indigenous cultures and our collective history on this island, the food we eat, the air we breathe all depend on the Pacific that surrounds us. So, if the oceans are the lifeblood of planet Earth and play such a central role in our lives, one work think that the topic is well covered in our education system, right? Wrong. Now let me state, I’m also at fault here. I am both a physical and human geography teacher for grade twelve and eleven students. Although I do have units on coastal geomorphology, climatology, meteorology, and tectonics in my physical geography class, my coverage of oceanography is marginal at best. In my human geography class, I cover units on development, transportation, agriculture and urbanization and given that about 40% of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometers of the coast the dearth of coverage I give oceanography is wholly inadequate. This is why I was excited when the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS) and the Canadian National Committee/Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (CNC/SCOR) offered a Canadian teacher the chance to participate in the American Meteorological Society/United States Naval Academy Maury Project workshop. The goal of the Maury Project is to provide teacher enhancement on the physical foundations of oceanography for science teachers. As such, I was prepared to absorb as much information as I could over the two-week workshop at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland and absorb I did; my brain is figuratively full. The co-coordinators Dr. David R. Smith, retired professor and former chairman of the Naval Academy oceanography department, and Ms. Wendy Abshire, Education Director of the American Meteorological Society, set out an ambitious and detailed itinerary for the 23 American participants and the lone Canadian (me) to follow. Daily work in the classroom included lectures, the examination of teaching modules, and demonstrations for lab work connected to the topics we covered. Commander William Swick (USN), Commander Shawn Gallaher (USN), Commander John Bleidorn (USN), Dr. Joseph Smith, and other esteemed faculty gave fascinating conversations on a wide range of topics including: ocean water column structure; ocean biogeochemical profiles; open ocean circulation and fluid dynamics; ocean acoustics, sound speed variability and detecting objects in the ocean; thermohaline circulation and global heat transfer; and individual ocean overviews. I must admit, being the lone geographer in a crowd full of physics and chemistry teachers, there were moments during the lectures when I did feel a bit lost; mostly when formulas showed up on the overhead, like the simplified linear approximation to the equation of state for seawater or the formula for the transfer of heat across the ocean surface…Having said that the instructors took pains to explain the physics of fluid dynamics and ocean chemistry in a manner that the common layperson could understand, and the general concepts were easily transferable to a variety of subject areas. What I was interested in doing was seeing connections among topics in a geographic perspective. Making connections between open ocean circulation, global heat transfer, ocean biogeochemical profiles, and coastal upwelling allows for a better understanding of natural resource distribution and the cooperation and conflict that arises between competing interests for them. This is where I spent my time in the classroom, furiously scribbling notes about teaching ideas for physical and human geography. What I found, is that I learned a great deal and found ways to apply that learning to the core subject I love, which really was the goal of the Maury Project. We also go to complete some model teaching through cooperative activities and team demonstrations for lab work connected to the set of Maury Project teaching modules. Of course, a day would not be complete without the poetic words of Matthew Fontaine Maury fondly espoused by retired naval oceanographer and instructor extraordinaire Don McManus. Not only did we work on some theoretical physical oceanography in the classroom, we also did some practical work in the field as well. Out in the Chesapeake Bay, on the naval research Yard Patrol Craft YP-686, we deployed a Rosette CTD, to analyze the conductivity, temperature, pressure of a vertical column of seawater, also taking water samples at depth. The CTD was lowered into the bay by a hydraulic winch at the stern of the boat and we analyzed the measurements on a computer graph while the CTD was still deployed. We also used a refractometer to determine the salinity of our water samples that we took at depth. In addition, we deployed a Profiling Natural Fluorometer (PNF) along with a Secchi Disk to measure the depth of the euphotic layer in the Chesapeake. In addition, we conducted a coastal analysis at Matapeake Beach on Kent Island. Using a beach seine, we looked for nektonic organisms (we did find a few small blue crabs). Being a geographer, I was really at home when we used topographic surveying equipment (a grading rod along with a line and transit) to create a beach profile to examine beach morphology. These active field studies allowed us to connect practical experiences to the in-class lecture topics of oceanography that we explored. Along with the active field work, we also made our way to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for more learning opportunities. Two big takeaways from the Maury Project for me were connections and knowledge. I already had a basic understanding of ocean topography, thermohaline circulation, shallow water ocean waves, ocean tides, and the processes of coastal geomorphology but the depth of information presented to us was amazing. This was, for lack of a better phrase, a two-week crash course in physical oceanography and we were fully immersed in the subject. I now have a much more complete understanding of ocean dynamics and that bodes well for the geography classes I teach. This is also especially important given the curriculum revisioning process that we are currently involved with in British Columbia. I needed to know more, and this opportunity provided me that; my students will directly benefit from my participation in the Maury Project. So too, however, will those of my colleagues with whom I work in British Columbia. A province that is so fortunate to have such an incredible coastline needs teachers who can nurture student interest in the ocean. The scientific study of the ocean has applications across all studies in school; the opportunities for cross and co-curricular studies, projects and field work are virtually limitless and, as the poster in the NOAA headquarters stated, “All Life Depends on the Ocean”. So now what? As a graduate of the Maury Project, I carry the responsibility to share what I’ve learned and further the understanding of physical oceanography with my colleagues and peers. I have arranged to conduct a professional development workshop on wind driven ocean circulation and coastal upwelling for both Science and Social Studies teachers this August in my school district. I will also be presenting a workshop on wind driven ocean circulation and El Niño at the British Columbia Social Studies Teachers Conference in October this year. Hopefully that’s just the start. I was fortunate enough to attend Project Atmosphere in 2000; eighteen years later I still use the meteorological material I learned then with the students I work with now. In the words of Matthew Fontaine Murray, “The wonders of the sea are as marvelous as the glories of the heavens”. It seems pretty clear to me that the material I engaged with this summer will tumble down my remaining years of teaching both Human and Physical Geography and beyond...ocean and sky. I am eternally grateful for the people and organizations who put together this opportunity. First and foremost, I want to thank the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS) and the Canadian National Committee/Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (CNC/SCOR) for selecting me as the lone Canadian participant; supporting the opportunity to attend and learn at the Maury Project. Thank you to Canadian Geographic Education (CGE) and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS) for promoting this opportunity to its membership. I wish to thank the American Meteorological Society (AMS), the United States Naval Academy (USNA), the California University of Pennsylvania (CalU-Penn), and the United States Navy (USN) for not only maintaining but being champions for the Maury Project. I wish to give thanks to my American teacher colleagues / fellow participants at the Maury Project, y’all were so welcoming and I learned a great deal from you. Lastly, I think I can speak for everyone who’ve gone through the Maury Project when I say that this professional workshop experience is in no small amount the result of the passion of two phenomenal educators, David R. Smith and Don E. McManus. I was lucky enough to catch both together as this was Don’s last year with the program and next year David will take his parting bow as well. Building, growing, maintaining and now transitioning others into this program was no small feat for these two. Just from the participant’s view, the amount of energy required to organize and run the Maury Project appeared to be overwhelming, yet these two dedicated educators transferred their passion for oceanography in what seemed to be an effortless manner. Thank you, David and Don, for building such a rewarding professional development opportunity.
This expedition has been several years in the making as part of my PhD in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University. I first encountered the Sama-Bajau fishers in the Banggai Archipelago through a Nat Geo Collaborative Grant documenting the global aquarium fish trade with a team of other Young Explorers (check out reeftoaquarium.com to meet the team and follow Dory's journey from the sea to a hobbyist's home in Colorado). I became interested in why some of these fishers still use cyanide, while others have transitioned to more sustainable practices, which led to my current PhD thesis and questions. This project is now supported by generous funding through E-IPER as well as an Early Career Grant from National Geographic. There are several components to this expedition: 1) Putting Cameras in the Hands of the Community During the first 6 months of the project, l will work with the fishing community on Toropot Island, one of the Sama-Bajau villages and my primary field site, to implement a participatory method known as Photovoice. For this part of the project, 30-50 residents will have cameras in-hand to document their lives. They will be guided by three prompts, each prompt representing a different photovoice session. The prompts include: 1) photograph things that represent the past to you; 2) photograph things that represent the present to you; and 3) photograph things that represent the future to you. At the end of each round, each lasting two months, I will conduct informal interviews in small groups of 2 or 3 community members to discuss why participants created the images they choose to share for each prompt. In this way, the discussion of the images becomes as important as the images themselves. Participants could make the same picture for each prompt, for example, but have very different reasons for doing so that are elicited as the image is discussed, revealing further insights about their experience of time. 2) Daily "Participant Observation" on Fishing Trips Participant observation is a fancy anthropology term for joining the people with whom you're working and being a keen observer and detailed note-taker. In my case, this means going out on fishing trips with the same 20-30 fishers to observe their fishing practices, most often, freediving with them while they are breathing from a hookah line attached to a compressor 3) Collecting Fish Catch Data I will also be training the same 20-30 fishers to record their daily motivations and catch data in Rite-in-the-Rain notebooks over the course of the year. This data will be used to better characterize the fishery and understand what and how much each fisher is catching, as well as what methods they are using. 4) Informal Interviews with Fishers I will also be asking the same 20-30 fishers questions that can help reveal their perception of time and abundance. For example: How do you decide how many fish you will catch each day?; Do you always catch as many as you can?; Does the ocean provide an endless source of fish?; For the fish you eat, do you eat it all right away?; If not, why not and what techniques do you use to save the fish for later?; Do you save money or spend it right away?; If you save money, how much do you save and for how long?; and If you don’t save money, why not?; Do you ever think about the grandchildren you might have in the future?; If so, what do you think about them?; etc. 5) Structured Surveys Finally, I will then use responses from these informal interviews to further refine the questions to make sure they make sense to the fishers and are tailored to their specific context. These questions will form the basis of a more formal survey that I will implement with a larger population of fishers in the Banggai Archipelago across five islands to see if there are any characteristics or factors associated with fishers who have a more future-oriented lens. For example, do fishers who have lived in one place their whole lives think about the future more, or perhaps fishers who have had contact with NGO's? This is the plan as of now, but field work is always full of surprises! I aim to be flexible and nimble to adapt to the reality of the fishers' context as I get to know them and their environment better over the course of the year. Thank you so much for joining me on this journey!
REALLY excited to hear that we will be partnering with EarthEcho International for our cenotes project and taking part in their Water Challenge! EarthEcho has offered our project a generous gift of water test kits to help with our Science and Safety modules in local schools! Kids will now be able to literally test the waters in their local cenotes within the coming months! Check out the Water Challenge at: http://www.monitorwater.org/
Although the Megamouth is a large species of shark reaching ~20 ft in length, it remained undetected by humans until about 40 years ago. Since its recent discovery very few Megamouths have been encountered with just over 100 individuals recorded in human history. However, a small fishing village in Taiwan is experiencing a large number of Megamouths a few weeks out of the year. These landings mostly go unreported and undetected by science. The fishers have contacted us with photographic evidence of these encounters. For this expedition a small team will go to the rural fishing village and work with local fishers to catch and tag one of the most elusive and mysterious species of sharks on the planet. Working within the small window that Megamouths are accessible, we aim to collect data to study for years to come. Along with other information we will collect life history data, tissue for isotope analysis, and we will release Megamouths with 12 month satellite tags. Almost nothing is known about Megamouth Sharks. We hope that the wealth of data we aim to collect will supply policy makers with the information they need to management this majestic species.
Every journey has a first step, and this is ours. At the heart of the task we set ourselves is what seemed like a simple challenge; getting cameras into the sea. Our real first step is figuring out how to do this. Many questions emerged; what type of cameras do we need? What size should the platform be? How do we make it float? Where do you buy PVC pipes in Dublin? We spent most of this week carefully planning this project. We knew exactly what we wanted to achieve. In the end the construction of the platform took 20 minutes! Planning is key! So now we have our first thing to show for our efforts - a frame with multiple cameras and lighting attached. It might not seem like much yet, but it gives us something to build on (literally). If it works, we'll try getting it moving on the water's surface. And then, hopefully, below the surface... Next week, we'll be testing buoyancy and stability, and hopefully have our first underwater footage. Oh, and a new paint job. Now that is a hard decision! Why are we even trying to make our DIY underwater camera system anyway? We have never built anything like this before. We know that it would be possible to buy an underwater vehicle that would help us answer the questions we have, and that would certainly be easier than doing it ourselves. But we also know that maybe there are others out there with questions like ours, or maybe those who don't have their own questions yet, but just want to be curious explorers of the sea. If we can do this, we show that anyone can do this. Yes, we may be trained scientists, but this is far beyond our usual skill set. We are more comfortable with a microscope and a dish of cells, but we also love the challenge of learning to do and make something new. And making mistakes along the way, so you don't have to!
About Eelgrass: Seagrass beds provide essential biological benefits to ocean environments, such as the production of oxygen, sediment stabilization, absorption of nutrients and the improvement of water quality. Eelgrass (Zostera marina) is also an important foundation species as it provides habitat and nursery grounds for a number of ecologically and economically important species. Eelgrass Restoration in Orange County: Orange County Coastkeeper and partners have been restoring eelgrass in Upper Newport Bay, Newport Beach, California since 2008. The project was originally conceived to fulfill a need for more research and data on effective restoration and management methods for eelgrass in the bay, which had declined in the upper bay due to poor water quality. Each summer since 2012, Coastkeeper has been joined by partners and hardworking volunteers to bring back more eelgrass to Upper Newport Bay. Upper Newport Bay Living Shorelines Project: Coastkeeper, in partnership with California State University Fullerton and California State University Long Beach are conducting a new restoration project which targets the native Olympia oyster, Ostrea lurida, and native eelgrass, Zostera marina, in an innovative integrated approach in Newport Bay. We plan to harness the sediment stabilization characteristics of each to counteract shoreline erosion and provide other critically needed environmental benefits. Benefits of Living Shorelines: improve water quality by improving natural water filtration provide habitat for diverse assemblages of plants and animals help to increase oxygen levels for fish and other aquatic species return habitat connectivity between terrestrial and subtidal communities About this Expedition: Orange County Coastkeeper seeks to establish a program using a Trident ROV to track eelgrass habitat both in Newport Bay and around marine protected areas in Orange County. Eelgrass has not been extensively surveyed offshore in these areas, and detecting changes in seagrass occurrence and cover using remote underwater video will be very beneficial.
Sede Boqer In spite of being a relatively small country in terms of surface area, Israel has a large diversity of biomes and landscapes. We spent our first weekend in a field station in the Negev desert in southern Israel. During the nights we went out with headlamps and uv lights to look for scorpions and other nocturnal arachnids. Currently, 21 species of scorpions are known to occur in Israel. While all scorpions have a stinger to deliver venom only a handful of species pose a threat to human life. There is no simple rule to distinguish dangerous from harmless species of scorpions. Luckily, a recently published field guide, co-authored by one of the lead members of our expedition (Dr. Efrat Gavish-Regev), facilitates the identification of these fascinating arachnids Scorpions of Israel Field Guide. In the photos: Desert gecko. *One of the most dangerous scorpions in Israel; the sting of *Leiurus hebraeus can be lethal if untreated. A harmless species illuminated with uv, (Scorpio palmatus). *Although not as dangerous as *Leiurus, the sting of Buthus Israelis can also threat human life.
During our 2018 expedition in Greece, we heavily relied on our fleet of aerial drones. With approx. 30min flight time, they are ideal to explore hard-to-access coastlines, spot animals and follow them without bothering their daily habits. While exploring a little island not far from Fiskardo, we spotted two monk seals playing in underwater tunnels. It has probably been their playground since they were pups, as they constantly disappeared only to reappear in odd places. That particular piece of coast must be like Swiss cheese, with holes and tunnels leading everywhere. It was a blessing to see these two seals together, as it's a species that is on the brink of extinction and thus the sightings are very rare.
02/08/2018-04/08/2018: Campsite #1, Akita Arriving late at night after much waiting between the irregular rural train service, I set up my first camp in the dark and sweaty heat of a humid summer night. Unfortunately the ground was a lot drier than my clothes at that point, and added with the fact that this was the first time I’d set up the tent in a month or so, it took a fair while. But we got there in the end! Since there were no official campsites within easy access of where I wanted to be, I camped on the edge of an area of shared public land where local people could come to plant their own vegetables. Every morning I woke up to the sound of a few people chatting together as they went about their gardening nearby. None of them seemed bothered by my camping there, although for long-term camping it probably isn’t ideal. https://elisooker.wordpress.com/2018/08/06/02-08-2018-04-08-2018-campsite-1-akita/
Hi everyone ! Today the booking of my special trains has been confirmed ! I am now able to share my itinerary with you. I'll first cross Germany to reach Danemark and Copenhagen. Next I will take a train for Stockholm and finally I'll take a night train for 17 hours to reach Kiruna. If everything is ok, I'll have the time to explore a bit the Sweden highest mountain ,the Kebnekaise.
Day 7th, July 10th: The Bongo River As we cruise down south, we reach the southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula, here is where CREMA (www.cremacr.org ; the organization that I work with) has most of it's research and conservation projects. For the next couple of days, we will be helping Elpis Joan M.Sc in wildlife conservation. She has been studying the movements of juvenile bull sharks that move along rivermouths in this region. One of our theories is that when they grow up, these sharks move to more pelagic waters to feed and reproduce, most likely, the Bat Islands and the area up there. But, how do you track the movements of these animals?? As an organization, CREMA is part of MigraMar (www.migramar.org)) a network of organizations tracking ocean wildlife along the Eastern Pacific. All the organizations in MigraMar use acoustic telemetry to gather data on animal movements in the area. Acoustic telemetry is very simple, you attach a tag to the object of study, this tag emits a sound at a specific frequency. Later, an acoustic receiver that is put in the areas of study will capture that signal, and let us know the time and date when the animal was swimming around that area. Since all the organizations use the same technology, all the data, and the receivers are shared between the researchers. In this area, we have 5 acoustic receivers deployed, we download the data every couple of months and we can know if any animals that we tag where swimming in this area. Cool huh? These are called presence/absence studies, since we can only know if the animal was present or not in the area at a specific time. With this data we can determine the areas of higher activity and therefore, pressure the local authorities to provide a better management of this region. I will show a video where we tag a baby bull shark, i have to warn you that the video can be shocking, however, no animals where hurt during our research and all ethic guidelines where rightly followed. Pictures: Acoustic receiver & Sea turtle with an acoustic tag on its carapace.
On July 12 a window seems to open and a launch for Explorer II is attempted... The giant balloon (a 3,500,000 cubic foot bag) is taken out of its box and inflated with helium gas. The gondola is attached, and flight is about to take place but just at that moment, the balloon rips and collapses , so further attempts are postponed until autumn.
As an undergraduate student studying Integrative Biology in the Harvard Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and under the tutelage of Professor Gonzalo Giribet, I traveled to Florida in June 2018 to collect Bdelloura candida, the ectocommensal planarian (flatworm) found on Limulus polyphemus, the Atlantic horseshoe crab. A previous study (Riesgo et al. 2017) established that the B. candida population in the northern Gulf of Mexico is genetically divergent from the Atlantic population that was sampled from Georgia to Maine. Thus the Florida peninsula serves not only as an area that must be sampled between these divergent populations but also as a natural geographic barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. This is where I come in. Having grown up in sunny southwest Florida nestled between the Gulf of Mexico, Ten Thousand Islands, and Everglades National Park, I desperately wanted to delve more into Florida's marine science and this was my chance to do so. My mission is to sample areas all around the Florida peninsula in order to triangulate the biogeographical barrier demonstrated by the divergent haplotypes of B. candida populations. I'm thrilled to see what this research reveals not only for flatworm-horseshoe crab relationship but also for a variety of symbiotic relationships in which the phylogeography of the symbiont may mirror that of its host.
The earth’s surface is mostly covered by ocean. How do we even begin to prioritize where to drop cameras to view what lies beneath the surface? Because of the pioneering work of National Geographic’s Pristine Seas, we already have a global foundation to build upon, to begin constructing the index of deep ocean ecosystem health. Dr. Enric Sala and his team have collected video footage from many remote and amazing places across the world’s ocean. This map shows some of the sites with existing video footage that we can synthesize to jump-start the global assessment (follow the Pristine Seas missions here, on Open Explorer!). Going forward, our team will be building platforms to organize the data, viewing and annotating the video footage, identifying sea creatures and counting their abundances, analyzing the data for patterns in biodiversity, and strategizing where to drop the cameras next!
A Floatarium is a proposed floating, catch and release public aquarium to be located in Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver, British Columbia! Operating seasonally from June until September annually, the Floatarium will “bring the ocean to eye level” by providing engaging hands-on marine education for an affordable admission rates. This 20-30minute experience is targeted to families with children waiting for the ferry. Ocean to Eye Level (OTEL), the makers of the Floatarium, is committed to a catch-and-release philosophy which aims to make as little impact on the environmental as possible by releasing the locally-collected invertebrates and robust fish back to the sea after a short stay on display. The Floatarium will be the first of its kind, made up of a ~1000 sq. ft. floating platform with a 40' shipping container on top. Inside and outside, there will be 20+ aquarium exhibits with local marine life including stars, crabs, snails, nudibranchs, sponges, shiner perch and juvenile rockfish. Visitors will be given the chance to see the ocean at eye level through live animal displays, touch tanks, underwater cameras, remote operated vehicles, video screens and underwater sound exhibits.
So far we've compared two methods to measure pen shell densities on a shallow ground around the city of Chioggia, based on the counting of animals on a fixed area on the field and performed by a drone.Next two months (august and september) will be dedicated to the study of the pen shell populations in the southern basin of the Venice Lagoon, extending counts and measurements not only to the animals that one or twice a day are exposed to air but also to those individuals that live on the bottom of the canals, by means of a mini-ROV.
Wheelchair Attenborough - From Sky To Sea:This bio style documentary will focus on my life growing up and my passion for the ocean. It will detail the accident that rendered me a quadriplegic and my life moving forward post spinal cord injury. It will detail how I reconnected with the ocean and wildlife again though the use of drone technology. We will embark on a live-aboard charter to the Fitzgerald River national park famous for its wildlife - including, Southern Right Whales, Dolphins, Sea Lions and sharks. Here we will document the species during the day and night. I will utilise the latest underwater drone/ROV technology to capture footage un-atainable to me previously due to my disability. Coupling aerial footage as well as underwater scenes will allow me to tell the full story. The ending of the documentary will involve me traveling to Port Lincoln in South Australia to enter the water again for the first time in over 10 years. This time to film a creature that has evaded the view of my camera. The Great White Shark.
What happens after an expedition? I can't speak for everyone else who organizes an expedition but after I got back from the field I put away the equipment, organized the photos, shared the field notes (as seen on this platform), and updated the project map with field work locations. The iNaturalist observations have been added to this iNaturalist project. I also uploaded the data. Since we have a small data set, it's impossible to draw many conclusions. One of the conclusions that can be made from the data is that water in Sage Creek is very turb*d or cloudy. This is not a surprise as Sage Creek runs through the Badlands, a highly erodible landscape. This data has been added to a story map of water transparency readings that will eventually be populated by water transparency readings from around the state. Using a phenomena based approach, students can conduct a water transparency study on a local water body and then compare their findings with others from around the state. Can they see patterns according to the geology of the state? How about surrounding land use? I am encouraging educators to become trained in GLOBE water transparency protocols to populate this map with their local data. An authentic audience for a school project always adds a level of interest and meaning to a project. I will be collecting data as I travel around the state as well. Even though the work with the data will continue, the actual field session is now complete with this final blog entry. The only thing that remains is set the tentative dates for next year. I have penciled in June 24-27. There will be some exciting additions and updates. Stay tuned!
The Giant Sea Bass (Stereolepis gigas) is the largest bony fish found in California waters reaching a maximum size of 7 feet and nearly 600 pounds. It is an important apex predator of near shore rocky reefs. From the late 1800's to the 1970's there was a commercial fishery in both California and Mexico. However, the Giant Sea Bass was thought to have been fished to extinction in California by the early 80's in part because of their inclination to group together which made it easy to fish out entire populations. California closed the commercial and recreational fisheries in 1981 but it was years before Giant Sea Bass were seen again. There are now thought to be around 500 individuals in California waters and there is much to learn about their habits and reproductive behaviors. Our expedition seeks to help shed light on populations of Giant Sea Bass in and around the Lions Head to Arrow Point Marine Protected Area (MPA) on Catalina Island. Through the use of a Remotely Operated Vehicle or ROV we hope to track and identify the suspected 20 plus individuals that live within the MPA and share this information with the public and network of researchers who study this amazing animal. Photo by Shaun Wolfe
Dia 6: Bus trip to PunoToday I began a 10 hour bus trip to Puno. This trip consisted of a few stops along the way to see more Inca ruins and colonial infiltration of the area. The road were rook for this journey was one of great significance. We would cross the “border” of two different divisions within the Inca Empire. There were at least 14 divisions which seems a bit chaotic if you think about it, but it made the empire what is was. This was an important area for the Spanish to conquer to they could spread their beliefs and split the Incas in manageable, conquerable pieces. They were very successful in this regard, they were indeed able to split the empire into conquerable portions and use rival tribes to the Inca as their allies in the process. These two in combination with the assassination of prominent Inca figures is what led to their success. They proved their dominance, then forced the catholic faith upon their ally tribes and any Incan survivors. One cheeky detail I never ceased to miss, no matter the location I was observing was the fact that even with the strongest efforts, the Spanish infiltration was never able to completely erase the Inca. Whether it be literal building structures, still operational aqueducts, or beliefs in the hearts of locals. So many colonial structures still use Inca foundations, engineering concepts, and architecture. The terraces in particular are one of the most beautiful remains that are still used particularly for agriculture. Although I do not have much new information or experience to relay from this day, it was more of a reinforcement of all I learned so far. I had a lot of time to think today and just talk with other travelers in Spanish. That in itself provides great experience.
Three weeks goes fast when you have a great team of student interns working on exciting field research! It seems like only yesterday that 7 intrepid students arrived on Little Cayman Island to study the exquisite reefs here to better understand the complex interactions of natural and human processes on reef ecosystems. But now, three weeks later, the interns have all departed to return to their homes and universities after a successful program here at the Little Cayman Research Centre. The end of the program is bitter-sweet, and while departing from our course family is hard we all look forward to reuniting this spring to present the results of the intern's hard work at the 2019 Benthic Ecology meeting! While the student interns have all expressed deep thanks for the skills and experiences they gained here on Little Cayman, It is me that is most thankful for all that these interns ended up teaching in return. There is no more rewarding an experience than learning from inquisitive and motivated minds as they push the boundaries of what we know, and I can never truly thank our small family of student interns enough for my own experiences with them. To Alexandra, Hayley, Jillian, Nicole, Ryan, Sally, and Shiyue, thank all of you so very much for making this course as exciting, informative, and productive as you did. I can't wait to see you all develop as scientists, conservationists, professionals, and as people. In the end, I hope you all learned at least half as much from me as I did from all of you! -Gil
I defended my proposal at the wildlife biology program, the University of Montana in the fall of 2017. Within the next few months, 2017 ended, the fall semester was over, and it was time to head to Bhutan for fieldwork. It was exciting: tigers, genetics plus I was going back home after a year. After reaching Bhutan, I spend some time in Thimphu getting all my approvals ready and went to my office at the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research at Bumthang and held a couple of important meetings. I arranged the field logistics, and my team was all set to collect tiger poop. With my research crew which included a botanist, a lepidopterist, and a driver, I headed to Royal Manas National Park in Gelephu. I wrote an account of the first stage of my fieldwork on the National Geographic Blog which is reposted below: We are settling into one of our many nights in the forests of Umling, to the western part of Royal Manas National Park. The night is devoid of any human voices, and all we could hear is the river gushing below, and the wind blowing in the trees. There is only the light of the moon, penetrating through the canopy and we are cautioned not to light fire nor switch on torches. The rangers check their guns, put the safety lock on and put it under their pillow. It is 7 p.m., and we are done with dinner. We are at Kukulung, a place very close to the Indian border and infamous for militant activity and armed poachers. There have been infrequent past encounters between these intruders and the Bhutanese counterparts, and the tales of these encounters sends chill down the spine. There are dangers also from the elephants and gaurs (also known as the Indian Bison), both known to be notorious for attacking people. Here, they can be seen in big herds. I am in Royal Manas National Park, studying tigers. Royal Manas National Park is the oldest protected area in Bhutan and was established in 1964. The national park is located in the southern foothills of the country and is known worldwide for its incredible biodiversity and scenic landscapes. It has seven species of wildcats in an area of 1054 square kilometers, one of the highest density of cat species in the world and I have always wanted to come here and work. I am currently a wildlife biology student at the University of Montana, and as a part of my thesis research, I am studying the genetic make-up of tigers in the Bhutan Himalaya landscape. I am using non-invasive survey techniques to collect poop samples for obtaining DNA which would provide information on genetic diversity and connectivity in tigers of Bhutan. Insights on ecology and spatial distribution are increasingly becoming available, but information on genetic make-up and diversity is highly lacking and thus, lack explicit consideration in tiger conservation strategies in the country. I come to Royal Manas National Park because it has tigers, a lot of them compared to the rest of the country and the national park has enjoyed momentous success in tiger monitoring and conservation over the years. The park was applauded recently for an amazing feat: the tiger numbers have doubled over the last three years. With a team consisting of two research assistants, myself, six armed rangers and three porters, we set off to collect tiger poop. With every poop we found, we celebrated immensely; there was joy on each of our faces. But we were always careful and alert. Few rangers would walk ahead, we would walk in the middle, and few rangers would be at the back. We had to be quiet and maintained a steady pace; some eyes looked up front, some sideways and there were few of us looking at the trails for poop, scrapes, and pugmarks. It was one of the most enriching and adrenaline filled days of my life. We were always ready by 7 a.m. in the morning, and the day’s journey would take a walking of at least 7 hours. We would cross dense forests, grasslands and rivers, tread river beds and climb ridges. By noon, our porters would cook us delicious food. We would retire by 4 in the evening, cook dinner near a water source, have it there, put out the fire and go somewhere else to sleep. We would choose a vantage point to camp, under a tree canopy and close to a river. The weather seemed erratic and we prayed it never rains for we had no tents with us; it was February and it hardly ever rained in February. The camping sites were always shifted, we never camped at the same place. We would be sleeping scattered across the forest floor and never together. It was the usual drill, and quietly, we would slip into our sleeping bags by dusk. We would watch the moon and the stars and fall asleep. This would be our routine for all the days we were in the forest. I feel extremely lucky to be getting a sizable number of tiger poop in Umling, and the fieldwork went much smoother than I anticipated. Next, I will be visiting Manas Range on the eastern side of the park. The fieldwork will be equally daunting. I will also be visiting other tiger hotspots across the country to collect more samples. Many of whom I had consulted with had not observed much tiger poop deposits in the forests, and I was very nervous. I visited monasteries and lit butter lamps for blessings, and it is typical of what many Bhutanese like to do when they need something urgent. I was also nervous because of the history of some of these places I was visiting. But I was determined to take it as a challenge, and, I didn’t have a choice. Fieldwork and patrolling along the borders are always this nerve wrecking. Park rangers are on average 15 days away in a month in the jungles patrolling, camera trapping, and carrying out fieldwork for other research purposes. Many decades have passed this way, and they handle it well; their families have learned not to miss them more. The rangers put their soul into their work and their love for nature is genuine. Their sweat and perseverance are returning results: tigers are doubling in numbers and illegal logging is subsiding. They are very happy about these positive developments, and I could it feel from their smiles as they spoke about it. However, they train every now and then and are always alert and fit; complacency has no room in these jungles. Acknowledgement: My masters is supported by WWF-EFN Fellowship, University of Montana, Wildlife Conservation Network and Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER). The current study is funded by National Geographic Society, Bhutan Foundation, Animal Ark Sanctuary, UWICER and National Tiger Center, Bhutan. I am also very thankful to the management and staff of Royal Manas National Park for rendering support in the field. I remain grateful. The blog post can be accessed at https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2018/04/09/chasing-tigers-in-royal-manas-national-park-to-umling/
Upon Arrival After arriving, finding an apartment, and moving in, I went to see my host family in a village outside of Bishkek. Over the summer, one of my host sisters (Fariida) got married and my host mom (Ainaz), who I call Apa (the Kyrgyz word for mom) was embroidering traditional Kyrgyz cushions called tushuks. We sat on the couch and she taught me how she outlined the shapes of traditional Kyrgyz designs on black velvet using salt water and a toothpick and then how to embroider the designs. As we were embroidering, I became curious. I never really thought about these designs before – after seeing something for two years, you just get used to it and don’t question things as much. As we were embroidering, I turned to Apa and asked, “Apa, what do these designs mean?” She looked up from her embroidery, peering up over her glasses, “They’re part of Kyrgyz tradition.” But traditions don’t just appear from nothing … they come from somewhere, right?
National Geographic Society support allows volcanologist, Dr. Thomas Jaggar, to explore Pavlof Volcano in Alaska, map 550 square miles of previously uncharted territory, and the study of wildlife and botany. Dr. Jagger implemented the use an amphibian "mobile boat," the outcome of experiments made from the previous year's reconnaissance work.
In July, we observed something unusual happening in the kelp forest and intertidal zone near the Seymour Center. Hundreds of different-sized pieces of strange debris appeared and drifted along the coast--not something we're used to seeing. Debris was entangled in the canopy of the nearshore kelp forest and other pieces began appearing in the intertidal mussel beds and sandy swash zone. It took more than a couple weeks for most of the material to disappear from the coast near the Seymour Center, as it continued drifting southwest along the Santa Cruz coastline. Several pieces of the material appeared in the mussel beds and swash zone, especially after days of large swells transported and deposited them on pocket beaches. We tried to identify the different pieces we found. We decided that wooden boards covered with a thick coat of white paint on one side were likely from the hull of the boat. We thought a large, domed piece of plastic may have been a skylight from the cabin of the ship. Two different calls to the US Coast Guard provided different information about the source of the wreckage. One possible source was a fishing vessel that had been moored off of Wilder Creek and recently sank. Another report was that a small fishing boat, perhaps dinghy-sized, crashed into the rocky reef off of Terrace Point. We imagined that the wreckage was possibly a mixture from both boats, though we don't know for sure. The large skylight seemed to be evidence that at least some of the pieces came from a larger vessel instead of the smaller boat. With so many pieces of small and large debris being carried in and out of the intertidal zone each day, we started wondering what the effects of this human-produced litter might be on the local ecosystems. As waves carried some of the larger pieces ashore, perhaps they impacted organisms by colliding or smothering them. Did the paint on the wood contain any toxic materials, like lead or copper, that might produce negative effects on invertebrates in the tidepools and kelp forest? As this debris disintegrates over time, will small particles sink to the kelp forest floor and accumulate in bottom feeders, such as sea cucumbers? Since we know that plastics are often confused as food by marine animals, especially microplastics that can mimic plankton, we were wondering how much plastic might have entered these ecosystems from this influx of human-produced trash. We cleaned up the pieces of debris that were small enough for us to carry out, but we know that was just a small fraction of what is still out there in the water. In the image below, see some of the wreckage that washed ashore. Hopefully, we’ll receive the Trident drone soon, so that we can peer underwater to look for evidence of any visible effects the ship wreckage may have left behind. Stay posted for our next update!