AltaSea: Trending – August 8, 2018

A monthly round-up of news and trends important to the AltaSea community.


Should You Let a Shrimp Clean Your Teeth? (National Geographic)

Cleaner shrimp make everyone smile, but videos show they don’t mind making those smiles even brighter.  These industrious invertebrates eat parasites and dead skin off fish, keeping them healthy and earning a meal. But when human divers approach them the shrimp are happy to clean them up, too.

Why do shrimp do this for us, and should we let them? 

Can seagrass help fight ocean acidification? (Carnegie Institution for Science)

Seagrass meadows could play a limited, localized role in alleviating ocean acidification in coastal ecosystems, according to new work led by Carnegie’s David Koweek and including Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira and published in Ecological Applications.

When coal, oil, or gas is burned, the resulting carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere where it is the driving force behind global climate change. But this atmospheric carbon dioxide is also absorbed into the ocean where chemical reactions with the seawater produce carbonic acid, which is corrosive to marine life, particularly to organisms like mussels and oysters that construct their shells and exoskeletons out of calcium carbonate.

Seagrasses provide an important source of food and shelter for marine animals, help fight erosion of the sediments that form the sea bed, and filter bacterial pathogens from the water. They also take up carbon dioxide as part of their daytime photosynthetic activity.

It’s ‘the last frontier on Earth that’s truly not well understood,’ and scientists are about to explore it (The Boston Globe)

In the briny deep, far from shore, the vast darkness is home to tiny, glowing fish, massive jellies that may be the largest animals on the planet, and an untold number of other creatures.

What inhabits this realm of the ocean — from about 600 feet to about 3,000 feet — is so shrouded in mystery that scientists call it the “twilight zone.”

At the end of the week, a team of marine biologists, engineers, and other specialists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will embark on the first long-term study of this netherworld, a nearly lightless region believed to be teeming with life — perhaps more than the rest of the ocean combined.

Fish Will Start Losing Sense of Smell as Carbon Dioxide Levels Rise, Study Finds (The New York Times)

Just as humans rely on their sense of smell to detect suitable food and habitats, avoid danger, and find potential mates, so do fish — only instead of sniffing scent molecules floating through the air, they use their nostrils to sense chemicals suspended in water.

But fish will start losing their ability to detect different smells by the end of the century if atmospheric carbon dioxide levels keep rising, scientists warned in a recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

For fish, the sense of smell is “particularly important when visibility is not great,” said Cosima Porteus, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Exeter and the lead author of the study, which examined elevated carbon dioxide levels and their effects on olfactory sensitivity, gene expression and behavior in European sea bass. “Therefore, even a small decrease in their sense of smell can affect their daily activities.”


One of the Biggest Food Companies in the World Is Cutting 100 Million Plastic Straws By 2020 (Thrillist)

The consensus seems to be growing that plastic straws suck. And with McDonald’s and Starbucks pledging to decrease their reliance on single-use plastics, it shouldn’t be a surprise that other large players in the industry are following suit. The latest company to declare war on the Great Pacific Garbage patch is food-service giant Aramark, which supplies all manner of plastic goods to sports venues, hospitals and schools.

Aramark is a behemoth, providing upwards of 2 billion meals across 19 countries annually. It’s new commitment will see single-use plastic straws reduced by 100 million throughout the world by 2020, the company said in a press release on Wednesday. When it comes to public support for eschewing plastic utensils, Aramark heeded advice: After issuing a customer survey, “the majority (60%) of respondents are concerned with the overuse of plastic and nearly 80% are trying to reduce personal consumption by recycling and reusing plastic bottles and bags. The primary environmental concern is the impact on marine life and oceans.”

Women in aquaculture: Dr Flower Msuya (The Fish Site)

Dr Flower Msuya, chairperson and facilitator at the Zanzibar Seaweed Cluster Initiative (ZaSCI) works in villages in Zanzibar to study climate change, modify farming methods and add value to seaweed. As the Tanzanian island’s seaweed aquaculture takes off, Dr Msuya is confident that opportunities for women will continue to rise.


What’s the value of a clean beach? Here’s how economists do the numbers (The Conversation)

Millions of Americans head outdoors in the summer, whether for a day at a nearby lake or a monthlong road trip. For environmental economists like me, decisions by vacationers and outdoor recreators offer clues to a challenging puzzle: estimating what environmental resources are worth.

In 1981 President Ronald Reagan issued an executive order that required federal agencies to weigh the costs and benefits of proposed major new regulations, and in most cases to adopt them only if the benefits to society outweighed the costs. Reagan’s order was intended to promote environmental improvements without overburdening economic growth.

Cost-benefit analysis has been so successful as a tool for policy analysis that every administration since Reagan has endorsed using it. However, it requires measuring benefits that are not “priced” in typical markets. Fortunately, putting a price on non-market environmental outcomes, such as safer drinking water and fewer deaths from exposure to dirty air, has proved to be possible, and highly valuable. These estimates help to make the case for actions such as cleaning up beaches and protecting scenic areas.

Sea Level Rise Poses Significant Risk to Coastal Property, Study Finds (Philanthropy News Digest)

In a high sea level rise scenario, as many as 311,000 homes worth an estimated $117.5 billion are at risk of chronic coastal flooding by 2050, a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists finds.

Funded in part by the Boston-based Barr Foundation, the report, Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods, and the Implications for US Coastal Real Estate (2018) (28 pages, PDF), defines “chronic flooding” as high tide flooding that occurs twenty-six or more times a year. According to the report, by the end of the century roughly 2.5 million homes and businesses, collectively worth more than $1 trillion, could be at risk, resulting in the displacement of some 4.7 million people — equivalent to the population of Louisiana today.


Shark Week (Cabrillo Marine Aquarium)

Sunday, August 5, 2018 – Saturday, August 11, 2018 from 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM Shark Week returns to CMA and features special shark crafts and activities each day!

  • Exploration Center – Check-out amazing shark specimens like real shark skin, shark teeth and shark egg cases. Plus, you can create your very own Shark Egg Case!
  • Marine Research Library – Visit the library to read-up on all things sharks with our special Shark Week book display, check-out our shark videos playing through-out Shark Week, like BBC shark programs or test your knowledge with some Shark Week word puzzles!
  • Aquarium Courtyard – Enjoy exciting Shark Week coloring activities and crafts.
  • Susanne Lawrenz-Miller Exhibit Hall – Are you up for a challenge? Stop by the Information booth and pick up one of our Shark Fact Scavenger Hunts. Complete the Scavenger Hunt and receive a cool Shark Week Surprise!
  • Daily at 3pm in the John M. Olguin Auditorium – “Surviving Sharks” – An exciting and informational movie about the different sharks that live in our oceans and how humans are impacting their population and environments. (15 minute movie)
  • Friday, August 10 – 2pm in the Courtyard – Scientific shark dissection on a shark from the Aquarium’s Collections Department.

Los Angeles Fleet Week (Los Angeles Fleet Week)

Friday, August 31, 2018 – Monday, September 3, 2018

Fleet Week is an annual, multi-day celebration of our nation’s Sea Services held on the LA Waterfront at the Port of Los Angeles over the Labor Day Weekend. Free to the public, the event features public ship tours, military displays and equipment demonstration, live entertainment, a kids’ STEM Expo, aircraft flyovers, a 100 Years of Navy in Hollywood Film Festival, the 10th Annual Conquer the Bridge Labor Day morning 5.3-mile walk/run over the Vincent Thomas Bridge, LA Fleet Week 5 on 5 Basketball Tournament, and a Galley Wars culinary cook-off competition between Sailor, Marine & Coastguard teams.  More information at

Open House: Pangaea’s Sea Dragon and Dr. Marcus Eriksen (AltaSea)

Saturday, September 15, 2018 from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM 

Please join AltaSea’s Quarterly Open House featuring Pangaea’s Sea Dragon and Dr. Marcus Eriksen.

Pangea’s expedition vessel, Sea Dragon, is involved in high seas research, coastal conservation, education, filming, and many other activities. Take a tour of their vessel and learn about their latest adventures.

Dr. Eriksen is an environmental scientist, educator and author committed to building stronger communities through art, science, adventure and activism.  In 2008, he sailed to Hawaii from Long Beach in a raft made entirely from found garbage.  The Junk Raft is on display at AltaSea.

Attendance is free and open to the public. For more information, click here.


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