AltaSea: Trending – December 17, 2019

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


The Ocean Is Running Out of Oxygen, Largest Study of Its Kind Finds (EcoWatch)

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report combined the work of 67 scientists from 17 countries to conclude that oxygen levels in the ocean had declined around two percent since the mid-20th century, and the volume of waters entirely deprived of oxygen had increased four-fold since the 1960s. The report was released Saturday at the COP25 UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid, CBS News reported, in hopes of persuading world leaders to protect the oceans from future oxygen loss.

The Deep Sea (Neal Agarwal)

Explore the depths of the ocean with this visual representation.

Sea ‘Boiling’ With Methane Discovered In Siberia: ‘No One Has Ever Recorded Anything Like This Before’ (Newsweek)

Scientists in Siberia have discovered an area of sea that is “boiling” with methane, with bubbles that can be scooped from the water with buckets. Researchers on an expedition to the East Siberian Sea said the “methane fountain” was unlike anything they had seen before, with concentrations of the gas in the region to be six to seven times higher than the global average.

The team, led by Igor Semiletov, from Tomsk Polytechnic University in Russia, traveled to an area of the Eastern Arctic previously known to produce methane fountains. They were studying the environmental consequences of permafrost thawing beneath the ocean.

Permafrost is ground that is permanently frozen—in some cases for tens of thousands of years. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, permafrost currently covers about 8.7 million square miles of the Northern Hemisphere.


The Ocean Cleanup device has returned from the Pacific Garbage Patch with its first load of plastic (Fast Company)

After months of research, failures, and reconfigurations, and weeks spent at sea traveling to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and back, The Ocean Cleanup’s device—a 2,000-foot long floating tube that skims the surface of the water to catch plastic trash—has returned to shore. And with it, it brought back 60 bags, sized one cubic meter, full of plastic trash, everything from fishing nets to plastic bags to microplastics one millimeter in size.

SINN Power Wins Cleantech Open Global Ideas Challenge (Renewable Energy Magazine)

SINN Power won this year’s Cleantech Open Global Idea Challenge, held in Los Angeles, California, with its innovative wave energy technology designed to supply people worldwide with clean and reliable energy from ocean waves.

As part of SINN Power’s nomination as semi-finalist of the StartGreen Award 2019 the RKW Kompetenzzentrum nominated SINN Power as one of the three national champions for the CTO Global Ideas Challenge and supported the trip to Los Angeles. As a result, the German startup won the Global Ideas Award 2019 and received the $10,000 prize.

Rivers could generate thousands of nuclear power plants worth of energy, thanks to a new ‘blue’ membrane (ScienceMag.Org)

Green energy advocates may soon be turning blue. A new membrane could unlock the potential of “blue energy,” which uses chemical differences between fresh- and saltwater to generate electricity. If researchers can scale up the postage stamp–size membrane in an affordable fashion, it could provide carbon-free power to millions of people in coastal nations where freshwater rivers meet the sea.

“It’s impressive,” says Hyung Gyu Park, a mechanical engineer at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea who wasn’t involved with the work. “Our field has waited for this success for many years.”

Blue energy’s promise stems from its scale: Rivers dump some 37,000 cubic kilometers of freshwater into the oceans every year. This intersection between fresh- and saltwater creates the potential to generate lots of electricity—2.6 terawatts, according to one recent estimate, roughly the amount that can be generated by 2000 nuclear power plants.


Sight unseen: This teacher brings science to life for blind students (The Christian Science Monitor)

During a classroom visit at the Perkins School for the Blind here in Watertown, Carla Curran shares 3D models of microscopic phytoplankton, 5,000 times their original size, with a lively group of teenagers.

“Did you know that the tiniest organism can influence an entire food web?” she says.

The students consider this as they run their hands over the grooves and crevices of the small white models, learning the parts of a dinoflagellate Alexandrium cyst, which creates harmful algae blooms. Dr. Curran asks the teens to describe what they feel.

An Ocean’s Worth of Genetic Diversity in a Cup (Random Lengths News)

Those who regularly attend the meetings of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood know Dean Pentcheff as the man who represents waterfront residents in San Pedro. But Pentcheff, the council’s vice president, is also is very familiar with non-human creatures that live in the water or near it; he’s a research biologist for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

This past Aug. 19 to Sept. 2, Pentcheff was among a team of taxonomists who studied the genetic diversity of species in the coastal waters around the Palos Verdes Peninsula as well as the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach. The intensive research project, which was run by the Diversity Initiative for the Southern California Ocean (DISCO), contributed to a database for a new technology called DNA barcoding, which allows the scientists to take a cup of seawater and analyze all DNA sequences inside. If any of the sequences correspond with DNA sequences of animals in a database, they will have a list of species present at the time the sample was taken.

Warren proposes ‘Blue New Deal’ to protect oceans (The Hill)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday proposed a “Blue New Deal” plan in what she calls an effort to protect oceans and rebuild the economy associated with oceans.

The proposal was influenced by a question from an oyster farmer at the CNN presidential town hall on the climate crisis in September about whether the top tier Democratic 2020 hopeful would support a plan to restore oceans as climate change evolves.

“I said I would, and I meant it — here’s what I’ll do to rebuild our blue economy, protect and restore ocean habitat, and adapt in a climate changed world,” Warren said in her proposal.

Greta Thunberg named Time Person of the Year for 2019 (

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl who inspired a global movement to fight climate change, has been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2019.

The 16-year-old is the youngest person to be chosen by the magazine in a tradition that started in 1927.

Speaking at a UN climate change summit in Madrid before the announcement, she urged world leaders to stop using “creative PR” to avoid real action.

The next decade would define the planet’s future, she said.


Film Screening & Panel Discussion: Sea of Shadows (Aquarium of the Pacific)

Monday, January 6, 2020

6:30 PM – 9:00 PM

The Aquarium of the Pacific will host a screening of Sea of Shadows, a documentary from National Geographic Documentary Films and winner of the Sundance audience award, followed by a panel discussion featuring ocean conservation experts and one of the filmmakers.

When Mexican drug cartels and Chinese traffickers join forces to poach the rare totoaba fish in the Sea of Cortez, their methods threaten marine life in the region, including the most elusive and endangered whale species on Earth, the vaquita porpoise.

Sea of Shadows follows a team of scientists, high-tech conservationists, investigative journalists, and undercover agents as well as the Mexican Navy as they work to save the last remaining vaquitas.


José A. Zertuche-González, researcher, Universidad Autonoma de Baja California Ensenada

Matthes Podolsky, Sea of Shadows filmmaker

Kim Thompson, director, Seafood for the Future

Underwater Parks Day (Cabrillo Marine Aquarium)

Saturday, January 11, 2020

11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Join us for a celebration of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)! These areas, like parks on land, protect underwater marine resources for future generations to enjoy.

To celebrate MPAs and ocean conservation, CMA is participating in Underwater Parks Day. There will be speakers, presentations, interactive activities and handouts for visitors so they can learn more about MPAs, how MPAs work, and where MPAs are located in Southern California.

Similar activities are being held the same day at partner marine science centers including Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Ocean Institute in Dana Point, Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla, SeaLife Aquarium in Carlsbad, Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, Ty-Warner Sea Center in Santa Barbara and Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence – West.

Fee: FREE.

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