A monthly round-up of news and trends important to the AltaSea community.
My Depressing Summers in Belize (New York Times)
Marine Ecologist John Bruno describes the declining state of coral reefs in the Caribbean. Since 2009 his team has been annually surveying 16 reefs across the Belizean Barrier Reef, half of which are inside a protected reserve. They have found that local conservation is largely ineffective in stopping coral loss. Even the most remote marine ecosystems in the Central Pacific and the North Atlantic and around Antarctica are being radically altered as oceans warm and become more acidic.
No one said regrowing Southern California’s endangered native abalone populations in labs would be easy.
The Aquarium of the Pacific and AltaSea partner, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, both failed to coerce white abalone adults to spawn in this year’s annual attempt. Since abalone only breed at certain times of the year, they will wait until 2018 to try again.
But all is not lost for the beloved species — only found in waters off Southern California and Baja.
“We definitely had a banner year despite the lack of spawning Thursday,” Kristin Aquilino, a scientist heading the regional effort at UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory. “Since March, we spawned more than 20,000 juveniles. It’s definitely the most we’ve ever had.”
Deep-sea exploration pioneer Robert Ballard and his team of marine researchers, media producers and engineers will set sail Friday to uncover hidden secrets of the ocean depths.
“We’re going to go to the unknown America,” Ballard said, as his team loaded up the 211-foot-long Exploration Vessel Nautilus with supplies for the journey on Thursday.
They’re scheduled to depart in the afternoon from their home base at San Pedro’s AltaSea research campus, an emerging collective of cutting edge ocean-based technology companies. Ballard is building a team of ocean-going robots there that can multiply his exploration efforts, adding to his command center in Connecticut.
The team broadcasts its progress live, all day, every day at nautiluslive.org/expedition/2017. They encourage questions from the public — and answer them — with the help of a global team of scientists.
SUSTAINABLE AND INNOVATIVE BUSINESS
Fans of DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda films may recognize a friendly face in Datong, China’s Panda Power Plant. The 248-acre solar farm was designed to look like a cute panda, and many see a striking resemblance with a particular cub from the franchise. The black sections are monocrystalline silicon (the light-absorbing part of most solar panels) while the white parts are made of second-generation solar technology known as thin film cells.
This solar farm is just the first of 100 planned solar stations shaped like China’s national animal to be built over the next five years. The farms were designed to promote green energy—especially with young people. The hope is that the kid-friendly design paired with on-site eco summer camps and youth-focused design contests, organized by the UN Development Programme and China Merchants New Energy, will inspire the country’s youth to become future leaders in green energy.
When finished, the Datong Panda Power Plant will be able to provide 3.2 billion kWh of green electricity over 25 years, saving over a million tons of coal, or reducing 2.74 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
Producing up to 500 million pounds of oysters each year, the Gulf Coast region of the United States is a shellfish haven: The area accounts for 67% of the oysters consumed in the U.S. But each oyster slurped down leaves behind a shell, and recycling those shells—instead of sending them to landfill—could actually be the key to rebuilding a coastal region decimated by natural and manmade disasters.
Last October, the Alabama Coastal Foundation (ACF), a nonprofit dedicating to protecting the state’s coastal environment, teamed up with the waste-management company Republic Services to launch an oyster-shell recycling program in the region. It began with just a few restaurants: A designated representative from Republic Services would drive out at 3 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to collect shells left over by diners, and bring them to a nature preserve where they can aerate and “cure” for several months before being returned to the ocean. The program has since scaled up to 29 restaurants, and Mark Berte, the executive director of the ACF, tells Fast Company that interest keeps growing.
While it’s common practice among seafood restaurants to send their empty shells to landfill with the rest of their waste, a handful of regions are beginning to put the shells to more productive use by returning them to the ocean, where they become the building blocks of restored oyster beds.
Shark Attacks and the Truth About Sharks (OC Register)
Shark encounters have increased significantly in the ocean off Southern California. Worldwide, there were 109 unprovoked shark attacks in 2015, which included 9 fatalities. Sharks sometimes attack defensively, when a human has strayed into their waters, or accidentally, when they mistake a human for their preferred meal. In both cases, the shark almost always leaves after just one bite. (Download full-size poster)
The key to saving the highly endangered vaquita porpoise could be specially trained dolphins — at least, that’s what the Mexican government is hoping.
The BBC reported on Saturday that Mexico’s government plans to deploy dolphins specially trained by the United States Navy in an effort to find and gather vaquita porpoises.
The vaquita porpoise is the most endangered marine species in the world, the BBC reported, and experts estimate that fewer than 40 of them remain in their natural habitat, namely Mexico’s Gulf of California.
How to Eavesdrop on Kelp (Science News)
If kelp growing in an underwater forest makes a sound, such noises could be used to keep tabs on ocean health.
Listening to how projected sound reverberates through kelp beds allows scientists to eavesdrop on environmental factors such as water temperature and photosynthetic activity, bioacoustician Jean-Pierre Hermand reported June 28 at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America.
Kelp beds and forests, valuable ecosystems that house all sorts of marine life, may help buffer the effects of warmer and increasingly acidic waters (SN Online: 12/14/16). But such communities are also threatened by invasive species and aren’t immune to the effects of climate change, making monitoring kelp crucial, said Hermand, of the Université libre de Bruxelles in Belgium.
Hermand and colleagues set up microphones in Canoe Bay off Tasmania in Australia. There, Ecklonia radiata, a dominant kelp species in Australia’s reefs, grows thickly. For two weeks, the researchers deployed an underwater device that emitted a chirp every second. The underwater microphones — two in the kelp canopy and two above the canopy — recorded the chirps bouncing off everything in the environment from oxygen bubbles from photosynthesis burbling up from the kelp to the kelp itself to the water’s surface.
Luis G. Mora is a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, teaching seventh graders in the Harry Bridges Span School in Wilmington, California, near the Port of Los Angeles. Mora was chosen as a Science Communication Fellow as part of the Community STEM partnership between AltaSea and Ocean Exploration Trust designed to connect Los Angeles-area educators and learners with ocean researchers aboard OET’s exploration vessel, E/V Nautilus. This post and subsequent ones from Mora will detail some of his experiences while aboard the ship as part of the fellowship program.
Friday, August 04, 2017 – 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Arctic Climate, as Documented by Algal Rocks
Lecture to Feature Professor Branwen Williams, Claremont McKenna College
Human-caused climate change is warming Arctic temperatures and melting Arctic sea ice. These changes are occurring faster than those in other regions around our planet, in part because of important sea ice-temperature dynamics. Yet records of Arctic change are largely limited to the era of satellite observations because of the logistical difficulties in collecting data in the cold, remote high-latitude environment. Fortunately, encrusting coralline algae, a species of plant that forms a hard, rock-like skeleton encodes surrounding environmental conditions into its skeleton
These algae grow for hundreds of years on the shallow sea floor in the Arctic providing invaluable records of climate change both during and preceding a human influence. Professor Williams will explain the process of collecting these algae from their extreme habitats, extracting the climate information recorded in their skeletons, and interpreting the information in the context of longer-term natural and human-caused climate change.
Professor Branwen Williams is an Oceanographer who uses the skeletons of marine organisms as tools to understand recent changes in the climate. She has worked throughout the world’s oceans from the tropics to the poles, focusing primarily on extracting records of oceanic and atmospheric change from the skeletons of coralline algae and corals. Branwen is a Canadian transplant who now calls California home. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marine and Freshwater Biology from the University of Guelph, a Master’s degree in Biology from the University of Quebec, and a Ph.D. in Geology from the Ohio State University. She is current an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at the Claremont Colleges.
For more information and to register click here.
Saturday, August 19th and September 16th – 2:00 – 6:00 PM
The San Pedro Historic Waterfront Business Development District in collaboration with the San Pedro Waterfront Arts District is excited to announce an experimental Third Saturday ArtWalk. The dates will be Saturday, August 19th & September 16th 2017, from 2:00-6:00pm.
The PBID and the Arts District invite the public to explore the galleries and artist lofts, dine in our unique eateries and stay for a show or listen to music at local bars and restaurants.
The Third Saturday ArtWalk activities will include:
- Over 30 artists and galleries
- Free PBID Trolleys
- Alex Smith Jazz Trio in front of Sirens
- Free Guided ArtWalk Tours at 2:30 and 4:30pm, leaving from Sirens – 357 West 7th St.
The PBID and the Arts District want to add a weekend ArtWalk in order to give “out of area” art patrons a chance to visit our artists and galleries. This effort is in addition to the 20 year old First Thursday ArtWalk, which is still going strong.