AltaSea: Trending – March 15, 2019

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


The Ocean Is Running Out of Breath, Scientists Warn (Scientific American)

Escaping predators, digestion and other animal activities—including those of humans—require oxygen. But that essential ingredient is no longer so easy for marine life to obtain, several new studies reveal.

In the past decade ocean oxygen levels have taken a dive—an alarming trend that is linked to climate change, says Andreas Oschlies, an oceanographer at the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel in Germany, whose team tracks ocean oxygen levels worldwide. “We were surprised by the intensity of the changes we saw, how rapidly oxygen is going down in the ocean and how large the effects on marine ecosystems are,” he says. 

It is no surprise to scientists that warming oceans are losing oxygen, but the scale of the dip calls for urgent attention, Oschlies says. Oxygen levels in some tropical regions have dropped by a startling 40 percent in the last 50 years, some recent studies reveal. Levels have dropped more subtly elsewhere, with an average loss of 2 percent globally.

The speedy secrets of mako sharks — ‘cheetahs of the ocean’ (ScienceDaily)

Shortfin mako sharks have been called the “cheetahs of the ocean,” capable of swimming at estimated speeds of 70 or 80 miles per hour. To investigate just how the animals achieve this impressive feat, aeronautical engineer Amy Lang of the University of Alabama and colleagues tested real mako shark skin samples, taken from the flank region of the animal, in water tunnel experiments.

A Troubling Discovery in the Deepest Ocean Trenches (The Atlantic)

Alan Jamieson remembers seeing it for the first time: a small, black fiber floating in a tube of liquid. It resembled a hair, but when Jamieson examined it under a microscope, he realized that the fiber was clearly synthetic—a piece of plastic. And worryingly, his student Lauren Brooks had pulled it from the gut of a small crustacean living in one of the deepest parts of the ocean.

For the past decade, Jamieson, a marine biologist at Newcastle University, has been sending vehicles to the bottom of marine trenches, which can be as deep as the Himalayas are tall. Once there, these landers have collected amphipods—scavenger relatives of crabs and shrimp that thrive in the abyss. Jamieson originally wanted to know how these animals differ from one distant trench to another. But a few years ago, almost on a whim, he decided to analyze their bodies for toxic, human-made pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which have been banned for decades but which persist in nature for much longer.

Key West Bans Sunscreen Containing Chemicals Believed to Harm Coral Reefs (The New York Times)

Key West, the sunny city at the southernmost tip of Florida, voted to ban the sale of sunscreen containing chemicals believed to harm coral reefs. The law’s supporters see it as a crucial step toward protecting the great treasure of the Florida Keys: the world’s third-largest barrier reef ecosystem, which runs nearly 150 miles, hosts thousands of species of marine life, and attracts divers and snorkelers from around the globe. The measure, which the City Commission approved in a 6-to-1 vote, will ban sales of sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. The legislation will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.


With Oceans in Grave Danger, Some Donors See Hope in Tech Solutions (Inside Philanthropy)

Ocean-centric funding has increasingly drawn the attention and backing of major philanthropies, and a recent gift of $1.5 million from Marc and Lynne Benioff to the Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) is a prime example. Oceans, which hold about 97 percent of our planet’s water, continue to undergo warming, pollution and species loss—ominous developments that explain the considerable amount of donor attention they receive.

A hopeful trend and movement is that young entrepreneurs are tackling ocean problems through the SOA initiative that the Benioffs just backed. Launched in 2014, it links young “ocean leaders” into local hubs in a network spanning 80 countries, and embraces emerging technologies like autonomous vessels, sensor prototypes, blockchain, big data and machine learning.

Scientists begin quest to explore Indian Ocean depths (Associated Press)

Scientists have set off early Wednesday on a mission to explore the depths of the Indian Ocean, one of the planet’s last great unexplored frontiers. 

The expedition is led by the Britain-based Nekton, an independent, non-profit research institute that works with the University of Oxford to increase scientific understanding of the oceans. It has chartered the Ocean Zephyr, a Danish-flagged supply ship, to explore the waters around the Seychelles, a collection of islands about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) east of the African coast, over a seven-week period.

This is the first of a half-dozen regions the Nekton Mission plans to explore before the end of 2022, when scientists will present their research at a summit on the state of the Indian Ocean.


Prodded by Students, BU Phases Out an Environmental Scourge: Plastic Straws (BU Today)

BU doesn’t have plastic straws at its residence dining halls. Yet it still went through 27,000 a year at retail sites (such as City Convenience stores and the George Sherman Union food court), Rhett’s West in Claflin Hall, and the Warren Towers Late Night Kitchen. That was before the University removed them from public sight and handed them out by request only. The reason? They’re unrecyclable.

Now, thanks to a student initiative, BU has done away with them altogether.

Last week, Dining Services switched over to completely paper straws, save for a few plastic sippers that will be made available for students with disabilities and injuries who need them to be able to drink.

18 Children’s Books About Female Scientists, Because STEM-inism Is The Future (Romper)

I remember when I took my first microbiology class. It was a general education class, and I was dreading it. This was a class I was destined to hate — or at least that’s what I was told. I had purchased the requisite expensive textbook, paid my lab dues, and sat far in the back. But later in that class, something magical happened. I fell in love with microbiology, even though I was told I’d hate it. I don’t want that kind of stereotype for my daughter, so I compiled a list of children’s books about female scientists that will hopefully inspire some future scientists of any gender.

Caltech’s “Einstein of Oceanography,” Walter Munk Dead at 101 (Pasadena Now)

Caltech alumnus Walter Munk, often called the “Einstein of oceanography,” passed away on February 8. He was 101 years old.

Munk’s early research on quantitative prediction of surf conditions was instrumental in ensuring the success of Allied amphibious landings during World War II.

As a professor of geophysics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla, California, he pioneered the use of sound waves for studying the ocean’s structure, demystified the phenomenon of tidal locking, and led a global study of sea temperature that conclusively demonstrated the reality of climate change.


Rising Tides Summit (HDX & Rising Tides Summit)

Wednesday, March 27 – Thursday, March 28

Starting at 8:30 AM

The Plaza at Cabrillo Marina, 2965 Via Cabrillo Marina, San Pedro, CA

On March 27th and 28th, influential leaders will gather once again in Los Angeles, CA for the Rising Tide Summit. This will be a gathering of like-minded individuals to discuss how we can all work together and find simple solutions in our everyday lives to drive the large scale ideas that will move the needle for a healthy ocean. The 2019 Rising Tide Summit is proudly being underwritten by X Prize Foundation, Marisla Foundation, and HDX Mix with additional support from AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles. 

Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.

City of STEM Science Festival Kickoff (City of STEM)

Saturday, April 6

10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Columbia Memorial Space Center, 12400 Columbia Way, Downey, CA

Visit the Columbia Memorial Space Center for tons of kid-oriented STEM activities & special guests! This festival will host dozens of cool STEM organizations like Virgin Orbit, the Natural History Museum, JPL, Tesla, and our local Marine Mammal Care Center’s Mobile Visiting Center!

Click here for more information.

Rally for Future Leaders of STEM (AltaSea)

Saturday, April 13

10:00 AM – 1:00 PM

2456 South Signal St. Berth 58, San Pedro

One of the great pioneers of the seas, Dr. Bob Ballard is best known to the public for discovering the RMS Titanic wreck, but in the world of ocean science Bob is just as renowned for discovering hydrothermal vents and “black smokers.” Pushing the boundaries of ocean engineering, technology, and education, there is no greater inspirational ocean explorer in the world than Bob Ballard and it is a rare opportunity for future and current generations of STEM leaders to be able to see him speak at AltaSea.  

AltaSea is a proud participant of City of STEM and dedicates this Open House to the next generation of scientists, engineers and oceanographers. Join us in turning to the ocean to solve some of mankind’s most pressing challenges.  

Click here for more information.

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