A biweekly round-up of news and trends important to the AltaSea community.
Possible New Octopus Species Found Near Hawaii, Scientists Say (Los Angeles Times)
In the cutest news of the week, scientists have discovered a possible new octopus species off the coast of Hawaii. The pale “ghost” octopus lives on the ocean floor at depths beyond those where octopuses without fins have ever been found. Casper, as it is being called on social media, was discovered thanks to a remotely operated vehicle from NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer.
Octopuses are the talk of the ocean community! This time they’re inspiring innovation. A research team at Cornell University has created a stretchable luminescent “skin” that could be used to help robots feel. The fabric is extremely stretchable, can sense strain and can emit light from the areas it feels with. The team was inspired by octopuses because they have similar needs as the robots, like the ability to disguise themselves and stretch.
Researchers in Okinawa, Japan have published their proposed design for a submerged marine turbine that can harness ocean currents as a renewable energy source in the journal Renewable Energy. The design is a hybrid of a kite and a wind turbine. The turbine would be anchored to the seabed, while its position in the current would turn the blades, generating near-constant electricity. Because water is denser than air, even slow ocean currents are comparable to strong winds. The turbines would be placed 100 meters below the surface in the middle of the Kuroshio Current, which flows steadily and calmly even during violent storms.
Sustainable and Innovative Business
A new dispute between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bayer Cropscience has the pesticide industry worried and activists who are pushing for stronger regulation, hopeful. The EPA has “conditionally” approved thousands of pesticides, pending the results of further studies that assure the chemical’s safety; a process critics say has turned into an easy way for companies to start selling their products without really proving they are safe. Now, the EPA is considering cancelling the approval of
flubendiamide, a pesticide that holds a “conditional” approval. The EPA’s main concern about the pesticide is its accumulation in water, which they have now concluded is likely. Though flubendiamide isn’t the most ubiquitous pesticide, the decision to cancel its approval could indicate the beginning of increased scrutiny from the agency and increased protection of our water and other natural resources.
Australia Is Testing Drones To Spot Sharks In The Water (Fast Company)
Giving up surfing is not an option for most Australians, despite the ever-present threat of shark attacks, so they’re testing a shark-spotting drone. The “Little Ripper” can fly for an hour on a charge and will carry cameras that developers hope can be used for shark spotting. The drone is a traditional helicopter style, which provides stability in crosswinds, and will carry an inflatable raft and tracker beacon that can be dropped on anyone in trouble to keep them out of the water until a manned helicopter can arrive to rescue them. Though the idea sounds promising, it’s not yet clear how the drone would spot sharks or announce their presence.
Girls Rule at Ocean Science Conference (OC Register)
One hundred middle school girls from Orange, San Diego and Los Angeles counties attended a girls-only ocean science conference at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, California. The event, which included presentations aboard the institute’s research vessel and at the institute’s labs, was part of an 11-year effort to get girls in middle and high school interested in all types of ocean sciences with hands-on training and workshops. Eight women scientists, including marine mammal veterinarian Julie Goldstein, were also on hand to help the girls explore careers in areas like oceanography, marine ecology, biochemistry and deep sea science. Goldstein said, “Meeting and working with accomplished female scientists gives the girls an opportunity to see they can do the same thing.”
Developers Reveal Plans for $100-Million Makeover of Ports O’ Call (Los Angeles Times)
City officials and developers unveiled plans earlier this month for a $100-million makeover to the aging Ports O’Call village in San Pedro. The new “San Pedro Public Market” will feature restaurants, an amphitheater, fresh markets, retail shops and small offices. The beloved Red Car will also run through the new market. The project will be privately financed by the developers, while the Port of Los Angeles is paying to upgrade the infrastructure in the area. Construction is expected to begin in 2017.
Marine Life Thrives in Unlikely Place: Offshore Oil Rigs (The New York Times)
Eight miles off the coast of Long Beach sits the oil rig Eureka. Above the surface it’s an eyesore, but just beneath the surface sea lions swim, crustaceans and invertebrates carpet the pylons and fish flourish. The 40-year-old structure has become a sort of artificial reef, supporting local marine life. But environmental groups are torn about “rig to reef” programs that would allow Eureka’s and other rigs’ pylons to be left in place after the oil rig is decommissioned. Supporters argue that the rigs have developed ecosystems that should be left alone, while detractors say that oil companies should have to pay to remove the pylons and restore the ocean to its former state.
Michael Greenberg, CEO of Skechers and a Manhattan Beach resident, donated $1.26 million in honor of his late son to help renovate the Roundhouse Aquarium, which sits at the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier. Because the renovation will likely cost $2.5 million, Greenberg has offered to work to raise additional money, with a goal of finishing the renovation by Fall 2017. Despite the generous donation for the renovation, Roundhouse officials want the community to know they still need financial support to continue regular operations.