Archive for the ‘Take Action!’ Category

Whalefest: Not Just a Tale of Whales

February 3, 2014

By Melissa Nehmens, PSRC

Whalefest banner 2014

Whalefest banner 2014

On January 25th and 26th, the Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf held its 4th annual Whalefest event to celebrate the migration of grey whales. Thanks to the efforts of fellow Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC) student, Kristin Walovich, the PSRC and Friends of Moss Landing Marine Labs, hosted a booth at the event, speaking to attendees and passersby about what Moss Landing Marine Labs is all about!

Table attractions for the PSRC included a dehydrated Mako shark head and shark fin from our museum collection, and an anatomical model of a great white that allows you to see the inside of a shark. An interactive matching game, created by PSRC student Jessica Jang, was another favorite allowing people to test their shark knowledge by matching a shark to its description and name. We also showcased a story done by Central Coast News, interviewing PSRC director, Dave Ebert, about the lab’s role in international shark research.

How well do you know your sharks? PSRC student, Vicky Vasquez, helps a girl figure it out.

How well do you know your sharks? PSRC student, Vicky Vasquez, helps a girl figure it out.

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Government Shutdown Causes Heartbreak and Hardship for Scientists

October 15, 2013

By Dorota Szuta

Benthic Ecology Lab

View of the Antarctic, photo by Clint Collins.

A research team at MLML has been conducting research in the Antarctic for many years, but this year their plans may be shutdown. View of the Antarctic, photo by Clint Collins.

To be honest, I was sure this would have been over by now. When the government shutdown first started, I didn’t think it could reasonably last more than a couple of days. Even now in the second week, many people are still not seeing serious ramifications of the shutdown in their own lives. I, however, am feeling its effects greatly.

I started the Moss Landing Marine Lab graduate program last year after working as a research assistant in the Benthic Ecology Lab for a couple of years. My thesis work focuses on changes in Antarctic bottom-dwelling communities along a depth gradient, under the guidance of Dr. Stacy Kim. I’ve taken this current semester off from coursework in order to go to Antarctica to do field work for three months. Despite not being in any classes, I’ve been surprisingly busy getting ready for the trip. In order to physically qualify to work in Antartica, there are a series of medical tests everyone must pass involving EKG’s, full dental x-rays, blood work, and vaccinations. The diving we were planning on doing in Antarctica is deep, in sub-zero temperatures, and under a thick sheet of ice—considerably different than diving here in the Monterey Bay, so I had a lot of dive training to complete. Our team (you can read more about our work here: http://scini-penguin.mlml.calstate.edu/) was scheduled to live in a field camp where we would be collecting data through a hole in the ice with our remotely operated vehicle (ROV) called SCINI, so since the summer we’ve been testing its functioning and practicing driving it. Needless to say, our engineers have been busy.

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Beyond the Obituaries: the shining stars of conservation work

June 17, 2013

Beyond the Obituaries: the shinning stars of conservation work

By Michelle Marraffini
Invertebrate Zoology and Molecular Ecology Lab

Coral Reef

Artist illustration of coral reef. Photo from library.thinkquest.org; illustration by Gina Mikel.

Conservation science can sometimes feel like it is all doom and gloom stories with reports of have few of a species are left or what factors may lead a species to go extinct. Dr. Knowlton, a career scientist with the Smithsonian, realized that after attending conferences and taking surveys of conservation scientist, people tend to think of conservation science as a losing business. Nancy Knowlton and her work on a project called “Beyond the Obituaries” is trying to change that image. She highlights stories of groups that make conservation work; they include fishing villages that enact their own Marine Protected Areas, species saved by local activists, protecting turtles and sharks by reducing by-catch, and many more success stories of ocean science. “I felt it was really important to give people a reason to think that there is something you can do” Dr. Knowlton explained when asked about her recent work. By focusing on solutions rather then failures, hopefully she will reassure people that there is still time to save the coral reefs and safeguard marine biodiversity around the world.

Saving the Oceans through positive thinking

Dr. Nancy Knowlton of the Smithsonian. Saving the oceans through the power of positive thinking. Photo from Smithsonian website

Dr. Knowlton recently gave a seminar at MLML and in an hour inspired many of our students to take a more positive outlook on science. By focusing on the victories and learning what works we can help preserve more of the world’s oceans for the future. So now I am challenging you to listen to Dr. Knowlton’s talk (linked below) and do your small part to save the world’s oceans and inspire those around you to do the same.

You can hear Dr. Knowlton’s “Beyond the Obituaries: Success Stories in Ocean Conservation” on youtube and find more information on their website. She also has a book with National Geographic!

Citizens of the Sea

Citizens of the Sea, National Geographic book by Nancy Knowlton

World Oceans Day 2013

June 8, 2013

Harbor Seal

Surfer

Help create a wave of change this World Oceans Day!  Today is a day to spread the word about conservation and our responsibility of improving the health of the oceans.  To find out ways to celebrate go to worldoceans.org.  Your promise to the oceans could be to start using a reusable water bottle or bringing reusable grocery bags to the store.  We will have a large positive impact on the health of the oceans if each one of us reduces the amount of plastic we use.  You can read in this article about MBARI’s observations of trash in the deep sea.  Of 1100+ observations of garbage in Monterey Bay, 32% were plastic and 23% metal.  Our impacts were detected as deep as 13,000 feet and 300 miles offshore.  We need to reduce our reliance on single use items!  Celebrate in your own way to rise up and be the voice of the ocean!

Giant Kelp

Rockfish

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One woman, one horse, and one dog: A 450-mile adventure!

May 17, 2013

by Angela Szesciorka, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Warning, this is about horses — terrestrial mammals, yes. But as you may know, cetaceans did come from an ungulate lineage. So settle down kids.

I wanted to tell you all a little bit about my sister’s upcoming epic journey.

On May 25, my sister, Samantha, will embark on a 28-day journey across Nevada on horseback.

Why you ask?

Because no one ever has!

This will be the first solo equestrian ride along the Nevada portion of the American Discovery Trail, the coast-to-coast trail across the United Stated from Point Reyes National Seashore in California to the Delmarva Peninsula in Delaware. (more…)

‘Spot a Basking Shark’ Project. How can you help save this endangered shark?

April 9, 2013
Photo by Greg Skomal

You can help the PSRC collect information to save the Basking Shark! Photo by Greg Skomal

By Kristin Walovich, Pacific Shark Research Center

Contrary to Hollywood’s portrayal of gigantic man-eating sharks, the three largest species of shark spend their time peacefully roaming the ocean’s surface munching on the ocean’s smallest creatures.  Basking Sharks, the second largest species of shark, cruise the seas in search of plankton, filtering up to 2,000 tons of water across its gills per hour. Reaching lengths of thirty five feet, this shark exists worldwide, yet very little is known about how they live or where they go.

To discover more information about this vulnerable species, scientists from the Pacific Shark Research Center (PSRC) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have begun a new type of shark hunt. Unlike the crazed and frantic scenes from the JAWS movie, this shark hunt only requires a boat, camera and telephone! The Spot a Basking Shark Project enlists the help of local sea-farers to uncover the demographics and distribution of the California Basking Shark.

Once common along the California coast, these gentle giants are now a rare sight. In the past, these social creatures were seen in schools of hundreds or thousands; however since 1993 no more than three basking sharks have been spotted together. Fishing and eradication efforts by fishermen who believed them to be ‘man-eaters’ contributed heavily to their population decline. Despite the fishery closure in the late 1950s, Basking Shark numbers have remained low, mostly due to human impacts like vessel strikes, fisheries bycatch and illegal shark fining. Based on the decline of Basking Shark numbers and lack of species information, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed this species as endangered.

If you see a Basking Shark, the PSRC and NMFS want to know! These sharks can be identified by their large size, pointed snouts, and large gill slits that encircle the head. Basking sharks have dorsal fins up to three feet tall that are visible as they slowly swim along the surface with mouths wide open catching plankton.  If you see a Basking Shark, call or email the PSRC with your location, date and time of the sighting and any photos or videos. Your information helps the PSRC document and understand these majestic and peaceful creatures.

Visit the PSRC Website to report a sighting and to learn more about Basking Sharks!

Photo by Andrew Parsons

The basking shark can filter 2,000 gallons of water per hour while searching for plankton. Photo by Andrew Parsons

Chronicles of a Curious Beachcomber

February 21, 2013

by Angela Szesciorka, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

A few Sundays ago — Super Bowl Sunday, in fact — I took a three-hour walk along the beach at Fort Ord in Monterey, CA with Don Glasco, a systems engineer and former cartographer.

This wasn’t a leisurely pursuit, but my volunteer service to the Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network’s (SIMoN) Coastal Ocean Mammal and Bird Education and Research Surveys, also known as Beach COMBERS.

I meet Don at Fort Ord Dunes State Park in Marina around 9 a.m. After downing the last of my coffee, we head out into the foggy morning.

Don Glasco referring to the almighty bird book to identify an unknown species by its toes. Photo by Angela Szesciorka.

Don Glasco referring to the almighty bird book to identify an unknown species by its toes.

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NOAA Budget Cuts: MLML Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Response Vanishing?

June 27, 2012

By Stephanie Hughes, Vertebrate Ecology Lab

If marine mammals are deemed the “canary in the coal mine” for our oceans, how can we predict threats to oceans and human health if funds that support long-term monitoring of these sentinels are eliminated?

The importance of monitoring the health of marine mammals goes beyond our “good Samaritan” duties of saving the cute and cuddly. Rescue and recovery attempts don’t always result in a happy ending, even though we hope for the best outcome. Regardless, our efforts are never in vain, for even failed attempts present us with the opportunity to discover clues for how the animal lived, so we may (hopefully) reveal how and why it died. Responding to diseased, injured, distressed, and even deceased marine mammals is our gateway to unveiling what these animals, and even humans, may be up against as environmental conditions are in flux.

The Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Response Network operates through the Vertebrate Ecology Laboratory (VEL) at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) and is a participant of the National Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program. The VEL-MLML stranding network has been in operation for over 20 years under the direction of Dr. Jim Harvey, professor and interim director of MLML. At its infancy, VEL-MLML stranding response, in collaboration with other stranding response organizations such as The Marine Mammal Center and Long Marine Laboratory, was conducted voluntarily.  Students, faculty, and members of the community would volunteer for rescuing, recovering, or collecting data on live and deceased stranded marine mammals. During the early years, equipment for stranding response was limited, thereby making the sample collection and storage to support long-term research difficult, though not impossible.  Volunteers often lacked proper transportation, sampling equipment, and protective gear, and many were without formal training on data or sample collection. Despite these shortcomings, dedicated volunteers would drag hundreds of pounds of dead, beached marine mammal heads, tails, flippers, etc. (yes, without latex gloves) through miles of sand dunes, then would strap their prized possession on top of their ’78 Toyota pick up, tails and flippers flapping in the wind on Highway 1 as they returned to the lab. During the early 1990s, the VEL-MLML stranding network had many willing, committed, and dedicated volunteers (still does). What it didn’t have were sufficient funds to support the infrastructure necessary for rapid, large scale, and long-term stranding response.

(more…)

Happy World Ocean Day June 8th 2012!

June 8, 2012

Help create a wave of change this World Ocean Day!  Today is a day to spread the word about conservation and our responsibility of improving the health of the ocean.  To find out ways to celebrate go to worldoceans.org.  Today I am continuing to make a lifestyle change and rode my bike to get to the UC Santa Cruz library to study and make this post!  Celebrate in your own way to rise up and be the voice of the ocean!

To Meet a Giant: Responding to a Stranded Baby Gray Whale

February 13, 2012

(photo: KSBW, Amy Larson)

Brynn Hooton-Kaufman

by Brynn Hooton-Kaufman

It started as any good weekend day might.  A good cup of coffee, a good book, and a view of the bay.  I like to park my car looking out over the tidepools at Asilomar and read, letting the crashing waves add interesting sound effects to whatever scene is playing out in my current novel of choice.  Knee deep in Jurassic Park, the waves were bringing to life velociraptors crashing through the forest.  Intimidating and terrifying, those velociraptors.  But you can’t help but admire them, and the juveniles sound pretty cute.  Given the chance, I’d probably take a baby velociraptor for a pet.  At least until it started stalking me around the house.

When the sounds of my empty stomach started overpowering the thundering waves, I headed home to make some lunch and get things in order for the coming week.  Not two steps into the kitchen my phone buzzed, signaling the arrival of a text message.  More often than not, I’d have ignored it, as hunger usually wins out in my ranking of priorities.  But as all things happen for a reason, I decided to take a look, and so for once, my phone didn’t get forgotten for hours on end as it usually does.

“hey gray whale calf alive and stranded near monterey dunes colony.  TMMC is headed to the scene, we may need ur help!  r u available today?”

I had to read the message twice.  As much as people might think all marine biologists spend hours on end with dolphins, whales, and other majestic creatures of the sea, learning their mannerisms, capable of identifying any sleek shape that might be surfacing in the bay on a giving day, I hadn’t actually even seen a whaleup close.  My closest call was a pod of orcas sighted from the bow of the Point Sur during a class cruise, and I just caught a glimpse of their backs as they headed away.  Usually, my most intimate experience with whales was seeing the poof of sea spray that they leave like a footprint above the water, the proof that one of the giants had just taken a great breath before submerging.  I really don’t know much about whales.  I study seaweed.   (more…)


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