Science is creative, creativity is science

By Hannah Bruzzio, MLML Ichthyology Lab

Growing up we often feel like we have to put ourselves in boxes. Being asked, “What’s your favorite subject?” and not being expected to have more than one. I liked science, knew I would be a scientist one day and never put much thought into what else I could be good at. I was always told I was a creative person, that I was a right-brained creative, but I liked science so that was what I was going to stick with.

Stereotypes exist on both sides to help recognize what a child might be good at throughout their schooling and maybe set them on a career path early in life. These ‘standard’ traits are often on opposite sides of the spectrum, with a right-brained, free-thinking creative sending you on a path to be an artist, and a left-brained, rigid, plan-oriented book worm on the other leading you to science. However, these basic human traits don’t hold up in either field in the real world and should never restrict someone to one path in life. Some of the most creative people I have met have been peers in the lab and some friends who are artists are some of the more methods-orientated people I know. There is no such thing as boxes, and it is the blending of these traits that can really make someone excel in their field. Continue reading

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What is a marine heat wave?

By Sierra Fullmer, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Do you know what a marine heat wave is? Imagine being outside in the peak heat of summer, walking in what feels like a sea of heat. Heat waves, during which temperatures are much hotter than normal, occur in the oceans as well as on land. An unusual warming of the ocean can have many cascading effects, not just for the organisms living in the water, but also those on land which rely upon the ocean’s resources. This was demonstrated in 2014, when the Alaskan ‘warm blob’ became a trending phrase, even outside of the scientific community. This unusual hot spot in the North Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Alaska reached a peak in 2016, ranking in the top five heat anomalies ever recorded. During this time, the top 100-300 meters of the ocean warmed up to two degrees Celsius, or three point six degrees Fahrenheit. That’s enough water to reach from one to three American football fields deep! It may not seem like that much of a difference but imagine how much energy is required just to heat a small pot of water. Now scale that up to the size of the Gulf of Alaska, and three football fields deep.

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A glimpse into the shifting community structure of a Southern California kelp forest and the benefits of long-term monitoring

By Lauren Parker, MLML Ichthyology Lab

I can’t tell you how much I miss spending the majority of my day underwater. It’s difficult to communicate the feeling it gives you; the feeling that you have somehow been given the opportunity to glimpse another world, one that most people never get to see. As a marine scientist spending a select few glorious (for the most part) hours in that world, I am tasked with collecting data. I record pages and pages of species codes and numbers, I count things and I measure them. I take copious amounts of photos.

I was a research SCUBA diver for the Partnership for the Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), monitoring the kelp forest around the northern Channel Islands in Southern California. Most of my days were spent waking up before the sun, loading dive gear into the boat, racing dolphins and dodging migrating whales across the Santa Barbara Channel so that we could dive all day long. We’d race the sunset back to the harbor just to do it all again the next day. Continue reading

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Could seaweed be a pollution solution?

By Shelby Penn, MLML Phycology Lab

As a child, I remember spending hours collecting trash from the street ditch, woods, and ravine around my house. It was something that I felt very strongly about even as an 8-year old. I’ve never been able to understand how someone could just throw their trash out the car window without a second thought. Today, as an avid outdoor enthusiast, tour guide, and lover of all things nature, or as I like to call it “neature”, helping out mother nature has now become a passion and life-long pursuit.

Chemical pollution is a huge problem across the globe and many contaminants are released into the natural environment daily. Concern over chemical pollution can be dated back as far as the 13th century when England’s King Edward I wanted to use penalties to reduce air pollution if the residents of London did not stop burning coal. This threat, however, had little effect, and it was not until after the industrial revolution that the concern of pollution resurfaced. Continue reading

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Living among emperor penguins: 2019 field expedition to Antarctica

by Parker Forman, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Transcript of radio chatter from the penguin scientists at Camp Crozier 13:15 hrs on November 15th 2019:

Markus: Gitte and Parker ……. This is Markus ……. Do you copy?

Gitte: This is Gitte and Parker …….. We copy ………. Over

Markus: Penguin 5 has returned to the colony! ……. David and I have eyes on ……. Penguin 5 ……… Over

Gitte: Markus …….. We will meet you at the colony …….. Clear Continue reading

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How does pollution ‘coral’ate with coral bleaching in American Samoa?

By Melissa Naugle, CSUMB Logan Lab & MLML Invertebrate Ecology Lab

You may have heard stories about the Great Barrier Reef and coral reefs worldwide that are succumbing to ‘coral bleaching.’ Maybe you’ve seen the pictures of stark white corals devoid of the fish and other creatures that make a reef healthy and colorful. But what exactly is coral bleaching and what is it like to study it?

When corals bleach, they lose their symbiotic partner, microscopic algae called zooxanthellae. Zooxanthellae provide the majority of the coral’s diet by converting energy from the sun into food for the coral. As a response to stressful changes in their surroundings, zooxanthellae will abandon their coral host, leaving behind a pale and hungry coral skeleton. Often, the corals never recover their zooxanthellae and die of starvation. Continue reading

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Improving soil health on farms: better for the farmer, better for the planet

by Stefanie Kortman, CSUMB Haffa Lab

The author collecting soil greenhouse gas measurements on a farm during a cover crop season. Partnerships between growers and researchers help advance the understanding of soil health practices and how they can benefit farmers and the environment.

My research in sustainable agriculture practices was born from two passions: my love of food and my concern for protecting and preserving natural resources. I came into my role as an agricultural scientist in the world-renowned farming valleys of the Monterey Bay region. (One of these valleys—the Salinas Valley—is even called “The Salad Bowl of the World” for all the produce it exports.) In my work, I examine how different farm management practices influence soil and the production of greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Before I started my research, I never thought of soil as a source of greenhouse gas emissions and didn’t know how the process of growing food can cause more to go into our atmosphere than are naturally produced in the soil by microorganisms. I have come to learn that agriculture is in fact an important source of human-induced greenhouse gases. It’s estimated to contribute 19–29% of total greenhouse gas emissions, while transportation accounts for 14%. With agriculture soil management heralded as a top solution for drawing down global carbon dioxide levels to mitigate climate change, farmers are increasingly expected to adopt practices that reduce emissions and store, or sequester, carbon in soil while still providing our growing population with essential food products. The solution is in the soil. My goal is to help show farmers how to keep their soil healthy. It benefits both their farming and the environment. Continue reading

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Saving sea turtles from cold stunning

By Daphne Shen, MLML Vertebrate Ecology Lab

Every October, animal rehabilitation facilities around the northeast gear up for another sea turtle cold stun season. Cold stunning for sea turtles is similar to hypothermia for people, and typically occurs in November and December. As the ocean temperature drops below about 10°C (50°F), a sea turtle’s body shuts down. Since they are cold-blooded, their body temperatures are close to that of the surrounding water. Once they get too cold, sea turtles become lethargic and are no longer able to swim or eat, and end up at the mercy of the currents.

These turtles, usually juveniles, wash up on beaches around Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Long Island, New York. They can be found traveling up the East Coast with the Gulf Stream and spending their summers feeding in the waters off the coast of New England. As the water cools down, sea turtles should instinctively migrate back south towards Florida and the Caribbean. The problem is that many animals get caught in bays and can’t figure out how to navigate back to the open ocean, eventually succumbing to cold stunning when the water rapidly cools. Continue reading

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A picture is worth a thousand words: using underwater photography to predict coral reef recovery

By Caroline Rodriguez, MLML Invertebrate Ecology Lab & CSUMB Logan Lab

If you have seen photos of coral reefs, you probably agree that coral reefs are beautiful, colorful seascapes. Coral reefs are indeed picturesque, but they are also extremely important to humans for a number of reasons. Coral reefs protect coastlines from storm surges and erosion, support local economies through tourism, and uphold diverse ecosystems that sustain important fisheries. The services of reefs are valued at $375 billion per year and 25% of fish depend on these key habitats.

Despite their economic and ecological value, coral reefs around the world are dying. Pollution and overfishing contribute to coral decline, but increasing ocean temperatures from greenhouse gas emissions is the most severe threat to coral reefs. Continue reading

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Go Fish? Fisheries management in the face of climate change

By Katie Neylan, MLML Ichthyology Lab

As a graduate student in the Moss Landing Marine Labs (MLML) Ichthyology Lab, I spend a lot of time thinking about fish. Over the years, I have become aware of the importance of effective resource management. Healthy fish stocks are crucial as they are a main protein source for over three billion people globally. To ensure that there will be fish in the ocean for future generations, we must ask ourselves how our ocean resources are managed and how our fisheries will be affected by climate change.

One of the earliest forms of fisheries management consisted of exclusive fishing grounds. People would only fish in designated boundaries. This gave fishermen incentive to only fish for what was needed in order to conserve the population for future years. Most countries in the world have now switched to more modern policies. Today, fisheries managers make decisions that are informed by scientists to determine catch limits, gear restrictions, and no-fish zones (marine reserves), to name a few. The goal of these restrictions is to prevent overfishing and ensure fish stocks are healthy for long-term harvesting. However, the effects of climate change add another layer of complexity to the management of marine resources. Continue reading

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