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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The hotline rang at 2pm and I quickly ran across the lab to grab the phone, excited to find out what new adventure awaited me. “Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Stranding Network, this is Lauren,” I answered. The caller had been out for a walk on Del Monte Beach in Monterey, California and had stumbled upon a deceased California sea lion. He relayed to me his location and a brief description of the animal. I thanked him for reporting the sea lion to our hotline, packed up my equipment and headed out the door, excited for another glamorous (or maybe not) day of marine mammal field work!
What stresses you out? As a 24-year-old graduate student, I use the phrase “I’m stressed” at least once a day. I’m sure most readers can relate. Between classes, thesis deadlines, work, and rent, there are a lot of things that make my cortisol levels rise daily.
A blackeye goby next to its hole. Photo taken by Kristin Saksa at Stillwater Cove, Pebble Beach.
My personal stressors inspired me to study how stress affects a common Monterey Bay fish: the blackeye goby (Rhinogobiops nicholsii). I know what you’re thinking… what could possibly stress out a fish? Didn’t Sebastian from The Little Mermaid sing a whole song about how “life under the sea is better than anything they got up there?” Well, it turns out there are a lot of things that cause a fish’s heart to race and cortisol to spike. Anything from predators being nearby to a slight increase in temperature is enough to set off a full stress response. Continue reading