And now for something truly scary

Erin Loury

Erin Loury

by Erin Loury, Ichthyology Lab

Since it’s Halloween, I just wanted to share something that will really scare the squarepants off your sponge  – or at least it should if you’re a marine scientist, educator, or communicator because it shows how frighteningly far we are from helping the “general public” understand how the ocean works.

The actual inspiration for this blog came in part from Dr. Kenneth Coale, chemical oceanography professor and valiant director of MLML, sharing the following article with our chem oce class earlier this year.  The December 2007 issue of Oceanography contains an article by Dr. Robert Feller, who shares a list of misconceptions about the ocean that he has gathered over the years.  Many are the top response in multiple choice polls he gives to his non-science undergraduate classes using “clicker” devices (which let students answer anonymously and see everyone’s answers displayed on a screen).

You can view the full article by clicking here.  While some of the 110 misconceptions are humorous (e.g. #67. “Sea monkeys” are really some sort of marine monkeys,” and #104. “Sailors can outdrink and outcurse anyone” – wait, that’s a misconception?), most indicate that we as marine scientists clearly have a long way to go to help people understand the system that we study, and the work that we do.  (And lo, “The Drop-In” was born!)

I’ll admit, some definitely give me cause for pause (like #39. “A water spout is not the same thing as a tornado” – uh, what’s a water spout?  Thank goodness for Wikipedia), but most are enough to make your blood run cold.   Here are some of my personal favorites that we’ll try to dispel on “The Drop-In” (Mythbusters style!) in the future.

  • 9. The deep sea is stagnant, never changes.
  • 15. The ocean is basically a bowl, deepest in the middle.
  • 23. The three big oceans are not connected; each acts alone.
  • 47. Table salt + water = seawater.
  • 48. Salty oceans are not linked to land’s freshwater cycle.
  • 53. High latitudes, being cold, must be unproductive.
  • 68. A sponge is a sponge is a sponge; same for nematodes. [Surely Amanda will have something to say about this one!]
  • 77. Sharks are out to eat humans, thus shark attacks are
  • 79. Whales spout water through their blow holes.
  • 90. Fishermen don’t catch enough bycatch to have to change
    their fishing methods.
  • 98. All areas of the ocean are monitored regularly—we’re
    on top of it.  [Wow – it’s great they think so highly of us but...]

And perhaps most frightening of all:

  • 100) The ocean is like a sponge, so just dump stuff in and it will absorb it.

Does it surprise you to discover that some of these things aren’t true?  Can you think of reasons why that might be?  We’ll try to get to the bottom of these in future posts, but feel free to post your thoughts in the meantime.

And for all you scientists out there, good luck sleeping tonight….bwahaha.

This entry was posted in Erin Loury, Take Action!, teacher feature and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to And now for something truly scary

  1. Amanda Kahn says:

    68. A sponge is a sponge is a sponge; same for nematodes.

    Gah!! The only way that that statement is true is if by “sponge” they mean “Superbly Prominent Organism of well over Ninety Genera and diverse Ecological niches.” There are currently 3 classes, 7 subclasses, 24 orders, 127 families and 682 valid genera of living sponges (Source: Systema Porifera). Check out the World Porifera Database to see how many diverse species of sponges there are:

    39. “A water spout is not the same thing as a tornado”

    I’ve never heard of a water spout either! The first thing that came to my mind involved an itsy bitsy spider!


  2. The “You can download the full article by clicking here” link wasn’t working for me.


  3. mlmlblog says:

    The link to the article has been fixed. Thank you for bringing that to our attention!


  4. Kyle Reynolds says:

    When I worked as a research assistant in the Gulf of Mexico, we used to have to outrun waterspouts in our boat at times! They aren’t nearly as powerful as tornadoes or hurricanes, but they can definitely get your heart racing!!


  5. Pingback: Saying Thanks to Dr. Kenneth Coale « The Drop-In to Moss Landing Marine Labs

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