ocean science

National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Woods Hole, MA Labels by Syagria / Public Domain

The waters off New England’s coast are warming faster than 99.9% of the world’s oceans. A new study finds that summer-like conditions in the Gulf of Maine now last two months longer than they did just a few decades ago. And that's not necessarily a good thing.

Scientists have known for a handful of years that the waters off the northeast coast are warming at an unusually rapid rate. Over the course of thirty three years, the average temperature has gone up about one degree. But the warming hasn't happened steadily.

Mud plumes follow Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawlers like con trails follow airplanes.
NASA image by Jesse Allen, data from Univ. Maryland Global Land Cover Facility. / Public Domain

Roughly a fifth of all fish eaten globally are caught using nets towed along the bottom of the ocean. There’s long been concern that this method – known as trawling – destroys or severely damages the ecosystems where it’s used. Now, a new meta-analysis of the science available on this topic offers some quantification of the impacts of different type of trawls.  

The team aboard the E/V Nautilus explores the deep sea using a remotely operated vehicle equipped with cameras and tools for bringing back samples of rocks or marine life.
Courtesy of OET/Nautilus Live

Amy Fleischer is a teacher at Nauset Regional Middle School. But for most of July, she’s part of a team exploring California’s Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and mapping the seafloor aboard the exploration ship E/V Nautilus. One of the main goals of the mission is to find where the coastline was during the last ice age.

PapaDunes goo.gl/JuSiDF / goo.gl/OOAQfn

What does the ocean mean to you? How do you interact with the sea? Maybe you enjoy fishing, or enjoy eating what others have caught. Maybe you own a home on the water, or relish long days at a favorite beach. Maybe you’re worried about climate change and sea level rise; maybe you’re not.

We are all connected to the ocean, through weather, climate, and the very air we breathe (marine life produces half the oxygen in the atmosphere). But everyone experiences that connection differently.

Adityamadhav83 / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

For as long as there’s been an ocean, there have been tides. Twice a day, every day. By now, you’d think we’d have a pretty good scientific handle on tides. And we do. But there are still plenty of questions, even mysteries.

In his new book Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean, Jonathan White weaves a tale of our changing understanding of the tides. It's a story that goes back millenia, but our modern understanding of tides is closely tied to the emergence of modern science.

As water temperatures rise, southern New England is losing its lobsters.
Derek Keats, Wikimedia Commons / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

When it comes to the iconic fisheries of New England, lobster is a close second only to cod. But lobsters are not faring well in the waters off southern New England. In fact, on a ten-point scale, lobster biologist Kari Lavalli of Boston University puts the population at a three.

Beth Casoni, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association, says lobsters south and west of Cape Cod have faced “a multitude of stressors.” Lavalli agrees, but points the finger primarily at climate change. Both say this is definitely not the fault of those who catch and eat lobsters.

Loral O'Hara, a research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, is one of twelve new NASA astronaut candidates.
Courtesy of NASA / Public Domain

NASA's new class of astronaut candidates will likely have a shot at being among the first humans to visit Mars. That, plus media coverage of commercial space flight and a major social media push, may have contributed to a record 18,300 applicants. In the end, twelve were selected, including Loral O'Hara, a research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (for two more months).

A great white shark attacks a seal decoy off Cape Cod.
Courtesy of Brian Skerry

For decades, public perceptions of sharks have been shaped by images of man-eating monsters, like Jaws. Award-winning underwater photographer Brian Skerry would like to change that. His new book, Shark, is a collection of vivid, up-close photographs with stories written by Skerry and his colleagues at National Geographic Magazine.

Skerry was only twenty years old the first time he encountered a shark face-to-face. After hours in a shark cage seeing nothing, a female blue shark emerged from the murky water.

Fitbit for Sharks

May 29, 2017
Fitbit-like tags researchers like Nick Whitney about what sharks have been up to.
OCEARCH/Robert Snow / OCEARCH/Robert Snow

People track how much exercise they get using a Fitbit, and now there’s a similar device for sharks.

These accelerometer tags use the same computer chip as the human Fitbit and track how many times a day a shark beats its tail, any changes in body pitch and posture, and the shark’s orientation in the water. All that, plus the depth and temperature of the water.

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area in the Repbublic of Kiribati gives some ocean watchers reason for optimism
Sea Education Association / bit.ly/2ramaT0

What if saving the oceans is a matter of changing our mindset?

That’s the question nagging at Jeff Wescott, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole.

“One thing that really interests me is how the ocean compels us to think about the future,” Wescott told Living Lab Radio. “It’s sort of a medium for thinking about where we are going as a species.”

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