ocean 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.”

Juvenile sugar kelp on an Ocean Approved farm in the Gulf of Maine.
Brittney Honisch / Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

We tend to think of spring as planting time, but kelp farmers in the Gulf of Maine are in the midst of their annual harvest right now. Growers and ocean researchers say kelp could be a huge win-win-win – improving the local environment, boosting other fisheries, and all while providing a saleable food source.

Ten  years ago, there were no kelp farms in the northeast. Now, there are more than a dozen. So, what gives?

Many underwater vehicles developed at WHOI have been spun off as for-profit companies.
Elsa Partan

Later this week, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will accept one of three 2017 Vision Awards given by Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the state’s largest employer association.  

With about a thousand employees, WHOI is one of the largest employers on Cape Cod. But Mark Abbott, the Oceanographic’s president and director, says WHOI’s contributions go beyond the direct employment at the institution. 

The Gulf Oil Spill highlighted the need for better working relationships between academic scientists, industry, and government.
U.S. Coast Guard / Public Domain

War is generally pretty bad for the environment, and, understandably, the environment is not one of the military’s top priorities when at war. But more Navy officials are now asking questions about how to tread a bit more lightly on the environment, and some are getting scientists outside the military involved.

Chris Reddy is one example. He's a marine chemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who specializes in oil spills, and last year, he got an email from a Navy lieutenant commander asking for his help.

Salt Marshes Help Keep Us Above Water

Jan 23, 2017
A salt marsh on Plum Island, Mass.
S. Bond

We’ve learned recently from scientists at Umass Amherst that New England will probably experience more warming than the rest of the planet in the near future.

Most of the plastic in the ocean is smaller than your pinkie fingernail - microbeads, and pieces of broken plastic.
5 Gyres Institute

You may have heard that there’s a floating island of plastic trash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The truth is, there isn’t. In fact, the problem is far more insidious, more akin to smog. One estimate found that there are hundreds of thousands of tons of plastic - more than five trillion pieces, most about the size of a grain of rice - floating around in the world’s oceans.

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