The Ocean Blog

Sneak Peek: Future of Coral Reefs in an Acidifying Ocean

Scientists don’t often get the opportunity to travel through time. But nestled among the beautiful coral reefs of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a place that provides a glimpse today of what could be the biggest future threat to coral reef survival: ocean acidification . Ocean acidification is occurring because the ocean has absorbed about a third of the carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels . That carbon is changing the chemistry of the ocean, making seawater more acidic. Reef biologists expect this to be a bigger and bigger problem as more and more...Read more

What We DON'T Know About the Deep Sea

Dive through the zones of the ocean to the deep ocean bottom where many strange species live, and there are many yet to be discovered. Explore them in the Deep Ocean Exploration section. Credit: Karen Carr / Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Sant Ocean Hall Imagine: You’re in a small submersible, and you gently settle on the soft muddy bottom at a depth of 12,000 feet. It’s absolutely dark. What will you see when the exterior lights are turned on? Will you discover underwater volcanoes and hydrothermal vents, as some astonished geologists did back in 1977? Not likely, but you...Read more

Making Science Sing: The Longest Time (Coral Triangle Edition)

Corals, sponges and seaweeds cover most of the surface of many coral reefs . Credit: Wolcott Henry How do you make science sing? Just ask a couple of female scientists to sing about their research interests and their passion is quickly conveyed in a quirky little tune. Informative, inspiring, and a little bit silly are all adjectives that aptly describe this music video performed and produced by a group of female graduate students from UCLA’s Barber Lab . Set to Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time,” this little ditty does a fabulous job of describing biodiversity of the Coral Triangle and these...Read more

Happy 50th Birthday, FLIP – a Mobile Research Island

Ships are well-known for their tiny rooms and tight quarters. But have you heard of a sea vessel that has toilets and sinks sticking out of the walls, and staircases and doors on the ceiling? This unique research vessel is real -- and, in June 2012, the Office of Naval Research and Scripps Institution of Oceanography celebrated its 50th birthday. The reason FLIP -- or the FLoating Instrument Platform -- has such bizarre interior design is because all the rooms have to be livable when the vessel is in either of two configurations. In the first configuration, the 355-foot long research platform...Read more

A Better Way to Measure Marine Life

The Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structure was developed to help scientists study coral reef diversity and have now been adopted broadly to study diversity around the world. Credit: Laetitia Plaisance/CReefs, Census of Marine Life Collect, sort, identify, photograph, sample, record. Repeat a couple thousand times. This is what the students and researchers have been doing as the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center (IBRC) project has seriously ramped up. The foundation of the IBRC project is a relatively new method of sampling biodiversity , which uses Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (...Read more

Hotspot of Biodiversity

This graph compares the crustacean biodiversity of coral reefs in Bali with two sites on the Great Barrier Reef (Heron and Lizard), Ningaloo Reef (NW Australia), Moorea, French Polynesia, Hawaii and the Line Islands -- both in the central Pacific. Credit: Chris Meyer, Smithsonian Institution We have arrived as the advanced scouting party to the scene of this year's field work location: Pemuteran, a small fishing village in northwest Bali. More importantly, we are sitting squarely at the heart of marine biodiversity at the "Coral Triangle" -- that small part of the globe where, if space aliens...Read more

Patience is a Virtue

Brian Skerry photographing a large tiger shark in the Bahamas. Credit: Copyright © Mark Conlin As an underwater photographer, time in the field is the most valuable thing I can be given. With time, I can usually overcome challenges and the problems that occur . Time also allows me to learn firsthand about the place in which I am working, what happens at different times of day and how animals behave. But oftentimes the best images are made when something unexpected happens. I love the discoveries that come from taking my time in a place and allowing opportunities to present themselves...Read more

Scuba Diving Course a Success for IBRC Students

The 2012 scientific diving class stands together at the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center's headquarters in Sanur, Bali. The class participated in an intensive one week scientific diving course, learning how to use scuba diving as a tool for scientific research. Credit: Samantha Cheng For the past week, the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center (IBRC) diving class of 2012 has seen countless fish in shades of pink, blue, yellow, red, and green darting through corals and the overhangs of a shipwreck. They witnessed stunning bioluminescent plankton flash like fireflies in the dark ocean...Read more

Ray Bradbury and the Sea

A sea monster attacks a ship in an illustration for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Pierre-Jules Hetzel Today Ray Bradbury died. It might seem strange that I'm writing about Bradbury here on the Ocean Portal, as he's best known for his short stories about space exploration and strange aliens. But he also considered the unexplored realms of our own planet: the ocean. One story in particular, "The Fog Horn," from his collection The Golden Apples of the Sun , has stayed with me through all these years. Without giving too much away, it's the story of a deep...Read more

Live from the Field: Bali, Indonesia

The sun sets over Sanur in Bali, Indonesia during low tide. Credit: Smithsonian Institution It’s not everyday that I get to collect and gather data right alongside our Museum’s researchers. So, imagine my recent delight when the opportunity was presented to me to travel half way around the world to Bali, Indonesia to participate in a research and education field project. While in Bali, I will be participating in the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center (IBRC) project as an “embedded educator”. From the field, I will be blogging throughout the field excursion to share the research,...Read more