The Ocean Blog

A graph of arctic ice coverage from 2011, showing data through September 7, 2011.

Arctic Sea Ice: A New Low?

This graph of the Arctic sea ice coverage shows how close the year 2011 is to reaching a record-low. The graph contains data through September 7, 2011. The National Snow and Ice Data Center , which produced the graph, says we should know within a couple weeks if the ice extent drops below the previous record which was set in 2007. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center At a recent staff meeting a Smithsonian colleague mentioned that one of his pastimes this summer has been keeping tabs on the Arctic sea ice. The question that's on many Arctic-watchers' minds is whether or not the 2011 sea...Read more
A photo of an oyster cage, out of the water, covered in sea squirts.

Alaska Vulnerable to Invasive Species from Warmer Waters

Invasive species can have a range of environmental and economic impacts. In this photo, sea squirts foul an oyster cage. Scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center's Marine Invasions Lab study the movement and effects of non-native species around the globe. Credit: Fisheries and Oceans Canada Alaska’s pristine coastline is ripe for an influx of invasive marine species such as the European green crab and the rough periwinkle (an Atlantic sea snail), warns a new study by a team of scientists from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center . To date only 15 non-native species...Read more
a colored shakemap from the M5.8 Virginia Earthquake depicts the shake range and epicenter of the earthquake

A Guide to Earthquake Lesson Plans

On August 23, 2011 a 5.8 earthquake emanated from the little-known Central Virginia Seismic Zone. The epicenter was near Mineral, VA, but the tremor shook homes, schools, and office buildings in Washington, DC and beyond. In this brief video, Smithsonian educator Catherine Sutera uses a Slinky® to demonstrate two types of seismic waves that people in the area may have felt: the P wave and the S wave . Both are known as "body waves," because they move through the planet's interior. The P wave, also called the primary wave, is the fastest seismic wave. But it's the S wave that creates much of...Read more
A photo of a swimming Protanguilla palau, the newly discovered genus and species of eel

Scientists Call New Eel Species A Living Fossil

A video of the Palauan primitive cave eel ( Protanguilla palau ) swimming in the Pacific off the Republic of Palau. A Japanese research diver first discovered the new genus and species in a Palauan reef cave in 2009. The eel has an independent evolutionary history that dates back some 200 million years , helping it earn it the 'living fossil' label. Scientists published the first full description of the animal in the August 17, 2011 online issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B . Scientists at the Smithsonian and partnering organizations have discovered a remarkably primitive eel in...Read more
Nine small invertebrates held on two fingers.

On Biodiversity: Understanding its Meaning and Importance

These mollusks and echinoderms are a teeny-tiny sample of the ocean's biodiversity. The Census of Marine Life estimates that there are at least one million species of plants and animals in the sea. Most of which have not been described. The nine animals in this photo were collected by Smithsonian researchers involved in the Deep Reef Observation Project . Credit: Smithsonian Institution The ocean is home to a phenomenal diversity of marine organisms. They have evolved to inhabit warm waters near the equator and the icy waters of the Earth’s poles. Marine life takes advantage of the enormous...Read more
A scientists examines a sponge specimen collected in the Caribbean.

Searching for Cancer Drugs in the Ocean

Dr. Patrick Colin , of the Coral Reef Research Foundation in Palau, examines a sponge he collected off the island of Curaçao, in the Caribbean. Colin is conducting research for the National Cancer Institute and looking for sponges with properties that may lead to new treatments. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Ever since fourth grade I’ve wanted to explore the creatures and landscapes of the deep ocean in a submersible. It took awhile, but I finally got my chance this summer as part of the Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP) . What I experienced during my three-hour dive and subsequent...Read more
Ocean Portal summer 2011 intern Brandon Adkins poses next to the aquarium in the Smithsonian's Sant Ocean Hall.

An Intern Explores Ocean Careers

Summer 2011 Ocean Portal intern Brandon Adkins is determined to pursue a career in marine science. After researching a host of jobs in the field, he's thinking of becoming an oceanographer. Credit: Smithsonian Institution I’m a high school student interested in pursuing marine science. I have loved the ocean since I was 3 feet tall and only getting my feet wet at the beach. I’m a senior in high school, and over the next year I have the task of selecting a college, but I’m also thinking about my major and future profession. I know how hard it can be trying to figure out what career you would...Read more
Plastic bottles and other marine debris cover a rocky beach in Curacao.

Ocean Trash: Marine Debris From Shore to Sea

While conducting field work in Curaçao in 2011, Smithsonian researchers encountered trash along remote beaches and deep in the water column. This video gives a brief glimpse of some of the marine debris they found. We drove down a long dirt road on the northern side of Curaçao looking for a remote place to snorkel and sample. After a 30-minute bumpy ride, our team stepped out of the car into a breeze and the sounds of wind and crashing waves. It’s a moment I will never forget; although no one was in sight for miles, the evidence of human activity was apparent. We had stepped onto a shoreline...Read more
Photo of Sylvia Earle

The JASON Project Live from the Shedd Aquarium

Dr. Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer in Residence, will appear in Wednesday's live broadcast to speak about the state of our ocean in a pre-recorded segment Credit: Flickr User kk+ This week people representing federal, state, and local governments, academia, non-profits, and private industry are in Chicago for the biennial Coastal Zone Conference . This meeting will give more than 1,000 attendees the opportunity to discuss ocean issues, strategies, and solutions. You can be a part of the gathering through a live webcast on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 from 4:30-5:30 pm (EDT) from the...Read more
A red and yellow gyotaku-style fish print of a flounder

Educational Uses of Gyotaku or Fish Printing

A Gyotaku flounder print helps teach students about its anatomy. Flounder like all other flatfish, have both eyes on one side of its body while the opposite side is blind. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Gyotaku is a traditional form of Japanese art that began over 100 years ago as a way for fishermen to keep a record of the fish they caught. They would apply sumi ink to one side of a freshly caught fish, then cover the fish with rice paper and rub to create an exact image of the fish. The ink was non-toxic and allowed for the fish to be processed for eating, while preserving records of fish...Read more