The Ocean Blog

A student helps deploy one of his school's adopted drifters for NOAA's Adopt a Drifter Program.

Celebrate Earth Day by Thinking of the Ocean

NOAA Corps Captain John Adler shows a budding ocean scientist how to deploy his school's adopted drifter. Credit: NOAA The surface of the Earth is 71% water, so we should celebrate the ocean this Earth Day. This Earth Day on Sunday, April 22nd, think of what you can do on an everyday basis to help our Planet Ocean. The ocean provides us with so much - from beach weekends with family and friends to the regulation of our climate. Many organizations are hosting events this weekend for you to participate in and learn about ways to conserve our land and ocean. NOAA is celebrating Earth Day by...Read more
Screenshots of 'Amazing Ocean' Mobile App

Amazing Ocean: Explore from Your Mobile Device

Editor's note: Thank you for your interest in this app. Unfortunately, it is no longer available. Amazing Ocean is a brand new, free mobile app developed by the U.S. Department of State that features Smithsonian Ocean Portal and Sant Ocean Hall content. The app allows users to explore photos, videos, and rich ocean-themed content on their mobile devices. Amazing Ocean is a pilot project of the State Department/Smithsonian partnership and combines some of the best assets of both organizations: the unique and robust research and collections of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural...Read more
An illustration of a recently discovered species of Monodontid, Bohaskaia monodontoides, and its beluga and narwhale relatives

Smithsonian Scientists Describe a 'New' Fossil Whale

A reconstruction of a new fossil beluga relative, Bohaskaia monodontoides , described by Smithsonian scientists, is pictured in the foreground. Its living relatives, the beluga and narwhal, are illustrated left to right in the background. Coloration of the extinct whale is speculative. Credit: Carl Buell Monodontids, the group of whales that includes the belugas and narwhals swimming our ocean today, are emblematic symbols of the Arctic. However, their fossil record, although scarce, suggests that these animals' ranges could have been much broader. Fossil monodontids have been previously...Read more
An illustration of multispecies communities of dugongs from India, Mexico and Florida

The Discovery of Multispecies Communities of Seacows

This reconstruction illustrates multispecies communities of seacows from three different time periods and ocean basins. Each seacow represents a different extinct species of dugong. Credit: Carl Buell/ Sirenians , or seacows, are a group of marine mammals that include manatees and dugongs. In the modern ocean, only one species of seacow is found in each world region, however, the fossil record tells a different story. According to the fossil record of these marine mammals, which dates back 50 million years ago, it was more common to find three, maybe more, different...Read more
A hermit crab looks out from its coral dwelling in the waters of Japan's Ogasawara Islands.

The Perfect Underwater Photo

There is of course, no such thing as the perfect photograph, as there is no perfect song, movie, or painting. Photography by its very nature is subjective and what appeals to one viewer may not interest another. There are photographic elements however, that have been proven to make images better, especially things like exposure and composition. Photos that are over- or under-exposed are generally not pleasing to the eye, and composition tends to be more interesting when artistic styles such as the rule of thirds are followed (placing a key subject off center within the frame at the place...Read more
A light painted image of a hand-painted ceramic fish with light emitting from its mouth

Using Light Painting to Teach Bioluminescence

Watch this short video tutorial to learn how to do light painting. Painting with light is a photographic technique that can be used in the classroom to help students understand bioluminescence. What does a bioluminescent creature that lives more than two miles below the surface of the ocean and a glow stick have in common? More than you think. In a unique spin on an art technique called "light painting," you can create your own bioluminescent organisms with glow sticks in your classroom or home. Using a photographic technique called light painting, this image captures light emitted from a...Read more
Two baby olive ridley sea turtles.

Surveying Life On Sea Turtles

These baby olive ridleys ( Lepidochelys olivacea ) will eventually provide a home to crustaceans, mollusks, and other epibionts. That's according to a survey of epibionts living on mature, nesting olive ridleys and green sea turtles in Jalisco, Mexico. Credit: Alejandro Peña de Niz “It is strange to think of a sea turtle as an ecosystem,” says Amanda Feuerstein, program coordinator and research assistant at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, “but they are…they have all of these other animals living on their skin and shells.” Feuerstein is co-author of a recent survey...Read more
Caribbean reef sharks swim over a coral reef in the Bahamas.

Swimming With Sharks

Lying in water only a foot deep, I watched the shark meander lazily through the mangrove, already exuding the confidence inherent of the supreme creature within its domain. It was hot here in Bimini, nearly 100-degrees and mosquitoes were thick and relentless, swarming on to any bare skin. Yet slipping my head just inches below the water’s surface I had entered another realm. I was absolutely transfixed watching these little sharks, perhaps 12 to 18 inches long; swimming beneath mangrove roots and over the muddy bottom with impressive deftness. It was a shark scene quite unlike any others I...Read more
A student uses a marker to decorate a reusable lunch bag with ocean creatures

Teaching Your Students About Marine Debris: a Classroom Activity

A student decorates a reusable bag as part of "Design Your Own Bag," a marine debris activity hosted by the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Have you ever gone to your favorite coastal or lakeside beach and instead of having a fun day in the sun you were faced with a trove of trash? How heartbreaking it is to see waters and shorelines littered with items that you have at home, that maybe you’ve even recently thrown away. Encountering ocean trash on the beach has become more common. According to the Ocean Conservancy's Trash Travels report ,...Read more
Offshore Peru, during the Eocene (~56-34 million years ago), showing two archaeocetes (ancient whales): Ocucajea picklingi and Supayacetus muizon.

New Archaeocetes from Peru Are the Oldest Fossil Whales from South America

Offshore Peru, during the Eocene (~56-34 million years ago), showing two archaeocetes (ancient whales): Ocucajea picklingi (above) and Supayacetus muizoni (below). Credit: Carl Buell, The evolution of whales represents one of the great stories in macroevolution. It's a narrative that has mostly benefitted from an extraordinary series of fossils recovered from rocks around the world, including challenging field areas in Egypt, Pakistan, and India. Over the past 30 years, the diligent work of many paleontologists has revealed a sequence of evolutionary transformations,...Read more