The Ocean Blog

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

<p>These baby olive ridleys (<em>Lepidochelys olivacea</em>) 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.&nbsp;</p> 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.”...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
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