The Ocean Blog

Nature’s Secret Weapon Against Climate Change

These schools of colorful reef fish call Raja Ampat, the global centre of fish diversity, home. Credit: © Rick Stuart-Smith Whether it’s the stock market or a vibrant coral reef , it usually pays to hedge your bets. Similar to how diversifying your stock holdings minimizes the risk of a catastrophic financial loss, biodiversity minimizes the risk of damage to ecosystems in the wake of disturbances. With lots of species present, if one suffers or is lost altogether, another can more easily take its place. Scientists call this the portfolio effect. Recently, a new study from the Tennenbaum...Read more
Duria Antiquior – A More Ancient Dorset, 1830

Unearthing History: Mary Anning's Hunt for Prehistoric Ocean Giants

Although in reality an ichthyosaur and plesiosaur would have likely never battled, this widely shared lithograph by artist, geologist and paleontologist Henry De la Beche even inspired author Jules Verne to pen a similar scene in his book, Journey to the Center of the Earth . Credit: Henry De la Beche, Courtesy of the National Museum of Wales You may not have realized it, but you’ve been acquainted with Mary Anning since you were young. “She sells sea shells by the sea shore.” Remember this grade school tongue-twister? What you probably didn’t know is that this nursery rhyme is based on a...Read more

Do You Have The Answer? Sharing Big Data in the Gulf of Mexico

Sharing is something that is encouraged from the beginning of our lives, whether it be toys with our friends and siblings or “show and tell” at school. But as we grow up, sharing can suffer from the pressures of competition with our peers. Scientists, for example, sometimes worry that sharing information will result in their being scooped on an important discovery. Generally though, when it comes to scientific data, sharing is best for the greater good. In the past, data would often sit on a computer, maybe backed up in a larger storage center at a university or nonprofit. But wouldn’t it be...Read more
An unidentified earplug from the National Museum of Natural History collection.

Whale Earwax: What You Can Learn From Strange Collections

An unidentified earplug from the National Museum of Natural History collection. The light and dark layers come from a build up of keratin and lipids and can be used to estimate whale age. Credit: Megan Chen, NMNH Ever collected something a bit strange? Snow globes, pens, stamps and coins are fairly typical, but museum collections can have some odd groups. Like hundreds of whale earwax plugs. Yes, that’s right: whale earwax. All cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) produce earwax, just like humans. In some species of baleen whales and in sperm whales, whale earwax can build up in layers...Read more

Coral Under Pressure: Monitoring Bleaching In Real Time

A coral head in the Mesoamerican Reef has both bleached and living coral. The white sections are bleached and the brown parts still contain zooxanthellae, the symbiotic algae that provide food to their coral hosts. Credit: Lorenzo Alvarez Filip Vibrantly colored corals, with small fish darting about and sharks looking for their next meal. This vision of a healthy coral reef can very quickly be replaced by a lonely white landscape of dead and dying corals. When water gets too hot (usually 2°F/1°C above the normal maximum temperature), the relationship between corals and the tiny algae that...Read more

In the Arctic, the Times, They Are a-Changin: You Can Pitch in to Understand How

This 1874 illustration of California gray whales ( Eschrichtius robustus ) shows a group of individuals at the edge of their modern day range in the North Pacific Ocean, blocked from traveling further east into Arctic waters by thick ice barriers. Credit: Plate V from Scammon 1874 ‘California grays among the ice’ Invasive species are often in the news these days, with human-transported organisms popping up in unexpected places. But in this era of climate change, there is a whole new kind of invasive species, those that are taking advantage of changing conditions to expand into areas not...Read more

Surf Fishing In a Golden State

"Surf Fishing In a Golden State" Credit: Michael Carl People flock to the California Coast in the summer—some to cool down in hot weather, some in search of good waves, some to fish in the surf and some to photograph any of the 1,200 miles of inspiring coastline. In spring 2015, I happened to be doing the latter. The hour before sunset typically creates the most dramatic light along the Pacific Coast and draws photographers like myself to the shore in a mass migration. Another migration was also taking place just off shore. It was late spring and large numbers of striped bass were swimming...Read more
A submersible explores the deep reefs off of Curacao in the Caribbean.

Keeping Exploration Alive With Manned Submersibles

Video of Why are manned submersibles important? Smithsonian research zoologist Carole Baldwin answers the question "why are manned submersibles important?" The Ocean Portal was lucky enough to join the Deep Reef Observation Project team in Curaçao where they explore deef reefs in a manned submersible (the Curasub ). Recently, talk in a variety of places has questioned whether scientists should study the deep sea by traveling there themselves in manned submersibles, or if robots should lead the charge instead. We talked to Carole Baldwin, the principal investigator of the Deep Reef Observation...Read more