The Ocean Blog

Seaside Lichens

Horizontal bands of color represent different species of lichen that have adapted to the conditions at different heights above sea level. Credit: Stephen Sharnoff Very few plant species can survive close to the ocean, where pounding surf fills the air with tiny salt crystals. Too much salt is not good for us, and it is not good for most plants. When you think about it, the land side of the seashore is a really harsh environment, with crashing waves, salty spray and a constantly moving shoreline. Living things need special adaptations to survive there. One group of organisms called lichens,...Read more

Spirals in Time: A Walk at the Seashore

When I set out to write a book about mollusks (called Spirals in Time ), I wasn't quite prepared for just how many animals I would get to know. There are somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 mollusk species alive today, from clams, cockles and conches to snails, nautiluses and argonauts. I knew I wouldn’t try to name check them all or build an encyclopedia of everything that‘s known about them. Instead, my book would attempt to answer why the mollusks are so wondrous and diverse. I grew up exploring the wild, Atlantic-swashed shores of southwest England on family holidays. Back then,...Read more

Young Aquanauts to the Rescue

Pieces of baby coral hang on PVC pipe structures until they are large enough to be transplanted. Credit: Courtesy SCUBAnauts International “Naut” is an ancient Greek word that means “sailor,” and when attached to the end of another noun it means voyager. Today there are all types of nauts out there―astronauts, cosmonauts, aeronauts, etc.—but the original “naut” was a sea explorer, or an aquanaut. Ironically, though we have explored space, tiptoed into volcanoes, climbed the highest peaks and drilled deep into the earth, we have only explored five percent of the ocean. An international youth...Read more

Why I Love Polychaetes

Credit: © 2008 K.J. Osborn Polychaete worms are not your average cringe-inducing, writhing worms. (Okay, maybe some are.) They are fascinating, varied, and a critical part of our ocean. The visual variety among the more than 10,000 described species means a polychaete enthusiast is never bored. They come in every imaginable color and pattern, from completely transparent to iridescent to candy striped. You can find polychaetes of every shape from spherical to sausage-shaped to pencil thin, and every size from microscopic to several feet long. Some are smooth and sleek, others frilly and...Read more
A wave curls near the shore.

Shooting the Waves: Tips from a Surf Photographer

Waves play an important role in the way coastal ecosystems function, and also provide tourism dollars because of their draw for surfers. Credit: Flickr user bluewavechris A great surf photograph appears loose and improvised, like the waves and surfers it depicts. The reality is less spontaneous. The photos that you see in surf magazines rarely happen by accident, and could never be captured without preparation and planning that can start months before—all to capture a moment that lasts a fraction of a second. Hauling your bulky camera and housing through the surf is rarely easy, and staying...Read more

December in Malibu

"December in Malibu" by Andrew Richards Credit: Andrew Richards Shooting seascapes often involves hiking on very delicate rock formations near tidepools and reefs full of plant and marine life. The photographer has to be very careful when walking on these rocks, not only for his or her safety, but also to avoid disrupting the natural environment. When I first began shooting seascapes, I'd often get so focused on getting the composition and lighting just right, sometimes I would start rushing and become careless. I'd scramble across the rock formations to compose shots without always giving...Read more

Art Forms in Nature: Marine Species From Ernst Haeckel

Today’s discoveries about our planet’s biological diversity build upon the research of previous generations of scientists. The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a digital library committed to providing free and open access to this treasure trove of information, much of which is held in the libraries of natural history research institutions around the world . From recent articles published via premier scientific journals to monumental volumes marking the beginning of our study of the natural world, BHL’s collections include information about species from every corner of the globe and...Read more

Break On Through

"Break On Through" was taken by Wendy Wolf at California's Pfeiffer Beach. This photo was a winning selection in the Portraits of Planet Ocean Flickr contest. Credit: Wendy Wolf I took this shot at Pfeiffer Beach, my favorite beach in my home state of California. If you aren't familiar with it, it is a very secluded beach in Big Sur where we have some of the most spectacular scenery to be found. Up until somewhat recently, Pfeiffer Beach remained a fairly well kept "secret" of area locals. If you blink an eye, you will miss the entrance to the windy road that takes you from the hairpin curves...Read more

Why the Littlest Fish Matter a Whole Lot

A tornado of sardines swirls around diver and photographer Erwin Poliakoff in the Philippines. Credit: Erwin Poliakoff Top predators along the California coast are having a rough year. Recently starving sea lions have showed up on California beaches and are clamoring for fish at the mouth of Oregon's Columbia River ; tens of thousands of dead Cassin’s Auklets have washed up on shores from Alaska to California. Although we cannot say precisely why these animals are having such a hard time finding food, we can point to a problem with their food source, forage fish. What exactly are forage fish...Read more

SCUBAnauts Splitting The Sign

Participants in the challenge must first set a compass bearing in the direction they are headed to properly navigate underwater. Credit: Courtesy SCUBAnauts International I am a member of SCUBAnauts International , an organization for young people passionately interested in the ocean. Of all my experiences as a SCUBAnaut, sharing my love of the ocean with wounded veterans really stands out. As we come up to Memorial Day, I wanted to share what this has meant for me. It was the summer of 2012, and salt water cascaded into my mouth as I emerged above the water's surface. Sputtering for a few...Read more