A few years ago, I was in New Zealand photographing a story about the value of marine reserves (a type of marine protected area ). My last location was a place called the Poor Knights Islands , a spectacular group of small, rocky islands off the North Island of New Zealand, which had been fully protected as a no-take zone in the 1980’s. One afternoon I was invited to have tea with an old-time diver named Wade Doak , who was somewhat of a legend in those parts. Over tea, Wade told me that he believed the marine life was better at Poor Knights today than when he was diving there in the 1950’s...
In 1872, the United States did something remarkable. We set aside one of our greatest natural treasures, Yellowstone National Park , for future generations to enjoy and appreciate. The logic was simple: this place is truly special, and we have a national responsibility to take care of it. Despite America’s history as a nation inexorably tied to the sea, it would take us another 100 years to accept that the ocean needs the same care and stewardship that we give our national parks on land. Eventually, the warning signs — vanishing coral reefs, declining fisheries, polluted coastlines — became...
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (or the GBR as it is known to reef aficionados) stretches for more than 2,300 kilometers (over 1,429 miles) and can be seen from outer space. This largest barrier reef in the world is both a national icon and a global treasure that was recognized as a World Heritage site over thirty years ago. Yet a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that large portions of the GBR have been on a trajectory of decline for much of this period. Between 1986 and 2012, over half of the living coral has been lost. If current trends...
Over the last few days, a video of hermit crabs stampeding across the rocky shores of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands has taken the internet by storm. Where are the hermit crabs going, and why? These hermit crabs are Coenobita clypeatus , the Caribbean hermit crab (also known as the soldier crab), which are native to islands throughout the Caribbean region. I typically think of hermit crabs as a marine phenomenon, but the adults of this species live in wet inland areas, hiding between tree roots or in caves. They mostly eat iguana poop (from Cyclura stejnegeri ), although they can also...
Editor's Note: See more information and details about the organisms displayed in the slideshow here . Researchers who come to Curaçao to take part in DROP ( Deep Reef Observation Project ) aren’t running on sleep; they’re running on passion, curiosity and a drive to not waste a moment of opportunity to explore. (And, yes, a fair bit of caffeine.) We are in as much an age of discovery as were Lewis and Clark , Alfred Russel Wallace or Austin Hobart Clark (whose travels on-board the Albatross in 1906 contributed to building NMNH's collections). But our current age of exploration is technology-...
If there had been room to stand up, there would have been a standing ovation. As it was, the five of us on the submersible Curasub clapped and cheered when the first three deep-reef ARMS (Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures) were successfully deployed at approximately 396 feet (120 meters). ARMS are like condos for a reef’s “hidden biodiversity” -- the small invertebrates and algae that grow, burrow and hide in the cracks and crevices of reefs. In the last few years, more than 500 identical ARMS have been deployed in shallow reefs around the world for a year at a time providing a standard...
The Mars rover Curiosity is sending images back home : glimpses of another world during a voyage of discovery. While Curiosity is clicking pictures millions of miles away, I am privileged to be taking part in my own voyage of discovery to the inner space of this planet. Without need of a spacesuit, I am clicking pictures off Curaçao, an island in the Dutch Caribbean. A submersible carries researchers to one of the least explored regions of the ocean: the deep reefs of the twilight zone, which in the clear waters off Curaçao extend to a depth close to 1000 feet. In this shadowy realm,...
Scientists don’t often get the opportunity to travel through time. But nestled among the beautiful coral reefs of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a place that provides a glimpse today of what could be the biggest future threat to coral reef survival: ocean acidification . Ocean acidification is occurring because the ocean has absorbed about a third of the carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels . That carbon is changing the chemistry of the ocean, making seawater more acidic. Reef biologists expect this to be a bigger and bigger problem as more and more...
Imagine: You’re in a small submersible, and you gently settle on the soft muddy bottom at a depth of 12,000 feet. It’s absolutely dark. What will you see when the exterior lights are turned on? Will you discover underwater volcanoes and hydrothermal vents, as some astonished geologists did back in 1977? Not likely, but you will almost certainly see several kinds of animals that are new to science, and there’s a good chance you’ll also see some beer cans. The deep sea – that part of the ocean that is perpetually dark – is 103 million square miles in area. However, despite a dramatic increase...
How do you make science sing? Just ask a couple of female scientists to sing about their research interests and their passion is quickly conveyed in a quirky little tune. Informative, inspiring, and a little bit silly are all adjectives that aptly describe this music video performed and produced by a group of female graduate students from UCLA’s Barber Lab . Set to Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time,” this little ditty does a fabulous job of describing biodiversity of the Coral Triangle and these student’s research and passion for studying it. The video started getting more attention this week as...