To a photographer, all that matters is the image, the picture that results when the shutter is released. This is what people will see and what will remain of that moment in time, captured forever. But for wildlife photographers and especially underwater wildlife photographers, so much has to happen just to get to that moment when your finger is on the shutter release. Underwater photography is an equipment intensive business. It requires all the equipment used by land photographers, plus so much more. Cameras must be placed inside underwater housings and special strobes, strobe arms, cords,...
The open ocean is surprisingly barren to the naked eye. Every now and again you will encounter a school of fish and their attendant predators, but most of the life that you find is gathered around some sort of sheltering structure like a coral reef. In the Atlantic, the pelagic macro-algae, or sargassum seaweeds ( Sargassum fluitans and Sargassum natans ) serve as shelter, drawing in a tremendous variety of marine life and forming a nearly unique structural habitat in the open ocean. Without roots, a top, or a bottom, the sargassum is in constant motion until it is cast up on a beach, or...
If you were choreographing a dance about the ocean, how would you do it? Would you dart around like a lobster in a hurry? Dive like a dolphin? Float like a jellyfish? Choreographer Fran Spector Atkins and photographer Bill Roden have put together a dance production about the ocean, which is being performed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History on June 3, 2012. While the pair certainly have their fun with creatures, as dancers school like fish and scuttle like crabs (see video above), their goal is larger. Ocean , as the production is aptly named, aims to educate audiences...
After a few long days of hard work on the island, we were finally able to excavate and remove , not just one, but two skeletons of an early "toothed" baleen whale from the rocks near the Carmanah Lighthouse. All told, it took our team 3 days, along with assistance from Parks Canada, a chartered boat, a chartered helicopter, car ferries, and one really nice diamond-bladed rock saw. In one day we made the whole trip back from the island to our staging area in greater Vancouver, or, as it's called, the Lower Mainland. The end of any complex and gear-heavy field trip inevitably ends with as much...
How do we know where ocean animals swim day and night? Scientists are getting snapshots into the daily lives of whales , sharks , and even fish by tagging the animals to track their movements. You’ve probably seen photos of the mysterious and almost eerie silhouette of a manta ray. But what do we really know about these giant creatures, which can grow up to 25 ft in width? Not much, but that is changing. Scientists recently attached satellite trackers to six giant manta rays ( Manta birostris ). They found that the giant fish spent most of their time within 200 miles of shore, but not...
Editor's note: Read Nick's first blog post about "toothed" baleen whales to see what their team is excavating on Vancouver Island. We departed from Port Renfrew on Tuesday morning on the Michelle Diana, a boat chartered specifically for our expedition. An hour later we approached Carmanah Point, a tall cliff upon which the Carmanah lighthouse sits (built in 1891). We made the treacherous boat-shore transition in the rain with assistance from Parks Canada's wardens, and then organized our dozen bags of gear to begin work. It was exhilarating to finally set foot on land; this is a remote place...
The whales that we see in today's world can broadly be split into two groups: those with teeth (odontocetes), and those that have baleen (mysticetes) instead of teeth. These two groups share a common ancestor in the Eocene, which had teeth (They looked a lot like the ancient whale skeletons in the Sant Ocean Hall). This insight leads to a question: When, in their evolutionary history , did mysticetes lose their teeth? Actually, mysticetes still retain the genetic programming for teeth because they have tooth buds while embryos. More precisely, we would say that mysticetes lack the adult,...
Reef sharks rarely get any love. These sharks, comprising several species, loiter around coral reefs, snacking on small fish, squids and crustaceans. And while their size is nothing to smirk at—5-10 feet is pretty impressive in my book!—their relatively demure lifestyle just can’t compete with the seal-snatching airtime of the great white shark . However, another reason reef sharks receive less attention is that they are a rare sight. Coral reef biologist Alan Friedlander from the University of Hawaii told me that he can’t remember the last time he saw a shark in the Caribbean—and he’s...
Two years ago last week, on April 20, 2010, an explosion on the oil-drilling rig Deepwater Horizon caused the largest marine oil spill in history , gushing nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil over the course of three months. And, since then, researchers have been hard at work to understand how the oil spill impacted life in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s too soon to say whether the ecosystem is out of the red – it’s only been two years, after all! – but many researchers have been shocked at the ecosystem’s recovery. “Like everybody else, I had visions of just gobs and gobs of oil smothering...
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 launching buoys with the Adopt a Drifter Program . Students at six U.S. locations are teaming up with international student...