We drove down a long dirt road on the northern side of Curaçao looking for a remote place to snorkel and sample. After a 30-minute bumpy ride, our team stepped out of the car into a breeze and the sounds of wind and crashing waves. It’s a moment I will never forget; although no one was in sight for miles, the evidence of human activity was apparent. We had stepped onto a shoreline blanketed in garbage. We were on the northern and windward side of the island, so we wondered if the trash came from the ocean, or if the site might be an old dump, or one still in use. Regardless of where it came...
This week people representing federal, state, and local governments, academia, non-profits, and private industry are in Chicago for the biennial Coastal Zone Conference . This meeting will give more than 1,000 attendees the opportunity to discuss ocean issues, strategies, and solutions. You can be a part of the gathering through a live webcast on Wednesday, July 20, 2011 from 4:30-5:30 pm (EDT) from the Shedd Aquarium. Produced by The JASON Project , the Coastal America Partnership , and the Coastal America Learning Center Network, the webcast's scheduled guests include 2011 Student Summit...
Tags: Education
Gyotaku is a traditional form of Japanese art that began over 100 years ago as a way for fishermen to keep a record of the fish they caught. They would apply sumi ink to one side of a freshly caught fish, then cover the fish with rice paper and rub to create an exact image of the fish. The ink was non-toxic and allowed for the fish to be processed for eating, while preserving records of fish species and sizes. These utilitarian prints were incredibly life like. When done properly they retained even subtle patterns and textures of the fish. The relatively simple black ink prints later...
Last week, Smithsonian research zoologists Dr. Jerry Harasewych and Dr. Martha Nizinski were in Curaçao looking for deep-sea marine gastropods and decapod crustaceans , respectively. I learned they both previously used the Johnson-Sea-Link I and II to conduct their research. The Johnson-Sea-Link is a research submersible that became operational in the early 1970's. Although Harasewych and Nizinski have used research submersibles extensively in other parts of the Caribbean and western Atlantic, they were excited to be a part of the Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP) and use the Curasub to...
Have you ever seen a creature so unusual? This fish (22 cm long) is called a sea toad and studying them requires luck and the opportunity to descend into the deep waters where they live. Last week Dr. Carole Baldwin and other ichthyologists participating in the Smithsonian Institution’s Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP) were exploring waters off the coast of Curaçao in a submersible. While on a slope at a depth of 215 meters (about 700 ft) the fish team and the Curasub crew came across a sea toad walking along the bottom. The team was excited because this fish did not look like either of...
Extinction is a real possibility for three species of tunas. That’s one of the messages from a new study released today online in the journal Science . Researchers assessed the range and populations of all 61 species of scombrids (tunas, bonitos, mackerels and Spanish mackerels) and billfishes (swordfish and marlins). They determined that five fish are officially “threatened," a category that describes species that are "critically endangered," "endangered," or "vulnerable." The five species are: - Southern Bluefin Tuna ( Thunnus maccoyii ) , Critically Endangered - Atlantic Bluefin Tuna ( T...
You never know where following your passions can take you. I came to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) two years ago as a research intern after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in biology. I never expected, two years later, to spend a summer working with scientists, sub pilots, and engineers to help document the biodiversity of marine life off of Curaçao, a small island in the southern Caribbean, just north of Venezuela. I arrived in Curaçao with the first group of Smithsonian biologists involved with the Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP). Researchers from NMNH...
Jorge and I packed up the night we arrived in Panama with Aaron O'Dea and his team from STRI . The road we took in two field vehicles mostly followed the Panama Canal heading northwards; we had to stop at a tanker ship crossing, where the locks separated the roadway. Quite an engineering marvel. We spent the night in Achiote, fell asleep listening to howler monkeys, and awoke to the sights of hummingbirds and more toucans. Before heading out to the fossil locality on the Caribbean coast, we had a wonderful breakfast at a cantina by the side of the road: roasted chicken, plantains and some...
Jorge and I arrived in Panama City around 3 pm this afternoon, and took a taxi to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)'s headquarters in the Gorgas neighborhood of downtown Panama City. The temperature's about like it would be in D.C. on a hot day, but, much to our amazement, there are giant, beautiful avocados and mangos hanging from the trees, along with monkeys and toucans. (Apparently they pass for the Central American counterparts of rats and pigeons). Pretty neat though! We're getting a quick tour of the buildings from our host, Aaron, who works for the Center for Tropical...
My graduate student Jorge and I are departing today for Panama, to excavate a fossil whale that was discovered by an undergraduate student working with Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute researcher Aaron O'Dea . From extensive conversations with Aaron, and some excellent preliminary photos, it seems that the fossil whale (consisting of a skull and a shoulder blade, so far) belongs to a group of completely extinct toothed whales called Squalodontidae. If you're familiar with Latin roots, their taxonomic name reveals a key diagnostic feature of these extinct whales: they possess unusally...