String of Unusual Shark-Related Incidents in the Carolinas

If you live in the USA and have been following the news, you may know that there have been a sharp increase in shark incidents along the coasts of North and South Carolina. Since mid-May, there have been 10 recorded shark-related accidents on beach-goers. The annual average for this location is usually 6/year. 

(The most recent shark-related incidents along the Carolinas coast. Map is from CNN).

So what’s going on?

Scientists cannot pinpoint a specific reason, and a number of theories have been flying around, especially from the major media outlets.

One is that the proximity of fisherman from the beach was of particular concern in last weekend’s attacks. Bait and dead fish is likely to attract the bigger predators, and with swimmers nearby, it might not be the best mix.

Another popular theory is that drought conditions in the Carolinas have led to decreased fresh water runoff and thus to saltier sea water, which sharks prefer. Moreover, baby sea turtles and menhaden fish have been more plentiful than usual, providing more attraction for the sharks, and another potential explanation for these incidents. It is also possible that their usual food supply has been depleted or has changed its patterns. Overfishing, habitat destruction and increased sport fishing, with its baiting of sharks, also may be bringing the sharks closer to shore.

(A Great Hammerhead shark cruises in the Bahamas. Photo by Austin Gallagher)

Finally,  it may also be due to the simple fact that there are more people in the water. The Earth is as populated as it has ever been, and with the warming waters, people tend to go to the beach more. The increasing amount of time spent in the sea by humans in turn increases the opportunities for interaction between the two parties.

24/7 news and social media coverage tends to exaggerate the danger. You are actually more likely to have an accident driving to the beach than being bitten by a shark at the beach. Check out this list of everything that’s more likely to kill you than a shark. Yes, vending machines are more likely to kill you than a shark!

Shark ‘attacks’ are still rare events, and rare events tend to cluster occasionally and get our attention when they do. It is tempting to look for pattern and for cause-and-effect when this happens, but we do not really have any scientific information on this particular event in the Carolinas, and it is thus hard to rule out any theory. It is probably one of those things listed above, but we cannot pinpoint a specific one quite yet.

(Photo by Fred Buyle).

People just have to be smart about it. Don’t go swimming at dusk or dawn, and avoid swimming where there is a lot of fish activity. Sharks have more to fear from us than the other way around. Millions of sharks are killed every year, many for just their fins or incidental to commercial fishing for other species.

We are not on the menu, because if we were, nobody would ever go in the ocean. I really do not like using the term “shark attack”, as it has a negative connotation and implies that sharks are purposefully out to get us. Sharks are not out to get people, and we have to respect that they are top predators and that the ocean is their territory, and we are just guests in it.

Solar Energy Conversion Under Dark Conditions

By Amanda Staller

A research team from the University of Texas at Arlington comprised of both present and past ECS members has developed a new energy cell for large-scale solar energy storage even when it’s dark.

Solar energy systems that are currently in the market and limited in efficiency levels on cloudy days, and are typically unable to convert energy when the sun goes down.

The team, including ECS student member Chiajen Hsu and two former ECS members, has developed an all-vanadium photoelectrochemical flow cell that allows for energy storage during the night.

“This research has a chance to rewrite how we store and use solar power,” said Fuqiang Liu, past member of ECS and assistant professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department who led the research team. “As renewable energy becomes more prevalent, the ability to store solar energy and use it as a renewable alternative provides a sustainable solution to the problem of energy shortage. It also can effectively harness the inexhaustible energy from the sun.”

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A new review published in the journal Science by an international team of researchers joins the many calling attention to the grave risks facing our marine systems, and emphasizes the need for a rapid and significant response. Building on the major report released last year by the International Panel on Climate Change, it highlights the way climate change will have “great impacts” on the oceans’ “fundamental physics and chemistry,” with grave consequences that will be experienced “across all latitudes.”

Rapid, sustained emissions cuts are the last best hope for the world’s marine ecosystems

Shark Week 2015 Schedule

Shark Week 2015 starts this Sunday, July 5th on the Discovery Channel! At first glance, no mockumentary in sight… thankfully! The titles are a bit sensational, but the content seems actually quite good. I look forward to watching everything! Here is this year’s TV schedule:


  • Shark Trek: 8 p.m. EST

Shark expert Greg Skomal and a team of engineers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution embark on a mission to find out why great white sightings in Florida are on the rise. It’s the biggest study ever of Atlantic great whites.

  • Island of the Mega Shark: 9 p.m. EST

The quest to photograph the largest great white shark continues as experts Andy Casagrande and Jeff Kurr join forces with Dickie Chivell at Guadalupe Island, Mexico. Theories suggest these mega sharks may come to feed and mate at this great white hot spot.

  • Monster Mako: 10 p.m. EST

A team of marine biologists set out to clock the top speed of the fastest shark in the ocean – the mako. Meanwhile, a second team aims to prove that makos are ambush predators that breach to kill their prey, just like great whites.


  • Return of the Great White Serial Killer: 9 p.m. EST

Since 2008, every two years, in October, shark attacks strike Surf Beach, California. Now as October 2014 closes in, questions remain: will the attacks happen again? Is it the same shark? And, can DNA identify the great white shark responsible?

  • Alien Sharks: Close Encounters: 10 p.m. EST

Deep below the ocean’s surface live some of the strangest marine animals on earth. Now, three expeditions are exploring those depths for sharks that glow in the dark. They are hoping for a close encounter in the strange domain of alien sharks.


  • Bride of Jaws: 9 p.m. EST

At nearly 18 feet and over 3,000 pounds, a record-breaking female great white shark nicknamed “Joan of Shark” roams the waters off Western Australia. Three shark experts follow an extraordinary 4,000-mile migratory path to find and tag her.

  • Tiburones: Sharks of Cuba: 10 p.m. EST

A team of shark researchers head to Cuba to explore the most remote shark habitat in the world. 70 years after the largest great white ever recorded, a 23 ft. Great White named “The Cuban” was caught off the coast, a team of experts search for evidence of a population of large white sharks to prove the story is real.



  • Super Predator: 9 p.m. EST

The search for the predator that ate a 9-foot great white off the coast of Australia takes wildlife filmmaker Dave Riggs into the kill zone—a deep ocean battleground of great whites, killer whales and giant squid.

  • Ninja Sharks: 10 p.m. EST

The ocean is a cruel place—full of predators driven to survive. But at the apex of the food chain are six swift and deadly sharks. These stealthy assassins exploit prey with specialized adaptations, making them the most fearsome predators on the planet.


  • Shark Planet: 9 p.m. EST

From the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean, to the tropical seas of Indonesia, researchers are getting closer to sharks than ever before. Join us on an epic journey around the globe documenting groundbreaking new research into these long misunderstood animals.


  • Sharks of the Shadowland: 9 p.m. EST

Mysterious sharks threaten government divers in remote New Zealand waters. Attack survivor Jenny Oliver and researcher Kina Scollay are on a quest to find out if the mysterious sevengill sharks are targeting divers…and are they hunting in packs?

  • Shark Clans: 10 p.m. EST


  • Sharksanity 2: 9 p.m. EST

We scoured the seas to bring you the greatest moments from Shark Week 2015! Only the closest calls, biggest bites and greatest gadgets made the cut. Then, we’re revealing your top picks for the best moments in Shark Week history.


  • Shark Island: 8 p.m. EST

In a remote corner of the Indian Ocean, Reunion Island has become the most dangerous place on the planet for shark attacks. After 7 deaths in 4 years, locals and scientists are in a race against time to find answers before another fatal encounter.

Watch on

As part of its efforts to raise awareness of illegal dumping on the Great Barrier Reef, the folks at the World Wildlife Fund attached a GoPro to a sea turtle’s back and gave us this wondrous POV on one of the world’s great natural wonders.
Harper gov’t appoints another oil and mining exec to NEB
The game is "rigged," critics say and the National Energy Board is now a "pipeline approval" machine.

The game is “rigged,” critics say and the National Energy Board is now a “pipeline approval” machine.

The Harper government’s appointment this week of a Calgary resource development executive to the National Energy Board (NEB) has federal opposition parties decrying his background as a Conservative Party volunteer, and the overall pro-pipeline agenda of the federal government.

On Tuesday, Conservative Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford appointed Calgary engineering PhD Murray Lytle. “Dr. Lytle brings many years of experience in the oil, gas and mining fields and will prove to be a valuable asset for the National Energy Board as it continues to fulfill its mandate to ensure the safety and security of Canadians and the environment,” said Rickford in a statement.

Half of the board’s 12 members are now oil and gas professionals, and all but one were appointed by the Harper government since 2006.

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Why the bee crisis isn't as bad as you think (but still matters)
Bees aren't vanishing, but their troubles can offer clues to long-term problems in our agricultural system.

The recent epidemic of colony collapse, first reported by beekeeper Dave Hackenberg in 2006, had ended sometime around 2009. But beekeepers are still suffering heavier than usual losses. This time the problem is more widespread than previous events, probably because the global bee-system is interconnected — it’s a globalized crisis for a more globalized era. But it’s not completely global: Colony collapse has affected beekeepers in the United States and Europe, while the total honeybee population around the world is actually increasing.

Tinker’s Bubble is a sustainable forest community living almost entirely off the wilderness

On the southern part of the United Kingdom, tucked away in the thick of a 40-acre woodland in Somerset, England, lies a tiny community that thrives in the wilderness.

The community began in 1994 when Michael Zaer wanted to escape this consumerist lifestyle and leave as little negative impact on the environment as possible. He named his new 40-acre orchard home “Tinker’s Bubble”, saidto be named after the spring that flows through the woodland to the base of a waterfall. The gypsies who were passing through would bring their horses to the base of the waterfall before continuing their nomadic wandering. Tinker’s Bubble is now home to about 15 people, some with children, who share the same beliefs of anti-consumerism and reducing one’s carbon footprint.

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Top federal Conservatives back Mulcair's explanation for 2007 headhunting talks

Senior Conservatives and New Democrats are defending Thomas Mulcair’s portrayal of a period in early 2007 when the NDP leader — then poised to leave the provincial Liberals in Quebec — was in private talks with headhunters from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.

They challenged the picture painted in a Maclean’s magazine article last week of Mulcair, formerly Quebec’s environment minister, as an unprincipled opportunist who was prepared to join a Conservative government, and even be a candidate despite the much-criticized Tory record on the environment.

The article quoted sources, including a former Harper aide now allied with the Liberals, alleging Mulcair ultimately decided against the move for financial reasons, before agreeing to become the late Jack Layton’s NDP lieutenant in Quebec.

Two Conservatives who had senior government roles at the time said this week that their recollection supports Mulcair’s assertion that talks broke off over his strong disagreement with the Harper government’s environmental policy.

“Money was never the issue,” one source told The Sun via email, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He supported the view of the second source, who told The Sun that Conservatives determined during two sets of talks that Mulcair was “so far out there” on issues like climate change that Harper couldn’t have trusted him to be a team player.

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