ocean ecology

Why Should I Care For the Oceans?

We’ve all heard it:

“Why does it matter if we overfish tuna? It tastes so good!”

“If the oceans dried up tomorrow, why would I care? I live 500miles away from any body of water!”

The thing is, without the oceans, we would all be dead. Our planet would probably look like Mars. There would be no freshwater, no food for us to eat, no suitable climate for us to survive.

(Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Whether you live by the coast, or only see the ocean once a year on holiday, the ocean has an impact on your life. Every breath you take, every food or drinks you have… is thanks to our oceans. Every single individual and living being on this planet is deeply connected, and extremely dependent upon our seas.

The oceans regulates climate, weather, and temperature. They act as carbon dioxide ‘sinks’ from the atmosphere. They hold 97% of the Earth’s water. They govern our Earth’s chemistry; all the microbes and microscopic organisms at the very bottom of the food chain support our own existence. The oceans are also crucial for our economies, health and security.

(Photo credit: Brian Skerry)

The past generations have been raised with the idea that the ocean is huge (and it is) and resilient, and that we could basically take from or put into the oceans as much as we wanted. Now, we found out that we cant go on this way. This mentality is part of our problem and it needs to change.

While we have made tremendous discoveries about the oceans over the last few decades, we have also caused more destruction to the sea than ever before. Many fisheries stocks are overfished, catastrophic fishing techniques are destroying the habitats and depleting populations, many marine species are on the verge of extinction, coral reefs are dying, pollution run-offs from agricultural farms are creating dead-zones where nothing can grow or live, millions of gallons of oil have devastated the Gulf of Mexico, bigger and faster container ships create noise pollution for marine mammals and endangers them…The list goes on, and on. We have had so much impact that we have actually changed the pH of the oceans! 

Pretty overwhelming, uh? 

So yes, you should care, because if the oceans crash, we as a species are crashing with them. The entire planet Earth will be gone. And if that’s not enough of a wake-up call for you, I don’t know what else could be!

While all the current marine conservation issues appear huge and insurmountable, there is still hope. Each individual can make a difference now. YOU can make better choices about which fish to consume (or not at all!) and ask about the way they were caught or raised, YOU can encourage sustainable fishing practices, YOU can decide not to use fertilizer or pesticides in your backyard, YOU can bring your own reusable bag to the grocery store and stop using plastics, YOU can stop using products with microbeads, YOU can participate in beach clean-ups, YOU can start your own research and discover even more awesome things about the oceans… YOU can spread the word to your skeptic friends! Have people follow in your footsteps; inspire your friends and family. Be the change :) !

(Photo source: Flickr)

“If you want to have an impact on history and help secure a better future for all that you care about, be alive now” - Sylvia Earle

washingtonpost.com
France becomes the first country to ban plastic plates and cutlery
The ban, to take effect in 2020, is part of a program aimed at making France a model for reducing environmental waste.

Another great step in the right direction to reduce single-use plastics and plastic pollution in the ocean!

theguardian.com
We could end up with 'as much plastic in our oceans as fish'

The head of Ocean Conservancy says a burgeoning middle class and low recycling rates could lead to not-even-remotely-acceptable levels of trash washed out to sea.

Yikes! How scary is that? Everybody can make little changes in their daily lives to reduce the amount of plastic they use. Here are a few tips that I’ve covered on the blog:

- What YOU can do to reduce the use of plastic, and that includes recycling, bringing reusable totes and produce bags to the store, drinking from a reusable water bottle, and participate in beach clean-ups!

- Avoid purchasing products that contain microplastics. Microplastic particles and microbeads are most often made of Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and Nylon. PE and PP are the most common found in cosmetics and bath products.

- Avoid releasing plastic balloons and lanterns

- Feature on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and what is being done about it

vimeo

Here is the trailer of Pirates of the Abyss that directed with @bertrandtodesco !

It’s a french animation project about adventure and ecology ! :)

Watersipora Wednesday! Here two opalescent nudibranchs crawl over the invasive bryozoan Watersipora subtorquata in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. 

Watersipora, the rust-colored, lobed mass pictured here, is an invasive genus of bryozoan – or aquatic filter feeding invertebrates – that has taken up residence in and around the sanctuary. Though there’s still much to learn about how these organisms grow and thrive, Watersipora are thought to have been introduced to the California coast by hitching a ride on ships and boats traveling along the coastline. 

These bryozoans have proven difficult to control because research shows they can be resistant to antifouling paints commonly used to prevent attachment of aquatic organisms to the hulls of ships. Once settled in a new environment, Watersipora can have damaging effects on native invertebrate species, smothering them and outcompeting them for space. But researchers at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary have been working hard to understand how these organisms grow and thrive, and what ecological consequences we can anticipate from their spread. 

(Photo: Steve Lonhart/NOAA)

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I recently went on a field trip to the coast for my plant community ecology class, stopping at various ecosystems along the way to learn about the plants that form each community. Over the next few weeks expect a lot of flower photos - but if you’re following me for the mycology, don’t worry. Mushrooms will return.

Check out these yellow zoanthids! Zoanthids are invertebrates related to reef-building corals and sea anemones. 

These were spotted colonizing the base of a dead golden octocoral in the deep waters of National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa! 

(Photo courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2017 American Samoa) 

"So What Do You Study?"

A lot of people ask me if I’m a marine biologist, or refer to me as one when they talk about my work. There’s nothing wrong about it, exactly, but I don’t really identify as one. My PhD will technically be in biological oceanography, and while the two disciplines are similar there are some key differences. The distinction between the two isn’t codified by anyone, as far as I know, and there is probably a lot of overlap. This is how I was taught they are different. Feel free to comment with your (constructive) thoughts.

Marine biologists study the biology of organisms that live in the ocean: things like anatomy, physiology, behavior, disease, etc. A marine biologist knows the ins and outs of marine organisms. Because there is a huge amount of diversity in the ocean, marine biologists usually have a specialty, such as fish, cephalopods, mollusks, seaweeds, sponges… 


These jerks…

A biological oceanographer, on the other hand, studies the relationships between marine organisms, and the relationship between these organisms and the ocean. In other words, they are more concerned with things like food webs, predator-prey interactions, and nutrient availability than they are with the anatomy of an octopus, for example. Of course anatomy and behavior and things like that are important to ecology, but we’re less concerned with the details than we are with the overall outcome. Biological oceanography is also called ocean ecology, a term I think is WAY easier to understand, but that’s not what will be written on my degree, sadly.

More this, less dolphins.

To complicate the matter further, I specifically study the ecology of marine microbes, which makes me a marine microbial ecologist (or a microbial oceanographer). But I also work with DNA a lot, so you could call me a marine molecular ecologist. These terms mean absolutely nothing to most people. I can wax eloquent about how there are more microbes in the ocean then there are stars in the universe, but at the end of the day, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s work is going to be way more accessible than mine. The ocean, to most people, is a big blue mystery full of dolphins and Sharknado. Even when people do talk about all the amazing life in the ocean, microbes aren’t even on the radar. Vampire squid and mantis shrimp are relatable. You can’t teach a dinoflagellate to do tricks at Sea World. They are, however, watching you while you swim.


Maybe not as scary as this guy, but definitely creepy.

Anyway, this is why I experience a tiny rage every time someone asks me if I want to work in aquarium. Marine biologists work in aquariums, right?

P.S. I also cannot give you superpowers, develop a zombie plague, or cure your herpes. Please stop asking.