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Nicole Couto

Nicole Couto has written 16 posts for oceanbites
An eight-week old starfish larva forms vortices around its body while eating. This image was made by adding tiny white beads to the water that follow the diverging currents. Food is trapped in the vortices and brought to the larva’s mouth. (Figure 1a in the paper.)

The whirling world of starfish larvae whorls

A close look at starfish larvae reveals the beautiful patterns they create while moving through the water. These tiny vortex machines can create lots of swirls around themselves to trap food, or they can let the water flow by them smoothly when they want to swim fast.

Pseudo-nitzschia, a species of diatom that produces the neurotoxin domoic acid. (Wikipedia)

A toxic toasty blob: warm water in the Pacific provides a happy home for poisonous algae

A warm blob at the ocean surface, fishery closures, and unhappy marine mammals – what do all these things have in common? The answer is microscopic: a toxic type of algae called Pseudo-nitzschia thrives when temperatures are warm and nutrients are plentiful. It poisons the shellfish that feed marine mammals and support a multi-million dollar fishing industry.

couto_nov16_featured

Melting ice shelves could be slowing down ocean circulation: Elephant seals lend a flipper to find out

Wanted: Antarctic researchers to study the formation of deep water in the coastal Antarctic seas. Job requirements: Plenty of blubber and a healthy appetite for bottom-dwelling sea creatures.

couto_oct16_featured

The Antarctic Peninsula is cooling… for now

Temperature records from the Antarctic Peninsula show that the region has been cooling since the end of the 20th century. But the story is much more complicated than that. Temperatures in the Antarctic are extremely variable, and these findings only highlight the climate drivers that lead to that variability

Nile tilapia (nwtilapia.com)

What to feed a fish

Stocks of small ocean-caught fish that are used to make fish feed for aquaculture are at risk of overexploitation. New research shows that farmed tilapia thrive on a diet where 100% of the fish oil in their feed is replaced with microalgae. This is an important step on the road to more sustainable aquaculture practices.

Couto_Aug_Featured

Watermelon snow – Colorful algae speed up the melting of glaciers

Red snow algae can form massive blooms on ice sheets every summer as the snow starts to melt. But their pigments don’t just have a colorful effect – they also cause the ice sheet to melt faster.

Krill with particles stuck in their digestive tracts. Red arrows point to the sediment particles. (Figure 4 in the paper.)

Antarctic krill, stuck with rocks in a hard place

Krill have been washing up on the coast of an Antarctic island with pebbles stuck in their digestive tracts. As melting glaciers dump more sediments into the ocean, krill sometimes find themselves stuck among the dirt and their filter feeding systems get clogged so no real food can get down.

Couto_Jun_Cover

How badly do coral reefs and sharks need each other?

Overfishing threatens the populations of reef sharks that act as the top of the food chain on coral reefs. Their presence keeps the ecosystem in balance and without them, the reefs themselves are at risk of being overtaken by algae and losing much of the diversity they support. But is the story really that simple?

Couto_May_Cover

Not all freshwater is created equal

Glacial runoff, precipitation, and sea ice melt all contribute to the freshwater content of the upper ocean along the west Antarctic Peninsula. Using oxygen isotope samples from water found in different areas of the continental shelf, researchers were able map the areas where different sources of freshwater are more important.

[url=http://www.zoochat.com/1600/little-blue-penguin-eudyptula-minor-international-208236][img]http://s3.zoochat.com.s3.amazonaws.com/medium/imgp3371-141112.jpg[/img][/url]

Little penguins have little tolerance for high temperatures

New technology lets researchers track the 3D motion of penguins in the ocean to learn exactly where they catch their food. They catch the most when water is cooler than average, which could become a problem as ocean temperatures warm.

Couto_Mar_Featured

Storm Troopers! Robots collect ocean data during hurricanes

Hurricane prediction models are constantly improving as we create more innovative ways to study the growth and development of storms. In 2011, a team from Rutgers University sent an autonomous underwater vehicle into the projected path of Hurricane Irene to measure ocean conditions before, during, and after it passed.

Figure 1. Thousands of wedge-tailed shearwaters (Puffinus pacificus) nest on the islets surrounding Oahu. (Image from http://kauaiseabirdproject.org/index.php/the-birds/other-seabirds/wedge-tailed-shearwater/)

Seabird poop and coral reefs

Scientists have known for a long time that nutrient-rich guano can significantly change the ecology of areas where seabirds nest in large populations. Recently, it has it become clear that they also impact coral reef ecosystems.

Artistic rendition of bottom pressure anomalies as seen by NASA's GRACE satellites. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Miles-deep currents seen from miles high

The system of currents that moves water and heat around the globe and regulates global climate may be slowing down. For the first time, researchers are able to track the changes from space.

Couto_Dec_Featured

Some like it hot, and that might help

For fish in the 21st century, the riskiest places to live might not be the ones that are warming the fastest. Some gradually warming regions of the planet are expected to be too warm for the entire community they support in the next hundred years.

Figure 1 - Sketch of normal and El Niño conditions in the Pacific. http://www.gma.org/surfing/weather/elnino.html

Get ready for some “extremely” wet and warm days! (Maybe)

Recently, a lot of research has been focused on predicting average winter temperature and rainfall in the U.S. during El Niño years, but it’s the extreme events that are the biggest risks to our society and economy. This work presents the first look at how the geographic center of an El Niño influences the likelihood of extreme climate events in the United States.

Figure 2. Scanning electron microscope images of left: Fragilariopsis kerguelensis. This diatom species lives in the open ocean waters of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. (Photo by F. Hinz, http://www.awi.de/en/news/background/species_of_the_month/august/) Right: Fursenkoina fursiformis. This foraminifera species is found at the seafloor beneath waters where there is high primary productivity and export of organic carbon. (www.foraminifera.eu)

Tiny shells tell the history of Antarctic ice

Over the past 10,000 years, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has gone through long periods of growth and long periods of retreat. Shells from the tiny organisms living in the seawater throughout the millennia can be used to reconstruct the history of times when warmer water from offshore came onto the shelf and weakened the ice shelf and what that means for the future.

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