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Archive for April, 2014

Figure 2: A successful hunt. Photo credit: The Seals of Nam (2014)

Successful games of hide and seek are advantageous to Canadian Scientists

A polar bear’s appetite-satisfying success at the game hide-and-seek against ringed seal pups provided Canadian scientists with the opportunity to study changes in the spatial distribution of cryptic ringed seal pups in remote areas of the Beaufort Sea for seven breeding seasons.

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Tag you’re it! Reef manta rays are being tagged in the Red Sea

Reef manta rays are being tagged in order to better understand their diving profile. Understanding how long the manta rays are at the near onshore surface waters as opposed to the deeper offshore waters will help in conservation strategies.

A sticky situation: Old black carbon and sinking particulate organic carbon

The attachment of aged dissolved black carbon to sinking particles may be an important process for transporting organic carbon to deep marine sediments.

Fig 2: An "unnatural" raft composed mostly of floating plastics.

One species’ trash is another species’ refuge: Investigating the biodiversity associated with floating plastic debris.

The poster child for human pollution of the ocean has to be floating plastic bottles and soda rings, right? Once in the ocean, these plastics can aggregate. They create large floating masses, or garbage patches and some species find refuge in our refuse. Recent research has shown that diverse communities utilize these open ocean rafts, finding similarities to traditional ecological theory.

Curvier's beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris). Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute

The problem with data sets: Cuvier’s beaked whales vs. Navy acoustic testing

Congratulations on the longest and deepest dive EVER! Please, ignore the regular acoustic testing….

The elusive Curvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) is officially the deepest diver in the sea mammal community, annihilating both the sperm whale and southern elephant seal for the illustrious title. Until now, its diving abilities have been underestimated owing to the paucity of direct observations and sufficient study periods. Ziphius cavirostris (hereafter Ziphius) is not only a species of remarkable divers, but also is thought to be acutely affected by Mid-Frequency Active (MFA) sonar exposure during military exercises. Schorr et al. use the largest data set ever collected on this mysterious cetacean to examine both incredible behavioral patterns and the possibility that they may be able to adapt to a certain amount of acoustic disturbance.

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Ironing Out the Details of the Last Ice Age

“Give me a half tanker of iron and I will give you an ice age!”, as was once said by Dr. John Martin, simplistically describes the iron hypothesis. This concept suggests that additions of iron to the ocean can ramp up biological productivity and account for some of the decreasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations during the last ice age.

Titan

Oceanography in space! Using a satellite to profile an extraterrestrial lake

In 2013, a satellite orbiting Saturn passed by its largest moon, Titan. The satellite track offered a rare opportunity to collect depth-sounding data of an extraterrestrial lake.

Figure 1: Sea turtles incidentally caught by a fishing boat (© Projeto Tamar Brazil – Image bank)

Hotspots of unwanted catches: the global issue of bycatch

Incidental catches of nontarget species, also called “bycatch” have important ecological, social and economic impacts. A new study reveals the global distribution and intensity of bycatch of air-breathing megafauna (sea turtles, marine mammals and seabirds) and gaps in data availability.

Ostreopsis cover fig

Talk about hay fever: toxic algal blooms may cause one doozy of an allergic reaction

Since the late 1990s, human respiratory symptoms have been associated with seasonal blooms of the dinoflagellate Ostropsis cf. ovata along the Tuscan coastline. While inhalation is the suspected pathway of human exposure, it is unclear whether human illness is an allergic response to breathing in cells of the algae themselves, or if beach goers are being affected by toxins produced by O. cf. ovata. Marine aerosols could hold the key.

The adorable study subject (photo from Wikipedia)

Baby Beluga is at Heightened Risk: Pollutant Accumulation in Arctic Predators Affects Gene Expression

Analyzing changes in gene transcription is a way to detect adverse effects in organisms before they are observable on the whole organism level. Here, a Canadian research group set out to determine whether beluga whales in the relatively pristine Beaufort Sea are accumulating toxic pollutants at levels that could affect the future health of the beluga population.

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DIY Science: Scientists create a LED photometer that can measure the pH of seawater with an accuracy of 0.01, for under $50

Do you own an aquarium with high-maintenance saltwater fish that are happy within a narrow pH range? Maybe you just got your first Arduino (http://www.arduino.cc/) or Raspberry Pi (http://www.raspberrypi.org/) and you want to set up your own rig but don’t know what to do. Or maybe you are a citizen scientist who wants to do pH measurements but you have significant budget constraints. Yang and colleagues from the University of South Florida devised a portable LED photometer that produces pH measurements within .01 units of state-of-the-art spectrophotometric measurements and has a precision of +/- .002. The rig can fit in a shoe box.

Halifax microplastic sampling sites

Increasing fiber in your diet… microplastic fibers, that is

Microplastics constitute the large majority of plastic pollution in our global oceans. Microplastic fibers are small fibers that might not be visible to the naked eye, but can be found on virtually every coastline. Researchers in Halifax, Nova Scotia looked for these fibers in beach sediments, worm fecal casts, and both natural and farmed mussels – see what they found here!

blueback hooded seal pup in Greenland (http://www.britannica.com)

Hooded seals of the Greenland Sea

Hooded seals have been hunted for centuries in the North Atlantic. Despite increased regulation over the last three decades, a recent assessment of the Greenland Sea stock suggests that it will remain at unprecedented low abundances for the foreseeable future. Even with a ban on hunting, the stock will likely decline as climate change diminishes breeding habitat and increases susceptibility to predators such as polar bears and killer whales.

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