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Archive for March, 2015

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Sewage pollution running amuck in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon

Harmful algal blooms are common events that occur in coastal waters. In Florida’s Indian River Lagoon, nutrient groundwater runoff initiates massive and highly toxic bloom events. Harmful blooms spell trouble for the environmental health and economic value of the lagoon. How bad has this issue become and what can be done to minimize the severity of future blooms?

Figure 2: Coral gardening- pieces of coral are harvested off of healthy reefs and allowed to grow before being transplanted to a degraded reef habitat.

Coral Reef Restoration Through Human-Assisted Evolution

Coral reefs populations are declining. Is it possible that we could help restore coral reefs by speeding up their evolutionary processes? Researchers propose new management strategies for aiding reef restoration by accelerating the natural processes of evolution.

Fig. 1. Microplastics. The penny can provide a sense of scale for how small these are! These are from the Great Lakes “Garbage Patch” but similar types and sizes are in the oceans. Both freshwater and marine ecosystems are at risk. Photo credit: 5gyres. Photo source: http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2013/04/12/new-concerns-about-plastic-pollution-in-great-lakes-garbage-patch/

Corals consume microplastics! Talk about an unhealthy diet!

The dangerous diet fad among marine organisms is spreading! New study shows corals consume microplastics.

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Survival at different stages of the fishing process informs management strategies for the silky shark

Knowing that a species has low survival rates after encountering a fishing vessel is useful. But knowing exactly what about the fishing process kills that species can result in more effective conservation efforts.

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Rotten Totten: Why is East Antarctica melting so quickly?

Like the West Antarctica Ice Sheet, East Antarctica is home to glaciers thinning at an alarming rate. The east’s Totten Glacier stores enough water to raise global sea level by 11 feet, similar to projected amounts in West Antarctica. Researchers conducted a study to find out what is causing Totten to melt so quickly. The answer lies beneath the ice.

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A head of their time: how invertebrates had it in them all along to form the vertebrate head

We owe our hard heads to our invertebrate ancestors.

Rift zone, from: http://damontucker.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/rift.png

Harnessing geothermal energy from the seafloor could power the future

Geothermal heat harvesting could power the future, so why are we still burning fossil fuels? Maybe because no one has ever laid out a plan like this.

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Protecting Well-Traveled Fishes: A New Approach

Fisheries managers have begun a shift from attempting to protect individual fish species to protecting entire ecosystems. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been highly successful at conserving important species and habitats like coral reefs. Is it possible to utilize relatively small MPAs to protect the 200-300 fish species that regularly travel long distances? New research suggests this approach may be more promising than we once thought.

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Sensors probe oceans for answers

Deep-diving ocean drones confirm continued warming of the ocean’s abyss due to Earth’s energy imbalance.

We Don’t Know the Half of It: Hundreds of Contaminants in Dolphin Blubber from Southern California

Dolphins and humans are continuously exposed to low levels of various halogenated, persistent manmade pollutants through their diets. In this study, blubber samples from 8 dolphins were analyzed by cutting-edge techniques to find out what’s accumulating in these marine predators. Findings suggest many routine monitoring programs underestimate the exposure of marine mammals to toxins.

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A new thermally tolerant species of algae is found!

Rising ocean temperatures threaten coral reefs, but a new thermal tolerant algae could help.

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Geared up jellyfish show scientists that they have more control over their movements than we thought

Jellyfish are commonly thought of as passive drifters in the ocean, but a team of researchers are working to change that. By strapping accelerometers to jellyfish in the field, they have found evidence to show that jellyfish can orient themselves relative to the current around them to help keep their position in the ocean.

Image credit: Sam Thomas (flickr Creative Commons)

Written in bone: what ancient Pacific Cod can tell us about sea level rise and mercury

Through biogeochemical analysis, researchers found that mercury levels in ancient Pacific Cod bones peaked at a time of deglaciation and sea level rise. Read more about the study, and what it may tell us about future climate change.

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Do increasing air temperatures mean increasing stream temperatures? Spoiler, yes!

Stream water temperatures have increased over the last 51 years in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and are connected to increases in air temperature, latitude, and changes in land-use, causing potential shifts in ecosystem dynamics and stratification.

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Best of Benthics

The Top 5: Highlights and notes from an eventful Benthic Ecology Meeting!

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Busy penguins strive to find an energy balance.

Penguins find a way to balance the extra work of the breeding season while still finding time to go diving to find food.

Figure 5. Plane spreading oil dispersants over floating oil.

“Magic Sand” Cleans up floating oil

Currently, spreading dispersants is the most common way to stabilize surface oil after oil spill. These dispersants divide oil into small droplets which are more available to bacteria. However, this application of dispersants is not applicable near the coast and the toxicity of dispersants remains to be studied. Natural granular material could be a more eco-friendly tool in fixing coastal floating oil.

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Best laid plans of lobsters and men: More disease prevalent in marine protected areas

Everyone usually agrees that establishing more protected areas in our oceans will help overfished populations recover. But what if that’s not the whole story? Read on to find out how an increase of lobsters in a British marine protected area has resulted in a higher prevalence of shell disease.

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A Leap in Sea-level Along the East Coast of North America

From 2009-2010, the Northeast coast of North America experienced approximately four inches of sea-level rise, quite the departure from the 2.5 mm per year annual average rate of rise. Researchers link this leap in sea-level to changes in Atlantic Ocean circulation and atmospheric pressure gradients. Will extreme sea-level rise events continue to be the exception, rather than the rule?

Figure 1: Changes in seawater chemistry from the 1800s to 2100 (projected) and impacts on marine calcifiers (organisms that deposit calcium salts in their body tissues) © Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.

Like father, like son? Is survival under ocean acidification heritable?

Can marine life adapt to ocean acidification? Well, first we need to understand if these favourable characteristics (survival under elevated CO2 conditions) are genetically determined and can be passed on to the offspring!

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