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Gordon Ober

Gordon Ober has written 39 posts for oceanbites
foxice

The Emergence of Science Twitter: 140 characters of facts and…fun?

It’s hard to argue that recent changes in the political landscape have brought science and scientists down from the Ivory Tower and out of the shadows. As a growing method of science communication, many scientists have taken to Twitter to promote their work, connect and engage with a broader audience, and to have a little fun. Science Twitter has been on fire lately, read on to find out the utility of science Twitter and some of the fun hashtag “games” started by scientists around the world.

Fig. 1: Massive kelps are good at creating habitat for others but have proven sensitive to changes in climate. Could they be canaries in the coal mine for detecting climate change? (Photo: Riverview Science)

The Kelp in the Coal Mine: can kelps act as an indicator for climate change?

Many scientific studies have shown that kelp species are sensitive and vulnerable to climate change. Some scientists think of them as sentinel species, or early warning indicators of climate change. Recently, a large mass of warm water, affectionately known as “The Blob,” covered the northeast Pacific, resulting in a long-term elevation of ocean temperature. With existing ecological records of kelp forests in California, this provided an opportunity for researchers to test whether these giant kelps are indeed a sentinel species and can warn us about the looming effects of climate change.

Fig. 4: Microscopic phytoplankton contribute to the ice algae community. Here they can bee seen growing in the spaces between the ice (Photo: Live Science).

Frozen Food: how ice algae support Arctic ecosystems

It may seem like a harsh place to grow, but algae inhabit the under side of Arctic ice. As it turns out, these frozen, sea “veggies” provide an important source of food for Artic ecosystems.

Fig. 7: Kelp forests usually do best when they can go uneaten (Photo: NOAA).

Kelp Deforestation: warming oceans are paving the way for seaweed eaters

As oceans heat up, tropical fish have started migrating to colder, temperate waters. The change in scenery from corals to kelp has plant-eating tropical fish drooling over the abundance of food in their new surroundings. After monitoring kelp habitat in Australia over a ten-year period, researchers found that this increase in tropical fish had some serious consequences for kelp forests.

Fig.1: A decorator crab, Oregonia gracilis, costumed by seaweeds, sponges, bryozoans, and probably a lot else! (Photo: Flickr user Rick)

Costume Age: some crabs are too young to start dressing up

Well, it’s that time of year again where hoards of costumed kids roam the streets in search of candy. While these kids are met at each door with smiles and sugar, older kids and teenagers are more likely to be met with disapproving frowns – aren’t they too old to be doing this? Well, if you’re a decorator crab you also like to go all out in costume, but it’s not the younger crabs that are doing it, decorator crabs have to be a certain age before they start dressing up!

Fig. 3: Dolphins are highly social animals. Do they use language like humans do?

Dolphin Dialects: first evidence of spoken language in cetaceans?

We all know dolphins are intelligent creatures that communicate with one another, but a recent study has analyzed dolphin sounds finding evidence of actual human-like, structured conversation. Their chats are full of complex sounds and frequencies, akin to words and sentences. In addition, dolphins appear to have a politeness edge on humans as they were observed to pause and hear out others, rather than interrupting with their own sounds!

Fig. 2: Fish group together in schools like this to combat predation or to forage (Photo: via Azula).

Loud and Order: How reef fish vocalize to keep schools cohesive

Many animals use vocalizations to send signals to their group, but never before has this been documented in fish, until now. Researchers have found a reef fish that uses vocalizations in order to keep their schools together. Read on to find out how.

Fig. 6: Photos E and F show larvae unexposed to microplastics, G and H show larvae exposed to an average concentration of microplastics, and I and J show larvae exposed to a high concentration of microplastics. In photos G-J, small, clear circles are microplastic! Fish shown in I and J have clearly ingested a lot of it.

Small fish dine on small plastics and that’s a BIG problem

We’ve heard a lot about plastics in the ocean, but a new study shows the ecological implications of fish eating plastic. Here, researchers found that larval fish are preferentially consuming microplastics and it’s stunting their growth, altering their behavior, and increases death rates.

Fig. 3: The Japanese Pygmy Squid (Idiosepius paradoxus) (Photo: tumblr.com).

Inked and Eaten: how squid have adapted a defense mechanism to help them capture prey

Just when we thought squids couldn’t get any cooler, researchers have discovered that squid use ink clouds not just to help them escape from predators, but to be predators themselves! Read on to find out how.

Penguin-Falling

Frequent Fallers: Fat penguins have trouble staying on their feet

Yesterday was World Penguin Day. In honor of that, let’s take some time to appreciate just how awkward they are when they have to walk, and investigate why fatter penguins may fall more often.

Fig. 1: Beach wrack. We've all seen it, but maybe we didn't know what it was. These wrack lines exist on beaches throughout the world and have organic input from the sea and the land (flickr.com).

Armored but uninhabited: how beach armoring is altering transitional communities

Let’s get back on the beach for the final day of spring break! Here we explore the unique communities inhabiting beaches and how human efforts to prevent erosion are hurting them.

Fig. 4: Massive chunks of ice break off from glaciers in a process called calving (lonelyplanet.com).

Hope Floats: how icebergs are fighting climate change

An iceberg couldn’t help Leo win an Oscar, but new research highlights how icebergs may help battle climate change. Read on to find out how!

Fig. 1: Over 800 species of fish have been found to use vocalization as a form of communication (illustration: Kyle T. Webster, via The New Yorker)

Rising above the noise

Oceanbites is still “ringing” in the New Year! Find out how in a sea full of noisy fish one can stand out from the crowd. And yes, fish can make noise!

Fig. 3: Premnas biaculeatus,  an anemonefish and the focal point of this study. (Photo: wikimarino.com)

Warming up to climate change

Are you a fish that can’t cope with warming oceans? Don’t hesitate, acclimate! Scientists have found if fish have the chance to acclimate to warmer temperatures they may be better off in the future.

wsn

Wanderings through the Western Society of Naturalists

Takeaways and notes from Sacramento and a jam-packed Western Society of Naturalists meeting!

Fig. 3: Sarpa salpa, an herbivorous fish observed in this study (project aware.org).

Diversity and its role in combating the effects of climate change

In the battle against climate change, ecosystems need to get down with diversity.

Fig. 2: A male C. sivickisi. The bright orange globs are the gonads.

The Sting of Sex: odd mating adaptations of box jellyfish

It might be hard for a box jellyfish to buy into the old adage “sex sells,” especially when their gonads are laced with stinging cells. This is just one bizarre adaptation in these organisms, read on to find out more!

Fig. 3: A tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier).

Fear and Floating in the Atlantic

Does fear of predation alter sea turtle behavior? Researchers put an ecological model to the test by using large-scale movement patterns of sharks and sea turtles and found something unexpected.

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Our Saving Grazers

Think critical ecosystems are threatened by an algal take over? Not so fast, grazers may have something to say about that.

Fig. 2: Cold-water corals found in the deeper parts of the ocean (Source: NERC).

Consummate Corals: resilience in an acidifying ocean

Gloom and doom has been the dominant message associated with climate change. However, it is important to remember that when faced with change, not all species and ecosystems are created equal. Recently, researchers have found that several species of cold-water corals are quite resilient to ocean acidification.

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