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Sarah Fuller

Sarah Fuller has written 14 posts for oceanbites
Image: © EPFL Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Out of sight, out of mind: The effect of gas & oil spills on deep-sea communities

When undersea wells blowout, toxic concentrations of hydrocarbons can be rapidly released into the environment. The media presents these blowouts with dramatic images of flora and fauna covered in black tar along coastlines and on the sea surface. What are rarely shown in glossy photographs, however, are the consequences to the unseen deep-sea.

Photo by John Øystein Berg in Snillfjord, Middle Norway, shows wounds due to sea lice parasitism.  www.atlanticsalmontrust.org

Sunday brunch: Lox with… lice?

Lox and lice. Not a combination of critters you envision when planning your Sunday brunch. Unfortunately, an increase in drug resistant sea lice is threatening both wild and farmed salmonid populations.

Trawling cartoon, courtesy of NOAA

Bottom trawling changes bodies: the new seafloor diet

Seafloor trawling inevitably captures more than the species it is targeting. This means that when the remaining fishes line up at the buffet table, the options they have to choose from may be different than what they like to eat. In this article, Johnson et al., investigate whether two fish species in the Irish Sea are going hungry under different trawling conditions.

photo courtesy of www.shedexpedition.com

The Great Barrier Reef is worth $15 billion – $20 billion AUS a year: A quick lesson in ecosystem economics

When discussing the value of an ecosystem, tensions run high. Some people evaluate ecosystems with heavy emphasis on non-use values, like aesthetics and spiritual appreciation. Other people value ecosystems based on things like natural resource availability and the potential for direct monetary revenue. It is difficult to assess the relative importance (or value) of these differing goals because the economic benefits of one are easily quantified while the other is more difficult to assess.

photo courtsey of: www.beaudodson.com

A volcano, a tropical cyclone, and a computer model walked into a room…

Like with bad jokes, timing is everything. The punch line doesn’t make sense if you don’t know the back story, just like when mixing active volcanoes, tropical cyclones, and new volcanic smog dispersion models.

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Fight of the Century: CO2 vs. Calcifying Phytoplankton

From the very first sentence of the abstract, these scientists make clear they are not messing around, “Ocean acidification is a result of the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 from the atmosphere into the ocean and has been identified as a major environmental and economic threat.” In other words, humans are causing ocean acidification and the consequences will hit everything from the blue of the sea to the green in our wallets. So how is the most abundant species of calcifying phytoplankton being affected?

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Need help counting bubbles? Now you can use sound!

Bubbles elicit scenes of childhood summers playing on the front stoop or backyard. On the other hand, put bubbles at the bottom of the ocean and you will find highly educated adults toiling with complicated mathematical equations and state-of-the-art technology.

Figure 1. Diversity of colors and patterns in biofluorescent marine fishes (Sparks et al., 2014).

One fish, two fish, red fish… glow fish?

Biofluorescence of coral is well studied, but in this paper, Sparks et al. aimed to investigate the little known details regarding the impact of biofluorescence on the other creatures that thrive in coral reef habitats, specifically the 8,000+ species of fishes. What they found was shocking. Not only is biofluorescence widespread throughout the tree of life for all fishes, it is particularly common and both genetically and environmentally variable in marine lineages. This widespread and previously unrecognized phenomenon gives new insight into the evolution of marine fishes and changes how we think light/visual systems work in the marine environment.

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.

Figure 2. Combined high-resolution bathymetry and topographic LiDAR dataset.

Unlocking the secrets of the Kameni Islands in Santorini, Greece

In Geology 101, professors aim to teach the overarching concept that the present is the key to the past. In other words, natural processes that happen in the modern world would have functioned the same way in the distant geologic past. For volcanologists, this means that volcanic events occurring now can help interpret what happened in the past, and visa versa. This applies to the recent work by Nomikou et al. about the emergence and growth of the Kameni Islands in Santorini, Greece.

"Before volcanic eruption" and "After volcanic eruption" satellite images of phytoplankton plumes.

Using satellites to find underwater volcanic eruptions

The purpose of this study was to create a new metric for detecting submarine volcanic eruptions using satellite data. The new metric the authors created has the potential to allow scientists to know about eruptions in remote parts of the world’s oceans. These places could then be prioritized as regions for more in depth investigation in order to gain a better understanding of how volcanism works underwater, in different tectonic environments.

Location of gravity core on the Marsili Seamount, between Sicily and mainland Italy.

First evidence of deep explosive volcanic activity at the Marsili Seamount

The Marsili Seamount is the largest volcanic complex in the Mediterranean area and Europe. Previously thought to have last erupted between 100,000 and 1 million years ago, new evidence suggests the latest eruption was only 3 thousand years ago. Additionally, that eruption was explosive and deep (500-800 meters below sea level), resulting in several tephra deposits left for scientists to analyze.

Ash distribution model of probability for disrupted take-off and landing.

If Popocatépetl volcano blows, prepare for a few nights stuck in the airport.

Plinian eruptions have a high degree of material fragmentation, generating high altitude ash plumes that can travel far from the vent site. The impacts of these types of eruptions include hazards such as human health concerns, roof collapses, disruption of terrestrial communications, and the jeopardization of air travel.

Roughly 360 years ago, on the island of Santorini, Greece, a September afternoon sky was blotted out as metals tarnished and island inhabitants complained of terrible eye pain. By the time the skies cleared, approximately 70 people had died of asphyxiation. Today, this picturesque vacation destination is a mecca for honeymooners yearning for blue roofed, white stucco buildings overlooking Mediterranean sunsets. What tourists can’t see from their hotel windows is Santorini’s neighbor, Kolumbo, an underwater volcano 7km to the northeast.

Passing gas makes islanders feel a burn: CO2 degassing, low pH and the similarities between an underwater Greek volcano and two Cameroon lakes

Roughly 360 years ago, on a September afternoon in the Aegean sea, the sky was blotted out as metals tarnished and inhabitants complained of terrible eye pain. By the time the skies cleared on one island, roughly 70 people had died of asphyxiation. Today, the picturesque vacation destination is covered with blue roofed, white stucco buildings overlooking Aegean sunsets. What tourists can’t see from their hotel windows is the island’s neighbor, Kolumbo, an underwater volcano 7km to the northeast…

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