News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy
About Carmen Yeung
Carmen Yeung is a Conservation Biologist based in Washington, D.C. When she’s out observing in the field, Carmen is drawn by the little beauties of the ocean that are often overlooked, like marine invertebrates, the eyes of an octopus, and the graceful movement of anemones. Outside of the ocean, mint Milano cookies are also one of her little joys.
This visualization shows the extent of Arctic sea ice on Aug. 26, 2012, the day the sea ice dipped to its smallest extent ever recorded in more than three decades of satellite measurements. The line on the image shows the average minimum extent from the period covering 1979-2010, as measured by satellites. Every summer the Arctic ice cap melts down to what scientists call its “minimum” before colder weather builds the ice cover back up. The size of this minimum remains in a long-term decline. Credit: NASA
“As of Sunday, the Arctic sea ice cover had shrunk to 1.58 million square miles, the smallest area since satellite measurement began in 1979. With the melting season not yet over, the ice will almost certainly contract further in the coming weeks before it begins to re-form.”
Arctic sea ice plays an important role in moderating the global climate. The bright surface of sea ice reflects sunlight back into space. Each year, portions of it melt in the summer, exposing the ocean surface. While the sea ice can reflect about 50 to 70 percent of the sunlight back into space, the dark ocean absorbs approximately 90 percent of the sunlight, heating the water and causing Arctic temperatures to rise even further. This process creates a feedback loop as warmer temperatures cause further sea ice melt. The reduction in Arctic sea ice has far reaching impacts on global atmospheric patterns and ocean circulation. Learn more about the important role sea ice plays in regulating the global climate here.
Here at Ocean Conservancy, we have been urging the government to stop Shell’s Arctic drilling plans and protect this fragile and vitally important region. A green light for Arctic drilling would mean placing an already stressed environment in greater jeopardy, which isn’t worth the risk. The decrease in seasonal sea ice has created the potential for a dramatic expansion of oil and gas exploration in Arctic waters. Currently, there is no adequate technology, technique or infrastructure to respond effectively to an oil spill in icy Arctic waters, and darkness, hazardous weather, or sea conditions could delay spill response for weeks.
Even without a major accident, day-to-day oil and gas operations create significant environmental disturbances. Seismic testing, exploratory drilling, and increased vessel and air traffic associated with oil and gas operations generate noise and air and water pollution, with the potential to affect whales and other marine animals and, in turn, the people who depend on them for subsistence.
Underwater statues are fun to look at, but can they really function as an artificial reef? Credit: Jim Bahn flickr stream
Two of my favorite pastimes are visiting art museums and exploring new underwater habitats. But combining the two can be environmentally risky. That’s why there are a couple of things that concern me about Jason deCaires Taylor’s project in Cancun, Mexico, that has placed 500 statues as an underwater tourist attraction. Here are a couple questions I asked myself after hearing about the site.
1. How does it help ocean health?
The artist, Jason deCaires Taylor, mentions that his statues at Museo Subacuático de Arte (MUSA) are being covered with coral and algae, but this does not necessarily mean his statues are helping the ocean. When implementing artificial reefs, the placement of human-made structures onto the seafloor, you need to have biological goals in place. This ensures that your artificial reef, or 500 statues in this case, contains organisms that can co-exist in a way that mimics the natural food web over time instead of throwing it out of balance.
Though your first instinct may be to try and free a marine mammal or sea turtle, entanglement experts strongly urge you to resist this understandably natural impulse. Credit: Fort Meyers Beach Government
This is a follow-up to my original post about helping entangled animals. Readers requested more information about why you shouldn’t try to disentangle marine mammals, as well as more information about helping crustaceans and other smaller animals.
Why shouldn’t I try to help an entangled mammal or sea turtle?
Though your first instinct may be to try and free a marine mammal or sea turtle, entanglement experts strongly urge you to resist this understandably natural impulse because a person without training can seriously hurt both himself and the animal. For example, approaching an entangled seal might scare it back into the water, where it might end up drowning. Also, even if you successfully remove debris from, say, a dolphin, it could have an infection resulting from wounds and may require professional medical attention. In this case, prematurely releasing the animal back into the ocean will endanger its life. Also, many of these animals are strong, heavy, and unpredictable, which is why calling a stranding center nearest you is the best way you can help an animal.
While on vacation, I came across a crab entangled in a fishing net at a local, beachside restaurant. My time working with crustaceans in science laboratories and in the field gave me the necessary familiarity with their movements and behaviors to handle the animal without hurting it or myself. Armed with this knowledge, I quickly and carefully untangled the piece of fishing net that had wound up tightly on the crab and placed him gently back on the local beach.
Without the proper qualifications, attempting to help a hurt animal in the wild could result in further injury. So what should you do if you encounter an entangled animal at the beach? Continue reading »
Science communication has changed. If you know the tricks, you can be more effective than ever. Credit: flickr user Trondheim Byarkiv
Scientific inquiry is about the pursuit of knowledge to improve our world, so why is it so hard to communicate information that can help everyone? Actually, it doesn’t have to be – just follow these three steps I learned at the Science of Science Communication Colloquium:
1) Meet your audience where they are. It’s easy to assume the more someone knows about a scientific issue, the more they’ll care about it. However, there’s little empirical evidence to support this theory. Other factors, such as age, education, political party, religion, etc., may influence a person more than their understanding of an issue. You can help a person better understand a scientific concept, but unless you can appeal to their emotions or something they already care about, knowledge alone may not increase their support.
Suddenly out of the deep blue water appears a whale shark directly beneath me. The gentle giant moved gracefully to the surface of the water and began feeding next to me. I had been snorkeling off the coast of Tofo in Mozambique and felt that this was a dream come true. Experiences like this make me appreciate the variety of nature’s feeding techniques. You see whale sharks and baleen whales are both filter feeders, animals that eat by straining tiny food, like plankton, from the water. But how they go about filter feeding is completely different.
In whale sharks, teeth don’t play a major role in feeding. In one of their filter-feeding methods, they suction water into their mouths at high velocities while remaining stationary. Food moves through filtering pads that cover the entrance of their throats. The filtering pads are broad mess pads full of millimeter-wide pores that act like a sieve, allowing water to pass through while capturing food particles. Continue reading »