The Blog Aquatic

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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

About Matt Love

As a conservation biologist, Matt tracks what research is being done in the Gulf of Mexico and compiles data to make maps of the marine world to support Ocean Conservancy’s goal of protecting the Gulf. He grew up in coastal Alabama where he developed a fascination with the wet part of world while surfing (yes, it is possible in the Gulf) and doing everything requiring a boat! Now, he also battles ocean acidification, global warming and his own mortality by commuting, racing and traveling by bicycle.

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Interview: Dr. Bill Montevecchi on Oil and Dispersant Effects on Birds Wintering in the Gulf of Mexico

Posted On January 9, 2014 by

Dr. Montevecchi applying a tracking device to a northern gannet at its northernmost oceanic colony site, Funk Island, Newfoundland, Canada. [Photo: Stefan Garthe]

(This blog is part of a series of interviews with scientists who are championing marine research in the Gulf of Mexico.)

Dr. Bill Montevecchi is a professor of psychology, biology and ocean sciences at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He conducts long-term interdisciplinary ecosystem research on the behavioral ecology of marine and terrestrial birds, especially environmental influences on animal behavior and ecology. His study of migrating northern gannets, among other things, demonstrates that what happens in the Gulf of Mexico doesn’t only affect the Gulf. Gannets are monogamous for life, and though mates travel independently during the nonbreeding season and may have round-trip migrations of 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles) or more,  they then return to their Canadian nest site where the partners reunite the following spring. A substantial proportion of the northern gannet population winters in the Gulf of Mexico, many in the vicinity of the area oiled by BP.

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Interview: Dr. Blair Witherington on Oil’s Impact on Turtles in the Gulf of Mexico

Posted On December 23, 2013 by

Dr. Witherington with an oiled Kemp’s ridley turtle in the Gulf of Mexico.

(This blog is part of a series of interviews with scientists who are championing marine research in the Gulf of Mexico.)

A research scientist with more than 24 years of experience in sea turtle biology and conservation, Dr. Blair Witherington has worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute since 1992. He is also an adjunct assistant professor, department of zoology, University of Florida; served as president of the 20th International Sea Turtle Symposium; and is vice chair of the Northwest Atlantic region of the Marine Turtle Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. He has authored or contributed to more than 40 scientific articles, monographs and book chapters. In addition, he has written five books on sea turtles and other natural history subjects.

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster had an immediate and particularly harmful effect on early juvenile sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico. The worst marine oil spill in history also served to highlight a compelling need for assessments of open-sea habitats – research critically lacking in 2010, yet essential for conservation efforts and restoration planning.

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Interview: Dr. John Incardona on Oil’s Heartbreaking Impact on Fish and What it Means for Gulf Restoration

Posted On December 17, 2013 by

(This blog is part of a series of interviews with scientists who are championing marine research in the Gulf of Mexico.)

Dr. John Incardona is an ecotoxicologist and researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Northwest Fisheries Science Center who spent much of his childhood in the Gulf of Mexico. Trained as a physician, he did his postdoctoral research into human birth defects, which eventually led him to study how chemicals affect fish embryos. He found that specific chemicals in crude oil are toxic to the hearts of developing zebrafish – a major finding with implications for assessing the health of wild fish before and after large-scale disasters. Ocean Conservancy talked with Dr. Incardona about his work and the new research tools that could be put to use in the Gulf and elsewhere.
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The New Gulf of Mexico Disaster Imperative: Scientific Baselines and Long-term Monitoring

Posted On December 17, 2013 by

Today, Ocean Conservancy introduces the first in a series of interviews with leading marine scientists whose research is helping to fill many critical and long-standing gaps in our knowledge about the Gulf of Mexico.

This blog series will highlight the need for scientific research and monitoring of the Gulf’s ecosystem. When the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began more than three years ago, we discovered precisely how little we understand about the potential impact of a major oil spill on the Gulf, especially on its already stressed marine life and fragile coastal ecology. The disaster’s lasting legacy is being shaped by our current response to this lack of basic knowledge.

Despite the billions of dollars worth of oil pumped out of the Gulf, and the billions more invested in the oil industry itself, there is virtually no corresponding investment in baseline science. The long-term impact of the oil industry on the Gulf ecology (which means looking beyond a five-year window) is not being monitored. Baseline science provides the status of the marine environment to which all future studies will be compared to determine trends in ecosystem integrity.

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The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem: There’s a Map for That

Posted On June 24, 2013 by

Blue crab map from Gulf AtlasDo you know the Gulf of Mexico? Do you really know the wildlife that lives in its waters or how we use its resources—for better or worse—to support our economy?

I thought I had a grasp on this before beginning a multi-year project that mapped important things in the Gulf. Now that the project is finished, I know there’s even more to see than I knew about! Ocean Conservancy’s new tool, “The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem: A Coastal and Marine Atlas,” can help you get a better view of the Gulf too.

The Gulf is a complex ecosystem full of an amazing diversity of wildlife and an abundance of resources. We need to know what lives in it and where it can all be found so we can protect, conserve and restore this beautiful natural treasure.

Gulf Atlas coverThe atlas is a unique collection of 54 maps and related descriptions that illustrate and describe where you will find many invertebrates, fish, birds and marine mammals in the Gulf. Among many other species, you can learn more about sperm whales, whale sharks, blue crabs (see map above) and black skimmers.

You can look at the physical characteristics, habitats and environmental stressors in the Gulf. Sea surface currents, bottom sediments, hurricane track density and all of the known locations of coral are shown in the atlas.

You will also be able to see how people use the Gulf for recreational fishing, shrimp trawling and major oil and gas development. The areas set aside for coastal and marine protection have been included as well. Continue reading »