As the buzz around alternative facts gets louder and research budgets are slashed, the importance of highlighting the role of science in our lives and the people behind it becomes even more important. Ocean Conservancy is proud to introduce you to our best and brightest scientists through the “I am scientist” series. We hope you will be inspired by people that have an insatiable curiosity about the natural world, a sharp mind that is dogged in its pursuit of facts and a tenacity to find solutions to tackle some of the biggest ocean challenges of our time.
In this kickoff interview, we invite you to get to know George Leonard, Ocean Conservancy’s Chief Scientist, who spoke to Erin Spencer.
The Pacific walrus inhabit many important marine areas across the Arctic and feed at relatively shallow depths on bivalves. Historically walrus have used sea ice as haulout platforms to rest near feeding grounds, but as the Arctic warms and causes sea ice to recede, they are forced to haulout on coastal habitats in unprecedented numbers that has resulted in mass mortality events and higher levels of disease exposure from overcrowding.
Last month I was fortunate to participate in the annual Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, Norway. The Arctic Frontiers is a leading venue for showcasing relevant research on sustainable growth and environmental sustainability in the region.
The conference attracts influential policymakers and leading scholars from the region and beyond. This year, participants presented their work on a variety of subjects, including climate change, environmental stewardship, fisheries, oil and gas, indigenous people’s rights, pollution and many others.
Oil on the beach at Refugio State Park in Santa Barbara, California, on May 19, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard)
Nearly two weeks after a ruptured pipeline spilled 105,000 gallons of crude oil near Santa Barbara, hundreds of tired and oil-soaked workers are still on site working to scoop, boom and skim what they can of the 21,500 gallons estimated to have reached the ocean. As the slick spreads on the surface, and more oil sinks beneath the waves, a complicated environmental, chemical and biological process is unfolding in the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel. While every oil spill differs depending on local conditions, science and past history allow us to anticipate some of the long-term impacts to marine wildlife, habitats and communities.
Oil produced offshore of Santa Barbara is particularly heavy and thick, likely worsening the effects of external exposure to marine birds, mammals and fish. These effects include smothering those animals that can’t move, and impairing the ability of some animals to insulate against cold water. Marine birds that become oiled may lose the ability to fly, forage and feed their young. Highly mobile birds and marine mammals that frequent the ocean surface, where spilled oil initially collects, are especially vulnerable. They may be exposed to oil in one location only to sicken or die elsewhere. The spill’s location in shallow, nearshore waters exposes a particularly rich array of wildlife and habitats to damage, including shorelines, sea grass, kelp beds, rocky reefs and kelp forests.
At 1,400 miles in length, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on our planet and consists of more than 600 types of hard and soft corals. Thousands of varieties of fish and molluscs call this breathtaking maze home. And if that isn’t enough to impress you: the Great Barrier Reef is so massive it can be seen from outer space. Yes…outer space! Needless to say, visiting this special place has been on my bucket list since I was a kid and saw my first film chronicling the explorations of Jacques Cousteau and the crew of the Calypso.
It was spectacular. I shared turquoise blue waters with blacktip reef and tawny nurse sharks, took flight with white-spotted eagle rays, and floated quietly in the presence of loggerhead sea turtles. Best of all, I got to rub elbows with the folks who make the GBRMP possible. And I learned that they spend a lot of time thinking about the same issues as we do: education and outreach, partnerships and local engagement, long-term monitoring, and best practices for enforcement.
The world’s largest network of no-take marine reserves was announced today; 7 islands and atolls make up this vast area, and President Obama is taking action today to hugely expand the area protected around 3 of them. Here are 8 reasons why today’s announcement is a huge deal:
1) Protecting the ocean is bipartisan – Obama just built on President George W. Bush’s establishment of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in January of 2009 before he left office. Obama’s announcement today expands that network from nearly 83,000 square miles to more than 490,000 square miles, or 370,000 square nautical miles.
2) This marine monument is so big, the states of Texas, California, and New York COMBINED could fit within its borders.
3) The monument spans the International Date Line; Wake Island inhabitants celebrate New Year before most people on Earth, and Johnston Atoll is one of the last places to sing Auld Lang Syne. It’s so big it can be in two days at once.
I’ve recently returned from the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress in Marseille, France. The experience of meeting so many different kinds of people, all equally passionate about the ocean, has inspired me. It’s planted a desire to follow up and exchange marine protected area stories—and recipes—from California with those from around the world.
To that end, please join me this Wednesday, Nov. 6, from 2-3 p.m. PST for a lively and fun Twitter Party, where you can share the global MPA stories you heard at IMPAC3. Missed the Congress? No problem—we’d like to hear your thoughts about MPAs, even if you weren’t there. Follow @ThePacificOcean, @OurOcean and @HealTheBay, or #MPAsWork to join the conversation (and win prizes!) this Wednesday.
We may be from more than 80 countries, and we don’t all speak the same language, but after just two days, the 1,200 participants at the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress in Marseille, France, are bonding. We all believe marine protected areas (MPAs) play an important role in the future of our ocean. Throw in some shared awe over a bowl of bouillabaisse (so. much. fish!) and a few bottles of Provençal rosé, and we’ve got more than enough fodder to fill five days of conversation.
The best part of these conversations is their authenticity and substance. Like a secret handshake we all learned during our years spent advocating for, designing, monitoring or otherwise implementing MPAs, we’ve got a shorthand that—in spite of our differences—allows us to speak in a single language about protecting our global ocean. As a result, three things keep resonating in the presentations and conversations at IMPAC3: Continue reading »