Conservation & Science

Counting fish like a BOSS

Counting fish in the ocean isn’t easy—particularly when they swim among jagged rocks and along undersea cliffs hundreds of feet below the waves. To help, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute has developed a new camera system called the Benthic Observation Survey System, or BOSS.

The BOSS camera design was fine-tuned, including simulated deployment in MBARI’s test tank, before it was placed in the ocean. BOSS photos ©MBARI

A five-foot metal cylinder that features an array of cameras and lights, the BOSS is designed to be lowered from a ship to the seafloor and land upright on rocky terrain. There, it will help scientists survey fish populations using eight high-definition video cameras.

Researchers and policymakers need this technology to find out more about life in the ocean and how to better protect it. MBARI developed the BOSS with input from investigators at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and The Nature Conservancy .

“The scientists I’m working with are looking at areas that previously were heavily fished out,” explains MBARI staff engineer Chad Kecy, who led the effort to design and build the BOSS. Chad and his colleagues are trying to get a better understanding of how fish populations are recovering in these areas, what species are present, how big they are and where they swim.

Chad likes the challenge of solving problems on a tight timeline. The BOSS had to be built and tested in a matter of months, because the scientists who planned to deploy it already had research trips scheduled on boats that could not wait.

“Now the scientists are busy analyzing all this video they were able to capture with the tool that we developed,” Chad says.

Mary Gleason, science director for The Nature Conservancy’s California Oceans Program and who helped develop the BOSS, says it can fill important gaps in existing data, based on its inaugural voyage: “We showed that we could get 400 video surveys done across 300 miles of coastline during one three-week cruise. So that’s pretty efficient in terms of data quantity.”

Read more…

Ringing in the New Year with resolutions to cut plastic

The dawn of a new year is a traditional time to address our excesses—whether it’s too many calories, too much spending or too much screen time. This year, several Monterey Bay communities are ringing in 2019 with newly adopted resolutions to cut back on single-use plastic.

In December 2018, the city of Monterey voted to limit the use of disposable plastic service ware in food establishments throughout the city. Earlier in the month, Santa Cruz County adopted a new law targeting single-use plastic packaging for personal care products in the hospitality industry.

Both laws aim to curtail waste and protect Monterey Bay from plastic pollution. They’re part of a global wave of action, from the local to national levels, to slow the flow of plastic from land to sea.

plastic bag_wildscreen
A plastic bag floats in the ocean. Photo by Patrick Kelley / Marine Photobank

Our growing plastic problem

Scientists estimate that around 9 million tons of plastic make their way from land to sea every year. That’s like dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute, injuring marine animals that mistake plastic for food or get tangled in it.

If we don’t make changes, scientists say, the rate of ocean plastic pollution will double by 2025. Manufacturers are producing more plastic than ever before, and our ability to recycle it just isn’t keeping up. The Royal Statistical Society recently shined a spotlight on the gap: Its International Statistic of 2018 is 90.5 percentthe proportion of plastic waste that has never been recycled.

Governments around the world, from the local to national levels, are addressing the problem through new laws to restrict single-use plastic products, improve waste management and protect the ocean from plastic pollution. In the long term, these actions support a transition away from single-use plastic, toward more ocean-friendly alternatives. Read more…

Rising to the climate challenge: A call to courage, and action

TR18-1017 (1)
Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard introduces the ocean plenary at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.

Many of us may be feeling discouraged by recent scientific reports about the pace and impact of global climate change.

In a video posted on the Aquarium’s website and social media channels, Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard is calling on concerned Americans to step up and get involved.

“Acting together, with courage, we can protect our beautiful, living blue planet,” Julie says. “I know we’re up to the task.”

Her message comes as world leaders gather in Poland for COP 24 climate talks, and as new scientific reports confirm the steep toll that climate change is already taking on human lives. Those reports include the National Climate Assessment from the U.S. government, a similar assessment from the State of California, and the just-released United Nations’ Emission Gap Report for 2018.

The latest polling shows a majority of Americans agree with the scientific consensus about climate change—and are ready to take courageous action.


Learn more about the ocean impacts of climate change, and what you can do to make a difference.

 

Making strides for ocean health at the Our Ocean Conference

For nearly 20 years, Monterey Bay Aquarium has worked to shift global seafood production in more sustainable directions—because fishing and aquaculture, done the wrong way, can do great harm to the ocean and ocean wildlife. What started as the Aquarium’s consumer-focused Seafood Watch program has blossomed to engage major seafood buyers, producers and governments in seafood-producing countries around the world.

More recently, the Aquarium has stepped up to address another growing threat to ocean health: a tide of plastic pollution.

Our Ocean BaliThe global impact of our work on both fronts took several steps forward this week at the international Our Ocean Conference in Bali, Indonesia—in ways that will be felt in Southeast Asia and beyond.

Since the inaugural conference in 2014, Our Ocean has brought government officials, business leaders and NGOs together to make measurable commitments that will improve ocean health. This year, the Aquarium is a part of four commitments: two to make our global seafood supply more sustainable, and two to reduce the use of ocean-polluting plastic.

Read more…

Transforming science teaching through technology

Katy Scott, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s digital learning manager, sits in a small office just across Cannery Row from the Aquarium. The cramped space looks like a school classroom crossed with a NASA operations center. There are a dozen pairs of virtual reality goggles lying about, and 10 padded cases containing 18 iPads each. A snaking nest of charge cords comes out of the wall, attached to a host of other devices. Laptops whir and burst with color and animation.

Though Katy Noelle Scott is digital technology manager for the Aquarium’s education team, she infuses her work with a deep connection to the natural world–and a spirit of fun.

It’s a pretty geeky place.

There’s hardly room for a desk, but that’s okay—Katy’s not there much, anyway. She’s in the field, working with teachers and students, holding forth on the value of technology in science education and how it can be used to promote the Aquarium’s mission of inspiring conservation of the ocean.

The Aquarium’s digital learning initiatives reach hundreds of schools, teachers and more than 80,000 students every year, from the Bay Area to the Central Valley. In fact, Katy emphasizes that there is no separate “digital learning program” per se. Quite simply, it’s an approach that permeates everything the Aquarium does in the field of education.

The Aquarium incorporates technology to help students build skills that will prepare them for success in an emerging economy.

And, with next year’s opening of the Bechtel Family Center for Ocean Education and Leadership, it will play an increasingly important role complementing the inspirational power of the Aquarium’s live-animal experiences. Read more…

A surge of ocean action in Sacramento

The 2018 California legislative session brought great news for the ocean! The Aquarium supported seven bills and two resolutions this year—and they all became state law.

These new state policies will:

  • Protect our coast from federal offshore oil and gas drilling
  • Restrict several common single-use plastic products that pollute the ocean
  • Continue to conserve California’s marine protected areas, and
  • Encourage new, more sustainable fisheries practices

Here’s a bill-by-bill breakdown.

Read more…

Julie Packard: It’s time for courageous climate action

It’s not easy to find good news  when talking about climate change. The latest scientific report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change spells out in no uncertain terms the magnitude of the challenges we face—and the urgency of action.

Executive Director Julie Packard welcomed delegates to the ocean plenary at the Global Climate Action Summit.

It’s true that global scale climate trends continue to be daunting. But the pace of solutions is accelerating. So, in that way I’m among the optimists (along with the newest Nobel laureate in economics). As a global society, we know we must do to get on a sustainable course. We’re making progress faster than ever, and we have more tools to do the job. Many of these tools were created in Silicon Valley, and in other hubs of innovation around the world, from Redmond, Washington to Mumbai, India.

Last month, I left the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco feeling energized. Monterey Bay Aquarium played a key role in putting the ocean on the Summit agenda, and it was clear people finally recognize that a healthy ocean is critical to avoiding catastrophic climate change. The question now is: Do we have the will to make it happen?

California and the West Coast are leading the way to a clean-energy future. Photo by BLM / Tom Brewster Photography

Judging by the progress being made on the U.S. West Coast, and the business and government commitments announced at the Summit, I think the answer is yes. That’s especially apparent here on California’s central coast. Our region has become the global nexus for ocean education, innovation and impact. Read more…

%d bloggers like this: