Conservation & Science

Field studies of ocean acidification

Sometimes, research has to venture out of the lab and into the wild. That’s the basis for a long-term Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) project to study how the ocean’s changing chemistry will affect marine life.

A shallow-water Free Ocean CO2 Enrichment (FOCE) system in place near Hopkins Marine Station. Photo courtesy MBARI.

Ocean acidification is a change in seawater pH (and other elements of the ocean carbonate system) as the ocean absorbs excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This change will become more pronounced as people continue to burn fossil fuels.

“It’s important to try to get a better understanding of what impact that will have,” says George Matsumoto, senior education and research specialist at MBARI.

In a more acidic ocean, the minerals used to form calcium carbonate are less abundant, making it more difficult for marine species—from tiny sea snails to oysters and crabs—to build shells or skeletons. MBARI marine ecologist Jim Barry says researchers are working to understand the impact not just on individual animals, but also on broader ecosystems. Read more…

Speaking up for sustainable fisheries

As new members of Congress get up to speed on key issues like oceans and climate, we’re in Washington, D.C., to raise our voice for ocean conservation.

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Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly addressed Congress on the state of fisheries.

On May 1, Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly, the Aquarium’s director of global fisheries and aquaculture, testified before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Waters, Oceans and Wildlife about the state of fisheries. 

Jenn was invited by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), the subcommittee’s chair, to provide information on the status of U.S. and global fisheries. Building on her remarks to the United Nations in 2017, she provided insight into seafood markets and made policy recommendations to advance the sustainability of U.S. and global fisheries. 

Watch her testimony:

Read more…

Clash of the titans: white sharks vs. orcas

When orcas and white sharks cross paths, only one can prevail as the true apex predator. New research from the Monterey Bay Aquarium published in Nature Scientific Reports details these rare, sometimes brutal encounters — and their ecological implications.

A new study illustrates what happens when orcas and white sharks encounter each other in the wild. Photo © Jim Capwell/www.divecentral.com

It’s a study decades in the making because observations of the two creatures interacting is a rarity.

Scot Anderson, a white shark expert and seasonal researcher for the Aquarium, still remembers one such run-in more than 20 years ago near the Farallon Islands, a short boat ride west of downtown San Francisco.

“The first time it happened was kind of shocking to everybody,” Scot says. “Before we had seen anything like that, people would ask, who’s the baddest predator?”

White sharks are seasonal visitors to the Farallon Islands, where they prey on elephant seals and other pinnipeds. Photo courtesy NOAA

The first scorecard came on October 4, 1997, when orcas killed and partially ate a white shark within view of a whale-watching boat. Scot was heading out from nearby Bolinas when he heard what was happening over the radio.

“We just went straight there,” he says. “We got there right as it was finishing. I saw the two orcas sticking their heads out of the water and squealing like they do when they have a kill. And the shark just sank away.” Read more…

Acceso para personas discapacitadas y conservación de los océanos: Juntos somos más fuertes

(For English, click here.)

El año pasado, el Acuario pidió a los legisladores de California que aprobaran el proyecto de Ley Straws On Request (popotes a petición). A medida que esa ley entra en vigor, y las comunidades de la Bahía de Monterey adoptan nuevas leyes locales para reducir el uso de plástico de un solo uso, trabajamos con nuestros colegas de la comunidad de discapacitados para asegurarnos de que cualquier persona que necesite un popote de plástico pueda tener acceso a ella.

En el artículo de hoy, Allie Cannington de la Red de Organización de Personas con Discapacidad (DOnetwork por sus siglas en inglés) discute los resultados de un nuevo estudio que evalúa la conveniencia de alternativas a los popotes o popotes de plástico de un sólo uso para las personas que las necesitan. DOnetwork es un programa de la Fundación de Centros para la Vida Independiente de California, financiado por el Departamento de Rehabilitación y el Consejo Estatal para la Vida Independiente.


A partir del 1 de enero de 2019, los restaurantes de servicio completo en California sólo podrán ofrecer popotes cuando los clientes los soliciten. Al mismo tiempo, algunas ciudades y condados de los Estados Unidos están aprobando leyes locales que restringen los popotes y otros materiales plásticos de un sólo uso.

Read more…

Environmental literacy: Learning the language of the land

There are many types of literacy—language, culture and digital to name a few. But what about “environmental literacy”? It’s a language unto itself—with important implications for Earth’s natural environment and our future. Teaching environmental literacy helps ensure that the next generation will be aware of the issues facing our planet and can act as its steward.

So, how do we go about teaching the language of the land?

Partnering with Pajaro Valley schools, the Aquarium builds skills and confidence in teaching environmental literacy for participants in its Environmental Leadership Collaborative.

That’s the focus of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s new Environmental Leadership Collaborative (formerly the Science Learning Leaders Institute). The program is designed to help teachers meet the California’s new science and environmental literacy standards, and help ensure their students are equipped to address the burgeoning environmental challenges facing future generations.

For now, the two-year-old program focuses on Watsonville and the Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD). Given the success of the Institute, it could provide a template for teaching environmental literacy across the state—or even the nation. Read more…

Connecting historical tortoiseshell trade to modern IUU fishing networks

What began as research into historical data on rare hawksbill sea turtles could help illuminate the shadowy modern world of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, according to a new paper published in the journal Science Advances. The study also revealed that a dramatically larger number of the critically endangered turtles were killed for the tortoiseshell trade, six times higher than earlier estimates.

The project started nearly a decade ago when Dr. Kyle Van Houtan — then with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, now Monterey Bay Aquarium’s director of science and senior author of the paper — was leading a sea turtle research program in Hawaii.

“Our goal was to give hawksbills the attention they deserve,” Kyle says. “Hawksbill sea turtles are critically endangered throughout their range, mostly due to threats from illegal harvesting.” The turtles can grow to more than three feet long and 150 pounds and are distinct for their beautiful, mottled shells. 

“They also have a long slender neck that allows them to search for food in the cavities between branches of coral in a reef. There they find sponges, algae and other invertebrates,” Kyle explains.

“They can really shape a coral reef, allowing coral colonies and the reef ecosystem to thrive,” says Dr. Emily Miller, assistant research scientist at the Aquarium and the paper’s first author. Read more…

Honoring a new slate of California Ocean Champions in Sacramento

On March 19, 2019, hundreds of ocean advocates gathered in Sacramento to discuss ocean and coastal issues with state decision-makers during Ocean Day California. In the evening, the Aquarium hosted its tenth annual awards reception for about 200 state officials and legislators, their staff and ocean leaders from across the state. 

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Guests enjoy the spread by Tataki Sushi & Sake Bar, featuring Seafood Watch Best Choice fish and vegan sushi.

Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard presented four state legislators with our 2019 Ocean Champion Awards, honoring their significant contributions to California’s ocean and coastal leadership. The award is part of the aquarium’s work to inspire and inform government decision-makers to take science-based action on behalf of the ocean.

“California has become a beacon of hope for the nation, and for the world,” Julie said. “Our state is living proof that environmental and economic health are inextricably linked.”

Read more…

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