Monday, December 26, 2011

Badass Census Bureau

It's not my usual maritima fare, but in the spirit of the holidays, a little something to make you smile on another topic of interest - the U.S. Census Bureau and its fearless employees, who will risk it all just to count you and your housemates.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gulf of Mexico Restoration Task Force

The Gulf of Mexico Restoration Task Force Strategy (preliminary draft) is open for public comment for one more day. Get your comments in by Wednesday, Oct. 26 11:59 PM EST. Find the report and the comment submission form here:
My comment is below:


To the Gulf of Mexico Restoration Task Force:

I commend you on the preliminary Restoration Strategy. Scientists have recognized the decline in coastal and riverine ecosystem health in the Gulf of Mexico states for far too long without any change in practices. A core concept of the plan, to put science and restoration on the same footing with industry, politics, and economics, is outstanding.

As most of the Task Force would no doubt agree, making a good plan is far easier than putting it into action. Too many decisions, for example the locations, priorities, and specific goals for restoration projects, have been left to the states and private and public partners. I worry that when the funding sources come online, they will be diverted from the focal aims of the Strategy. The Task Force should appoint a Science Advisory Commission to oversee and distribute funds for ecological restoration.

Your stated aim of doing restorations within an adaptive management framework is excellent. A substantial portion of funding must be devoted to the effort of adaptive management to support the equipment and labor required for proper monitoring and decision-making. Do not let this issue get sidelined or allow the funding for this to be trivialized. The Task Force should suggest the amount or proportion of resources that are required to be devoted to this pursuit. Please include this revision in the final draft of the Strategy.

Restoration on a scale as large as the Gulf of Mexico has rarely been attempted. Despite the substantial environmental challenges faced by these coastal states, many other regions face similarly daunting environmental degradation. Please ensure that, as the Strategy moves forward, information is collected and made available to scientists and the public so we may learn from this example to improve future large-scale restoration practices. The final draft should include a plan for the release of information on restoration progress and costs.

Thank you for your commendable efforts for restoring the Gulf of Mexico.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Salpy water

On a weekend trip to Long Beach Island, NJ, I was surprised to find the beach littered with salps. However, I was not put off by their abundance as many of the beachgoers and bathers who figured the small, glittering gelatinous animals to be jellyfish.

I myself was not sure what to make of them - I've never previously seen or heard about salp blooms. However, field biologist Gregg Sakowicz from the nearby Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve (JCNERR) informed me that they are a common seasonal phenomenon there. I'm not sure what species it was; they had a bit of blue coloration.

Salps are taxanomically unrelated to jellyfish and do not sting. Rather, they are filter feeders that are relatively closely related to vertebrates for an invertebrate. They possess a spinal cord predecessor (notochord) in their larval stage and have a central nervous system. Read more about salp biology on the

I made a short video -

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lionfish nuggets

While in Belize, my islandmates Pete Gawne and Jay Dimond speared several lionfish, a predatory invasive fish that is wreaking havoc on coral reef food webs. Then, my friend Randi Rotjan carefully filleted them (photos below), first removing their venomous spines with thickly gloved hands, and then checking out their gut contents for fun (yes, that is the kind of fun scientists have on isolated tropical islands). The lionfish was served as nuggets, fried in seasoned breadcrumbs, with Marie Sharps hot sauce, and it was quite delicious.

Fishing the lionfish, for food and sport, is being used as an invasive control and eradication approach. You too can learn to fillet a lionfish in this instructional video, and then enjoy a great meal and contribute to the cause. Interestingly, others are attempting to train sharks to eat the lionfish, and report visual confirmation of sharks consuming lionfish, albeit in a somewhat engineered scenario.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Global Explorers guest blog

I was in Belize last week at the Smithsonian's Carrie Bow Cay research station, and wrote a guest blog for the New England Aquarium's Explorers Blog with co-authors Dr. Denise Breitburg and Becca Burrell (in the photo below) about our new research in mangrove ponds.
Read our post: "What the floc?!"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Forsythia, harbinger of spring!

From maritima

Forsythia, a non-native shrub commonly used in landscaping, is the first to bloom at SERC. Abundant buds suggest that the other lianas, shrubs, and trees, are not far behind.

In DC, where I live, the cherry blossoms made their glorious and synchronous appearance earlier this week! If you have the ability to visit the capitol in the next week or two, it is the highlight of the year for botanists and tourists alike!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Spattering back to life

2010 was a great year for oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. According to the MD DNR's annual oyster survey, recruitment rates and oyster survival were the highest since 1985 (MD DNR press release). 1997 also saw an exceptional spatfall (spat are recently settled oysters that "rain" out of the water column) but only on the eastern shore oyster bars, whereas this year, oysters recruited throughout the Bay, even in lower salinity waters where recruitment events are rare. Dermo and MSX diseases, major sources of mortality for Bay oysters, were at a low. I'm looking forward to getting back in the Rhode River at SERC to see if any recruits came our way (although the Rhode is never a major area for oyster production).

The MD DNR oyster survey has been conducted since 1939, one of the longest running of its kind, and includes 260 oyster bars.