World Ocean’s Day: Ten things you can do to help everyday…

1. Use Fewer Plastic Products


Plastic garbage collected from research plot to assess plastic pollution, Eastern Island, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, Northwest Hawaiian Islands

Plastics that end up as ocean debris contribute to habitat destruction and entangle and kill tens of thousands of marine animals each year. Plastic has also been found in the deepest depths of the ocean trenches and doesn’t break down for hundreds of years. To limit your impact, carry a reusable water bottle, store food in nondisposable containers, bring your own cloth tote or other reusable bag when shopping, and recycle whenever possible.

Continue reading

A pristine Pacific island is being covered in plastic…

“The beaches of Henderson Island are littered with plastic razor blades, toothbrushes and scoops from containers of baby formula, coffee and laundry powder. Turtles get tangled in fishing wire. Land crabs make their homes in toxic plastic.

Despite sitting 3,100 miles from the nearest factory or human settlement, this South Pacific island is covered with the highest density of plastic debris ever recorded in the world for a beach, according to a report published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team estimates 37.7 million pieces of plastic debris litter Henderson Island, exposing the extent to which the Earth’s nooks and crannies have become sinks for the 311 million tons of plastic waste created annually by humans.

Continue reading

How to Shop for Fish Without Ruining the Planet…


“Without question, fish is the most nutritious animal we can eat, and by far the most varied in flavor and texture. But once you know that humankind has decimated the wild population, you don’t have to be a Greenpeace raft captain to feel conflicted about consuming it. Do we really want to be the generation so obsessed with gastronomic pleasure that we exterminate the Pacific? We can do better—not only for the future of our oceans but for the future of our appetites. There really are plenty of other fish in the sea: sustainable fish, regret-free fish, delicious and abundant fish that in some cases are such invasive species, it’s actually virtuous to murder them. With just a few modest substitutions, you can do your part for the planet while still eating like a king.

Continue reading

Half-Earth Project…

“Half-Earth proposes an achievable plan to save our imperiled biosphere: devote half the surface of the Earth to nature.

In order to stave off the mass extinction of species, including our own, we must move swiftly to preserve the biodiversity of our planet, says Edward O. Wilson in his most impassioned book to date. Half-Earth argues that the situation facing us is too large to be solved piecemeal and proposes a solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem: dedicate fully half the surface of the Earth to nature.

Continue reading

Exploring the Twilight Zone of coral reefs…





“ABOARD THE HI’IALAKAI NEAR KURE ATOLL—Back in 1986, 19-year-old college dropout Richard Pyle was 75 meters deep in the clear waters off Palau, pursuing a small pink fish with red tiger stripes, when he noticed it seemed hard to breathe. His pressure gauge showed plenty of air in his scuba tank, and at this depth, far below where most scuba divers dare to venture, Pyle was certain the fish would be a species new to science. He caught the fish in his net, then headed up.

When he reached 55 meters, though, he couldn’t breathe at all. The needle on his gauge, which had apparently been stuck, plunged to zero. Pyle did a rocket ascent, exhaling so his lungs wouldn’t burst from expanding gas. As he breached the surface, he was seeing stars, a symptom of shallow-water blackout. He gulped a few breaths and managed to holler to an eminent ichthyologist waiting aboard the boat: “Jack, take a look at this fish!”

Because of Pyle’s rapid ascent, nitrogen bubbles within his bloodstream and tissues had ballooned in size, tearing flesh and nerves. He had decompression sickness—the bends—and further mishaps delayed treatment. By the end of the day he was paralyzed, unable to control his arm, legs, or bladder.

Continue reading

High level of toxic pollutants found in the deepest trenches of the ocean…


In a study published last week in the journal Nature, scientists discovered extremely high levels of toxic chemicals (PCBs and related compounds) down 10 km deep in the Marianas and Kermadec Trenches. The trenches, which could easily swallow the entirety of Mt. Everest, were originally thought to be one of the last pristine habitats left on Earth. However, pollutants have settled via ocean dispersal and vertical transport in the deepest reaches of the world’s oceans, only to then be taken up (or bioaccumulated) by the creatures that dwell there.

“Small crustaceans that live in the pitch-black waters of the trench, captured by a robotic submarine, were contaminated with 50 times more toxic chemicals than crabs that survive in heavily polluted rivers in China.”


Continue reading

Coral reefs grow faster and healthier when Parrotfish are abundant…



In a recent study from Smithsonian scientists in the Bocas del Toro archipelago of Panama, fossils, sediments, and core samples were analyzed to determine coral growth rates (accretion) with parrotfish abundance over a time frame of 3,000 years. The team took six 33 ft core samples and dated fossils using uranium-thorium isotope analyses, which can provide extremely fine-scale resolution down to just a few years. Samples dated back to 997 B.C. and exhibited a range of conditions before pollution and wide-spread disease outbreaks, as well as die-offs of the long-spined sea urchin (Diadema) which grazes on algae and helps prevent coral from becoming smothered.

“This fossil record of reefs provides evidence that parrotfishes were actually causing faster reef growth, rather than the other way round, or the two simply being driven by a third factor,” said Aaron O’Dea, a co-author of the study and scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. “Because of this intimate causal relationship between parrotfishes and healthier reefs, we support the call that parrotfish conservation be made a priority for the recovery and persistence of Caribbean coral reefs.”


Continue reading

High-resolution predictions of annual coral bleaching under climate change…

New research predicts the future of coral reefs under climate change and the fate of one of Earth’s most important ecosystems. High-resolution projections predict that Taiwan and the Turks and Caicos islands will likely be among the world’s first areas to experience annual bleaching events. In the past, severe bleaching events usually coincided with the El Nino Southern Oscillation, an event that occurs roughly every couple years. In the future, annual events will become more common.

Continue reading