You never know where following your passions can take you. I came to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) two years ago as a research intern after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in biology. I never expected, two years later, to spend a summer working with scientists, sub pilots, and engineers to help document the biodiversity of marine life off of Curaçao, a small island in the southern Caribbean, just north of Venezuela. I arrived in Curaçao with the first group of Smithsonian biologists involved with the Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP). Researchers from NMNH...
Jorge and I packed up the night we arrived in Panama with Aaron O'Dea and his team from STRI . The road we took in two field vehicles mostly followed the Panama Canal heading northwards; we had to stop at a tanker ship crossing, where the locks separated the roadway. Quite an engineering marvel. We spent the night in Achiote, fell asleep listening to howler monkeys, and awoke to the sights of hummingbirds and more toucans. Before heading out to the fossil locality on the Caribbean coast, we had a wonderful breakfast at a cantina by the side of the road: roasted chicken, plantains and some...
Jorge and I arrived in Panama City around 3 pm this afternoon, and took a taxi to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)'s headquarters in the Gorgas neighborhood of downtown Panama City. The temperature's about like it would be in D.C. on a hot day, but, much to our amazement, there are giant, beautiful avocados and mangos hanging from the trees, along with monkeys and toucans. (Apparently they pass for the Central American counterparts of rats and pigeons). Pretty neat though! We're getting a quick tour of the buildings from our host, Aaron, who works for the Center for Tropical...
My graduate student Jorge and I are departing today for Panama, to excavate a fossil whale that was discovered by an undergraduate student working with Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute researcher Aaron O'Dea . From extensive conversations with Aaron, and some excellent preliminary photos, it seems that the fossil whale (consisting of a skull and a shoulder blade, so far) belongs to a group of completely extinct toothed whales called Squalodontidae. If you're familiar with Latin roots, their taxonomic name reveals a key diagnostic feature of these extinct whales: they possess unusally...
If youngsters get cared for at all, the mother is usually involved. But in fish and a few other groups where eggs are not abandoned, fathers are the primary care providers. Males are sometimes such devoted dads that it takes longer for them to care for the young than it does for the females to produce the eggs. If potential fathers are in limited supply, stereotypical male and female roles get reversed, with males more interested in food and females more interested in sex. Some male fish build nests. A male will accept the eggs of more than one female, because he only has to defend them and...
Sophi Bromenshenkel is an unlikely shark -lover. She's eight years old and hails from Minnesota, a state that couldn't be further from the ocean. But a family vacation to Florida changed everything. When she saw a pregnant bull shark left for dead on a beach, Sophie knew she needed to help. Known by many at her school as “shark girl,” Sophi has raised more than $3,500 for shark research and conservation efforts. Through lemonade, hot chocolate, and cookie sales she’s garnered funds and increased awareness of the plight of sharks. Sophi’s proceeds help sustain the shark-tagging program at the...
Tags: Dolphins
Memorial Day is nearly upon us. We thought it'd be a good time to think about our summer beach reads. And yes, we're taking the phrase literally. (A quick aside: As a Minnesota-native I'd argue that winter is an equally good time to embark on an ocean reading list. Especially if the subject matter veers in the tropical direction.) As the Ocean Portal has done in the past, we want to hear about your favorite marine-themed books. Fiction or non-fiction. Short stories or epics. Old or new. We hope you'll share the titles and your thoughts about them in the comments section below. I personally...
Tags: Ocean books
Calling all fans of Bravo's "Top Chef" reality show: the Smithsonian Resident Associate Program is hosting Demystifying Seafood , a wine and dine event at the National Museum of Natural History on Thursday evening, June 9, 2011. "Top Chef" runner up Mike Isabella, fan favorite Carla Hall, season one contestant Sam Talbot, and over 30 other acclaimed chefs will be preparing "sustainable seafood" dishes for guests. The event also features wines from 25 vineyards from California to Virginia . As a consumer, it can be difficult figuring out how to choose seafood that is healthy for you, the...
Sea stars are important members of marine ecosystems, especially in the tropics. We may think of tropical coral reefs as being home mainly to fish and corals, but in fact these habitats are home to a huge diversity of ecologically important invertebrates. Sometimes, human influences can throw off the balance between these invertebrates, resulting in a cascade effect that negatively affects the entire coral reef ecosystem. A case study of this imbalance can be found in the tropical Indo-Pacific crown-of-thorns sea star (COTS). (Scientific name= Acanthaster planci ) Meet the Crown-of-Thorns Sea...
In honor of Mother's Day, the Citizens of the Sea blog salutes ocean-going mothers everywhere. Especially a 60 year-old albatross named Wisdom. She holds the seabird records for both oldest bird and oldest new mother. No stranger to motherhood, it is estimated that she has already birthed 30-35 other chicks. This made us wonder, why can Wisdom give birth well into her twilight years while human females call it quits 20-40 years early? And Wisdom is hardly alone - baleen whales can reproduce well into their 90s! In fact, human females are the oddballs here and a bit of a puzzle. Evolution...