Lying in water only a foot deep, I watched the shark meander lazily through the mangrove, already exuding the confidence inherent of the supreme creature within its domain. It was hot here in Bimini, nearly 100-degrees and mosquitoes were thick and relentless, swarming on to any bare skin. Yet slipping my head just inches below the water’s surface I had entered another realm. I was absolutely transfixed watching these little sharks, perhaps 12 to 18 inches long; swimming beneath mangrove roots and over the muddy bottom with impressive deftness. It was a shark scene quite unlike any others I...
Have you ever gone to your favorite coastal or lakeside beach and instead of having a fun day in the sun you were faced with a trove of trash? How heartbreaking it is to see waters and shorelines littered with items that you have at home, that maybe you’ve even recently thrown away. Encountering ocean trash on the beach has become more common. According to the Ocean Conservancy's Trash Travels report , International Coastal Cleanup volunteers collected 4,253,650 pounds of trash along an estimated 9,151 miles of coastal and inland shorelines in the United States in 2009. That equates to about...
The evolution of whales represents one of the great stories in macroevolution. It's a narrative that has mostly benefitted from an extraordinary series of fossils recovered from rocks around the world, including challenging field areas in Egypt, Pakistan, and India. Over the past 30 years, the diligent work of many paleontologists has revealed a sequence of evolutionary transformations, between ~52 to 40 million years ago, which illuminate how the ancestors of today's whales adapted to life in the water from their terrestrial ancestors. Interestingly, the near entirety of the fossil record of...
At a recent staff meeting a Smithsonian colleague mentioned that one of his pastimes this summer has been keeping tabs on the Arctic sea ice. The question that's on many Arctic-watchers' minds is whether or not the 2011 sea ice coverage will reach a new record low. The National Snow and Ice Data Center collects and provides much of the information on Arctic sea ice. One of the main numbers they report is the "sea ice extent." It's a figure that's been measured since 1979. This week NSIDC reported that, "If ice stopped declining in extent today it would be the second-lowest minimum extent in...
Tags: Arctic
Alaska’s pristine coastline is ripe for an influx of invasive marine species such as the European green crab and the rough periwinkle (an Atlantic sea snail), warns a new study by a team of scientists from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center . To date only 15 non-native species are known to have established themselves along Alaska’s Pacific coastline—as compared to more than 250 invasive marine species that now call California home—but this could easily change with warming temperatures and increased human activity in this region, the scientists warn. The idea that the colder...
It isn’t everyday that a magnitude 5.8 earthquake strikes the East Coast of the United States . But on August 23, 2011, people from Georgia to New England felt the rumble and shaking of an earthquake whose epicenter was in Mineral, Va. The East Coast is historically a low risk zone. What exactly happened and how might educators use this event in the classroom? First, take a look at an interview in Smithsonian Magazine with Dr. Elizabeth Cottrell, a geologist with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History who puts the Virginia earthquake into context , explaining why it was felt over...
Scientists at the Smithsonian and partnering organizations have discovered a remarkably primitive eel in a fringing reef off the coast of the Republic of Palau . This fish exhibits many primitive anatomical features unknown in the other 19 families and more than 800 species of living eels, resulting in its classification as a new species belonging to a new genus and family. The team’s research is published online in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Aug. 17 . Many of the physical features of this new genus and species of eel, Protanguilla palau , reflect its relationship to the 19...
The ocean is home to a phenomenal diversity of marine organisms. They have evolved to inhabit warm waters near the equator and the icy waters of the Earth’s poles. Marine life takes advantage of the enormous volume the ocean comprises: from diatoms living near the sunny surface, to octopods living in the dark deep sea. From humpback whales that travel thousands of miles in the open ocean to sessile corals rooted to one spot, marine life spans a fantastic variety of forms and plays a multitude of different ecological roles in Earth’s global ocean system. The nine animals on the fingertips in...
Ever since fourth grade I’ve wanted to explore the creatures and landscapes of the deep ocean in a submersible. It took awhile, but I finally got my chance this summer as part of the Deep Reef Observation Project (DROP) . What I experienced during my three-hour dive and subsequent visits to the lab included many aspects of science that I love so much: the sense of awe and wonder that investigating the unknown elicits; the teamwork; the creative problem solving; and all the learning that generates more questions than answers! As a science educator, I accompanied two marine scientists, Dr...
I’m a high school student interested in pursuing marine science. I have loved the ocean since I was 3 feet tall and only getting my feet wet at the beach. I’m a senior in high school, and over the next year I have the task of selecting a college, but I’m also thinking about my major and future profession. I know how hard it can be trying to figure out what career you would like to pursue especially with sports, school clubs, and television influencing your decision. If you love the ocean, but also have a passion for another field I am here to help you. This summer I have had the opportunity...