Today is Ocean Talk Friday, meaning Andrew and I get the chance to speak our minds on a few stories in the news this past week related to ocean conservation.
1. First off, we wanted to address the “Flat Earth” theory that has been making headlines over the last couple of weeks. For those of you who haven’t heard the story, you can check out how it all began here. The part of this that baffles us here at SUFB is not that these beliefs exist, but that the verbalization of these beliefs is headline news. In Andrew’s interview with Carl Safina, he spoke of a shift in society’s attitude towards science and scientific research. My thoughts on this echo Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s, which you can see here.
There is a difference between intelligently critiquing scientific research in an attempt to improve and strengthen the results, which is a key tenet of the scientific process, and impressing your beliefs on others in a way that portrays fact-based scientific conclusions as inaccurate. While an individual can certainly believe whatever he or she likes about science, an individual should not influence policy and funding for science based on his or her beliefs. Science is based on factual evidence. If you disagree with a given scientific claim or argument, please feel free to provide counter claims based, again, on factual evidence. If these claims withstand the scientific process and peer review, then congratulations on communicating a new theory or conclusion to the informed world. If they do not, or if all you present are opinions qualified by the phrase “I’m not a scientist,” then they are just that: opinions, not science. And opinions are fragile things that, if left uninformed, can stagnate the human race.
2. New research suggests that future populations of Brazilian loggerhead sea turtles may be heavily comprised of females. In an article published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, a team of researchers from Brazil and the United States claim that if global temperatures continue to increase, we may start seeing shifts in sex ratios for animals with temperature-dependent sex determinations, like sea turtles. For loggerheads, higher incubation temperatures tend to result in more females being born than males. While it’s unclear what proportion of this species may experience sex ratio shifts in the coming years, and what exact effect this will have on future generations, smaller numbers of males could reduce genetic diversity and reproductive success of future generations. For a species like the loggerhead sea turtle, which is listed as vulnerable, shifts in male to female sex ratios could potentially pose a threat to the stability of the species.
3. There is some good news for our ocean, as Royal Caribbean cruise line and the World Wildlife Fund have entered into a five-year partnership to encourage and promote sustainable ecotourism. Initially, Royal Caribbean will place a WWF magazine in each room on their ships and work towards setting up a WWF channel on their tvs. Additionally, the cruise line has stated to source 90% of its seafood from sustainable sources and to reduce carbon emissions by about 35% over the next five years. Hopefully this shift towards sustainability is just the beginning for one of the largest cruise operators in the world, as cruise ships have a large negative impact on marine ecosystems. Still, cruises aren’t going anywhere soon, so any attempt to promote stewardship and sustainability to folks who provide business to companies like Royal Caribbean is a step forward.
4. Finally, Microsoft is working on building data servers that can be placed underwater in an attempt to reduce cost while increasing service quality. Currently, these servers are stored in large warehouses out in the middle of rural areas. All the activity and energy produced by large amounts of servers in a single area generates a lot of heat, so companies like Microsoft often spent large amounts of money on just keeping the temperature of the storage area cool enough that these machines don’t overheat and crash. Placing servers underwater may help cut down on this cost, provided it isn’t offset by negative impacts on the ocean ecosystems. While preliminary tests suggest these servers don’t contribute a significant amount of noise pollution or increased warming, regulaorty agencies should pay close attention to the potential impacts these servers may have on marine habitats during the installation and maintenance phases. While we may be heading towards large numbers of underwater data servers, it’s important that necessary precautions are taken to ensure these systems don’t harm an already fragile yet necessary ecosystem.
Enjoy the Podcast!