SUFB 135: Ocean Talk Friday

Speak Up For Blue Podcast

Our first story comes from Southern Fried Science, where Andrew David Thaler provides some context for the “Creator” manuscript whose retraction is making waves throughout the scientific community. For some background, feel free to read Andrew’s summary here and the original manuscript here. Esentially PLOS One, the journal that originally published the manuscript, later retracted the article due to the references it made in the abstract, introduction, and discussion to the “Creator.” However, when notified of its retraction, the team of Chinese authors claimed that the reference was simply a mistranslation of a Chinese idiom to English rather than any sort of intentional introduction of creationism language.

The strength of science lies in its independence. A scientifically-sound study can withstand the test of time because the methods through which the study was implemented and the results obtained during data collection aren’t subject to temporal or personal bias. If the references to the “Creator” were indeed unintentional and did not reflect any insertion of creationism beliefs into the manuscript, then the authors were done a disservice when the article was retracted.

Next up, we discussed a recent article from “Frontiers in Marine Science” by an international team of scientists that estimates the total abundance of mesopelagic organisms in the ocean’s twilight zone at 10 billion metric tons. This is an incredible amount of productivity for a region of the ocean that we still know very little about; the twilight zone refers to the depth of the ocean that sunlight does not reach, making it a very difficult region to study. What we do know is that this incredibly productive region represents an enormous source of food for larger animals like tuna, dolphins, and whales, it plays an important role in the nutrient and carbon cycling of the ocean, and potentially could represent a large future industry for medicinal research and development, nutritional supplement development, and seafood. Therefore, the authors of the study make it clear that if we eventually look to the twilight zone for commercial harvesting, we need to ensure it is managed sustainably and properly. We don’t necessarily have the best track record for protecting our ocean’s resources, so it’s critical we pinpoint potential sensitive areas before we begin exploiting them for commercial and industrial use.

And on we go to the Arctic. Russia made news this past week when it announced the creation of a multinational research initiative focused on examining how climate change is impacting the Arctic ecosystem. This collaboration, which in addition to Russia includes the United Kingdom, Canada, Monaco, Iceland, and Norway, will deploy a research station on a floating ice mount to examine things like the rate at which ice is melting, the rate at which the climate is warming and potentially other detrimental impacts of man-made climate change in one of the most pristine yet vulnerable environments on earth. While little is known about the source of funding for this project or the lifespan of the floating research station, it’s refreshing to see this type of international partnership to study and hopefully mitigate the harmful effects climate change is having on our planet.

Finally, we discussed the big news of the day. Just yesterday, SeaWorld announced that it will be ending the orca breeding program throughout all of its parks. While this may seem like an obvious and overdue solution for many conservationists and advocates, it’s important to recognize just how monumental this decision is. The documentary “Blackfish,” which was released in 2013, managed to completely turn public opinion against SeaWorld by exposing the harm they were inflicting on orcas. This public opinion has ultimately led to SeaWorld changing it’s primary revenue stream to prevent any further financial losses. All of this was done in just three years. Additionally, SeaWorld has now released a few statements claiming that it will instead focus on conservation and rehabilitation of marine mammals and the ocean environment. Though it’s unclear exactly how they will accomplish this or what types of exhibits they’ll develop to this end, its worth reiterating that SeaWorld is a giant company and has the potential to do so much good for our ocean.

Enjoy the Podcast!

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