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  • richardmitnick 8:37 am on January 17, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The blob", , Common Murre die-off, Earth Observation, Food chain,   

    From University of Washington: “‘The blob,’ food supply squeeze to blame for largest seabird die-off” 

    From University of Washington

    January 15, 2020
    Michelle Ma

    A recently dead common murre found by a citizen scientist on a routine monthly survey in January 2016. An intact, fresh bird indicates scavengers have not yet arrived. This carcass has probably only been on the beach a few hours.COASST

    The common murre is a self-sufficient, resilient bird.

    Though the seabird must eat about half of its body weight in prey each day, common murres are experts at catching the small “forage fish” they need to survive. Herring, sardines, anchovies and even juvenile salmon are no match for a hungry murre.

    So when nearly one million common murres died at sea and washed ashore from California to Alaska in 2015 and 2016, it was unprecedented — both for murres, and across all bird species worldwide. Scientists from the University of Washington, the U.S. Geological Survey and others blame an unexpected squeeze on the ecosystem’s food supply, brought on by a severe and long-lasting marine heat wave known as “the blob.”

    Their findings were published Jan. 15 in the journal PLOS ONE.

    “Think of it as a run on the grocery stores at the same time that the delivery trucks to the stores stopped coming so often,” explained second author Julia Parrish, a UW professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “We believe that the smoking gun for common murres — beyond the marine heat wave itself — was an ecosystem squeeze: fewer forage fish and smaller prey in general, at the same time that competition from big fish predators like walleye, pollock and Pacific cod greatly increased.”

    Common murre eggs show consistent patterns year after year. Photo by Christiana Carvalho. Hakai Magazine

    Common murres nest in colonies along cliffs and rocky ledges overlooking the ocean. The adult birds, about one foot in length, are mostly black with white bellies, and can dive more than two football fields below the ocean’s surface in search of prey.

    Warmer surface water temperatures off the Pacific coast — a phenomenon known as “the blob” [above] — first occurred in the fall and winter of 2013, and persisted through 2014 and 2015. Warming increased with the arrival of a powerful El Niño in 2015-2016. A number of other species experienced mass die-offs during this period, including tufted puffins, Cassin’s auklets, sea lions and baleen whales. But the common murre die-off was by far the largest any way you measure it.

    From May 2015 to April 2016, about 62,000 murre carcasses were found on beaches from central California north through Alaska. Citizen scientists in Alaska monitoring long-term sites counted numbers that reached 1,000 times more than normal for their beaches. Scientists estimate that the actual number of deaths was likely close to one million, since only a fraction of birds that die will wash to shore, and only a fraction of those will be in places that people can access.

    Many of the birds that died were breeding-age adults. With massive shifts in food availability, murre breeding colonies across the entire region failed to produce chicks for the years during and after the marine heat wave event, the authors found.

    “The magnitude and scale of this failure has no precedent,” said lead author John Piatt, a research biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center and an affiliate professor in the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “It was astonishing and alarming, and a red-flag warning about the tremendous impact sustained ocean warming can have on the marine ecosystem.”

    From a review of fisheries studies conducted during the heat wave period, the research team concluded that persistent warm ocean temperatures associated with “the blob” increased the metabolism of cold-blooded organisms from zooplankton and small forage fish up through larger predatory fish like salmon and pollock. With predatory fish eating more than usual, the demand for food at the top of the food chain was unsustainable. As a result, the once-plentiful schools of forage fish that murres rely on became harder to find.

    “Food demands of large commercial groundfish like cod, pollock, halibut and hake were predicted to increase dramatically with the level of warming observed with the blob, and since they eat many of the same prey as murres, this competition likely compounded the food supply problem for murres, leading to mass mortality events from starvation,” Piatt said.

    As the largest mass die-off of seabirds in recorded history, the common murre event may help explain the other die-offs that occurred during the northeast Pacific marine heat wave, and also serve as a warning for what could happen during future marine heat waves, the authors said.

    UW scientists recently identified another marine heatwave forming off the Washington coast and up into the Gulf of Alaska.

    “All of this — as with the Cassin’s auklet mass mortality and the tufted puffin mass mortality — demonstrates that a warmer ocean world is a very different environment and a very different coastal ecosystem for many marine species,” said Parrish, who is also the executive director of the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, known as COASST. “Seabirds, as highly visible members of that system, are bellwethers of that change.”

    Additional UW co-authors are Timothy Jones, Hillary Burgess and Jackie Lindsey. Other study co-authors are from U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Farallon Institute, International Bird Rescue, Humboldt State University, National Park Service, NOAA Fisheries, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, NOAA Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and Point Blue Conservation Science.

    This research was funded by the USGS Ecosystems Mission Area, the North Pacific Research Board, The National Science Foundation and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

    For more information, contact Parrish at jparrish@uw.edu and Piatt at piattjf@gmail.com.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

  • richardmitnick 1:08 am on January 17, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Earth Observation, , , , https://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/, , San Diego CA, ,   

    From temblor: “Past meets present to help future seismic hazard forecasts in San Diego, CA” 


    From temblor

    January 13, 2020
    Alka Tripathy-Lang

    Urbanization obscures a complex fault zone on which downtown San Diego sits, but decades-old geotechnical studies reveal the faults.

    Urbanization in downtown San Diego. Credit: Tony Webster CC-BY-2.0.

    Fault studies often rely on surface expressions of the ground’s movement. In densely populated urban areas, such as San Diego, this evidence is concealed beneath the cityscape. Now, though, a team has used historical reports to trace faults through downtown San Diego in unprecedented detail, establishing a template that other fault-prone cities can follow to illuminate otherwise hidden hazards.

    Urbanization obscures geology

    Downtown San Diego, popular for its beaches and parks, also hosts the active Rose Canyon Fault Zone, a complex hazard that underlies the city from northwest of La Jolla through downtown, before curving into San Diego Bay.

    Rose Canyon Fault. https://www.nbcsandiego.com/

    Like the nearby San Andreas, the Rose Canyon Fault is right-lateral, meaning if you were to stand on one side, the opposite side would appear to move to your right. But it plods along at a rate of 1-2 millimeters per year, unlike its speedy neighbor, which indicates a comparatively lower seismic risk.

    “We haven’t had a major rupture” on the Rose Canyon Fault since people have been living atop it, says Jillian Maloney, a geophysicist at San Diego State University and co-author of the new study. So it’s hard to say what kind of damage would be caused, she says. “But, a magnitude-6.9 [of which this fault is capable] is big.”

    Because of urbanization, though, “there haven’t been any comprehensive geologic investigations” of the faults underlying downtown San Diego, Maloney says. This presents a problem because detailed knowledge of active and inactive fault locations, especially in a complicated area where the fault zone bends, is key for successful seismic hazard assessments, she says. The state and federal government maintain fault maps and databases, but their accuracy at the small scale was unknown.

    Map of the Rose Canyon Fault near San Diego, California, USA. USGS

    Faded pages

    A solution to the lack of detailed fault mapping in downtown San Diego resided in decades of old geotechnical reports. These individual studies the size of a city block or smaller are required by the city for any proposed development near active faults, as mapped by the state. Although the data are public once the reports are filed with the city, the reports had not been integrated into a comprehensive or digital resource, and the city does not maintain a list of such reports.

    This bird’s-eye view of downtown San Diego was drawn by Eli Glover in 1876. Prior to the development of downtown San Diego, the Rose Canyon Fault Zone was expressed on the surface and could be seen laterally offsetting topographic features. Credit: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

    According to Luke Weidman, lead author of this study, which was his master’s project, the first challenge was determining how many reports were even available. Weidman, currently a geologist at geotech firm Geocon, went straight to the source: He asked several of San Diego’s large geotechnical firms for their old publicly available reports in exchange for digitizing them. 

    Weidman scrutinized more than 400 reports he received, dating from 1979 to 2016. Many were uninterpretable because of faded or illegible pages. He assembled the 268 most legible ones into a fault map and database of downtown San Diego. Because reports lacked geographical coordinates, Weidman resorted to property boundaries, building locations, park benches and even trees to locate the reports on a modern map, says Maloney, one of his master’s advisors. Weidman, Maloney and geologist Tom Rockwell also of San Diego State published the findings from their comprehensive interactive digital map last month in Geosphere, along with an analysis of the Rose Canyon Fault Zone in downtown San Diego.

    Below from https://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/

    Map of the Rose Canyon fault zone (RCFZ) through San Diego (SD), California (USA) and across the San Diego Bay pull-apart basin. Black box shows the extent of Figure 3. Grid shows population count per grid cell (∼1 km2) (source: LandScan 2017, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, UT-Battelle, LLC, https://landscan.ornl.gov/). DF—Descanso fault; SBF—Spanish Bight fault; CF—Coronado fault; SSF—Silver Strand fault; LNFZ—La Nacion fault zone.

    Street map of greater downtown San Diego region showing Alquist-Priolo (AP) zones and faults from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) fault database (USGS-CGS, 2006). Black box shows the extent of Figures 6, 7, and 8. Background imagery: ESRI, HERE (https://www.here.com/strategic-partners/esri), Garmin, OpenStreetMap contributors, and the GIS community.

    Fault findings

    The team found that downtown San Diego’s active faults—defined in their paper as having ruptured within the past 11,500 years—largely track the state’s active fault maps. However, at the scale of the one-block investigations, they found several faults mapped in the wrong location, and cases of no fault where one was expected. Further, the team uncovered three active faults that were not included in the state or federal maps. At the scale at which geotechnical firms, government, owners and developers need to know active fault locations, the use of this type of data is important, says Diane Murbach, an engineering geologist at Murbach Geotech who was not involved in this study.

    This map of downtown San Diego, Calif., shows fault locations as mapped by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and faults as located by the individual geotechnical reports compiled in the new study. Green, light orange, dark orange and red boxes indicate whether individual geotechnical studies found no hazard (green), active faults (red) or potential fault hazards (dark or light orange). Note that the Rose Canyon Fault Zone as mapped by USGS occasionally intersects green boxes, indicating the fault may be mislocated. Where the fault is active, mismatches exist as well. Note the arrow pointing to the ‘USGS-Geotech fault difference,’ highlighting a significant discrepancy in where the fault was previously mapped, versus where it lies. Credit: Weidman et al., [2019].

    Maloney says they also found other faults that haven’t ruptured in the last 11,500 years. This is important, she says, because “you could have a scenario where an active zone ruptures and propagates to [one] that was previously considered inactive.”

    This research “is the first of its kind that I know of that takes all these different reports from different scales with no set format, and fits them into one [usable] database,” says Nicolas Barth, a geologist at the University of California, Riverside who was not part of this study. Many cities have been built on active faults, obscuring hints of past seismicity, he notes. “This is a nice template for others to use,” he says, “not just in California, but globally.”

    Weidman, L., Maloney, J.M., and Rockwell, T.K. (2019). Geotechnical data synthesis for GIS-based analysis of fault zone geometry and hazard in an urban environment. Geosphere, v.15, 1999-2017. doi:10.1130/GES02098.1

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Earthquake Alert


    Earthquake Alert

    Earthquake Network project

    Earthquake Network is a research project which aims at developing and maintaining a crowdsourced smartphone-based earthquake warning system at a global level. Smartphones made available by the population are used to detect the earthquake waves using the on-board accelerometers. When an earthquake is detected, an earthquake warning is issued in order to alert the population not yet reached by the damaging waves of the earthquake.

    The project started on January 1, 2013 with the release of the homonymous Android application Earthquake Network. The author of the research project and developer of the smartphone application is Francesco Finazzi of the University of Bergamo, Italy.

    Get the app in the Google Play store.

    Smartphone network spatial distribution (green and red dots) on December 4, 2015

    Meet The Quake-Catcher Network

    QCN bloc

    Quake-Catcher Network

    The Quake-Catcher Network is a collaborative initiative for developing the world’s largest, low-cost strong-motion seismic network by utilizing sensors in and attached to internet-connected computers. With your help, the Quake-Catcher Network can provide better understanding of earthquakes, give early warning to schools, emergency response systems, and others. The Quake-Catcher Network also provides educational software designed to help teach about earthquakes and earthquake hazards.

    After almost eight years at Stanford, and a year at CalTech, the QCN project is moving to the University of Southern California Dept. of Earth Sciences. QCN will be sponsored by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) and the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC).

    The Quake-Catcher Network is a distributed computing network that links volunteer hosted computers into a real-time motion sensing network. QCN is one of many scientific computing projects that runs on the world-renowned distributed computing platform Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC).

    The volunteer computers monitor vibrational sensors called MEMS accelerometers, and digitally transmit “triggers” to QCN’s servers whenever strong new motions are observed. QCN’s servers sift through these signals, and determine which ones represent earthquakes, and which ones represent cultural noise (like doors slamming, or trucks driving by).

    There are two categories of sensors used by QCN: 1) internal mobile device sensors, and 2) external USB sensors.

    Mobile Devices: MEMS sensors are often included in laptops, games, cell phones, and other electronic devices for hardware protection, navigation, and game control. When these devices are still and connected to QCN, QCN software monitors the internal accelerometer for strong new shaking. Unfortunately, these devices are rarely secured to the floor, so they may bounce around when a large earthquake occurs. While this is less than ideal for characterizing the regional ground shaking, many such sensors can still provide useful information about earthquake locations and magnitudes.

    USB Sensors: MEMS sensors can be mounted to the floor and connected to a desktop computer via a USB cable. These sensors have several advantages over mobile device sensors. 1) By mounting them to the floor, they measure more reliable shaking than mobile devices. 2) These sensors typically have lower noise and better resolution of 3D motion. 3) Desktops are often left on and do not move. 4) The USB sensor is physically removed from the game, phone, or laptop, so human interaction with the device doesn’t reduce the sensors’ performance. 5) USB sensors can be aligned to North, so we know what direction the horizontal “X” and “Y” axes correspond to.

    If you are a science teacher at a K-12 school, please apply for a free USB sensor and accompanying QCN software. QCN has been able to purchase sensors to donate to schools in need. If you are interested in donating to the program or requesting a sensor, click here.

    BOINC is a leader in the field(s) of Distributed Computing, Grid Computing and Citizen Cyberscience.BOINC is more properly the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing, developed at UC Berkeley.

    Earthquake safety is a responsibility shared by billions worldwide. The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) provides software so that individuals can join together to improve earthquake monitoring, earthquake awareness, and the science of earthquakes. The Quake-Catcher Network (QCN) links existing networked laptops and desktops in hopes to form the worlds largest strong-motion seismic network.

    Below, the QCN Quake Catcher Network map
    QCN Quake Catcher Network map

    ShakeAlert: An Earthquake Early Warning System for the West Coast of the United States

    The U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) along with a coalition of State and university partners is developing and testing an earthquake early warning (EEW) system called ShakeAlert for the west coast of the United States. Long term funding must be secured before the system can begin sending general public notifications, however, some limited pilot projects are active and more are being developed. The USGS has set the goal of beginning limited public notifications in 2018.

    Watch a video describing how ShakeAlert works in English or Spanish.

    The primary project partners include:

    United States Geological Survey
    California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES)
    California Geological Survey
    California Institute of Technology
    University of California Berkeley
    University of Washington
    University of Oregon
    Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

    The Earthquake Threat

    Earthquakes pose a national challenge because more than 143 million Americans live in areas of significant seismic risk across 39 states. Most of our Nation’s earthquake risk is concentrated on the West Coast of the United States. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has estimated the average annualized loss from earthquakes, nationwide, to be $5.3 billion, with 77 percent of that figure ($4.1 billion) coming from California, Washington, and Oregon, and 66 percent ($3.5 billion) from California alone. In the next 30 years, California has a 99.7 percent chance of a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake and the Pacific Northwest has a 10 percent chance of a magnitude 8 to 9 megathrust earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone.

    Part of the Solution

    Today, the technology exists to detect earthquakes, so quickly, that an alert can reach some areas before strong shaking arrives. The purpose of the ShakeAlert system is to identify and characterize an earthquake a few seconds after it begins, calculate the likely intensity of ground shaking that will result, and deliver warnings to people and infrastructure in harm’s way. This can be done by detecting the first energy to radiate from an earthquake, the P-wave energy, which rarely causes damage. Using P-wave information, we first estimate the location and the magnitude of the earthquake. Then, the anticipated ground shaking across the region to be affected is estimated and a warning is provided to local populations. The method can provide warning before the S-wave arrives, bringing the strong shaking that usually causes most of the damage.

    Studies of earthquake early warning methods in California have shown that the warning time would range from a few seconds to a few tens of seconds. ShakeAlert can give enough time to slow trains and taxiing planes, to prevent cars from entering bridges and tunnels, to move away from dangerous machines or chemicals in work environments and to take cover under a desk, or to automatically shut down and isolate industrial systems. Taking such actions before shaking starts can reduce damage and casualties during an earthquake. It can also prevent cascading failures in the aftermath of an event. For example, isolating utilities before shaking starts can reduce the number of fire initiations.

    System Goal

    The USGS will issue public warnings of potentially damaging earthquakes and provide warning parameter data to government agencies and private users on a region-by-region basis, as soon as the ShakeAlert system, its products, and its parametric data meet minimum quality and reliability standards in those geographic regions. The USGS has set the goal of beginning limited public notifications in 2018. Product availability will expand geographically via ANSS regional seismic networks, such that ShakeAlert products and warnings become available for all regions with dense seismic instrumentation.

    Current Status

    The West Coast ShakeAlert system is being developed by expanding and upgrading the infrastructure of regional seismic networks that are part of the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS); the California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN) is made up of the Southern California Seismic Network, SCSN) and the Northern California Seismic System, NCSS and the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN). This enables the USGS and ANSS to leverage their substantial investment in sensor networks, data telemetry systems, data processing centers, and software for earthquake monitoring activities residing in these network centers. The ShakeAlert system has been sending live alerts to “beta” users in California since January of 2012 and in the Pacific Northwest since February of 2015.

    In February of 2016 the USGS, along with its partners, rolled-out the next-generation ShakeAlert early warning test system in California joined by Oregon and Washington in April 2017. This West Coast-wide “production prototype” has been designed for redundant, reliable operations. The system includes geographically distributed servers, and allows for automatic fail-over if connection is lost.

    This next-generation system will not yet support public warnings but does allow selected early adopters to develop and deploy pilot implementations that take protective actions triggered by the ShakeAlert notifications in areas with sufficient sensor coverage.


    The USGS will develop and operate the ShakeAlert system, and issue public notifications under collaborative authorities with FEMA, as part of the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program, as enacted by the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977, 42 U.S.C. §§ 7704 SEC. 2.

    For More Information

    Robert de Groot, ShakeAlert National Coordinator for Communication, Education, and Outreach

    Learn more about EEW Research

    ShakeAlert Fact Sheet

    ShakeAlert Implementation Plan

  • richardmitnick 11:20 am on January 16, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Why is Puerto Rico Being Struck by Earthquakes?", , , Earth Observation,   

    From Discover Magazine: “Why is Puerto Rico Being Struck by Earthquakes?” 


    From Discover Magazine

    January 7, 2020
    Erik Klemetti

    Multiple large earthquakes have hit Puerto Rico over the past week, all thanks to the geologically-active Caribbean Plate.

    The tectonic plates of the world were mapped in 1996, USGS.

    Map of recent earthquakes from late December into early January 2020 near Puerto Rico. Credit: USGS.

    Since Monday, Puerto Rico has been struck by multiple magnitude 5 and 6 earthquakes. These earthquakes caused significant damage on an island still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

    Most people don’t think of the Caribbean as an area rife for geologic activity, but earthquakes and eruptions are common. The major earthquakes in Puerto Rico and Haiti, as well as eruptions on Montserrat are all reminders that complex interactions between tectonic plates lie along the Caribbean Ocean’s margins.

    The Caribbean plate lies beneath much of the ocean of the same name (see below). It is bounded in the north and east by the North American plate, to the south by the South American plate and to the west by the Cocos plate. There isn’t much land mass above sea level on the plate beyond the islands that stretch from southern Cuba to the Lesser Antilles, along with parts of Central America like Costa Rica and Panama. A few small platelets have been identified along the margins of the plate as well.

    Tectonic plates in the eastern Caribbean with historical earthquakes from 1900-2016 marked. Source: USGS.

    The northern edge of the plate is a transform boundary, where the two plates are sliding by each other. This causes stress that leads to earthquakes, much the same as the earthquakes generated along the San Andreas fault in California. This is why we’ve seen large earthquakes in places like Haiti, the Dominican Republic and now Puerto Rico.

    Head to the east and you reach the curving arc of islands that form the Lesser Antilles. Many of these islands are homes to potentially active volcanoes, such as Soufrière Hills on Montserrat, Pelée on Martinique, La Soufrière on St. Vincent and more. Other islands are homes to relict volcanoes as well. All these volcanoes have been formed by the North American plate sliding underneath the Caribbean, similar to the Cascade Range in the western United States and Canada.

    So, Puerto Rico doesn’t have active volcanoes, but it can experience large earthquakes. One of the most famous in the 1918 San Fermín earthquake that was a magnitude 7.1. Unlike the current temblors, the San Fermín earthquake occurred north of the island under the sea, generating a tsunami. More than 100 people likely died in that event.

    The current spate of earthquakes struck near the southern coast of the island. Both of the largest earthquakes — Monday’s M5.8 and Tuesday’s M6.4 — occurred during the early morning hours, when most people are at home. This heightens the risk of injuries and fatalities if homes collapse, but luckily so far the number of deaths is low. However, there has been significant damage to home and infrastructure already made precarious by the devastation of Hurricane Maria. This means longer-term hazards for the people of Puerto Rico.

    On top of this, the earthquakes have triggered landslides and rockfalls, increasing the threat to the island’s residents. The shaking also destroyed a picturesque natural bridge on the coast of the island. With dozens of aftershocks so far, it may be quite some time before people feel secure again.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 11:37 am on January 15, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Fisheries management is actually working global analysis shows", , Earth Observation,   

    From University of Washington: “Fisheries management is actually working, global analysis shows” 

    From University of Washington

    January 13, 2020
    Michelle Ma

    A commercial fishing vessel near Morro Bay, California, returning to harbor.Michael L. Baird/Flickr

    Nearly half of the fish caught worldwide are from stocks that are scientifically monitored and, on average, are increasing in abundance. Effective management appears to be the main reason these stocks are at sustainable levels or successfully rebuilding.

    That is the main finding of an international project led by the University of Washington to compile and analyze data from fisheries around the world. The results were published Jan. 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    “There is a narrative that fish stocks are declining around the world, that fisheries management is failing and we need new solutions — and it’s totally wrong,” said lead author Ray Hilborn, a professor in the UW School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “Fish stocks are not all declining around the world. They are increasing in many places, and we already know how to solve problems through effective fisheries management.”

    The project builds on a decade-long international collaboration to assemble estimates of the status of fish stocks — or distinct populations of fish — around the world. This information helps scientists and managers know where overfishing is occurring, or where some areas could support even more fishing. Now the team’s database includes information on nearly half of the world’s fish catch, up from about 20% represented in the last compilation in 2009.

    “The key is, we want to know how well we are doing, where we need to improve, and what the problems are,” Hilborn said. “Given that most countries are trying to provide long-term sustainable yield of their fisheries, we want to know where we are overfishing, and where there is potential for more yield in places we’re not fully exploiting.”

    Over the past decade, the research team built a network of collaborators in countries and regions throughout the world, inputting their data on valuable fish populations in places such as the Mediterranean, Peru, Chile, Russia, Japan and northwest Africa. Now about 880 fish stocks are included in the database, giving a much more comprehensive picture worldwide of the health and status of fish populations.

    Still, most of the fish stocks in South Asia and Southeast Asia do not have scientific estimates of health and status available. Fisheries in India, Indonesia and China alone represent 30% to 40% of the world’s fish catch that is essentially unassessed.

    “There are still big gaps in the data and these gaps are more difficult to fill,” said co-author Ana Parma, a principal scientist at Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council and a member of The Nature Conservancy global board. “This is because the available information on smaller fisheries is more scattered, has not been standardized and is harder to collate, or because fisheries in many regions are not regularly monitored.”

    Since the mid-1990s, catch has generally declined in proportion to decreases in fishing pressure for the fish stocks assessed in the database. By 2005, average biomass of fish stocks had started to increase.

    The researchers paired information about fish stocks with recently published data on fisheries management activities in about 30 countries. This analysis found that more intense management led to healthy or improving fish stocks, while little to no management led to overfishing and poor stock status.

    These results show that fisheries management works when applied, and the solution for sustaining fisheries around the world is implementing effective fisheries management, the authors explained.

    “With the data we were able to assemble, we could test whether fisheries management allows stocks to recover. We found that, emphatically, the answer is yes,” said co-author Christopher Costello, a professor of environmental and resource economics at University of California, Santa Barbara, and a board member with Environmental Defense Fund. “This really gives credibility to the fishery managers and governments around the world that are willing to take strong actions.”

    Fisheries management should be tailored to fit the characteristics of the different fisheries and the needs of specific countries and regions for it to be successful. Approaches that have been effective in many large-scale industrial fisheries in developed countries cannot be expected to work for small-scale fisheries, especially in regions with limited economic and technical resources and weak governance systems, Parma said.

    The main goal should be to reduce the total fishing pressure when it is too high, and find ways to incentivize fishing fleets to value healthy fish stocks.

    “There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all management approach,” Costello said. “We need to design the way we manage fisheries so that fishermen around the world have a long-term stake in the health of the ocean.”

    Other UW co-authors are Christopher Anderson, Trevor Branch and Ricardo Amoroso of the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. Other co-authors are from University of Victoria, University of Cape Town, National Institute of Fisheries Research (Morocco), Rutgers University, Seikai National Fisheries Research Institute Japan, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Fisheries New Zealand, Wildlife Conservation Society, Marine and Freshwater Research Center (Argentina), European Commission, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Center for the Study of Marine Systems, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, The Nature Conservancy, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

    Hilborn and collaborators recently presented this work at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability in Rome.

    The research was funded by the Science for Nature and People Partnership, a collaboration between the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at UC Santa Barbara, The Nature Conservancy and Wildlife Conservation Society. Individual authors received funding from The Nature Conservancy, The Wildlife Conservation Society, the Walton Family Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, the Richard C. and Lois M. Worthington Endowed Professorship in Fisheries Management and donations from 12 fishing companies.

    For more information, contact Hilborn at rayh@uw.edu, Parma at anaparma@gmail.com and Costello at costello@bren.ucsb.edu.

    More information is available at Sustainable Fisheries UW, an effort to communicate the science, policies and human dimensions of sustainable fisheries.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

  • richardmitnick 4:32 pm on January 14, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Atlantic purple sea urchins, Earth Observation,   

    From University of Rhode Island: “URI researcher: Sea urchins could prove to be Rhode Island’s next climate-resilient crop” 

    From University of Rhode Island

    January 13, 2020
    Todd McLeish

    URI students (l-r) Anna Byczynski, Max Zavell and Alli McKenna hold some of the Atlantic purple sea urchins they are raising and testing in a lab at the URI Bay Campus. (Photo by Michael Salerno)

    Atlantic purple sea urchins are common in coastal waters along the East Coast, and University of Rhode Island scientist Coleen Suckling thinks the Ocean State could become the home of a new industry to raise the spiny marine creatures for consumption in Japan and elsewhere around the world.

    She has teamed with a company called Urchinomics, which is pioneering urchin ranching around the world. Suckling is testing a sea urchin feed the company developed in Norway to see if Rhode Island’s urchins will eat the product and, in turn, become commercially appealing.

    “Sea urchins are generally good at coping with climate change; they appear to be resilient to warming and ocean acidification,” said Suckling, URI assistant professor of sustainable aquaculture. “So they’re a good species to turn to for commercial harvest. And you can get a good return on your investment from them.”

    The global sea urchin market is valued at about $175 million per year, with about 65 to 70 percent of the harvest being sold to Japan. Urchins are primarily used for sushi, though they are also an ingredient in a variety of other recipes as well.

    Red urchins and Pacific purple urchins are harvested in California, Alaska and British Columbia, while green urchins are captured in Maine and Atlantic Canada. Little is known about how successfully Atlantic purple urchins would compete in the marketplace, but Suckling is taking the first steps to find out.

    The edible part of the sea urchin is its gonad tissue – which chefs refer to as roe or uni and Suckling describes as tasting “like what you imagine a clean ocean smells like” – but the tissue must be firm and bright yellow or orange to get the best prices.

    “Wild urchins typically have small gonads and the color isn’t great, so commercial harvesters are collecting wild-caught urchins and feeding them an enriched finishing diet in cages in the open water for a few months to allow them to grow larger gonads and develop good color,” Suckling said.

    At the Narragansett Bay Campus, URI undergraduates Max Zavell, Anna Byczynski and Alli McKenna are undertaking a three-month food trial on purple urchins caught in Rhode Island waters. The animals are being fed a variety of foods to see how well they grow and if they become marketable. The students monitor water quality and regularly weigh and measure the urchins, and by February they should have preliminary results.

    “If they become marketable, then it opens up a whole interesting range of potential options,” Suckling said. “Under future climate conditions, there may be a need to diversify what we produce in the seafood sector. And since urchins are good at coping with acidification, this could be a good opportunity here in Rhode Island to exploit sea urchins.”

    Even if the formulated diet works as expected, many additional questions remain to be answered before urchins could be raised commercially in the state.

    “It’s a local species, so we can potentially grow them here, but is it something the Coastal Resources Management Council and the Department of Environmental Management would be interested in?” Suckling asked. “Are there aquaculture farmers interested in growing them? Can we ranch them reliably? We’re just taking the first step to see if it’s worth the effort to answer these other questions.

    “Part of my role is to try to understand what seafood we may need to turn to in a sustainable manner so we can maintain food security and economic security in the future,” she added.

    See the full article here .


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    The University of Rhode Island is a diverse and dynamic community whose members are connected by a common quest for knowledge.

    As a major research university defined by innovation and big thinking, URI offers its undergraduate, graduate, and professional students distinctive educational opportunities designed to meet the global challenges of today’s world and the rapidly evolving needs of tomorrow. That’s why we’re here.

    The University of Rhode Island, commonly referred to as URI, is the flagship public research as well as the land grant and sea grant university for the state of Rhode Island. Its main campus is located in the village of Kingston in southern Rhode Island. Additionally, smaller campuses include the Feinstein Campus in Providence, the Rhode Island Nursing Education Center in Providence, the Narragansett Bay Campus in Narragansett, and the W. Alton Jones Campus in West Greenwich.

    The university offers bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees in 80 undergraduate and 49 graduate areas of study through eight academic colleges. These colleges include Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, Education and Professional Studies, Engineering, Health Sciences, Environment and Life Sciences, Nursing and Pharmacy. Another college, University College for Academic Success, serves primarily as an advising college for all incoming undergraduates and follows them through their first two years of enrollment at URI.

    The University enrolled about 13,600 undergraduate and 3,000 graduate students in Fall 2015.[2] U.S. News & World Report classifies URI as a tier 1 national university, ranking it tied for 161st in the U.S.

  • richardmitnick 12:38 pm on January 13, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Stanford’s high-tech ocean solutions research in 2019", , Earth Observation, ,   

    From Stanford University: “Stanford’s high-tech ocean solutions research in 2019” 

    Stanford University Name
    From Stanford University

    January 7, 2020

    Taylor Kubota, Stanford News Service
    (650) 724-7707

    Stanford researchers used advanced technologies in 2019 to study and address a wide range of issues affecting our oceans and our relationship with them.

    A robotic buoy outfitted with sensors as part of the Biogeochemical-Argo network floats in polar waters, taking measurements that help scientists answer questions about the composition of phytoplankton communities and the uptake of carbon dioxide by the ocean. (Image credit: P. Bourgain)

    In 2019, technologies like floating robots, waterproof tagging systems and satellites aided Stanford University researchers in their efforts to better understand and solve challenges facing our oceans, including warming waters, flooding and seafood sustainability.

    “For millennia, our ability to protect the health of the oceans has been hampered by the fact that it has been impossible to know very much about what is happening in the water or even on the surface,” said Jim Leape, co-director of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, in a Q&A on food security. “That is now rapidly changing, as new sensors in the water, on satellites, on boats and even on fishing nets provide a new era of transparency in the use of ocean resources.”

    Better understanding of the problems oceans, marine life and coastal communities are facing can lead to smarter action and policies to address these issues. This research also adds to fundamental knowledge about a massive piece of our planet that remains mysterious.

    Probing ocean life

    Ocean life, like algae and fish, form the backbone of many food systems – but there’s still a lot to learn about where those organisms live and the threats they face.

    A fleet of robots that surfed the Southern Ocean between Antarctica and the African continent in 2014 and 2015 led researchers from the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth) to investigate two strange blooms of microscopic ocean algae. Seeing these phytoplankton blooms where nutrients are scarce, Kevin Arrigo, a professor of Earth system science, and Mathieu Ardyna, a postdoctoral scholar, combined satellite and floating buoy data with the robots’ reports and found that deep hydrothermal vents were welling up nutrients, creating oases for algae.

    This finding [Nature Communications] was the first to show how iron rising from openings on the seafloor of the Southern Ocean could fuel these blooms and suggests these vents may affect life near the ocean’s surface and the global carbon cycle more than previously thought.

    Other robotic measurements – along with fishing records, satellite data and biological sampling – helped William Gilly, professor of biology in the School of Humanities and Sciences, and his collaborators identify shifting weather patterns and warmer waters in the Gulf of California that have likely contributed to the collapse of jumbo squid fisheries in the area.

    “You can think of it as a sort of oceanographic drought,” said Timothy Frawley, a former Stanford graduate student who worked with Gilly, in a story about the research. “Until the cool-water conditions we associate with elevated primary and secondary production return, jumbo squid in the Gulf of California are likely to remain small.”

    In an attempt to gain a better understanding of where fishing occurs and where fish are, researchers, including Barbara Block, the Prothro Professor of Marine Sciences at Stanford, combined satellite tracking of fishing fleets with maps of marine predator habitats – determined using a decade-long tracking program called Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) – to identify areas of overlap. Focusing on international waters in the northeast Pacific, the researchers found [Science Advances March 2019] that vessels from Taiwan, China, Japan, the United States and Mexico accounted for over 90 percent of fishing in key habitat areas for seven shark and tuna species. Work like this could aid in developing more effective wildlife management on the high seas.

    A closer look at pressing issues

    In other research, technologies helped examine the ways oceans are changing and how rising seas impact our life on land.

    Hoping to improve predictions of sea-level rise, Dustin Schroeder, an assistant professor of geophysics at Stanford Earth, compared vintage ice-penetrating radar records of Thwaites Glacier – captured between 1971 and 1979 – with modern data. Schroeder and his team found the eastern ice shelf of the Antarctic glacier is melting faster than previously estimated.

    “It was surprising how good the old data is,” Schroeder said, in a story about this research [PNAS]. “They were very careful and thoughtful engineers and it’s much richer, more modern looking than you would think.”

    Meanwhile, in murkier waters, Oliver Fringer, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, has begun testing a drone equipped with a special camera, attuned to reveal high-resolution details of sediment flow and settling in the San Francisco Bay.

    “Mud is not glamorous, but mud is where all the contaminants collect and stick,” noted Fringer, in a story by the School of Engineering. Studying these sediments can tell researchers a lot about the health of waterways and hint at how they may respond to climate change.

    A coast away, Stanford researchers studied the effects of high-tide flooding that occurred in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2017. The researchers used parking meters, satellite imagery, interviews and other data to determine how would-be customers were dissuaded from visiting during flood hours at a popular business region near the water known as City Dock. They found the loss to City Dock businesses due to flooding was less than 2 percent of annual visitors but warned it could get worse as sea levels continue to rise.

    “So often we think of climate change and sea-level rise as these huge ideas happening at a global scale, but high-tide flooding is one way to experience these changes in your daily life just trying to get to your restaurant reservation,” said Miyuki Hino, who was a Stanford graduate student when she worked on this research, in an article about the study [Science Advances].

    Coastal hazards were also the focus of work in the Bahamas conducted by Stanford’s Natural Capital Project. These researchers combined information on storm waves and sea-level rise with census data and satellite maps to show the Bahamian government where investing in nature could provide the greatest benefits – and coastal protection – to people.

    Using their open-source software, the researchers were able to map the coastal risk reduction provided by coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass along the entire coast of the country. Their findings are part of a growing body of research showing that natural defenses can represent more climate-resilient alternatives to traditionally built shoreline protection – like seawalls and jetties – which is expensive to build and maintain.

    See the full article here .

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    Stanford University campus. No image credit

    Stanford University

    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members

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  • richardmitnick 10:32 am on January 12, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Volcano erupts near Manila; airport shut and villagers flee", , Earth Observation, ,   

    From phys.org: “Volcano erupts near Manila; airport shut, villagers flee” 

    From phys.org

    January 12, 2020
    Aaron Favila
    Jim Gomez

    People watch as the Taal volcano spews ash and smoke during an eruption in Tagaytay, Cavite province south of Manila, Philippines on Sunday. Jan. 12, 2020. A tiny volcano near the Philippine capital that draws many tourists for its picturesque setting in a lake belched steam, ash and rocks in a huge plume Sunday, prompting thousands of residents to flee and officials to temporarily suspend flights. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

    A small volcano south of the Philippine capital that draws many tourists for its picturesque setting in a lake erupted with a massive plume of ash and steam Sunday, prompting thousands of people to flee and officials to shut Manila’s international airport.

    The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said Taal Volcano in Batangas province south of Manila blasted steam, ash and pebbles up to 10 to 15 kilometers (6 to 9 miles) into the sky in a dramatic escalation of its growing restiveness, which began last year.

    The volcanology institute raised the danger level around Taal three notches on Sunday to level 4, indicating “a hazardous eruption may happen within hours or days,” said Renato Solidum, who heads the volcanology institute. Level 5, the highest, means a hazardous eruption is underway and could affect a larger area.

    There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, but authorities scrambled to evacuate more than 6,000 villagers from an island in the middle of a lake, where the volcano lies, and tens of thousands more from nearby coastal towns, officials said.

    “We have asked people in high-risk areas, including the volcano island, to evacuate now ahead of a possible hazardous eruption,” Solidum said.

    Renelyn Bautista, a 38-year-old housewife who was among thousands of residents who fled from Batangas province’s Laurel town, said she hitched a ride to safety from her home with her two children, including a 4-month-old baby, after Taal erupted and the ground shook mildly.

    “We hurriedly evacuated when the air turned muddy because of the ashfall and it started to smell like gunpowder,” Bautista said by phone.

    International and domestic flights were suspended Sunday night at Manila’s international airport “due to volcanic ash in the vicinity of the airport” and nearby air routes, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said.

    Taal lies more than 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Manila.

    The institute reminded the public that the small island where the volcano lies is a “permanent danger zone,” although fishing villages have existed there for years. It asked nearby coastal communities “to take precautionary measures and be vigilant of possible lake water disturbances related to the ongoing unrest.”

    Heavy to light ashfall was reported in towns and cities several kilometers (miles) from the volcano, and officials advised residents to stay indoors and don masks and goggles for safety. Motorists were hampered by poor visibility, which was worsened by rainy weather.

    Plumes of smoke and ash rise from as Taal Volcano erupts Sunday Jan. 12, 2020, in Tagaytay, Cavite province, outside Manila, Philippines (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

    Hotels, shopping malls and restaurants line an upland road along a ridge overlooking the lake and the volcano in Tagaytay city, a key tourism area that could be affected by a major eruption.

    Authorities recorded a swarm of earthquakes, some of them felt with rumbling sounds, and a slight inflation of portions of the 1,020-foot (311-meter) volcano ahead of Sunday’s steam-driven explosion, officials said.

    Classes in a wide swath of towns and cities were suspended Monday, including in Manila, to avoid health risks posed by the ashfall.

    One of the world’s smallest volcanoes, Taal is among two dozen active volcanoes in the Philippines, which lies along the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a seismically active region that is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

    About 20 typhoons and other major storms each year also lash the Philippines, which lies between the Pacific and the South China Sea, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

    See the full article here .


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    About Science X in 100 words

    Science X™ is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics. These include physics, earth science, medicine, nanotechnology, electronics, space, biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and other sciences and technologies. Launched in 2004 (Physorg.com), Science X’s readership has grown steadily to include 5 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month. Science X publishes approximately 200 quality articles every day, offering some of the most comprehensive coverage of sci-tech developments world-wide. Science X community members enjoy access to many personalized features such as social networking, a personal home page set-up, article comments and ranking, the ability to save favorite articles, a daily newsletter, and other options.
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  • richardmitnick 6:13 am on January 12, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Re­mote but re­mark­able: Il­lu­min­at­ing the smal­lest in­hab­it­ants of the largest ocean desert", , Earth Observation, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology,   

    From Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology: “Re­mote but re­mark­able: Il­lu­min­at­ing the smal­lest in­hab­it­ants of the largest ocean desert” 

    Max Planck Gesellschaft

    From Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

    Jul 2, 2019
    Molecular Ecology Group
    Dr. Greta Reintjes
    MPI for Marine Microbiology
    Celsiusstr. 1
    D-28359 Bremen, Germany
    Room: 1217
    Phone: +49 421 2028-928

    Department of Biogeochemistry
    Dr. Tim Ferdelman
    MPI for Marine Microbiology
    Celsiusstr. 1
    D-28359 Bremen, Germany
    Room: 3127
    Phone: +49 421 2028-632

    Head of Press & Communications
    Press Office
    Dr. Fanni Aspetsberger
    MPI for Marine Microbiology
    Celsiusstr. 1
    D-28359 Bremen, Germany
    Room: 2100
    Phone: +49 421 2028-947

    Sci­ent­ists make an in­vent­ory of mi­cro­bial life in the world’s most re­mote ocean re­gion, the South Pa­cific Gyre.

    The South Pacific Gyre is an ocean desert. However, due to its vast size the microbial inhabitants of the South Pacific Gyre contribute significantly to global biogeochemical cycles. In an unparalleled investigation, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany, have now made a comprehensive inventory of the microbial community of the South Pacific Gyre. This insight was achieved through the development of a novel tool that enables the on-board analysis of the ocean’s smallest inhabitants.

    Infinite waters: The South Pacific Gyre is the largest ocean gyre, covering 37 million km2. (© Tim Ferdelman / Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology)

    There are five major ocean-wide gyres—the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, Indian, and South Pacific Ocean Gyre. (© NOAA)

    Looking at our planet from the right side, there is a lot of water and little earth. RV Sonne crossed the SPG from Chile to New Zealand.

    Photo: The RV Sonne can deploy instruments into the deepest parts of the ocean. (ABC News: David Weber)

    The picture also shows chlorophyll concentrations derived from NASA imagery. Dark areas show the gyre middle or “desert”. (© modified from Google Earth / NASA)

    Bernhard Fuchs busy sampling during the expedition. (© Tim Ferdelman / Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology)

    The middle of the South Pa­cific is as far away from land as you can pos­sibly get. Solar ir­ra­di­ance is dan­ger­ously high, reach­ing a UV-in­dex that is la­belled ‘ex­treme’. There are no dust particles or in­flows from the land and as a res­ult these wa­ters have ex­tremely low nu­tri­ent con­cen­tra­tions, and thus are termed ‘ul­trao­l­i­go­troph­ic’. Chloro­phyll-con­tain­ing phyto­plank­ton (minute al­gae) are found only at depths greater than a hun­dred meters, mak­ing sur­face South Pa­cific wa­ters the clearest in the world. Due to its re­mote­ness and enorm­ous size – the South Pa­cific Gyre cov­ers 37 mil­lion km2 (for com­par­ison, the US cover less than 10 mil­lion km2) –, it is also one of the least stud­ied re­gions on our planet.

    Des­pite its re­mote­ness, both satel­lite and in situ meas­ure­ments in­dic­ate that the mi­croor­gan­isms liv­ing in the wa­ters of the South Pa­cific Gyre (SPG) con­trib­ute sig­ni­fic­antly to global biogeo­chem­ical cycles. Thus, the sci­ent­ists from Bre­men were in­ter­ested in dis­cov­er­ing which mi­crobes are liv­ing and act­ive in this ocean desert. Dur­ing a six-week re­search cruise on the Ger­man re­search ves­sel FS Sonne, or­gan­ized and led by the Max Planck In­sti­tute for Mar­ine Mi­cro­bi­o­logy, Greta Re­intjes, Bernhard Fuchs and Tim Fer­del­man col­lec­ted hun­dreds of samples along a 7000 kilo­metre track through the South Pa­cific Gyre from Chile to New Zea­l­and. The sci­ent­ists sampled the mi­cro­bial com­munity at 15 Sta­tions in wa­ter depths from 20 to more than 5000 metres, that is, from the sur­face all the way down to the sea­floor.

    Low cell numbers and unexpected distributions

    “To our sur­prise, we found about a third less cells in South Pa­cific sur­face wa­ters com­pared to ocean gyres in the At­lantic”, Bernhard Fuchs re­ports. “It was prob­ably the low­est cell num­bers ever meas­ured in oceanic sur­face wa­ters.” The spe­cies of mi­crobes were mostly fa­mil­iar: ”We found sim­ilar mi­cro­bial groups in the SPG as in other nu­tri­ent-poor ocean re­gions, such as Prochlorococcus, SAR11, SAR86 and SAR116”, Fuchs con­tin­ues. But there was also a sur­prise guest amongst the dom­in­ant groups in the well-lit sur­face wa­ters: AE­GEAN-169, an or­gan­ism that was pre­vi­ously only re­por­ted in deeper wa­ters.

    Re­intjes and her col­leagues dis­covered a pro­nounced ver­tical dis­tri­bu­tion pat­tern of mi­croor­gan­isms in the SPG. “The com­munity com­pos­i­tion changed strongly with depth, which was dir­ectly linked to the avail­ab­il­ity of light”, Re­intjes re­ports. Sur­pris­ingly, the dom­in­ant pho­to­syn­thetic or­gan­ism, Prochlorococcus, was present in rather low num­bers in the up­per­most wa­ters and more fre­quent at 100 to 150 meters wa­ter depth. The new player in the game however, AE­GEAN-169, was par­tic­u­larly nu­mer­ous in the sur­face wa­ters of the cent­ral gyre. “This in­dic­ates an in­ter­est­ing po­ten­tial ad­apt­a­tion to ul­trao­l­i­go­trophic wa­ters and high solar ir­ra­di­ance”, Re­intjes points out. “It is def­in­itely something we will in­vest­ig­ate fur­ther.” AE­GEAN-169 has so far only been re­por­ted in wa­ter depths around 500 metres. “It is likely that there are mul­tiple eco­lo­gical spe­cies within this group and we will carry out fur­ther meta­ge­n­omic stud­ies to ex­am­ine their im­port­ance in the most oli­go­trophic wa­ters of the SPG.”

    Methodological milestone

    The cur­rent re­search was only pos­sible thanks to a newly de­veloped method that en­abled the sci­ent­ists to ana­lyse samples right after col­lec­tion. “We de­veloped a novel on-board ana­lysis pipeline”, Re­intjes ex­plains, “which de­liv­ers in­form­a­tion on bac­terial iden­tity only 35 hours after sampling.” Usu­ally, these ana­lyses take many months, col­lect­ing the samples, bring­ing them home to the lab and ana­lys­ing them there. This pipeline com­bines next-gen­er­a­tion se­quen­cing with fluor­es­cence in situ hy­brid­isa­tion and auto­mated cell enu­mer­a­tion. “The out­come of our method de­vel­op­ments is a read­ily ap­plic­able sys­tem for an ef­fi­cient, cost-ef­fect­ive, field-based, com­pre­hens­ive mi­cro­bial com­munity ana­lysis”, Re­intjes points out. “It al­lows mi­cro­bial eco­lo­gists to per­form more tar­geted sampling, thereby fur­ther­ing our un­der­stand­ing of the di­versity and meta­bolic cap­ab­il­it­ies of key mi­croor­gan­isms.”

    Science paper:
    “On site analysis of bacterial communities of the ultra-oligotrophic South Pacific Gyre”
    Ap­plied and En­vir­on­mental Mi­cro­bi­o­logy

    See the full article here .


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    The Max Planck In­sti­tute for Mar­ine Mi­cro­bi­o­logy (MPIMM) was foun­ded in 1992 in the State of Bre­men and is part of the cam­pus of the Uni­versity of Bre­men. It be­longs to the Bio­logy & Med­ical Sec­tion of the Max Planck So­ci­ety. The main fo­cus of our re­search is on the di­versity and func­tions of mar­ine mi­croor­gan­isms and their in­ter­ac­tions with the mar­ine en­vir­on­ment. Start­ing from the be­gin­ning on re­search­ers at the MPIMM took part in in­ter­na­tional ex­ped­i­tions world­wide. They are in­ter­na­tion­ally re­cog­nized for their ex­pert­ise in mar­ine mi­cro­bi­o­logy and for the ana­lysis of pro­cesses. These strong suc­cess­ful ef­forts are re­war­ded by many pub­lic­a­tions in top sci­entific journ­als.

    Why marine Microbiology?

    Dur­ing two thirds of earth’s his­tory, mi­croor­gan­isms dom­in­ated our planet and de­veloped com­plex bi­ota in the oceans and in­land wa­ters. In the course of nearly four bil­lion years of evol­u­tion­ary his­tory, proka­ryotic or­gan­isms, i.e. bac­teria und ar­chaea, have de­veloped a great meta­bolic di­versity.
    To this day, mi­croor­gan­isms are primar­ily re­spons­ible for cata­lys­ing di­verse de­com­pos­i­tion pro­cesses of or­ganic und in­or­ganic sub­stances. They play a key role in con­trolling global ele­ment cycles and thereby help to keep our planet in­hab­it­able. They also en­sure that al­most all waste products are de­com­posed and re­cycled in the oceans, so that toxic com­pounds do not ac­cu­mu­late and en­danger fauna or flora.

    Al­though mar­ine mi­cro­bi­o­logy is not a new field of re­search, we still have very in­com­plete know­ledge about mar­ine mi­croor­gan­isms and their func­tional im­port­ance. Only about one per­cent of all spe­cies of mi­croor­gan­isms are known today, and new spe­cies with new cap­ab­il­it­ies con­tinue to be dis­covered. Ex­amples of such dis­cov­er­ies in­clude the sym­bi­osis between ar­chaea and bac­teria that de­com­pose the green­house gas meth­ane deep down in the ocean floor with the help of sulph­ate. This key pro­cess in the global car­bon cycle has long been known, but the mi­croor­gan­isms in­volved were only re­cently iden­ti­fied. An­other ex­ample is the an­aer­obic am­monium ox­id­a­tion (anam­mox) with ni­trite or ni­trate – a newly dis­covered pro­cess that may con­sti­tute the most im­port­ant ni­tro­gen sink in the oceanic ni­tro­gen cycle. The anam­mox mi­croor­gan­isms re­spons­ible for this pro­cess were first dis­covered in an in­dus­trial waste treat­ment plant in the early 1990s. The suc­cess­ful search for bac­teria with sim­ilar meta­bolic po­ten­tial in the ocean has ba­sic­ally changed our un­der­stand­ing of the mar­ine ni­tro­gen bal­ance.

  • richardmitnick 4:06 pm on January 10, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "WHOI underwater robot takes first known automated sample from ocean", (NUI)-Nereid Under Ice - WHOI’s robot, , Earth Observation, ,   

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: “WHOI underwater robot takes first known automated sample from ocean” 

    From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

    WHOI’s robot, Nereid Under Ice (NUI), samples a patch of sediment from the mineral-rich floor of Kolumbo volcano off Santorini Island, Greece. This is the first known automated sample taken by a robot in the ocean. (Video courtesy of Richard Camilli, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

    A hybrid remotely operated vehicle developed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) took the first known automated sample performed by a robotic arm in the ocean. Last month, an international team of researchers used one of WHOI’s underwater robots, Nereid Under Ice (NUI), to explore Kolumbo volcano, an active submarine volcano off Greece’s famed Santorini island.

    “For a vehicle to take a sample without a pilot driving it was a huge step forward,” says Rich Camilli, an associate scientist at WHOI leading the development of automation technology as part of NASA’s Planetary Science and Technology from Analog Research (PSTAR) interdisciplinary research program. “One of our goals was to toss out the joystick, and we were able to do just that.”

    As with self-driving cars, handing the wheel over to a computer algorithm can be unsettling. The same goes for ocean robots, especially when they need to work in tricky and hazardous environments. Camilli was part of an international team of researchers on an expedition aimed at learning about life in the harsh, chemical-laden environment of Kolumbo, and also exploring the extent to which scientists can hand over the controls to ocean robots and allow them to explore without human intervention.

    Slightly smaller than a Smart Car, NUI was equipped with Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based automated planning software—including a planner named ‘Spock’—that enabled the ROV to decide which sites to visit in the volcano and take samples autonomously.

    NUI is lowered into the Aegean Sea before plunging to a depth of 500 meters to explore Kolumbo volcano. (Photo by Evan Lubofsky, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

    Gideon Billings, a guest student from the University of Michigan whose thesis research focuses on automated technologies, got the honors of using his code to collect the very first automated sample, which was of a patch of sediment from Kolumbo’s mineral-rich seafloor. He issued a command to the autonomous manipulator and, moments later, a slurp-sample hose attached to the robotic arm extended down to the precise sample location and sucked up the dirt.

    Billings says this level of automation will be important for NASA as they look toward developing technologies to explore ocean worlds beyond our solar system. “If we have this grand vision of sending robots to places like Europa and Enceladus [the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, respectively], they will ultimately need to work independently like this and without the assistance of a pilot,” he says.

    Moving forward, Camilli will continue working with Billings and colleagues at the University of Michigan, as well as researchers from the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago to push the automation technology forward. The work will include training ocean robots to see like ROV pilots using “gaze tracking” technology, and building a robust human-language interface so scientists can talk directly to robots without a pilot go-between.

    “We can eventually see having a network of cognitive ocean robots where there’s a shared intelligence spanning an entire fleet, with each vehicle working cooperatively like bees in a hive,” Camilli says. “It will go well beyond losing the joystick.”

    Funding for this project was provided by a NASA PSTAR Grant #NNX16AL08 and a National Science Foundation National Robotics Initiative grant #IIS-1830500.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

    Vision & Mission

    The ocean is a defining feature of our planet and crucial to life on Earth, yet it remains one of the planet’s last unexplored frontiers. For this reason, WHOI scientists and engineers are committed to understanding all facets of the ocean as well as its complex connections with Earth’s atmosphere, land, ice, seafloor, and life—including humanity. This is essential not only to advance knowledge about our planet, but also to ensure society’s long-term welfare and to help guide human stewardship of the environment. WHOI researchers are also dedicated to training future generations of ocean science leaders, to providing unbiased information that informs public policy and decision-making, and to expanding public awareness about the importance of the global ocean and its resources.
    Mission Statement

    The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the ocean and its connection with the Earth system through a sustained commitment to excellence in science, engineering, and education, and to the application of this knowledge to problems facing society.

  • richardmitnick 1:43 pm on January 10, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Landsat 9: The Pieces Come Together", , , Earth Observation, ,   

    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center: “Landsat 9: The Pieces Come Together” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Jan. 9, 2020

    Laura Rocchio
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    Landsat 9’s two science instruments are now attached to the spacecraft, bringing the mission one step closer to launch. In late December, the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS-2) were both mechanically integrated on to the spacecraft bus at Northrop Grumman in Gilbert, Arizona.

    Engineers work on the newly integrated Landsat 9 satellite in a cleanroom at the Northrop Grumman facility in Gilbert, Arizona. In December, the team attached Landsat 9’s two instruments: OLI-2 (left) and TIRS-2 (right) to the spacecraft bus at the bottom of the image. The two instruments are covered to protect them from contaminants. Credits: Northrop Grumman

    The Landsat 9 mission continues the nearly 50-year Landsat data record, providing actionable information to resource managers and policymakers around the world. Landsat 9 will record the condition of Earth’s ever-changing land surface, enabling scientists and others to monitor crops and algal blooms, to assess deforestation trends and urban growth, and to aid disaster management.

    In December, engineers attached the two Landsat 9 instruments – OLI-2 and TIRS-2 – to the spacecraft.
    Credits: Northrop Grumman

    Landsat is a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. NASA oversees the design, build, and launch; USGS operates the satellites on orbit, and manages the expanding data archive.

    Engineers will next work on the electrical integration of the instruments, which includes getting power to the instruments and incorporating the satellite’s data-handling hardware.

    The OLI-2 instrument makes measurements of Earth’s reflectance in the visible, near infrared, and shortwave infrared; the TIRS-2 instrument extends measurements made by Landsat 9 into the thermal infrared, providing information about the surface temperature. Water managers across the American West, as well as arid regions across the globe, rely on the highly calibrated measurements made by Landsat 8’s Thermal Infrared Sensor to monitor irrigation and water usage and they are eager to have the record continued by Landsat 9’s TIRS-2. Reflected light measurements by the OLI-2 instrument are in turn used to map global land cover, ecosystem health, water quality, glacier flow, and other critical Earth surface properties.

    Credits: Northrop Grumman

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA/Goddard Campus

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