Oceanus

This magazine provides research, news and features in oceanography, coastal research, marine life, deep-ocean exploration, ocean technology and policy and the ocean's role in climate.

Articles from Vol. 50, No. 2, Fall

A Day in the Life of a Phytoplankter: A Conversation with WHOI Biologist Sam Laney
Earth's oceans teem with innumerable microscopic plants that make the fertility and abundance of the Grain Belt in the United States look like, well, a drop in the ocean. Sam Laney, a biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), has a...
An Ocean Instrument Comes of Age: Meet SID (Submersible Incubation Device)
Every new ocean instrument goes through growing pains. But the Submersible Incubation Device, nicknamed SID, has been a particularly long time coming. It started more than 30 years ago as a gleam in the eyes of microbiologist Craig Taylor and engineer...
An Ocean That's No Longer Wild: Tagging Project Aims to Help Conserve Sharks and Rays
Like most fathers, Simon Thorrold plays tag with his young daughter. But Thorrold, a biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, also plays tag with 30-foot-long whale sharks, like this one looking straight at you. Give us a brief status...
An Oddity about Lyme Disease Bacteria: Unlike Any Other Known Life Form, They Don't Require Iron
Scientists have confirmed that the pathogen that causes Lyme disease can exist without iron, a metal that all other life needs. By substituting manganese for iron to make essential enzymes, the bacteria can elude immune system defenses. To cause...
A Quest for Resilient Reefs: Corals Are Threatened by the Ocean's Changing Chemistry
Anne Cohen's forte is corals. From the skeletons of massive corals, she has extracted long-term records of changing ocean and climate conditions. In lab experiments and expeditions, she is investigating how these changes may affect coral reef ecosystems...
Behold the 'Plastisphere': Colonies of Microbes Flourish on Tiny Bits in the Ocean
Scientists have discovered a diverse multitude of microbes colonizing and thriving on flecks of plastic that have polluted the oceans--a vast new human-made flotilla of microbial communities that they have dubbed the "plastisphere." In a study published...
Bloom: A Biologist Distills Science into Poetry
When conditions of light and nutrients align in the surface waters of the ocean, tiny single-celled algae called phytoplankton respond with explosive growth and reproduction in a phenomenon known as a phytoplankton bloom. "As scientists looking...
Caller IDs for Marine Mammals: Crowd-Sourcing Helps Sort Whale, Dolphin Vocalizations
Imagine extraterrestrials come to Earth, seeking to understand human life. They dangle recording devices beneath the clouds or occasionally tag people with retrievable recorders. They collect thousands of bits of conversations--from individuals and...
Call of the Whales: Underwater Robots Provide Roving Ears in the Sea
Last fall a team of researchers put two torpedo-shaped underwater robots in the Gulf of Maine "to find whales for us," said Mark Baumgartner, a biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The gliders were equipped with digital acoustic...
Can Squid Abide Ocean's Lower pH? Experiments Hint at Harm to Critical Balance Organs
To most people, squid are calamari--delicious when fried. But to Max Kaplan and Aran Mooney, squid are linchpins of the ocean, and another reason to be concerned about climate change. "Squid are at the center of the ocean ecosystem--nearly all animals...
Corals' Indispensable Bacterial Buddies: Like Humans, Corals May Be Superorganisms
Coral reefs have long been viewed as complex undersea communities, bustling with life. But that vibrant image is more than skin deep, says Amy Apprill. "Generally, when people think of reefs, they think of corals and fish, but there is much more...
Dropping a Laboratory into the Sea: Revolutionary Sensor Detects Toxic Marine Organisms
A new instrument that can provide early warnings of harmful algal blooms (HABs) and other toxic organisms in the ocean has successfully passed its first long-term test at sea. The revolutionary instruments, called Environmental Sample Processors,...
It's a Bird, It's a Plane: Soaring Seabirds Offer Tips for Glider Technology
Can engineers build a high-speed robotic albatross? Not long after WHOI oceanographer Phil Richardson examined how albatrosses elegantly harness winds and waves to fly (a phenomenon called "dynamic soaring"), he began working with radio-controlled...
Lush Life, Deep Down: Thriving Biodiversity Discovered under the Seafloor
The deep biosphere--a realm of sediments buried far below the seafloor--harbors diverse, thriving communities of life, according to a new study by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the University of Delaware (UD). The...
Mining Marine Microbes for New Drugs: The Sea Holds Potential to Combat Resistance to Antibiotics
The Problem A staggering 20 percent of all human deaths around the world are caused by bacterial infections. Hospital-acquired infections are the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Current antibiotics are becoming less effective...
Of Wings, Waves, Winds: A WHOI Oceanographer Explores the Mysteries of Albatross Flight
For Phil Richardson, it began with a simple question. How do albatross soar so effortlessly, flying around the world without flapping their wings? On an expedition in 1997 to the South Atlantic Ocean off Cape Town, South Africa, he added himself...
Sassy Scallops: How Will Shellfish Fare as Ocean Conditions Shift?
Months of experiments gave Meredith White ample time to observe her laboratory subjects: scallops. And perhaps for them to observe her, too. Resting in their trays, drawing water across their gills for food and oxygen, the scallops reveal rows of shiny...
Seabirds Face Risks from Climate Change: Research in Remote Regions Can Also Be Dangerous
The research expedition ended in near-disaster. Stephanie Jenouvrier, aboard the ship Marion Dufresne II, was heading to the Southern Ocean to study seabirds. On Nov. 14, 2012, while making a stopover at tiny windswept island about 1,800 miles from...
Swimming with Sharks: An Underwater Robot Learns How to Track Great Whites
Amy Kukulya's clients often have curious requests, but this was among the oddest. As an engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), she has operated autonomous underwater vehicles beneath Arctic ice, in a New Zealand lake to find geothermal...
Tangles Up in Fishing Gear: The Tale of a Whale Named EG3911
A Conversation with Using a "patient monitoring" device attached to a whale, scientists revealed how fishing lines hinder whales" ability to dive, eat, and migrate and result in a slow death. JULIE VAN DER HOOP: Right now we think there are about...
The Decline and Fall of the Emperor Penguin? Climate Change and Shrinking Ice Threaten Polar Bird
At nearly four feet tall, the Emperor penguin is Antarctica's largest seabird and thanks to films like "March of the Penguins" and "Happy Feet," it's also one of the continent's most iconic. If global temperatures continue to rise, however, the large...
The Most Inhospitable Places on Earth: In a Hypersaline Realm, with No Light or Oxygen, under Crushing Pressure, Life Still Finds a Way
As the remotely operated vehicle Jason approached the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, its cameras relayed an eerie scene back to the research vessel Atlantis. It looked like a dark lake on the seafloor. A narrow white stripe meandered across the...
The Return of the Seals: Growing Herds Raise Questions on Sharks, Fish, and Poop
There was once a bounty on gray seals in New England; hunters in Massachusetts and Maine got $5 if they turned in a nose or skin. From the 1890s until the 1960s, an estimated 135,000 seals were killed, and seals disappeared from Cape Cod. Then the...
The Socioeconomic Costs of Ocean Acidification: Seawater's Falling pH May Have Dire Impacts on Food Supplies, Livelihoods, and Societies
The increasing acidification of the oceans is measured in pH units, but its impacts on people will be measured in dollar signs, says Sarah Cooley. Commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, the protection of shorelines by coral reefs--all could...
Tipping the Scales for Tips on Fisheries: A Vault of Fish Samples Yields Clues to Ocean Ecosystem Changes
This place is a historic treasure," said Eric Robillard. But you wouldn't think of it that way at first glance. The building is hard to find, a nondescript warehouse located on a street full of them. The only signals that you're in the right spot...
To Banish Biofouling: Can a New Approach Help Sailors Prevent Barnacles and Algae from Coating Ship Hulls?
As long as sailors have been going down to the sea in ships, they have been coming back with their ships' hulls coated with barnacles, algae, and slimy gunk. And for just as long, mariners have searched for ways to repel and remove the adhesive...
What Causes the Alantic to Bloom? Scientists Find Surprising Trigger for Spring Plant Growth. (Phytoplankton)
Every spring, waters in the North Atlantic Ocean explode into green and white patches as countless microscopic marine plants bloom. The burst, scientists had assumed, is fueled by longer days, more sunlight, and warmer waters. But a new study has...
What Doomed the Stromatolites? Scientists Find Key Clue to Ancient Enigma
About a billion years before the dinosaurs became extinct, stromatolites roamed the Earth until they mysteriously disappeared. Well, not roamed exactly. Stromatolites ("layered rocks") are rocky structures made by photosynthetic cyanobacteria. The...
Wind on the Water: Will an Offshore Wind Farm Affect the Undersea Sounbscape?
Over a decade, federal agencies examined and debated the nation's first proposed offshore wind farm, which would place power-generating wind turbines in Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod, Mass. Officials examined the likely effects on ocean views, airplane...
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