COP21 – the world weighs in

UN Climate Talks Live

The Paris terrorist attacks weighed pretty heavily on the attendees of COP21 and tightened security around the venues, resulting in protest marches being banned and the unusual sight of shoes in place of marchers.Climate Change Protesters Take to the Streets  Despite Canceled Paris March   New Republic

Conservationists, as expected, took to social media to get in on the conversations denied after being shut out of the French capital and the UN Climate Talks Live Feed gives a great rundown of the discussions from various levels from negotiators to participants and media around the event.

Check out the Civil Society Representatives feed for one – doesn’t include some of the expected organisations and it’s a concern to see climate change skeptic Bjorn Lomberg and downright tool in the top three posters today (Monday 30 November).

aaaUN Climate Talks Live

Playing around with communication


Different forms of science communication interest me – some companies I have worked for think it starts and ends with written work. But Sarah is right here – especially when catering to the younger generation (i.e. younger than my age of 39), conveying messages with long-form video, GIFs, Vines and tweets can be much more effective than 300 words in a barely-read article.

Originally posted on Science for Life. 365:


Sarah: Most of the time, I write about science.

But I also like to dabble in other bits and pieces as well.

For example, recently I’ve written about fashion, long distance running and twitcher tourism.

From a broader perspective, I’ve also been playing around with making micro-movies using Vine and Vinyet.

In the kitchen I’ve shown the process of putting together an omelette, making moustache biscuits and constructing an easy ice-cream cake.

At the South Australian Museum I’ve recorded a giant squid and compiled skeletons. At the Adelaide Zoo, I captured a panda…ACTUALLY MOVING.

With just a few minutes planning, you can easily use these tools to share your experiences and even tell stories. Each time I capture footage, I perform a very quick analysis of the following points:

  • Visual appeal: what’s going to make this look good?
  • Structure: what’s the beginning, middle and end…

View original 39 more words

Seaford, Port Phillip Bay: best bay beach in Melbourne?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It took a while to adapt to suburban life, shifting up to the metropolis of 4 million people that is Melbourne one year ago from a southwestern country town of 35,000. The beaches lacked waves, dolphins were scarce and supermarket trips took an hour less than normal, considering it was now rare to constantly run into people you knew at the shops.

But the place has grown on me (again) and we’re pretty happy to have bought a house only eight minutes from one of Melbourne’ best bay beaches (as opposed to the Mornington Peninsula surf beaches). Seaford is claimed by locals at least as its best beach, generally clean and relatively uncrowded, without flocks of jet skiers ruining the ambience of a summer afternoon. An unseasonal dry and warm spell in October meant several flat and clear days when people are usually still stoking the fire and waiting for the late spring warmth to hit.

Lizard Island provokes paradise envy with its #FeatureScientists posts

Living in the cooler climes of south-eastern Australia, I’m often envious of the crew working at the Lizard Island Reef Research Station and other Great Barrier Reef islands.

While there are some pretty amazing (but less colourful) reef and seafloor communities not far from my home on Port Phillip Bay, I still have to make do with reports on tropical research for  my daily warm-water, coral reef region fix. This one below focused on the humble cleaner wrasse and its affect on algae growth – loss of these fish can also lead to increased coral bleaching.

Our first feature scientist was Eva McClure, part of Dr. Lexa Grutter‘s lab team. Dr. Grutter, of the University of Queensland, investigates how the cleaner wrasse, Labroides dimidiatus, influence the ecology of coral reef communities. For the past 15 years, she has run a study on Lizard Island, which sees these fish removed from isolated ‘patch reefs’, and then observes the affect their removal has on the reefs.

Eva has been working for Lexa for the past 3 years. She is currently on Lizard Island wrapping up a 2-year component of Dr. Grutter’s larger, long-term study. In this project, terracotta pavers were placed on the reefs in July 2013, to investigate how the absence of cleaner wrasse may indirectly influence the benthic community (organisms living in the benthic zone are those living at the lowest level of a body of water).

Lexa’s team have found that reefs without cleaner wrasse attract less herbivorous fish than reefs that offer cleaning services (those that have cleaner wrasse present). Reefs without cleaners may therefore have more algae compared to reefs with cleaners, as there are less large herbivorous fish grazing on the benthic community. By placing out algae-coral settlement pavers and periodically measuring the abundance and height of the algae, Eva (as part of Dr. Grutter’s team), hope to make a definitive determination as to whether cleaner wrasse population affects algae levels.

To wrap this project up, a final underwater measurement and photograph is taken (photos 1 and 2), before collecting all 200 pavers, checking them for coral recruits (3) and scraping them of turf algae, calcerous algae, coral recruits and other encrusting organisms. The product is then dried, weighed and taken back to the University of Queensland for analysis.

In Eva’s own words: “It’s exciting and quite satisfying finishing up a 2 year long project like this one, especially when it involves working in a beautiful place like Lizard Island!”

Seabirds are eating plastic litter in our oceans – but not only where you’d expect


Microplastic consumption by creatures above and below the water is my real concern. My uni colleagues and I produced a video on microplastics for a third year class and it brought home the ongoing problems when zooplankton are consuming microbeads and passing them up the food chain. If a blue whale eats up to 40 million krill per day, what percentage will contain plastics and what is the bioaccumulation in that top predator? Scary stuff

Originally posted on News @ CSIRO:

albatross marine debris

Chris Wilcox, CSIRO; Britta Denise Hardesty, CSIRO, and Erik van Sebille, Imperial College London

Many of you may have already seen the photograph above, of an albatross carcass full of undigested plastic junk. But how representative is that of the wider issue facing seabirds?

To help answer that question, we carried out the first worldwide analysis of the threat posed by plastic pollution to seabird species.

Our study, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that nearly 60% of all seabird species studied so far have had plastic in their gut. This figure is based on reviewing previous reports in the scientific literature, but if we use a statistical model to infer what would be found at the current time and include unstudied species, we expect that more than 90% of seabirds have eaten plastic rubbish.

Rising tide of plastic

View original 679 more words

Filling the Gaps of Australia’s Commonwealth Marine Reserve System


There’s more confrontations expected between recreational/commercial fishers, government MPA planners and conservationists over the issue of marine parks. A lot of the spearfishing sites and Facebook groups I follow have regular posts on the ‘unnecessary’ expansion of marine parks, citing either anecdotal evidence (i.e. author’s opinion) or at best, out-of-context quotes from academic papers. I’m proudly a keen spearfisher too but have no time for people in the sport who decry marine parks while displaying constant photos of their undersized or over the limit kills.
There needs to be more clear, science-based communication from the government on why marine parks are needed, how fishers, conservation groups and regular folk all benefit and also, where any marine parks have been placed in the wrong areas and need to be reassessed. Because the latter has and will continue to happen, and pretending it doesn’t only serves to strengthen the case of anti-marine park activists

Originally posted on Jennifer McGowan's Research:

Australia’s Commonwealth Marine Reserve System is currently under review. I wrote a submission with Prof. Possingham on behalf of the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions tackling the issue of representation in the current reserve network.

Key findings of our analysis:

  • Less than 3% of shelf habitats are protected in the strictest IUCN MPA Categories ( Ia and II)
  • Twenty-two percent of bioregions have less than 10% protection in any form of MPA category- (the most liberal conservation scheme we could analyse)
  • While there is no scope to augment the existing reserve boundaries, there is potential to better protect the diverse range of habitats found within the broader network and ensure that every bioregion benefits from at least one strict MPA class

You can view the full submission here.

piecharts_AUSTRALIA copy

View original

Weekend Wanderings: Photos Along the Bay



Some days, when I’m sitting at my work desk trying to understand another journal paper on water sensitivity (no it’s not a medical condition), I think back to the simple times way back in 2013 in my marine science classes when we discussed chitons, radulas and which phylum these amazing creatures fit into – have a guess without looking it up!

Originally posted on Dalton Koss HQ:

Visitors to coastal shores often come across unusual looking animals hidden in rock crevices. Here at Dalton Koss HQ we strive to help make sense of these unusual sea creatures by sharing our marine knowledge.

Chitons are one of these more unusual finds that many coastal visitors find on the rocky shoreline. With the Ch pronounced as a k sound, chitons have a fossilised appearance due to their numerous armoured plates. In fact, some people call Chitons the armadillos of the ocean as they are able to curl up into a ball using their armoured plates as protection.


The armoured plates grow from the head to the foot of their body providing protection and camouflage from predators, hence why this animal is also commonly known as the coat-of-mail. The actual animal grows and lives under these armoured plates and its body is not segmented like its armour.

Here are…

View original 171 more words

ARC Research Associate – Ocean acidification on benthic marine life

Originally posted on Ocean acidification:

Job no:493373
Work type:Fixed term – Full-time
Categories:Faculty of Sciences

Closing date: 10 April 2015

The University of Adelaide is one of Australia’s leading Group of Eight, research-intensive universities and is consistently ranked among the top 1% of universities in the world. Established in 1874, it is Australia’s third oldest university with a strong reputation for preparing educated leaders and delivering research outcomes that contribute to local, national and global wellbeing.

The Faculty of Sciences is one of five faculties at the University of Adelaide. As the first university in Australia to grant degrees in science (1882), science has long been at the cornerstone of the institution and this continues today. As a research and education leader in fields such as biomedical sciences, agricultural, environmental and earth sciences, and photonics, the faculty offers an exciting and innovative work environment.

View original 320 more words

Shark Attack 2: Revenge of the Tabloid Headline Writer

Sydney's Daily Telegraph, constant offenders on the 'savage man-killing shark' front

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, constant offenders on the ‘savage man-killing shark’ front

When I was Sydney last October, preparing for the IUCN World Parks Congress with the French marine protected areas agency, this headline above was splashed in similar formats across several Australian newspapers.

Shark scientists were kept very busy responding to misinformation, stupidity and downright dangerous reporting in the Australian spring and summer – and this headline (and the strapline above it about the ‘4.5m monster’ shark) summed up the challenge they and shark conservationists face. It was absurd for the writer and editor to let this go through:

  • the surfer’s arms were not ‘ripped off’, the writers make it clear in the introduction that he lost parts of both arms
  • a 4.5m shark (if that was even the correct size) is not a monster in size. If it had been a validated sighting of a 6m white shark, I would have been more impressed.

My most popular article from this irregularly-updated blog is another shark attack post that made exactly the same criticisms I can make two years later. I image the people googling that phrase came across the post, saw it was attaching the whole tabloid concept of ‘shark attacks’ and left to find juicy photos of actual shark encounters.

Because that’s what these incidents are: encounters. The increased populations around coastal areas in the warmer months, coupled with overfishing of shark prey species, surfers spending longer in the ocean due to thicker and more comfortable wetsuits, climate change and other unpredictable factors, is leading to more encounters with sharks. And if one in 1000 of those encounters ends in a shark bite, we shouldn’t be surprised every time and call for that shark’s head. This only supports the view of shark fishers that they are removing dangerous animals from the ocean, rather than murdering an endangered animal (in the case of some shark species).

Australian Geographic posted a great article about shark research that revealed we are to blame for shark attacks due to the factors mentioned above. And no matter how big a year we have for shark ‘assaults’, it pales in creation to deaths from car crashes, domestic injuries and even bee stings:

So far in 2011, there have been at least 61 recorded attacks and 10 deaths. However, compared to deaths from smoking, road accidents, lightning strikes or even other animal attacks, the risk is minute, say experts.

So please can we stop with the tabloid shark bashing, stick to the boring but correct title of shark encounters and help target the real villains in this debate: fishing trawlers that are destroying the shark-prey food chain and governments who keep approving shark hunting after each encounter in the misguided view that killing that one ‘manhunter’ shark will end the chance of any further shark bites.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 569 other followers

%d bloggers like this: