Greenland sharks can live to 400 years old, only reach sexual maturity at 150

Researchers using radiocarbon dating have determined that Greenland sharks, slow-moving giants that live in the cold, dark waters of the North Atlantic, are the longest-living vertebrates on Earth, with one recorded as being 400 years old. Which explains the old Greenland shark quip that goes something like: “God must like practical jokes; why would He make […]

via Scientists say Greenland sharks can live for 400 years — The Cotton Boll Conspiracy

AIMS seminar: “The effects of ocean acidification on zooplankton: using natural CO2 seeps as windows into the future”, 8 September 2016, Townsville, Australia — Ocean acidification

When: Thursday, 8 September 2016 from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM (AEST) Where: AIMS Townsville – Main Theatre – Lot 35 Cape Cleveland Road Cape Cleveland, Townsville, Queensland 4816, Australia Spearker: Joy Smith, University of Bremen (Germany), Plymouth University (UK), AIMS Abstract: Ocean acidification has been at the forefront of marine science research due to […]

via AIMS seminar: “The effects of ocean acidification on zooplankton: using natural CO2 seeps as windows into the future”, 8 September 2016, Townsville, Australia — Ocean acidification

Sharks smarter than we think (and probably smarter than the average shark-hater)

Some great UWA research is being reported as showing sharks have better comprehension of their surroundings and are “smarter than we think” – though I presume that means smarter than most clueless people would have thought.

danny green shark

That one time boxer Danny Green next to a dead mako and everyone went crazy. Photo credit: Danny Green

Yes, it’s obvious that scientists are still learning how sharks think, what their motivations are to make long distance swims and even (for any species) their relatively little-known mating and breeding habits. But whenever I see interesting articles in the general media, it still bugs me to read reader comments about how bloodthirsty and stupid sharks are, from people who clearly know nothing about them firsthand.

Anyway, here’s some grabs from the article and I’m sure Dr Yopak is tired of having to always dispel these misconceptions:

University of Western Australia researcher Kara Yopak presented her research into the use of brain anatomy to understand cognitive ability in sharks.

Dr Yopak said it was a common misconception that “sharks are these small-brained pre-programmed eating machines”.

“They are actually relatively large-brained species and they are capable of such an incredible range of complex behaviours,” she said.

Part of her research involved comparing the brains of sharks to mammals, including humans.

“There is a number of similarities that I would say have originated at least as early as sharks and then have been carried through vertebrate evolution to our own brains,” she said.

Dr Yopak said the brains of sharks varied across different species, casting doubt over the effectiveness of one-size-fits-all shark deterrents.

“When we are investigating repellents we probably need to take a species-specific approach,” she said.

How useful is twitter for academics, really?

Good post on how Twitter isn’t that effective in increasing readership of a journal article, though I think if a tweet does go viral, the conversion rate is bound to be lower than if 50 people actively engage with it. I would read at least the abstract of about %75 of the posts I retweet – otherwise, why bother retweeting it? To show an interest in the issue, that I can’t be bothered to read more about?
I think the author of the original tweet and journal paper is also important – if it’s an author you have previously read and liked (or an organisation that you actively support), surely it’s more likely to encourage the click-through than just, well, a ‘clickbait’ title?
Yep, maybe I’m deluded on that, which is why Buzzfeed and the like are so popular these days (21 Reasons Why Prawns Are Delicious) and true academic publication (The stochastic and comprehensively bland approach to garbage disposal literature) is not.

Neuroconscience

Recently I was intrigued by a post on twitter conversion rates (e.g. the likelihood that a view on your tweet results in a click on the link) by journalist Derek Thompson at the Atlantic. Derek writes that although using twitter gives him great joy, he’s not sure it results in the kinds of readership his employers would feel merits the time spent on the service. Derek found that even his most viral tweets only resulted in a conversion rate of about 3% – on par with the click-through rate of east asian display ads (i.e. quite poorly in the media world). Using the recently released twitter metrics, Derek found an average conversion of around 1.5% with the best posts hitting the 3% ceiling. Ultimately he concludes that twitter seems to be great at generating buzz within the twitter-sphere but performs poorly at translating that buzz into external influence.

This struck my curiosity…

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Sunshine Coast Summers

Girl and the Deep Blue Sea

Hello summer! Even though we have had some fab hot days for a few weeks now, it is officially the first day of summer, my favourite time of the year! Long days means lots of beach time and hopefully capturing some ocean magic. These photos were taken over last summer on the amazing Sunshine Coast.

rainbow_sunrise_wavecoolum_portraitwave_rainbowlittle_covesuper_storm_sea

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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.

Science for Life. 365

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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…

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

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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

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

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