Thursday, May 19, 2016
The June Keyes Penguin Habitat's Under-look-Hugh Aquarium Views Number 9
It’s one of the most relaxing and meditative places in the Aquarium. The penguin under-look at the June Keyes Penguin Habitat allows you to become immersed amongst swimming penguins.
In the first hour that the Aquarium of the Pacific is open in the morning, one of the spots to be is sitting in the penguin under-look. This cave-like structure allows you to not only see penguins swimming toward you but also over you. During this morning hour the penguins are usually getting their swim in and are looking for an excuse to check out the people in the under-look. For me it is one of my “Happy places”. Of course later in the day we all should be conscious of allowing others to join in on the penguin under-look experience. For kids and adults it’s the penguin place to be. It even features a padded ground so you won’t skin your knee if you have to crawl in.
Check out this week’s Hugh Aquarium Views Video to see what I am talking about.
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Life At Sea
Stepping onto a research vessel is different than boarding any other boat or ship. The staterooms are small and efficient, and there is a lot of space committed for work and research. Some research vessels are very large and have a lot of sophisticated equipment in order to collect the data that scientists need. In the case of our friends at the University of California, Irvine, the research vessel is their temporary office, home, and laboratory on the Indian Ocean. We’re continuing to learning about the work they are doing in collaboration with other institutions while at sea.
The RV Roger Revelle is a ship that is operated through the University of California, San Diego. The ship was built in 1996 and is 273 feet long, which is about the length of six school buses parked end-to-end. The ship can carry 59 people; 22 crew members are responsible for operating the vessel, and up to 37 people may be involved with science and science support. The main deck of the ship has work and office spaces, chemistry labs, a computer lab, and and a large deck for deploying scientific instruments.
Nathan checked in with us a few days after the ship left the port of Fremantle, on the west coast of Australia:
So far the waters are rough. The high seas combined with the high ship velocity of ~12 knots (about 13 mph, that’s fast for a ship) has made several people seasick. Many people have now awaken to the reality of the rough life at sea. As huge waves smash the hull (or sides) of the ship, they sound like giant logs crashing into the boat. It is extremely loud! Imagine someone slamming a door as hard as they can. The waves are about five times louder than that. It’s startling to say the least. One lead scientist asked, “Why did I come on this cruise!?” while trying to acclimate to the rolling ship. I also asked myself the same question- but the answer is the same as it has always been: I want to learn about the oceans. Exploration and discovery through ocean science drives my curiosity to far reaches of the world.
It sounds like the seas have been rough in transit, so far. One reason why scientists like Nathan are traveling in these tough conditions is because we know very little about the Indian Ocean. It’s relatively under-studied, and it’s not as easy to access as the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, which border the United States. Even though the travel is tough, it’s worth the effort: the Indian Ocean supports a variety of systems, including ecological systems like coral reefs and open ocean habitats, and human systems that influence the livelihoods of millions of people.
Nathan’s group from the University of California, Irvine, includes four scientists. They are studying how nutrients in the ocean influence where algae grow, and how the algae function in the ocean. Their work will involve collecting water samples, analyzing nutrients, and taking a closer look at the algae. Other groups of scientists on the ship will be studying how the atmosphere and ocean interact with one another. Studying the tropical Indian Ocean may uncover clues about the role that the ocean plays in taking up carbon dioxide, the main contributor to climate change.
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
The Aquarium of the Pacific is home to over 10,000 animals, giving you a glimpse of several different regions in the ocean: the temperate waters of our ocean-backyard, the chilly North Pacific coast, and the warm, colorful tropical ocean. The ocean is a big, complex place; there is an entire universe of science and discovery out there. I’m going to be blogging about the research that scientists are doing to help us understand more about ocean and earth systems. How do we know what we know about Earth? What are scientists doing to study the ocean? Join me as we meet these scientists and workers and learn more about ocean exploration and research. For our first expedition together: we’re going to follow a cruise!
When you tell people that you’re going on a cruise, they expect all-you-can-eat-buffets, shore-bound excursions, sunshine, and sunburns. Research cruises are a different story, entirely. Scientists are able to learn more about the ocean and our planet by going into the field, and conducting research while on the ocean. This may involve working long hours in tough conditions, like high seas and rain; ship operations take place 24 hours a day. New technologies and expensive equipment may be used on research cruises to help scientists understand processes in the ocean. Life at sea on a research vessel can be tough but also very rewarding.
For the next several weeks, we’ll be hearing from scientists on board a research vessel in the Indian Ocean. During this research cruise, scientists and workers will be studying processes that are essential to life in the ocean at the base of the food chain. A lot of activity in the ocean is done by the tiniest living things- microscopic algae and bacteria. This is the curious world of the unseen ocean.
I’d like to introduce you to Nathan, a marine biologist who works in Dr. Adam Martiny’s laboratory at the University of California, Irvine. Nathan is working onboard the research vessel RV Roger Revelle. This project is part of his research as a Chancellor’s ADVANCE Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Earth System Science.
I have been interested in marine life since I was six years old when I first encountered a Portuguese man-of-war in the Gulf of Mexico while swimming at a beach in Corpus Christi, Texas. Although my research now focuses on microscopic living creatures, I still love exploring the natural marine world with my own eyes with a mask and snorkel. You might find me snorkeling in several local areas in Laguna Beach during the summer.
Currently the focus of my work is photosynthetic microbes called cyanobacteria. Some cyanobacteria use nitrogen in the ocean, while others do not. I am interested in how different kinds of cyanobacteria interact with each other, and their impacts on communities where they live. Because there are a lot of different parts to the whole community, there are many scientific questions that are waiting to be explored. I hope to find answers to new questions with data that we are currently collecting from the Indian Ocean.
The RV Revelle will be cruising for 39 days, stopping to sample at a total of 110 stations in the Indian Ocean. Each station is marked by a dot on the map pictured above. The entire cruise track is planned, following a designated line called a transect. The transect cuts through three distinct areas; scientists will be studying how those areas are similar and different from one another. The transect is thousands of miles long (longer than the United States is wide), and even crosses the Equator!
We’ll hear from Nathan and his colleagues as they continue their journey to explore the ocean. Check back soon for more updates!
Thursday, May 05, 2016
Hugh's Aquarium Views Video Number 8
Because they are so accessible to the local folks of Long Beach and the surrounding area I like to refer to the green sea turtles that colonize the San Gabriel River as Urban Sea Turtles.
These are the common man sea turtles. They can be seen by the families riding their bikes along the river, locals fishing the banks and neighborhood folks out for a stroll. They are the green sea turtles that live in the San Gabriel River. An urban river that you would never expect to see a critter that most folks associate with an exotic trip to Hawaii or the Caribbean. Yet here they are. Your friendly neighborhood urban sea turtles.
My wife Pam and I have been taking field notes and photographs of these critters since 2008 for the Aquarium of the Pacific and the National Marine Fisheries Service. What is cool about these aquatic critters is that they are a great introduction to endangered wildlife. People that may have only known about green sea turtles from Crush and Squirt in Finding Nemo can see the the real live animal in their own backyard. I think it gives folks a feeling of pride and a sense of responsibility that a wonderful creature such as this as chosen to live amongst them. Some local people may have even decide to become part of the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Citizen Scientist Project that is helping to learn more about these local animals.
Check out the video of these Urban Sea Turtles.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
I love the scientific name of these whales; Pseudorca, because it sounds like they are just phony killer whale or faux-orca. In fact, the only reason they are named ‘false’ killer whales is because their skulls resemble those of a killer whale and it has nothing to do with their actual physical likeness. Anyways, we were very fortunate to come across a pod of about 30 of these gentle toothed whales during one of our whale watching tours last week and those on board had a once in a lifetime opportunity to see them in the wild. Though they are called whales (and are toothed whales), when it comes down to it, they are members of the oceanic dolphin family, and a big member at that. They can reach lengths of 20 feet long and can weigh around 5,000 lbs, that’s a big dolphin! They have rounded heads and long, black sleek bodies. Our team and guests got to see them breaching, playing, and even a few cow/calf pairs. One of our Senior Education Associates, Amanda, that was on the boat that day shared a video with us of these whales diving under the boat and making high-pitched whistles! Erik Combs from Harbor Breeze was on-board and captured some fantastic photos for you all to see!
The gray whales have also exploded in numbers! Out of nowhere, just as we were waiting for, dozens of female whales with their very young calves have been passing by our coast and heading back up to Alaska. The American Cetacean Society’s Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project in Palos Verdes have now counted 2,167 ‘northbounders’ with 164 of those being little babies! Our whale watch naturalist crew keep coming back with crazy numbers like “we saw 8 cow/calf pairs in one trip today!” That’s amazing.
I was lucky enough to spend a fabulous day on the water on Friday, April 22nd, and even though it was a little bumpy, we saw SO much life! I was lucky enough to get see a cow/calf/escort group of gray whales, a HUGE blue whale, a fin whale, AND a large nursery pod of common dolphins having a feeding frenzy competing for food with terns and California sea lions; it was a great day! The blue that we saw was only the 3rd that we have seen in Long Beach this year! I hope this means they are all coming soon, shortly after the gray whale season ends.
Does this sound like a good time? Well come on out on a whale watching adventure, or even save some moola and purchase a bundle package with an Aquarium of the Pacific ticket AND a whale watch tour!
Thanks for reading.
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