Endangered Species Day 2013



Today is endangered species day!  Started by the United States senate, Endangered Species Day is an opportunity for people to learn more about the importance of preserving endangered species, and how we can take action to help preserve disappearing wildlife.  Today is also special as it marks the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species act.  

Endangered species are organisms facing a very high risk of extinction.  Although the phrase is often used in a variety of contexts, it is used by conservation biologists to refer to species listed as Endangered on the Internation Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)  Red list.  Although the numbers are often changing, there are currently 3079 animals and 2655 plants that are classified as endangered worldwide. See below some country statistics for the total number of endangered species:

  • Australia = 869
  • Cayman Islands = 38
  • China = 911
  • Cuba = 312
  • Indonesia = 1154
  • Madagascar = 856
  • Malaysia = 1196
  • Mexico = 959
  • United Kingdom = 82 
  • United States = 1203

For all countries, visit: http://www.iucnredlist.org/documents/summarystatistics/2012_2_RL_Stats_Table_5.pdf

What can you do to help ?  

1) Learn about endangered species where you live.

2) Get involved! Volunteer at a local wildlife refuge, park or other open space.

3) Make your home wildlife friendly

4) Slow down when driving

5) Recycle and buy sustainable products

6) Never purchase products made from threatened or endangered species

7) Protect wildlife habitats

8) Support endangered species protection

For more information on how you can help visit: http://www.stopextinction.org/esd.html


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Earth Day 2013


On the 22nd April it was Earth Day and this years theme was the Face of Climate Change.  Climate change is impacting peoples lives globally, with the severest impacts affecting people living in poverty.  Increased famine, flooding, storm activity and intensity are only going to continue unless efforts are taken to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.  

Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide have an insulating affect around the earth, trapping in long-wave radiation from the sun which results in the warming of the earth.  This greenhouse effect is an essential mechanism that allows life on earth because without it, the earth would be too cold to support life.  However, the increased production of greenhouse gases combined with changes in land use are resulting in rapid warming of the land and ocean; Climate Change.

The Earth’s mean surface temperature has increased by 0.8 °C (1.4 °F) since the early 20th century, with about two-thirds of the increase occurring since 1980. Future predictions vary depending on different greenhouse gas emission scenarios but even under the lower modeled emission scenario the global temperature is still predicted to increase.


The impacts of climate change are vast, including social economic and biological effects.  According to the Inter-panel on Climate Change the key global projections are:

  • Global average annual precipitation through the end of the century is expected to increase, although changes in the amount and intensity of precipitation will vary by region.
  • The intensity of precipitation events will likely increase on average. This will be particularly pronounced in tropical and high-latitude regions, which are also expected to experience overall increases in precipitation. 
  • The strength of the winds associated with tropical storms is likely to increase. The amount of precipitation falling in tropical storms is also likely to increase. 
  • Annual average precipitation is projected to increase in some areas and decrease in others. 

Increases in storm activity, famine and droughts carry with them a huge economic burden as well as social unrest and the increase in environmental refugees.

The Earth Day Network identified the huge threat Climate Change possesses and made Earth Day the opportunity to personalize the Face of Climate Change and those who are committed to fight it.

From the Earth Day website:



Climate change has many faces.


A man in the Maldives worried about relocating his family as sea levels rise, a farmer in Kansas struggling to make ends meet as prolonged drought ravages the crops, a fisherman on the Niger River whose nets often come up empty, a child in New Jersey who lost her home to a super-storm, a woman in Bangladesh who can’t get fresh water due to more frequent flooding and cyclones …


And they’re not only human faces.


They’re the polar bear in the melting arctic, the tiger in India’s threatened mangrove forests, the right whale in plankton-poor parts of the warming North Atlantic, the orangutan in Indonesian forests segmented by more frequent bushfires and droughts …


These faces of climate change are multiplying every day.


For many, climate change can often seem remote and hazy– a vague and complex problem far off in the distance that our grandchildren may have to solve. But that’s only because they’re still fortunate enough to be insulated from its mounting consequences. Climate change has very real effects on people, animals, and the ecosystems and natural resources on which we all depend. Left unchecked, they’ll spread like wildfire.


Luckily, other faces of climate change are also multiplying every day.


Every person who does his or her part to fix the problem is also a Face of Climate Change: the entrepreneurs who see opportunity in creating the new green economy, the activists who organize community action and awareness campaigns, the engineers who design the clean technology of the future, the public servants who fight for climate change laws and for mitigation efforts, the ordinary people who commit to living sustainably. …


The Earth Day Network is still building its global collage and is asking people to send in pictures and stories that show the Faces of Climate Change.  Visit http://www.earthday.org/faceofclimate/about.html to find out more.

The Earth day Network hopes that together, we’ll highlight the solutions and showcase the collective power of individuals taking action across the world. In doing so, we hope to inspire our leaders to act and inspire ourselves to redouble our efforts in the fight against climate change.

On Little Cayman we did our part and conducted a beach clean and held an Earth day talk on the Face of Climate Change where, locals and visitors each committed to reducing their Carbon footprint.

Waeth week

It is not too late to get involved and I would love to hear of your efforts.

Together we can make a difference to the Face of Climate Change!

100 Quotes About the Ocean

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So I have to apologize for the lack of posts over the last two weeks.  A busy research schedule and a small vacation to Cuba have left me a little behind.  In an attempt to make it up, I thought I would share this picture by a fellow blogger which contains a 100 quotes about the ocean.  Enjoy!

1. “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide

2. “In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans” – Kahlil Gibran

3. “We know that when we protect our oceans we’re protecting our future.” – Bill Clinton

4. “It isn’t the oceans which cut us off from the world — it’s the American way of looking at things.” – Henry Miller

5. “The sea! the sea! the open sea!, The blue, the fresh, the ever free!” – Bryan W. Procter

6. “To me the sea is a continual miracle; The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the ships, with men in them, What stranger miracles are there?” – Walt Whitman

7. “There is the life of the plankton in almost endless variety; there are the many kinds of fish, both surface and bottom living; there are the hosts of different invertebrate creatures on the sea-floor; and there are those almost grotesque forms of pelagic life in the oceans depths. Then there are the squids and cuttlefish, and the porpoises, dolphins and great whales.” – Sir Alister Hardy

8. “Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war.” – Loren Eiseley

9. “For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), It’s always our self we find in the sea.” – e.e. Cummings

10. “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came…” – John F. Kennedy

11. “I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” – Isaac Newton

12. “Life is life’s greatest gift. Guard the life of another creature as you would your own because it is your own. On life’s scale of values, the smallest is no less precious to the creature who owns it than the largest.” – Lloyd Biggle Jr.

13. “It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose, should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist: the threat is rather to life itself.” – Rachel Carson

14. “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” – Mother Teresa

15. “To me, the sea is like a person–like a child that I’ve known a long time. It sounds crazy, I know, but when I swim in the sea I talk to it. I never feel alone when I’m out there.” – Gertrude Ederle

16. “My soul is full of longing for the secrets of the sea, and the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

17. “The sea will grant each man new hope, and sleep will bring dreams of home.” Christopher Columbus

18. “Animal protection is education to the humanity.” – Albert Schweitzer

19. “The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble.” -Blaise Pascal

20. “You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.” – Evan Esar

21. “Our knowledge is a little island in a great ocean of nonknowledge.” – Isaac Bashevis Singer

22. “The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” – William James

23. “The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.” – Wyland

24. “The tradition of freedom of the high seas has its roots in an era when there were too few people to seriously violate the oceans — but in hindsight that era ended some 150 years ago.” – James Carlton

25. “The true peace of God begins at any spot a thousand miles from the nearest land.” – Joseph Conrad

26. “Why do we love the sea? It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think.” – Robert Henri

27. “The sea hath no king but God alone.” – Dante Gabriel Rossetti

28. “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” – Thomas Fuller

29. “After a visit to the beach, it’s hard to believe that we live in a material world.” – Pam Shaw

30. “Primeval forests! virgin sod! That Saxon has not ravish’d yet, Lo! peak on peak in stairways set— In stepping stairs that reach to God! Here we are free as sea or wind, For here are set Time’s snowy tents
In everlasting battlements Against the march of Saxon mind.” – Joaquin Miller

31. “The oceans deserve our respect and care, but you have to know something before you can care about it.” – Sylvia Earle

32. “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” – Jacques Yves Cousteau

33. “A lot of people attack the sea, I make love to it.” – Jacques Yves Cousteau

34. “From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.” – Jacques Yves Cousteau

35. “No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal.” – Jacques Yves Cousteau

36. “Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.” – Jacques Yves Cousteau

37. “The sea is emotion incarnate. It loves, hates, and weeps. It defies all attempts to capture it with words and rejects all shackles. No matter what you say about it, there is always that which you can’t.” -Christopher Paolini

38. “Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.” -Sarah Kay

39. “Hark, now hear the sailors cry / smell the sea, and feel the sky / let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic.” -Van Morrison

40. “Total physical and mental inertia are highly agreeable, much more so than we allow ourselves to imagine. A beach not only permits such inertia but enforces it, thus neatly eliminating all problems of guilt. It is now the only place in our overly active world that does.” -John Kenneth Galbraith

41. “It’s hard for me to put into words why I like the beach so much. Everything about it is renewing for me, almost like therapy… Beach Therapy.” -Amy Dykens

42. “A pool just isn’t the same as the ocean. It has no energy. No life.” – Linda Gerber

43. “I spent uncounted hours sitting at the bow looking at the water and the sky, studying each wave, different from the last, seeing how it caught the light, the air, the wind; watching patterns, the sweep of it all, and letting it take me. The sea.” – Gary Paulsen

44. “Fishes live in the sea, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones.” – William Shakespeare

45. “I could never stay long enough on the shore; the tang of the untainted, fresh, and free sea air was like a cool, quieting thought.” – Helen Keller

46. “When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

47. “The ocean makes me feel really small and it makes me put my whole life into perspective… it humbles you and makes you feel almost like you’ve been baptized. I feel born again when I get out of the ocean.” – Beyoncé Knowles

48. “The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

49. “The use of sea and air is common to all; neither can a title to the ocean belong to any people or private persons, forasmuch as neither nature nor public use and custom permit any possession therof.” – Elizabeth I, Queen of England

50. “The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.” – Kate Chopin

51. “I felt the full breadth and depth of the ocean around the sphere of the Earth, back billions of years to the beginning of life, across all the passing lives and deaths, the endless waves of swimming joy and quiet losses of exquisite creatures with fins and fronds, tentacles and wings, colourful and transparent, tiny and huge, coming and going. There is nothing the ocean has not seen.” – Sally Andrew

52. “The waves of the sea help me get back to me.” – Jill Davis

53. “There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on underwater, you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the tent.” – Dave Barry

54. “I couldn’t imagine living in a state that didn’t reach the ocean. It was a giant reset button. You could go to the edge of the land and see infinity and feel renewed.” – Avery Sawyer

55. “If we don’t manage this resource, we will be left with a diet of jellyfish and plankton stew.” Daniel Pauly

56. “I want to get out in the water. I want to see fish, real fish, not fish in a laboratory.” —Sylvia Earle

57. “People ask: Why should I care about the ocean? Because the ocean is the cornerstone of earth’s life support system, it shapes climate and weather. It holds most of life on earth. 97% of earth’s water is there. It’s the blue heart of the planet-we should take care of our heart. It’s what makes life possible for us. We still have a really good chance to make things better than they are. They won’t get better unless we take the action and inspire others to do the same thing. No one is without power. Everybody has the capacity to do something.” – Sylvia Earle

58. “My boat is on the shore, And my bark is on the sea.” George Gordon Byron

59. “Even castles made from sand fall to the ocean” – Jimi Hendrix

60. “Ever since I was a child I’ve felt connected to water: lakes, rivers, streams––I love to jump in and swim around. But it’s the ocean where I go for rejuvenation, revelation, and solace.” Susan Rockefeller

61. “No love is Like an ocean with the dizzy procession of the waves’ boundaries …” – Jack Spicer

62. “I pray to be like the ocean, with soft currents, maybe waves at times. More and more, I want the consistency rather than the highs and the lows.” – Drew Barrymore

63. “Without water, our planet would be one of the billions of lifeless rocks floating endlessly in the vastness of the inky-black void.” – Fabien Cousteau

64. “We are blessed with a magnificent and miraculous world ocean on this planet. But we are also stressing it in ways that we are not even close to bringing under control.” – Carl Safina

65. “The world’s finest wilderness lies beneath the waves …” – Wyland

66. “It is particularly appropriate that we unveil this campaign on this first day of the annual international coastal clean-up effort, … Beach cleanups are something each of us can do any time of the year. I’m proud to be participating in the cleanup efforts today and I encourage everyone to make the time for these types of activities.” – Ted Danson

67. “The ocean is a mighty harmonist.” – William Wordsworth

68. “Limitless and immortal, the waters are the beginning and end of all things on earth.” – Heinrich Zimmer

69. “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” – Rachel Carson

70. “The sea lives in every one of us …” – Wyland

71. “Always remember that the ocean delights in feeling your feet in her eternal bath …” – Wyland

72. “Ocean energy can contribute a great deal toward the protection or our atmosphere – without damaging marine ecosystems that are equally vital to the planet’s future.” – Fred Krupp

73. “Do what we will, the Colorado will one day find an unimpeded way to the sea.” – Donald Worster

74. “At the end of the day, no amount of investing, no amount of clean electrons, no amount of energy efficiency will save the natural world if we are not paying attention to it – if we are not paying attention to all the things that nature give us for free: clean air, clean water, breathtaking vistas, mountains for skiing, rivers for fishing, oceans for sailing, sunsets for poets, and landscapes for painters. What good is it to have wind-powered lights to brighten the night if you can’t see anything green during the day? Just because we can’t sell shares in nature doesn’t mean it has no value.” – Thomas L. Friedman

75. “It was the Law of the Sea, they said. Civilization ends at the waterline. Beyond that, we all enter the food chain, and not always right at the top.” – Hunter S. Thompson

76. “There is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea.” – Joseph Conrad

77. “And I shall watch the ferry boats, and they’ll get high, on a bluer ocean against tomorrow’s sky. and i will never grow so old again, and i will walk and talk, in gardens all wet with rain…” – Van Morrison

78. “‎I have always been fascinated by the ocean, to dip a limb beneath its surface and know that I’m touching eternity, that it goes on forever until it begins here again.” – Lauren DeStefano

79. “A pool just isn’t the same as the ocean. It has no energy. No life.” – Linda Gerber

80. “No matter how remote we feel we are from the oceans, every act each one of us takes in our everyday lives affects our planet’s water cycle and in return affects us.” – Fabien Cousteau

81. “Into the ocean went a world more fantastic than any imagination could inspire …” – Wyland

82. “You never enjoy the world aright, till the sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars.” – Thomas Traherne

83. “I do an awful lot of scuba diving. I love to be on the ocean, under the ocean. I live next to the ocean.” – James Cameron

84. “I heard silence, silence infinite as the bottom of the ocean, a silence that sealed.” – Anne Spollen

85. “The virtues are lost in self-interest as rivers are lost in the sea.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

86. “Waves are the voices of tides. Tides are life.” – Tamora Pierce

87. “The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.” – Vincent Van Gogh

88. “Your heart is like the ocean, mysterious and dark.” – Bob Dylan

89. “Individuals of all ages can make an important difference in the overall health of our ocean by the actions they take every day. Simple things like picking up trash on the beach, recycling and conserving water can have a big impact on the health of our ocean.” – Ted Danson

90. “With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea. No matter where on Earth you live.” – Sylvia Earle

91. “That the sea is one of the most beautiful and magnificent sights in Nature, all admit.” – John Joly

92. “To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of year, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.” – Rachel Carson

93. “The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach” – Henry Beston

94. “There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about the sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath.” – Herman Melville

95. “To heal the ocean, we must heal ourselves.” – Dr. Rod Fujita

96. “If you like to eat seafood or swim in the ocean, it’s time to get involved.” – Julie Evans-Brumm

97. “And I have loved thee, Ocean! And my joy of youthful sports was on thy breast to be borne, like thy bubbles, onward; from a boy I wantoned with thy breakers. They to me were a delight; and if the freshening sea made them a terror, ‘twas a pleasing fear.” – Lord Byron

98. “Catch a wave, and you’re sitting on top of the world.” – The Beach Boys

99. “The sea is not a bargain basement.” – Jacques Cousteau

100. “Only God almighty and naval research can save us from the perils of the sea.” – John Warne



Coral Reefs May Be Able to Adapt to Climate Change With Help from Algae

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Many corals rely on symbiotic algae to survive.  The one-celled algae called  zooxanthellae,  gives off oxygen and other nutrients that the coral polyp needs to survive.  In return, the polyp gives the algae carbon dioxide and other substances the algae needs.

A 2012 study that looked into the symbiotic algae of 39 coral species in the Caribbean and Pacific found that all species had at least two varieties of algae, including one thought to be heat tolerant.  Most of these species had not previously been thought capable of hosting more than one type of algae.

The results of this study suggest that several coral species are capable of hosting more than one type of symbiont.  This could prove very helpful in surviving future climate change as it may allow survival in warmer temperatures.

Thank You Women Divers Hall of Fame



I just want to say a big thank you to the Women Divers Hall of Fame for selecting me as one of their WDHOF Marine Conservation Scholarship recipients.  

Please click on the picture below for more information:


About the Women Divers Hall of Fame

The Women Divers Hall of Fame began as an idea to offer a tribute to the women divers of the Twentieth Century but developed into a much wider vision when it starting recognizing those women divers who had contributed significantly to the exploration, greater understanding, safety, and enjoyment of our underwater world. Quickly it was noticed that these contributions would span a wide variety of fields of specialization, including: the Arts, Sciences, Medicine, Sports, Exploration, Archeology, Media, Safety, Education, Service, Business, Environment, and Conservation. And the Women Divers Hall of Fame (WDHOF) was born.


Microhabitat associations of late juvenile Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) off Little Cayman, BWI




I have been working for the past year with a group of scientists from the Cayman Islands and Unites States to investigate the microhabitat associations of juvenile Nassau Grouper around Little Cayman.   The paper is now available on line from the Bulletin of Marine Science at: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/umrsmas/bullmar/pre-prints/8928

The abstract is below, enjoy!

Microhabitat associations of late juvenile Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus) off Little Cayman, BWI

Authors: Emma F Camp, Kathryn E Lohr, Savanna C Barry, Philippe G Bush, Charles A Jacoby, and Carrie Manfrino

Populations of the economically and ecologically important Nassau grouper, Epinephelus striatus Bloch, 1792, have declined to the point of being declared “endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Beyond existing efforts to reduce top-down pressure from overfishing, especially on spawning aggregations, recovery of Nassau grouper could be enhanced by preventing bottom-up pressures created by degradation of essential habitats. The design of suitable protection would benefit from knowledge of ontogenetic patterns in habitat use at multiple spatial scales, and this study documented microhabitat associations for late juvenile Nassau grouper in shallow, nearshore lagoons off Little Cayman Island. In total, 82 percent of juvenile grouper that were 12-26 cm in total length and approximately 1 yr old associated with hardbottom rather than other equally or more widespread microhabitats, i.e., sand, seagrass, and algae. Hardbottom provided crevices, holes, ledges, and other shelters. Approximately 96 percent of shelters contained a single juvenile grouper, and 10 to 66 percent of these shelters also contained one or more cleaning organisms. These results suggest that protection of hardbottom in Little Cayman Island’s lagoons would maintain the more than 1200 patches of microhabitat suitable for late juvenile Nassau grouper.


Sharks and Manta Rays Win Global Trade Protection



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Several shark species and the manta ray won international trade protection Monday in a breakthrough effort to help protect these species from being wiped-out by over-fishing.  At the Bangkok Meeting of the Parties, the 178-member Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted to restrict cross-border trade in the oceanic whitetip, the porbeagle, three types of hammerheads and the manta ray.  The agreement still has to be formally approved by the CITES plenary session and a party may ask to reconsider the decision at the plenary session, as happened in 2010 when an initial agreement to control international trade in the porbeagle was later overturned.

With updated figures from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) suggesting that humans kill  100 million sharks each year for their fins, this tentative agreement by CITES is an imperative step to preventing their extinction. A staggering ninety percent of the world’s sharks have disappeared over the past 100 years due to human activities.

A combination of increased legislative action and conservation initiatives are essential for preserving sharks from extinction.  The decision in Bangkok is encouraging however, more action is still needed to ensure their preservation.  For more information about the Bangkok Meeting of the Parties please click on the picture-link below.


Into the Cayman Abyss

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A team of scientists are currently exploring the  Cayman Trough, a three-mile deep rift in the seafloor of the Caribbean, in search of the world’s deepest volcanic vents and new species of deep-sea creatures.

The Mid-Cayman spreading centre is an ultraslow-spreading ridge in the Caribbean Sea. Its extreme depth and geographic isolation from other mid-ocean ridges offer insights into the effects of pressure on hydrothermal venting, and the biogeography of vent fauna.

In March/April 2010 the research team on the RRS James Cook voyage 44 discovered two hydrothermal vent fields on the Mid-Cayman spreading centre.

The scientists are using a variety of techniques to explore these vents.  Click on the pictures below to keep up-to-date with their findings and progress. 


Unraveling the Shark Finning Crisis

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Please check out and support my friend Joe Cavanaugh’s Kickstart fundraiser to write a report on the Shark Finning trade in China. Share the story with your friends, family and colleagues as he really wants to spread awareness about this issue.

Here is a summary of his project:

I will write a comprehensive journal article that unravels the shark finning problem, especially the market forces and cultural nuances fueling a still growing trade in China. After fully describing the problem, I will offer insight into creative solutions that can disrupt and hopefully turn a pressing conservation challenge into a conservation opportunity.  I am uniquely qualified as a marine and endangered species biologist.  I also have connections with people who have an intimate knowledge of shark finning in Hong Kong.  Their knowledge  and more importantly, their understanding of the cultural importance of shark finning in China are both critically important to finding possible solutions to end the shark fin trade.

I plan on utilizing my connections in Hong Kong to explore the market forces and cultural connections around this trade. Only by uncovering how the trade works and why it is growing in the face of international opposition can I offer ideas on what can be done to fight back.  I will use a Kickstarter-funded  trip to Hong Kong to complete my research about shark finning and publish a journal article in a mainstream journal.  I am uniquely qualified with over 15 years experience as a marine biologist to write this shark finning story.  I have tremendous people skills as well that I will utilize to counter the risks to getting the information needed to complete my story.

Shark finning is the inhumane practice of fishing for sharks by capturing them, removing their fins, and then usually discarding the still-live sharks back into the water to slowly bleed to death.  Fishermen cast overboard all but the fins because the fins themselves can fetch upwards of $300 USD per pound. Shark finning wastes all but the fins of the sharks and is a cruel and ecologically destructive means of fishing.  Sharks worldwide are slow to reproduce and usually have very few young every few few years.  There are over 450 species of sharks worldwide.  However, finning targets a couple of dozen species, many of which are currently on worldwide threatened and endangered species lists.

Sad ironies abound in the shark fin trade. Most shark fins are consumed in China in traditional shark fin soup served at weddings.  Fins are also used in some traditional medicines.  However, there is no evidence of shark fins conferring on consumers either virility or medicinal benefits. In fact, there is growing evidence that consuming shark fins can actually lead to impotency since shark fins have very high levels of mercury and other toxic compounds.

Hong Kong is the major gateway for shark fins sold throughout mainland China and if fins are not trafficked through Hong Kong, then they likely move through Taipei, Taiwan.  Outside of Asia there is a growing disdain for the wasteful and inhumane practice of finning.  And more recently a strong anti-finning movement has erupted in pockets of Asia.  However, policy changes are slow to follow the anti-finning movement and it is estimated that shark finning may wipe out 90 percent of oceanic shark species in the coming few years if drastic changes are not made.

A rapidly growing emergent middle class in mainland China poses the greatest threat to sharks because this middle class consumes most shark fins. The main bulwark to this supply and demand chain is the education and outreach of dozens of shark advocacy groups worldwide.  Bans on shark fin soup throughout the U.S., Canada, and in many parts of Asia are dampening some consumption but cannot keep pace with the shear numbers of emergent middle class Chinese consumers. Westerners may find the shark fin soup cultural phenom as unfathomable as most Chinese find incomprehensible the American idea that evermore guns will make us safer.  Both the idea that shark fin soup increases one’s virility and that more guns makes a society safer are contrary to statistics that show otherwise.  The finning problem is complex.  It is cultural, economic/political, and ecological. However, without sharks in our oceans, we know our ocean ecosystems will falter.  The truth is that we need sharks in our oceans just as their presence enriches humanity and their absence would leave an indelible void.

Please help me research shark finning and write a turn-around article for shark conservation. Thank you in advance for your support!

Blue Button Jellyfish (Porpita porpita)



On today’s research snorkel I started seeing a lot of the Blue Button Jellyfish (Porpita porpita) wash up on shore.  I took the above picture as I was just fascinated by its structure and beauty.  Porpita porpita live on the surface and are not real jellyfish but are Chondrophores. Chondrophores are colonies of polyps, with each polyp contributes something different to the colony.

Porpita porpita are hermaphrodites and have two main body structures.  The first part is the float which is a round disc like shape and is a golden-brown color. It is typically 1.5 inches wide or less, and has a single mouth underneath the float which is used for both the intake of nutrients and the dispersal of wastes. The second part is the hydroid colony (jellyfish like tentacles) that are bright blue, turquoise or yellow. Each strand is covered in branchlets and end in knobs of stinging calls called nematocysts.

Porpita porpita stings usually do not hurt but can cause skin irritation. They have gaseous bodies which allow them to float on the surface and are propelled by wind and ocean currents. This causes them to frequently be washed on to beaches, hence why we were seeing them wash up on shore today.



Two Porpita porpita that I got on a plate and took back out to sea