Why hello there, lovely WordPress world that I so neglect! There’s a ginormous amount of things I should post about, both marine news and personal life greatness, but I’m just going to ease back into the habit of blogging without making too much of a thang. Since my class has ended all there is left for me to do is prepare for the upcoming Fiji trip (!) and grad school in general, so I’ve been kicking back and truly enjoying the simple things in life. Lots of reading, cooking, random spurts of adventure, and sunshine. Oh yeah, and work, but these days tutoring the girls is more of an enjoyment than a chore, they’ve grown so much this year and are impressing me every day with their curiosity (the other day one of them asked me about vaccines, and let me prattle on about adjuvant and herd immunity and Guardasil for 15 minutes straight, it was bliss)!
Basically, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a substantial amount of free time. I’ve been constantly working, volunteering, studying for various versions of the GRE, and trying to add relevant and valuable things to my resume…and now that I’m in, now that grad school is actually happening, I am granted this amazing window of time where I can direct my energy towards whatever I want. And it’s amazing! I’m trying to soak every ounce of it up, because come August (or June even, our first field trip as a lab!) things are gonna get realllll crazy up in here Which I am RIDICULOUSLY stoked for. And which brings me to my next point (of the sloppy, not-very-solid points I’ve made in this post so far): getting back into science as a daily way of life.
One of my favorite things I have going these days is the weekly literature review seminar I’m a part of at UCLA. Even though the research project I was a part of is technically over, our little lab group still gathers to talk about papers we find, chemical ecology, and science life in general. Today our lively discussion included (in addition to chemosensory systems, of course) the topics of worm castings, summer internships, victory gardens, and the colorful history of Fiji, as well as accounts of Dr. Z’s numerous near-death plane experiences (note to self: never. ever. fly with Dr. Z). I left UCLA a happy camper, and even more excited for grad school in the fall where once again I’ll be immersed in the scientific conversation every day Since graduating from undergrad, I’ve really missed lab life, being a part of a greater academic community, and the access to scientific resources/conversation/development that the academic community offers as a whole. Working at UCLA really opened me up to that realization (as well as the scary thought that I could maybe be happy with being a student my whole life – ahhh! *erasing thought from brain*), so even though I’m very happy living my easy-peasy lifestyle for the moment, it is so so so awesome that I’ll be re-joining the hustle and bustle of the scientific community in the near future!
Hmmm that ended on a cheesier note than expected haha. Here are some random photos to distract you from that fact.
I’m BACK everyone!! Major blogger hiatus, not because of a lack of motivation (hah, surprisingly), but because of all the adventures I’ve been going on! Woo!! Suffice to say, I’m taking that New Year’s Resolution seriously, and enjoying every moment of it I’ll be posting pictures soon from New York City, Omaha, our camping trip, and some of my local LA wanderings.
But for nowwww, I would like to share this awesome article about shark tooth weapons! My advisor at Columbia University, Joshua Drew, published this paper in PLOS ONE yesterday and it’s generated quite a bit of media buzz, which is always awesome for scientists and even better for the marine conservation effort as a whole! During his postdoc, Dr. Drew poked around these collections of shark tooth weapons from the Gilbert Islands, housed at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, and made some interesting discoveries. By identifying the species of shark used for these 18th century weapons, he was able to essentially look into the past, getting a glimpse of what reef biodiversity looked like centuries ago – something he calls “shadow diversity”. After identifying all shark species whose teeth were used for the formidable weapons, Dr. Drew ultimately discovered that there are at least two species of sharks that have disappeared from the Gilbert Islands within the last two centuries! This is a great study showing how baselines can shift over time, leading to a skewed impression of what the reefs “should” look like in their pristine state. One of the major requirements of marine conservation success is determining a baseline, so that future efforts can work towards preserving/restoring that level of biodiversity – but if the baseline data only comes from 40 or 50 years back, it may not be the best representation. Utilizing museum collections is a superb way of trying to form a more accurate baseline for a particular area, and this kind of study (while also super cool in that it looks at badass weapons!) is the perfect example of how we can come to better conclusions using non-traditional forms of data.
Super cool breaking news! Researchers at Oregon State University have shown that salmon use MAGNETISM to find their way back to freshwater rivers to spawn! This is really cool for multiple reasons, first because while we know that salmon return to the exact streambed they were originally hatched from via chemical cues (odors), we never knew how they found the general location of the river on a larger scale. When they are born they imprint on the unique smell signature of their specific little nook of the freshwater world in order to find it within short distances (which is cool enough on its own), but the recent study has found that they also imprint upon the magnetic signature of that spot as well! This basically refers to (from my understanding) the fact that each spot on Earth is uniquely situated in relation to our planet’s magnetic poles. Many other animals have been shown to use the Earth’s magnetic fields for general orientation (many migratory birds, sea turtles, salamanders, frogs, even bacteria!), but this is the first evidence that salmon use it, AND the first evidence that magnetic signatures can be learned, or “imprinted”. This magnetic signature is how they locate one infinitesimally small rivermouth along the relatively vast expanse of ocean and coastline, and begin the journey back to their spawning grounds – where the females release thousands of eggs, the males release lots of sperm, and they all promptly kick the bucket. Literally going out with a bang!!
Here’s the link to NSF’s press release about the study if you want to read more. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!
Mrahhh I love ocean videos!!
I think film is one of the best mediums to capture the beauty of the ocean, and one of my FAVORITE things to do after a long, hard day (or an exhausting, fun-filled weekend in San Francisco like I just had! har har sorry had to rub it in) is to meander through ocean-related videos on the internet. For me, the essence of the ocean is in the movement. The suspension of your body in liquid has got to be one of the best feelings in the world, ask anyone who dives or snorkels (or takes baths regularly). And to feel the swell of the waves coming in one after another, to see the slow, ponderous motion of a whale gliding through the water or the quick darts of a colony of humbug damsels…it’s mesmerizing! So here are a few of the videos I’ve really liked lately. Warning: side-effects may include an itch to swim in the sea by any means possible – only cure is to watch more ocean videos.
This one is from filmmaker Morgan Maassen, a beautiful surfing-oriented video with great music, beautiful cinematography and some quirky cute moments than will bring a smile to your face.
This next video I just saw today, one of my supervisors at the California Science Center captained the ship for this shark expedition. Super-brave diver Ocean Ramsey peacefully joins a Great White Shark in a swim, and I swear it is the most magical thing I’ve seen in a long time. Obviously swimming with Great Whites isn’t something we should all do on the regular, but this is a great video to promote the non-lethal-killer side of these amazing creatures.
Annnd this last one is an amazing GoPro video of a pod of dolphins following a fishing boat…so cool!
Hope you all enjoy!
Once again, 2:30 am finds me wide awake and restless…oh weekends, how you throw my sleep schedule so. Well, I thought I would share this story my dad emailed me the other day – Japanese scientists have confirmed the existence of flying squid! What the what?! These little guys use their jet propulsion to propel themselves out of the water and then open their wing-like fins to catch the air, gliding above the water for a few feet before plunging back in! So cool!! Once again, cephalopods rock our socks off. In my personal opinion, squid are constantly being outshone by their super cool relatives, cuttlefish and octopuses (or octopodes – as I just learned – an alternative, more scientifically-oriented plural form), but these flying squid plus the recent footage captured of the Giant Squid by Japanese scientists are giving this group of creatures a serious leg up in my book. And now that I think of it, they also have super cool egg sacs! I’ve done a few night dives down at Redondo Beach and have seen a few bunches, they look like big fluffy bouquets of flowers to me, moving softly with the surge. A reminder of how ethereal and strange the underwater world can be…
Also, I took my new little Nikon to Griffith Observatory on a beautiful, stormy Los Angeles day recently. It was perfect timing, right after one wave of showers had stopped and just before another one rolled in – you could see the ocean all the way from Griffith. Here are some of my faves – gah I love this camera!
Yayyy, no more taking photos with my iPhone!!! Haha I just got this beauty as an early birthday present from my kickass photographer grandma, it’s a Nikon P5100 and it’s perfect for my (beginner) photographer needs! I’ve been looking for a new camera ever since I ruined my last one scraping the lens on some coral while army-crawling across a reef at low tide (lesson learned, always look at the tide charts even if you’re just going for a “15-minute” snorkel…because 15-minute snorkels don’t exist). So I’ve been taking photos with my little iPhone ever since I returned from that trip (which actually may have had a higher quality camera than my little underwater Fuji haha) and I figured it’s time for an upgrade. So, little Nikon, here’s to becoming best of friends! And to the upcoming adventures we will capture together!
One year ago this month, I embarked on one of the coolest adventures I’ve been on thus far, heading to the middle of the Pacific ocean to help a friend with her research in Fiji. We went diving with bull sharks, ate traditional Fijian lovos, hiked to waterfalls and snorkeled in pristine turquoise waters. I learned SO much about marine protected areas and how they’re managed, and Dani’s work with three of the local villages opened my eyes to how closely the Fijian way of life is connected to the health of their reefs. Not only has this experience shaped a lot of my future career and life goals, but it also seems to have started the trend of AMAZINGNESS I’ve been enjoying for the last year – going to Fiji seriously rocked, and life hasn’t stopped rocking ever since! So here are some favorite photos of mine to commemorate that game-changer of an adventure, and I hope you all have the chance sometime soon to embark on your own, be it 2,000 miles away or 20! Happy Monday everyone!