WHOI

East Falmouth, MA, United States
East Falmouth, MA, United States

Time filter

Source Type

News Article | June 28, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

The habits of New York’s little-understood whale population are to be fully analysed for the first time, with scientists hoping the new information will help protect the marine behemoths that navigate one of the busiest shipping areas in the world. An acoustic monitoring buoy has been deployed off the coast of Long Island to eavesdrop on the cacophony of underwater noises made by whales that feed and travel through New York waters. Data from the research project will plug a surprising gap in scientists’ knowledge of the world’s largest creatures. Despite the large human population of New York and its continual shipping traffic, little is known about the presence of whales in the New York Bight – a stretch of water spanning New York to New Jersey. The buoy will listen out for whales from its position 22 miles out to sea from Fire Island, a strip of land in the central part of Long Island. The project, overseen by the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) New York aquarium and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), will run for an initial two years, although funding will be sought to extend this. “It’s quite remarkable really, we have snapshots of what whales are doing from fishermen and whale watching tours but we don’t have an holistic picture of their lives,” WCS’s Dr Howard Rosenbaum, co-lead of the project, told the Guardian. “I’ve worked all around the world developing important baselines on whale abundance and yet we don’t have much information here in New York, where I saw my first whales in the 1970s. This really is the start of our learning about whales here. We really have some catching up to do.” Humpback whales are regularly spotted off areas such as Brooklyn, while fin whales are known to inhabit the waters around the eastern tip of Long Island. Five other species, including the endangered North Atlantic right whale and minke and sperm whales, have also been seen or heard in New York waters. The presence of these species will be picked up by the acoustic buoy, which was developed by WHOI. The buoy sits six feet above the sea surface and is anchored to the sea floor 125ft below via hoses to a weighted frame. An underwater microphone called a hydrophone will record the sound of whale vocalisations, which are the clicks, whistles and calls made by a whale to other members of its pod. This information will be relayed via satellite to WHOI’s base in Massachusetts, where the sounds will be referenced to a “library” of whale noises. This compendium of sounds will be used to help identify species of whale and determine roughly how far they are from the buoy. Whales have distinctive “songs” they use to communicate with each other or find food. Recent research off the US west coast suggests that increasing underwater noise from shipping could be disrupting this communication, with potentially serious consequences for whale wellbeing. New York waters are some of the busiest in the world, with 3.3m cargo containers handled in the Port of New York and New Jersey in 2014 – a 5.4% increase on the previous year. “We are very concerned by ocean noise writ large,” said Rosenbaum. “Getting hit by ships is another concern – we saw a number of animals killed by blunt force trauma in New York waters last year. We want to generate information so we can work with agencies to protect whales, so that the waters are safe for recreational and maritime boats as well as the whales. “We hope this also an opportunity for people in the New York area to get excited about marine wildlife. So many people don’t know we have whales in our own back yard. Most people enjoy a day at the beach and don’t even know whales are out there.” The real-time data will be made available through WHOI’s website and via the New York aquarium.


News Article | May 16, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Marine reserves -- sections of the ocean where fishing is prohibited--promote coral reef sustainability by preventing overfishing and increasing fish abundance and diversity. But to be effective, they need to be sized right, and in a way that accounts for how far juvenile fish travel away from their parents after spawning. Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), along with researchers from Australia, France, and Saudi Arabia, have successfully measured the dispersal distances of two coral reef fish species across a 3,000 square mile section of the ocean -- an area the size of Yellowstone National Park. The study, published in the May 8, 2017, issue of the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, marks the largest, most comprehensive study of larval dispersal ever conducted and has important implications for the sizing and spacing of marine reserves. "How far fish will disperse in their lifetimes is critical when you start thinking about how marine reserves should be designed," said Simon Thorrold, co-author of the study and a senior scientist at WHOI. "This is the first time we've been able to measure dispersal distances on spatial scales that are relevant to marine reserves, which means we can now provide data that informs management on optimal spacing and sizing." Marine reserves come in many shapes and sizes. But if a reserve is too small, it can't accommodate enough larvae to sustain populations. And if it's too big, larvae will simply stay within the confines of the reserve without contributing to surrounding fisheries -- a critical secondary role marine reserves need to play to improve fisheries management. To get a read on fish dispersal in the past, scientists relied on population genetics approaches that lacked the power to measure dispersal over space and time scales relevant to protected areas of the ocean. More recently, ecologists have turned to computer-generated models of water currents to track particles through virtual oceans. According to Thorrold, this approach also has limitations since there was no way to verify the accuracy of the models. "The software can generate a lot of cool-looking graphs, but it was impossible to test the skill of those models in any real way." To overcome these limitations, Thorrold and his colleagues took direct measurements of dispersal distances in the field. They collected DNA samples from thousands of adult and juvenile clownfish and butterflyfish throughout Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, in 2009 and 2011. The entire sampling process occurred underwater, with the 30-person science team spending thousands of man-hours on SCUBA over several weeks in the field each year. When the scientists returned to the lab, they used DNA parentage analysis, a sequencing technique that allowed them to match the juveniles up with their parents based on the DNA samples and spawning and settlement location data. From that, they were able to determine that most of the juvenile clownfish stayed relatively close to home, settling at mean distances of 10-15 kilometers from their natal reefs. The butterflyfish dispersed further, averaging distances of 43-64 kilometers before settling into their new habitats. "Since we knew the respective locations of the adults and babies, we were able to come up with the exact linear distances that the larvae had dispersed. We're no longer talking about estimates," said Thorrold. In addition to helping inform the design of protected areas, the measurements can help to test the ability of reserves to perform key conservation functions. For example, one way a marine reserve network may improve fish population sustainability is through the so-called "rescue effect." In theory, if fish in a reserve suffer catastrophic mortality, the reserve can be repopulated by larvae from other reserves within the network. Thorrold and colleagues were able to track larvae from one reserve to another in the study area, confirming that rescue effect is likely to occur in real-world reserve networks. The dispersal measurements could also allow fisheries managers to monitor the effectiveness of existing reserves, helping answer the question of whether or not a particular reserve is contributing to fish populations beyond its boundaries. This, according to Thorrold, has been a big unknown. "If you can trace larvae from one reserve to a place that's fished, you can come up with a direct measure of how many fish the reserve is contributing to exploited populations beyond the reserve," he said. "This helps when trying to convince fishermen that networks of marine reserves are a good management tool." According to Thorrold, as coral reef seascapes continue to face pressure from man-made stressors, marine reserves will continue to serve as an important conservation management tool. As such, it will become increasingly important to be able to provide direct measurements of larval dispersal, and find ways to apply the information to other regions of the ocean. "The next thing we are working on is developing a coupled bio-physical model of the area that will allow us to take the results from this study and generalize them to other coral reef seascapes around the world," he said. "Limited resources for ocean management, particularly in the developing world, means that we need to maximize the chances of successful conservation outcomes from these efforts. These types of scientific insights will be critical for ongoing efforts to promote resilience of coral reef ecosystems in the face of human exploitation and climate change." This research was supported by Australian Research Council, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, and the National Science Foundation. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean's role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit http://www. .


News Article | May 17, 2017
Site: www.sciencedaily.com

Marine reserves -- sections of the ocean where fishing is prohibited -- promote coral reef sustainability by preventing overfishing and increasing fish abundance and diversity. But to be effective, they need to be sized right, and in a way that accounts for how far juvenile fish travel away from their parents after spawning. Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), along with researchers from Australia, France, and Saudi Arabia, have successfully measured the dispersal distances of two coral reef fish species across a 3,000 square mile section of the ocean -- an area the size of Yellowstone National Park. The study, published in the May 8, 2017, issue of the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, marks the largest, most comprehensive study of larval dispersal ever conducted and has important implications for the sizing and spacing of marine reserves. "How far fish will disperse in their lifetimes is critical when you start thinking about how marine reserves should be designed," said Simon Thorrold, co-author of the study and a senior scientist at WHOI. "This is the first time we've been able to measure dispersal distances on spatial scales that are relevant to marine reserves, which means we can now provide data that informs management on optimal spacing and sizing." Marine reserves come in many shapes and sizes. But if a reserve is too small, it can't accommodate enough larvae to sustain populations. And if it's too big, larvae will simply stay within the confines of the reserve without contributing to surrounding fisheries -- a critical secondary role marine reserves need to play to improve fisheries management. To get a read on fish dispersal in the past, scientists relied on population genetics approaches that lacked the power to measure dispersal over space and time scales relevant to protected areas of the ocean. More recently, ecologists have turned to computer-generated models of water currents to track particles through virtual oceans. According to Thorrold, this approach also has limitations since there was no way to verify the accuracy of the models. "The software can generate a lot of cool-looking graphs, but it was impossible to test the skill of those models in any real way." To overcome these limitations, Thorrold and his colleagues took direct measurements of dispersal distances in the field. They collected DNA samples from thousands of adult and juvenile clownfish and butterflyfish throughout Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, in 2009 and 2011. The entire sampling process occurred underwater, with the 30-person science team spending thousands of man-hours on SCUBA over several weeks in the field each year. When the scientists returned to the lab, they used DNA parentage analysis, a sequencing technique that allowed them to match the juveniles up with their parents based on the DNA samples and spawning and settlement location data. From that, they were able to determine that most of the juvenile clownfish stayed relatively close to home, settling at mean distances of 10-15 kilometers from their natal reefs. The butterflyfish dispersed further, averaging distances of 43-64 kilometers before settling into their new habitats. "Since we knew the respective locations of the adults and babies, we were able to come up with the exact linear distances that the larvae had dispersed. We're no longer talking about estimates," said Thorrold. In addition to helping inform the design of protected areas, the measurements can help to test the ability of reserves to perform key conservation functions. For example, one way a marine reserve network may improve fish population sustainability is through the so-called "rescue effect." In theory, if fish in a reserve suffer catastrophic mortality, the reserve can be repopulated by larvae from other reserves within the network. Thorrold and colleagues were able to track larvae from one reserve to another in the study area, confirming that rescue effect is likely to occur in real-world reserve networks. The dispersal measurements could also allow fisheries managers to monitor the effectiveness of existing reserves, helping answer the question of whether or not a particular reserve is contributing to fish populations beyond its boundaries. This, according to Thorrold, has been a big unknown. "If you can trace larvae from one reserve to a place that's fished, you can come up with a direct measure of how many fish the reserve is contributing to exploited populations beyond the reserve," he said. "This helps when trying to convince fishermen that networks of marine reserves are a good management tool." According to Thorrold, as coral reef seascapes continue to face pressure from human-made stressors, marine reserves will continue to serve as an important conservation management tool. As such, it will become increasingly important to be able to provide direct measurements of larval dispersal, and find ways to apply the information to other regions of the ocean. "The next thing we are working on is developing a coupled bio-physical model of the area that will allow us to take the results from this study and generalize them to other coral reef seascapes around the world," he said. "Limited resources for ocean management, particularly in the developing world, means that we need to maximize the chances of successful conservation outcomes from these efforts. These types of scientific insights will be critical for ongoing efforts to promote resilience of coral reef ecosystems in the face of human exploitation and climate change."


News Article | May 16, 2017
Site: phys.org

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), along with researchers from Australia, France, and Saudi Arabia, have successfully measured the dispersal distances of two coral reef fish species across a 3,000 square mile section of the ocean—an area the size of Yellowstone National Park. The study, published in the May 8, 2017, issue of the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, marks the largest, most comprehensive study of larval dispersal ever conducted and has important implications for the sizing and spacing of marine reserves. "How far fish will disperse in their lifetimes is critical when you start thinking about how marine reserves should be designed," said Simon Thorrold, co-author of the study and a senior scientist at WHOI. "This is the first time we've been able to measure dispersal distances on spatial scales that are relevant to marine reserves, which means we can now provide data that informs management on optimal spacing and sizing." Marine reserves come in many shapes and sizes. But if a reserve is too small, it can't accommodate enough larvae to sustain populations. And if it's too big, larvae will simply stay within the confines of the reserve without contributing to surrounding fisheries—a critical secondary role marine reserves need to play to improve fisheries management. To get a read on fish dispersal in the past, scientists relied on population genetics approaches that lacked the power to measure dispersal over space and time scales relevant to protected areas of the ocean. More recently, ecologists have turned to computer-generated models of water currents to track particles through virtual oceans. According to Thorrold, this approach also has limitations since there was no way to verify the accuracy of the models. "The software can generate a lot of cool-looking graphs, but it was impossible to test the skill of those models in any real way." To overcome these limitations, Thorrold and his colleagues took direct measurements of dispersal distances in the field. They collected DNA samples from thousands of adult and juvenile clownfish and butterflyfish throughout Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, in 2009 and 2011. The entire sampling process occurred underwater, with the 30-person science team spending thousands of man-hours on SCUBA over several weeks in the field each year. When the scientists returned to the lab, they used DNA parentage analysis, a sequencing technique that allowed them to match the juveniles up with their parents based on the DNA samples and spawning and settlement location data. From that, they were able to determine that most of the juvenile clownfish stayed relatively close to home, settling at mean distances of 10-15 kilometers from their natal reefs. The butterflyfish dispersed further, averaging distances of 43-64 kilometers before settling into their new habitats. "Since we knew the respective locations of the adults and babies, we were able to come up with the exact linear distances that the larvae had dispersed. We're no longer talking about estimates," said Thorrold. In addition to helping inform the design of protected areas, the measurements can help to test the ability of reserves to perform key conservation functions. For example, one way a marine reserve network may improve fish population sustainability is through the so-called "rescue effect." In theory, if fish in a reserve suffer catastrophic mortality, the reserve can be repopulated by larvae from other reserves within the network. Thorrold and colleagues were able to track larvae from one reserve to another in the study area, confirming that rescue effect is likely to occur in real-world reserve networks. The dispersal measurements could also allow fisheries managers to monitor the effectiveness of existing reserves, helping answer the question of whether or not a particular reserve is contributing to fish populations beyond its boundaries. This, according to Thorrold, has been a big unknown. "If you can trace larvae from one reserve to a place that's fished, you can come up with a direct measure of how many fish the reserve is contributing to exploited populations beyond the reserve," he said. "This helps when trying to convince fishermen that networks of marine reserves are a good management tool." According to Thorrold, as coral reef seascapes continue to face pressure from man-made stressors, marine reserves will continue to serve as an important conservation management tool. As such, it will become increasingly important to be able to provide direct measurements of larval dispersal, and find ways to apply the information to other regions of the ocean. "The next thing we are working on is developing a coupled bio-physical model of the area that will allow us to take the results from this study and generalize them to other coral reef seascapes around the world," he said. "Limited resources for ocean management, particularly in the developing world, means that we need to maximize the chances of successful conservation outcomes from these efforts. These types of scientific insights will be critical for ongoing efforts to promote resilience of coral reef ecosystems in the face of human exploitation and climate change." Explore further: DNA evidence shows that marine reserves help to sustain fisheries


News Article | May 26, 2017
Site: www.prweb.com

The 238-ft. Neil Armstrong is the only research vessel included in Fleet Week New York and the only ship home-ported in Massachusetts. The ship is owned by the U.S. Navy and operated WHOI. “We were thrilled to be a part of the celebration and grateful for the opportunity to highlight the important role that ocean research plays in our nation’s security,” said Mark Abbott, president and director of WHOI. The Neil Armstrong arrived during the Navy’s Parade of Ships up the Hudson on May 24, and was berthed at Pier 86 by the Intrepid Sea Air and Space museum. The ship will host hundreds of visitors touring the vessel through Friday. The ship will depart New York on May 26, returning to its homeport in Woods Hole. The ship’s next expedition will be to the Pioneer Array, an ocean observatory 100 miles off the Massachusetts coast operated by WHOI and funded by the National Science Foundation. LINK TO VIDEO FOOTAGE FROM FLEET WEEK PARADE OF SHIPS: http://bit.ly/2qdiCTj


News Article | April 18, 2017
Site: phys.org

Interest in the jellyfish has renewed in recent years, when stings with symptoms similar to those previously described off of the Russian coast—including severe pain, respiratory and neurological symptoms—suddenly started occurring in Cape Cod and nearby regions. Now, the first genetic study of the diversity of clinging jellyfish populations around the globe has discovered some surprising links among distant communities of jellies and also revealed there may be more than one species of the infamous stinger. The paper published April 18 in the journal Peer J. Annette Govindarajan, a biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and lead author of the paper, has studied these jellies for the past three years with the ultimate goal of tracing the species' origin off the U.S. East Coast, where it is thought to be invasive. The clinging jellyfish first appeared in the Cape Cod area in 1894. Scientists in Woods Hole studied the clingers in the early 1900s. Following an eelgrass die-off, their numbers dwindled. Then the tiny creatures, whose sizes range from about the diameter of a dime to a quarter, nearly vanished in the 1930s. Prior to that, says Govindarajan, researchers and others who were handling the jellies in Massachusetts made no reports of stings. "The Cape Cod populations were assumed to be a variety that didn't cause severe stings," Govindarajan adds. It wasn't until 1990 that the clinging jellyfish re-appeared in Cape Cod and painful stings were first reported. These observations lead Govindarajan and her colleague, WHOI researcher Mary Carman to suggest in a previous paper that an invasion from a toxic population had occurred. The new study shows that the story is much more complex than previously thought. The researchers uncovered a genetic match between populations of clinging jellyfish in the Vladivostok, Russia-area—specifically the area well known to cause severe sting reactions—and those found along the U.S. East Coast in the Northwest Atlantic. "We know the two regions share one genetic variant or haplotype," Govindarajan says. "In the Northwest Atlantic, this variant was actually most frequently found in eastern Long Island Sound. The details about how and when an invasion, or possibly multiple invasions, occurred aren't clear. Interestingly, we also found evidence that both regions may contain native forms." Working with Carman and colleagues Marat Khaidarov and Alexander Semenchenko from the A.V. Zhirmunsky Institute of Marine Biology, National Scientific Center of Marine Biology, Far East Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences in Vladivostok, Russia, and John Wares from the University of Georgia, Govindarajan obtained tissue samples for DNA sequencing. The jellyfish samples came from several Atlantic and Pacific locations. Their analysis identified seven variants, some of which were specific to only one location, and others that were shared among communities in distant locations. Interestingly, jellies from the Northeast Pacific and Northeast Atlantic locations shared a haplotype that was sufficiently different from Northwest Atlantic and Northwest Pacific jellyfish, which suggests the possibility that the two related groups may represent different species of Gonionemus. "In the past, some people have suggested that the Atlantic and the Pacific jellies were different forms," Govindarajan says. "Others have suggested that jellies in the Atlantic were introduced from the Pacific. But what we found doesn't correspond exactly to either hypothesis. And it could be that what we have in the Northwest Atlantic and Northwest Pacific is not Gonionemus 'vertens' at all, as it has been called, but some other species of Gonionemus." "The study documents what we suspected, that there are different types of Gonionemus jellies and some of these types co-occur in New England," says coauthor Carman. "Some types seem to have a toxic sting to people and some do not."Understanding the relationship between the genetic variants and toxicity is something the researchers would like to pursue in the future. "It could very well be that the toxicity is a function of both genetics and the environment, perhaps something in the environment is triggering the toxicity," Govindarajan says. While the animals bloom in the summer months, beginning in June through September, Govindarajan says swimmers and beachgoers shouldn't be overly concerned as the fragile stingers are not found along sandy beaches in high-energy areas where there are waves. "Unlike other jellies, it is unlikely that these would be in open water," she says. "We only see them in areas with eelgrass or seaweeds since they're able to cling to these surfaces with the sticky pads found on their tentacles."The lack of movement in open waters also makes the mystery of how the different varieties have become so widespread even more intriguing. The jellyfish are produced by microscopic polyps that are only about a millimeter or less in size, which Govindarajan says is a stage where they could easily hitchhike on a blade of eelgrass, an oyster shell or even a boat hull. "At that stage, they're so tiny," she adds. "To find them is like finding a needle in a haystack." Govindarajan and her coauthors hope to obtain funding to do additional genomic analyses that will give greater resolution and suggest genetic markers to help reveal more about the species and its toxicity. They hope this will lead to a better understanding of how invasive forms of the jellyfish are dispersing, so that further spread can be prevented."With this study, we answered some questions, but it also opened up many others," says Govindarajan. "That's part of the scientific process. It's what makes it for me, personally, very interesting. I feel like I'm solving a mystery." More information: Annette F. Govindarajan et al. Mitochondrial diversity in(Trachylina:Hydrozoa) and its implications for understanding the origins of clinging jellyfish in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, PeerJ (2017). DOI: 10.7717/peerj.3205


News Article | April 18, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

For such small and delicate creatures, they can pack mighty painful stings. Known as clinging jellyfish because they attach themselves to seagrasses and seaweeds, Gonionemus is found along coastlines in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and in particular in waters near Vladivostok, Russia. Exactly how these jellyfish, long assumed to be native to the North Pacific, became so widely distributed throughout the world has perplexed researchers for decades. Interest in the jellyfish has renewed in recent years, when stings with symptoms similar to those previously described off of the Russian coast -- including severe pain, respiratory and neurological symptoms -- suddenly started occurring in Cape Cod and nearby regions. Now, the first genetic study of the diversity of clinging jellyfish populations around the globe has discovered some surprising links among distant communities of jellies and also revealed there may be more than one species of the infamous stinger. The paper published April 18 in the journal Peer J. Annette Govindarajan, a biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and lead author of the paper, has studied these jellies for the past three years with the ultimate goal of tracing the species' origin off the U.S. East Coast, where it is thought to be invasive. The clinging jellyfish first appeared in the Cape Cod area in 1894. Scientists in Woods Hole studied the clingers in the early 1900s. Following an eelgrass die-off, their numbers dwindled. Then the tiny creatures, whose sizes range from about the diameter of a dime to a quarter, nearly vanished in the 1930s. Prior to that, says Govindarajan, researchers and others who were handling the jellies in Massachusetts made no reports of stings. "The Cape Cod populations were assumed to be a variety that didn't cause severe stings," Govindarajan adds. It wasn't until 1990 that the clinging jellyfish re-appeared in Cape Cod and painful stings were first reported. These observations lead Govindarajan and her colleague, WHOI researcher Mary Carman to suggest in a previous paper that an invasion from a toxic population had occurred. The new study shows that the story is much more complex than previously thought. The researchers uncovered a genetic match between populations of clinging jellyfish in the Vladivostok, Russia-area -- specifically the area well known to cause severe sting reactions -- and those found along the U.S. East Coast in the Northwest Atlantic. "We know the two regions share one genetic variant or haplotype," Govindarajan says. "In the Northwest Atlantic, this variant was actually most frequently found in eastern Long Island Sound. The details about how and when an invasion, or possibly multiple invasions, occurred aren't clear. Interestingly, we also found evidence that both regions may contain native forms." Working with Carman and colleagues Marat Khaidarov and Alexander Semenchenko from the A.V. Zhirmunsky Institute of Marine Biology, National Scientific Center of Marine Biology, Far East Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences in Vladivostok, Russia, and John Wares from the University of Georgia, Govindarajan obtained tissue samples for DNA sequencing. The jellyfish samples came from several Atlantic and Pacific locations. Their analysis identified seven variants, some of which were specific to only one location, and others that were shared among communities in distant locations. Interestingly, jellies from the Northeast Pacific and Northeast Atlantic locations shared a haplotype that was sufficiently different from Northwest Atlantic and Northwest Pacific jellyfish, which suggests the possibility that the two related groups may represent different species of Gonionemus. "In the past, some people have suggested that the Atlantic and the Pacific jellies were different forms," Govindarajan says. "Others have suggested that jellies in the Atlantic were introduced from the Pacific. But what we found doesn't correspond exactly to either hypothesis. And it could be that what we have in the Northwest Atlantic and Northwest Pacific is not Gonionemus 'vertens' at all, as it has been called, but some other species of Gonionemus." "The study documents what we suspected, that there are different types of Gonionemus jellies and some of these types co-occur in New England," says coauthor Carman. "Some types seem to have a toxic sting to people and some do not." Understanding the relationship between the genetic variants and toxicity is something the researchers would like to pursue in the future. "It could very well be that the toxicity is a function of both genetics and the environment, perhaps something in the environment is triggering the toxicity," Govindarajan says. While the animals bloom in the summer months, beginning in June through September, Govindarajan says swimmers and beachgoers shouldn't be overly concerned as the fragile stingers are not found along sandy beaches in high-energy areas where there are waves. "Unlike other jellies, it is unlikely that these would be in open water," she says. "We only see them in areas with eelgrass or seaweeds since they're able to cling to these surfaces with the sticky pads found on their tentacles." The lack of movement in open waters also makes the mystery of how the different varieties have become so widespread even more intriguing. The jellyfish are produced by microscopic polyps that are only about a millimeter or less in size, which Govindarajan says is a stage where they could easily hitchhike on a blade of eelgrass, an oyster shell or even a boat hull. "At that stage, they're so tiny," she adds. "To find them is like finding a needle in a haystack." Govindarajan and her coauthors hope to obtain funding to do additional genomic analyses that will give greater resolution and suggest genetic markers to help reveal more about the species and its toxicity. They hope this will lead to a better understanding of how invasive forms of the jellyfish are dispersing, so that further spread can be prevented. "With this study, we answered some questions, but it also opened up many others," says Govindarajan. "That's part of the scientific process. It's what makes it for me, personally, very interesting. I feel like I'm solving a mystery." This work was supported by grants from the Woods Hole Sea Grant, Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative, the Kathleen M. and Peter E. Naktenis Family Foundation, the Town of Oak Bluffs Community Preservation Committee, and the Russian Science Foundation. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean's role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit http://www. .


News Article | February 17, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Home to an immense diversity of marine life, the deep ocean also contains valuable minerals with metals such as nickel, copper, cobalt, manganese, zinc, and gold, and rare-earth elements used in electronic technology like smart phones and medical imaging machines. As demand for these resources increases and supplies on land decrease, commercial mining operators are looking to the deep ocean as the next frontier for mining. What are the risks and environmental impacts of deep-sea mining on fragile marine ecosystems? Would seafloor mineral resources be enough to keep up with the evolving demands of modern society? A panel of scholars including Stace Beaulieu, a deep-sea biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), will discuss these and other questions during the symposium, "Should We Mine the Seafloor?" scheduled on Saturday, February 18, at the AAAS meeting in Boston, MA. A news briefing for science journalists will be held at 4 p.m. on Friday, February 17, in room 103 of the Hynes Convention Center. The speakers will examine the pros and cons of seafloor mining, its engineering feasibility, and its legal and societal implications with the goal of providing the best available, objective, scientific evidence to inform ongoing policy efforts on this important and timely topic. "Our panel is unique in that we bring together knowledge of the demand for critical metals and the potential supply from known and yet-to-be-discovered seafloor mineral resources, and an understanding of deep-sea ecosystems, including a new perspective on ecosystem services that contribute to human well-being," Beaulieu says. Currently, there's no mining occurring in the ocean deeper than the continental shelves, but the industry is moving forward quickly. Many of the engineering challenges associated with working in the deep sea have already been addressed by the offshore oil and gas industry. Different types of machines for mining have been built and the components for mining systems are currently being tested in deep-sea deployments. About 27 countries have already signed contracts to explore for deep-sea resources with the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the organization that controls mineral exploration and exploitation in the area beyond national jurisdiction. And the first deep-sea mining project --Solwara 1 within the jurisdiction of Papua New Guinea--is scheduled to begin in 2019 by Nautilus Minerals. Beaulieu's talk will address potential environmental impacts from deep-sea mining and highlight new research on the vulnerability and resilience of deep-sea ecosystems. She's also been working with social scientists to address the question of economic impacts from lost and degraded ecosystem services, such as the potential for new medicines from deep-sea, biological resources. The symposium will also feature talks by experts Thomas Graedel, an industrial ecologist at Yale University, and Mark Hannington, a geologist at GEOMAR-Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research. Graedel will examine how the demand for metals might evolve in the next few decades. Hannington's talk will focus on estimates of the abundance of seafloor deposits targeted for mining. The symposium will be moderated by Mindy Todd, a radio producer and journalist at WCAI - The Cape & Islands NPR Station. Should We Mine the Seafloor? The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean's role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit http://www. .


News Article | October 26, 2016
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Portable observatories and new marine vehicles: The hinge of historic change in deep sea exploration Five hundred vents newly discovered off the US West Coast, each bubbling methane from Earth's belly, top a long list of revelations about "submerged America" being celebrated by leading marine explorers meeting in New York. "It appears that the entire coast off Washington, Oregon and California is a giant methane seep," says RMS Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard, who found the new-to-science vents on summer expeditions by his ship, Nautilus. The discoveries double to about 1,000 the number of such vents now known to exist along the continental margins of the USA. This fizzing methane (video: http://bit. ) is a powerful greenhouse gas if it escapes into the atmosphere; a clean burning fuel if safely captured. "This is an area ripe for discovery," says Dr. Nicole Raineault, Director of Science Operations with Dr. Ballard's Ocean Exploration Trust. "We do not know how many seeps exist, even in US waters, how long they have been active, how persistent they are, what activated them or how much methane, if any, makes it into the atmosphere." Further research and measuring will help fill important knowledge gaps, including how hydrocarbons behave at depth underwater and within the geological structure of the ocean floor. Expeditions this year include also NOAA's Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas Trench - a 59-day voyage with 22 dives into the planet's deepest known canyons in the Pacific Ocean near Guam. NOAA explorers added three new hydrothermal vents to the world's inventory and a new high-temperature "black smoker" vent field composed of chimneys up to 30 meters tall - the height of a nine-story building. Also revealed: a tiny spot volcano (the first ever discovered in US waters), a new mud volcano, thick gardens of deep-sea corals and sponges, a rare high-density community of basket stars and crinoids (a living fossil), and historic wreckage from World War II. (Photo, video log: http://bit. ) Scores of spectacular, rare and sometimes baffling unknown species encountered on this year's first-ever voyages to new deep ocean areas include several purple animals such as: Beyond being spectacularly photogenic, such animals help scientists better understand the web of life that sustains all species, including humans. As well, understanding how "extremophile" lifeforms survive in such conditions (piezophiles, for example, thrive in high pressure; pyschrophiles, aka cryophiles, live in water as cold as ?20 °C, as in pockets of very salty brine surrounded by sea ice), is usefully relevant to food and pharmaceutical preservation technologies, medical technology, nanotechnology and energy science. Dr. Ballard and about 100 other leading figures in marine science meet Oct. 20-21 to compare thoughts on the future of marine exploration at the 2016 National Ocean Exploration Forum, "Beyond the Ships: 2020-2025," hosted in New York by The Rockefeller University in partnership with Monmouth University. The Forum is also supported by the Monmouth-Rockefeller Marine Science and Policy Initiative, NOAA, the Schmidt Ocean Institute, and James A. Austin, Jr. Ocean exploration has arrived at a historic hinge, Forum organizers say, with profound transformation underway thanks to new technologies, led by increasingly affordable "roboats" - autonomous or remotely controlled vehicles that dive into the ocean or ply the surface laden with sensors collecting information from instruments suspended beneath them. ROV SuBastian, for example, is a new eco-friendly 3,100 kg (6,500 pound) deep-sea research platform for the Schmidt Ocean Institute's R/V Falkor, equipped with ultra high-resolution 4K cameras, mechanical arms that move seven ways and can sample to depths of 4,500 meters (2.8 miles), with a lighting system equivalent to the lamps of 150 car high-beams. (SuBastian sea trials video: http://bit. High-res photos, b-roll: http://bit. ). Says Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute: "With ROV SuBastian we will help make life on the ocean floor real to people who will never visit the sea, so they, too, can begin to appreciate the importance of ocean health and make the connection between life in the deep sea and life on land." "You don't have to be a scientist at sea to recognize the importance of the marine environment, and we are only at the beginning of our understanding. We never anticipated discovering the world's deepest living fish, the ghostfish (video: http://bit. ), back in 2014, and are excited about the life we will discover next." ROV SuBastian will have that opportunity this December during its first science cruise, in the Mariana Back-Arc in the western Pacific. (Cruise details: http://bit. . All dives will be live-streamed on Schmidt Ocean Institute's YouTube page: http://bit. ). Contributing as well to the transformation: Modern communications and sampling techniques, including eDNA, big data analysis and other high-tech advances that automate and vastly accelerate the work, opening the way for experts and the public to reach, see, chart, sample and monitor formerly secret depths of the seas. Innovations include portable observatories for underwater monitoring and a "curious exploration robot," programmed to focus on everything unfamiliar to its data bank brain (photo: http://bit. , video: http://bit. , credit WHOI). According to innovator Yogesh Girdhar of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in a recent test off the Panama coast, a similar swimming robot discovered a startlingly enormous population of crabs. Other engineers, meanwhile, are developing "game changing" unmanned undersea and surface vehicles tricked out with an array of sophisticated sensors to perform a suite of underwater tasks, enabled to run for months by recent improvements in battery technology. (See video, for example, of Boeing's 51-foot Echo Voyager: http://bit. ). Such "roboats" can be programmed to conduct deep sea exploration or searches using a lawn mower pattern, surfacing regularly to report data back to shore via satellite, or to patrol a coastal area, returning to port after one or two months to recharge and redeploy. These technologies will enable today's generation to "explore more of Planet Earth than all previous generations combined," predicts Dr. Ballard, whose celebrated career will be recognized at the Forum with the Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute's Champion of the Ocean award. The technologies will not only help discover and monitor new mineral and living resources, they could help secure interests vital to the world's economy or identify the best paths for communications cables that span the ocean floor - the veins of the Internet. Until recently, ocean exploration has involved ships operated like fishing vessels, dipping sensors and hauling up data. Forum participants such as John Kreider of Oceaneering International envision such ships in future serving as hives from which flotillas and squadrons of autonomous underwater, surface and aerial vehicles are launched - robots guided by experts on board or remotely, such as from a distant university campus via "telepresence," returning with images and data orders of magnitude larger than ever before. Thanks to modern communication technologies, schoolchildren, their teachers and indeed any interested members of the public can, and do, now follow expeditions online in real time. Among the many compelling interests and pursuits of marine scientists and historians in the public, private and military sectors: Says scientist James (Jamie) A. Austin, Jr. of the University of Texas, "the slow, time consuming and expensive way we've done ocean exploration forever - one ship doing one task at a time - is giving way to autonomous systems that net massive hauls of data, with advances in big data analysis enabling scientists to make sense of it rapidly." Dr. Austin envisions installations on the seafloor - measuring tremors or helping scientists estimate the rate at which Earth swallows carbon into its mantle through plate tectonics, for example - with data delivered by a device periodically flying up and down to the surface. Simply mapping the ocean floor is an important goal. While satellites have fully charted the seafloor in low resolution, only 10% is mapped in detail. At an estimated cost of $2.9 billion - or about $9 per square kilometer ($23 per square mile) - a "Gurgle Earth" map of the deep oceans could be completed at high resolution using swath like, multi-beam sonar. The hazard of uncharted oceanic mountains, trenches, volcanoes and other features was dramatically underscored in 2005 when a nuclear attack submarine, the USS San Francisco, struck a seamount in the Pacific at high speed, killing one crew member and injuring 97. Over 50% of US territory lies beneath the ocean surface and such mapping could also expand American territorial and resource claims. With documentation of the continental shelf, America's Exclusive Economic Zone, 11.3 million square km in size today, could extend a further 2.2 million square km - a 20% enlargement, representing an underwater area larger than Alaska. (See http://bit. ). Other recent finds of ancient shipwrecks and even ancient human remains, he adds, reveal that early mariners didn't simply hug the coastline but sailed courageously great distances from shore, and make it possible to determine who they were. While these and countless biological discoveries represent things discovered underwater, the intent of future exploration campaigns include measuring more, sampling more, and better understanding physical, geological and living processes - knowledge of vital importance for security, responsible ocean use and sustainable resource management. Asked what he thought might yet be discovered underwater, Dr. Ballard compares that to asking Lewis or Clark what they thought they'd find on their historic traverse of America. The reply, he says, would have been "I don't know. I'm getting into a canoe and I'm going to paddle." In one of several papers written for the Forum, meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador Cameron Hume adds that, beyond exploring and the initial characterization of an ocean area, humanity also needs to pursue subsequent research and long-term observing. In his paper, Dr. Jerry Schubel of the Aquarium of the Pacific, lamenting the relatively low level of public attention accorded to ocean exploration, points to new opportunities for awareness raising created by social media. "Understanding life on other planets," he says, "may help us understand the origins of life in the universe, but it can't match the relevance and importance of ocean exploration to the future of life on this planet." Says organizer Prof. Jesse Ausubel, faculty member at The Rockefeller University: "SuBastian and the Roboats sounds like a rock band, but it is the future of ocean exploration. One million marine species and one million shipwrecks may remain to be discovered. Let's use new approaches to multiply exploration." Says Forum organizer Vice Admiral Paul Gaffney, former President of Monmouth University and Urban Coast Institute Ocean Policy Fellow: "America is the greatest maritime nation in the history of the world, yet we scarcely know submerged America and only about 10% of the global oceans. At this Forum, we are encouraging ocean technology leaders to join the discussion and support more comprehensive exploration campaigns indispensable for sustainable use of the oceans and inspiring ocean stewardship." The ultimate aim: to formulate compelling, feasible campaigns to be carried out by the participants in the 2020-2025 timeframe. At the Forum, Dr. Jyotika Virmani will share the roster of teams for the $7 million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, a global competition to promote unmanned ocean exploration. In a letter to the Forum (in full: http://bit. ), the President of the US National Academy of Sciences, famed ocean explorer Marcia McNutt, says "a number of events have underscored how essential our mission is to vastly improve knowledge of the marine environment." Inadequate knowledge of ocean terrain and currents hampered the search for flight MH 370 in 2014, for example. CubeSats, she notes, have "'democratized' space, providing access for pennies on the dollar. Similarly, new commercial tools, although still in their infancy, hold the promise of ushering in the citizen science era of ocean exploration." "The task we face is simply too large to continue to use 20th century tools if we hope to make a dent in the problem." Oct. 20-21Venue: The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Ave, New York, NY.Website, including Forum programme and speaker biographies: http://phe. Supporters: the Monmouth-Rockefeller Marine Science and Policy Initiative , NOAA, the Schmidt Ocean Institute, and James A. Austin, Jr. Positioning Ocean Exploration In a Chaotic Sea of Changing Media Jerry R. Schubel (Aquarium of the Pacific) http://bit. Exploring the Ocean through Sound Jennifer L. Miksis-Olds (University of New Hampshire) and Bruce Martin (Dalhousie) http://bit. Discussion Paper on Marine Minerals Mark Hannington, University of Ottawa, and Sven Petersen, GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research http://bit. Emerging Technologies for Biological Sampling in the Ocean Shirley Pomponi, Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, & Technology [CIOERT], Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University http://bit. The Forum is the latest in a series mandated by Congress (Title XII of Public Law 111-11) in March 2009 when it officially established the NOAA ocean exploration program. This law requires NOAA to consult with the other federal agencies involved in ocean exploration, as well as external stakeholders, to establish a "coordinated national ocean exploration program" that promotes data management and sharing, public understanding, and technology development and transfer. The law also requires NOAA to organize an "ocean exploration Forum to encourage partnerships and promote collaboration among experts and other stakeholders to enhance the scientific and technical expertise and relevance of the national program." The 2016 Forum convenes approximately 100 experts from academia, government, and the private sector to discuss adaptation and integration of technologies that can be employed in ocean exploration campaigns in the 2020-2025 timeframe. The Forum will look to a future of expanded exploration activities by making more platforms capable of measuring, sampling, or imaging yet-to-be-explored areas - employing a suite of technologies that have been dubbed "flyaway systems." Expanding spatial coverage and reducing cost of data collection are key ocean exploration priorities over a ~10 year time horizon. These priorities can be realized by creatively adapting and assembling existing technologies, and deploying them onboard autonomous devices, buoys, various so-called ships-of-opportunity, and other platforms, in addition to the existing fleet of dedicated ocean exploration vessels. The Forum will help federal funding agencies and foundations define and prioritize exploration technology investment options for 2020-2030, and stimulate a vision among leading explorers of what it might be like to conduct expeditions in this time frame. James A. (Jamie) Austin Jr., University of Texas Robert Ballard, Ocean Exploration Trust and University of Rhode Island Frank Herr, Office of Naval Research, US Navy John Kreider, Oceaneering International Alan Leonardi, NOAA Ocean Exploration and Research Shirley Pomponi, Florida Atlantic University Rick Rikoski, Hadal Inc. Jerry Schubel, Aquarium of the Pacific Lance Towers, The Boeing Company Victoria Tschinkel, 1000 Friends of Florida Invitees represent the academic, government, non-profit, and for-profit communities, with expertise in both the engineering aspects of creating relevant equipment, and in exploratory and scientific applications of such equipment. Beyond the Ships: 2020-2025 is the first of four annual Marine Science & Policy Series conferences that will be organized by Rockefeller and Monmouth, with events taking place on alternating campuses in New York City and West Long Branch, New Jersey.


News Article | March 2, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

The temperature of Earth's interior affects everything from the movement of tectonic plates to the formation of the planet. A new study led by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) suggests the mantle--the mostly solid, rocky part of Earth's interior that lies between its super-heated core and its outer crustal layer -- may be hotter than previously believed. The new finding, published March 3 in the journal Science, could change how scientists think about many issues in Earth science including how ocean basins form. "At mid-ocean ridges, the tectonic plates that form the seafloor gradually spread apart," said the study's lead author Emily Sarafian, a graduate student in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program. "Rock from the upper mantle slowly rises to fill the void between the plates, melting as the pressure decreases, then cooling and re-solidifying to form new crust along the ocean bottom. We wanted to be able to model this process, so we needed to know the temperature at which rising mantle rock starts to melt." But determining that temperature isn't easy. Since it's not possible to measure the mantle's temperature directly, geologists have to estimate it through laboratory experiments that simulate the high pressures and temperatures inside the Earth. Water is a critical component of the equation: the more water (or hydrogen) in rock, the lower the temperature at which it will melt. The peridotite rock that makes up the upper mantle is known to contain a small amount of water. "But we don't know specifically how the addition of water changes this melting point," said Sarafian's advisor, WHOI geochemist Glenn Gaetani. "So there's still a lot of uncertainty." To figure out how the water content of mantle rock affects its melting point, Sarafian conducted a series of lab experiments using a piston-cylinder apparatus , a machine that uses electrical current, heavy metal plates, and stacks of pistons in order to magnify force to recreate the high temperatures and pressures found deep inside the Earth. Following standard experimental methodology, Sarafian created a synthetic mantle sample. She used a known, standardized mineral composition and dried it out in an oven to remove as much water as possible. Until now, in experiments like these, scientists studying the composition of rocks have had to assume their starting material was completely dry, because the mineral grains they're working with are too small to analyze for water. After running their experiments, they correct their experimentally determined melting point to account for the amount of water known to be in the mantle rock. "The problem is, the starting materials are powders, and they adsorb atmospheric water," Sarafian said. "So, whether you added water or not, there's water in your experiment." Sarafian took a different approach. She modified her starting sample by adding spheres of a mineral called olivine, which occurs naturally in the mantle. The spheres were still tiny--about 300 micrometers in diameter, or the size of fine sand grains--but they were large enough for Sarafian to analyze their water content using secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS). From there, she was able to calculate the water content of her entire starting sample. To her surprise, she found it contained approximately the same amount of water known to be in the mantle. Based on her results, Sarafian concluded that mantle melting had to be starting at a shallower depth under the seafloor than previously expected. To verify her results, Sarafian turned magnetotellurics -- a technique that analyzes the electrical conductivity of the crust and mantle under the seafloor. Molten rock conducts electricity much more than solid rock, and using magnetotelluric data, geophysicists can produce an image showing where melting is occurring in the mantle. But a magnetotelluric analysis published in Nature in 2013 by researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego showed that mantle rock was melting at a deeper depth under the sea floor than Sarafian's experimental data had suggested. At first, Sarafian's experimental results and the magnetotelluric observations seemed to conflict, but she knew both had to be correct. Reconciling the temperatures and pressures Sarafian measured in her experiments with the melting depth from the Scripps study led her to a startling conclusion: The oceanic upper mantle must be 60°C (~110°F) hotter than current estimates," Sarafian said. A 60-degree increase may not sound like a lot compared to a molten mantle temperature of more than 1,400°C. But Sarafian and Gaetani say the result is significant. For example, a hotter mantle would be more fluid, helping to explain the movement of rigid tectonic plates. Funding for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation and the WHOI Deep Ocean Exploration Institute. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean's role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit http://www. .

Loading WHOI collaborators
Loading WHOI collaborators