Tag Archives: marine science

Virtual management of the world’s oceans

New computer models are challenging the conventional wisdom in marine science.

Virtual management of the world’s oceans
Beth Fulton’s fisheries models are used all over the world. Credit: Istockphoto
These models have revealed for example that: large populations of jellyfish and squid indicate a marine ecosystem in trouble; not all fish populations increase when fishing is reduced—some species actually decline; and, sharks and tuna can use jellyfish as junk food to see them through lean periods.

The models were developed by the 2007 Science Minister’s Life Scientist of the Year, Dr Beth Fulton, a senior research scientist at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research in Hobart.
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Slide back in time and see the Himalayas form

Researchers in the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney have developed a computer package that lets scientists record and study the Earth over geological time.

GPlates moves geology into the fourth dimension
GPlates image showing topography (left) and predicted temperature 300 km below surface (right) as India moves towards the Eurasian continent 60mya. Credit: Sabin Zahirovic, EarthByte

Their GPlates software, which they describe as “Google Earth with a time-slider,” contains powerful tools for modelling geological processes. Yet it is simple enough to use in schools or at home, and is freely available. By combining data on continental motion, fossils and sediments, for example, scientists can analyse changes in geography, ocean currents and climate over geological time.
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Plastic not fantastic for seabirds

Seabirds on one of Australia’s remotest islands have plastic in their stomachs.

Plastic not fantastic for seabirds
A flesh-footed shearwater surveys the contents of its stomach Credit: Ian Hutton

A recent survey found more than 95 per cent of the migratory flesh-footed shearwaters nesting on Lord Howe Island, between Australia and the northern tip of New Zealand, had swallowed plastic garbage.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, plastic has been shown to bind poisonous pollutants. As a result, some shearwaters were found with concentrations of mercury more than 7,000 times the level considered toxic.

Only six of more than 200 nests visited contained chicks. The overall population is plummeting.
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Ocean acidification threatens marine ecosystems

Ocean acidification, caused by increasing amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide dissolving in the ocean, poses a serious threat to marine ecosystems.

Increasing acidity affects the ability of some planktonic organisms to form shells, and is expected to change the species composition of plankton, with flow-on effects to higher levels of the food web.

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Venom from the sea cures human pain

The University of Melbourne’s Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Pharmacology have over recent years identified cone shell venom as a potential treatment for chronic pain in humans.

Researchers continue to develop the research into a commercialised product. One of the venom peptides identified is currently in phase two of clinical trials.

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Dinner for tuna

Sophie Bestley catching tuna. Credit: Thor Carter, CSIRO
Sophie Bestley catching tuna. Credit: Thor Carter, CSIRO

Southern bluefin tuna can’t even have a quiet snack without CSIRO researchers knowing. They’ve developed a way of tracking when the tuna feed and also where, at what depth, and the temperature of the surrounding water.

Dr Sophie Bestley and her colleagues at CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship surgically implant miniaturised electronic ’data-storage’ tags into juvenile fishes off the coast of southern Australia.