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Monday
Apr192010

Play bit-o-critter, round 11

Lets see who really knows their inverts (no species needed for this one).

Sunday
Apr182010

Live blogging from AMNH Monday

I am visiting the American Museum of Natural History to give a seminar and meet with curators on Monday. I plan to chime in as the day unfolds with pics and stories. Watch this space

Saturday
Apr172010

Testing mobile posting

Check one two, TWO!

Saturday
Apr172010

Play bit-o-critter, round 10

Thursday
Apr152010

Q: When is a ship like a tree?

A: When you can't see the forest for it.

You may have followed some press in the last week or so about a Chinese coal ship, Shen Neng 1, that ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef and spilled some of its fuel oil.  This has caused a regular frenzy in the Aussie media and the global conservation and environmental news-o-sphere.  There have been all sorts of calls for prosecution of the shipping company and new stringent regulations for the transport industry and so on, along with dramatic accounts of the damage the ship did and the risky salvage operation that came next.  But you know what?  I am not worried in the slightest about this incident.  Not that its a good thing - far from it - but this accident is nothing more than a tree, obscuring us from seeing one big and scary forest.

The main reasons I am not especially bothered by the Shen Neng accident are that (1) it affected a very limited area - the G.B.R. is really B.I.G. and one ship can only damage so much of it; and (2) it was a single event in time - this was not a process or an ongoing problem, but a singular disturbance.  Science shows us that the GBR, and reefs in general, are amazingly resilient to violent disturbances like this; a decent cyclone can literally turn a reef upside down, and a couple of years later you'd never know the difference.  Indeed, periodic disturbances may  be really important for maintaining a healthy reef ecosystem.

No, the Shen Neng is just a tree, obscuring us from seeing the forest that really threatens the future of the GBR and all reefs.  Its not the 2km gash that the hull cut in the reef, nor is it the tons of fuel oil leaked into the water; it's the very concept of burning that fuel oil, and burning the thousands of tons of coal that the Shen Neng 1 was carrying.  When you consider all the other ships and all the coal and fuel they were carrying that day and every day, and all the cars in the world, the power plants and so on ... ach, you get my point.  THAT'S what we ought to be worried about, because both of the main effects of increased atmospheric CO2 - warming and ocean acidification - will likely result in unrecoverable damage to All reefs. Everywhere. In our lifetime.  Warming is directly linked to lethal bleaching events, while acidification disrupts the ability of reefs to lay down their skeleton and grow.   Oh yeah, and lets not forget the drowning effects of sea level rise, too.  The more I think about it, the more it seems that jumping up and down about the Shen Neng is hypocritical (coal is one of Australia's biggest exports, after all) and akin to complaining about the deck chair arrangements of another, even bigger, ill-fated ship.  (Ironically, if Titanic sailed today, she probably wouldn't have to worry about icebergs...)

Of course, its a false dichotomy, we should be worried about BOTH the Shen Nengs of the world AND the global climate change/ocean acidification.  But I only have so much energy/capacity for worrying about these things, so with a limited anxiety budget, I feel compelled to focus on the bigger issue and what (if anything) we can do about it - to try to reduce consumption and to try to make sensible decisions that are mindful of how much energy is involved and what the broader impacts might be.

In other words, to worry about the forests - and let the trees take care of themselves.

Thursday
Apr152010

Play Bit-o-critter, round 9

Do your worst...

Wednesday
Apr142010

لعبة ثمانية critter-o-Bit Play?

I think you read Arabic right to left, right?  Anyway, here's today's stumper...

Tuesday
Apr132010

Ah, well it all makes sense now...

You guys are a bunch of blissed-out freaks (and I mean that in the nicest possible way).  I couldn't figure out how you all knew that Bit-o-critter 6 was Chrysaora colorata, but then I found this link suggesting that watching jellyfish undulate is as good as Xanax for chilling you out. That's how you knew right?

Of course, they also recommend pole-dancing.

Tuesday
Apr132010

The solution to Bit-o-critter round 6

I thought Round 6 of bit-o-critter might be hard, but apparently I was wrong.  It seems that you guys know your jellyfish.  Heather was first to identify the beast as the striped jelly Chrysaora colorata, and she was supported by DSN guru Kevin Zelnio and Wildernets.


Of course...

Muhuhuhuhahaha....

Tuesday
Apr132010

The solution to Bit-o-critter round 5

Hi folks,

Round 5 of bit-o-critter was the most competitive yet.  Eventually Akira triumphed, recognising the sarcastic fringehead, Neoclinus blanchardi, which is a relative of the blennies, that lives in the cold waters of the Pacific northwest.  If you've watched Life on Discovery, you may recognise this fish from an awesome sequence they had of fringeheads fighting.  Here's some other footage from YouTube of the same.

Like I said, it's weird that a fish with such a ridiculously large mouth gets named after some wussy little fringes on its head.  Perhaps that was the sarcastic bit...

Tuesday
Apr132010

Play Bit-o-critter, ゲーム7

Hope you had Japanese character sets installed...

Monday
Apr122010

The solution to Bit-o-critter, round 4

The winner was the first answer - Akira.  It was indeed a mantis shrimp, Squilla sp.  They have the most incredible eyes.

Monday
Apr122010

FIS/MSC fail?

I got a chuckle out of this web news piece this morning, but not because of the story itself, which is a "good news" piece about the potential certification of two Atlantic tuna fisheries by the Marine Stewardship Council as being ecologically sound.  No, it was an adjacent link that made me laugh, to an op-ed piece undermining the MSC as a certificiation body.  Oops.  Anyway, the op-ed author makes some good points that perhaps the eco-certification process has become too politicised.  I don't know enough to judge, but still its pretty funny... 

Monday
Apr122010

Play Bit-o-critter, Spiel sechs

Getting a little harder now...