How the complexity of the average marine organism life cycle affects MPA efficiency

By Elana Rusnak, SRC masters student Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs, are the global “National Park System” of the ocean.  There are a variety of protection levels, ranging from multi-use zones where certain activities may only be restricted seasonally, to no take-zones where only non-extractive activities are permitted (i.e. SCUBA diving and mooring a boat), and no-use zones, where there are no activities permitted (, 2015).  They are designed to protect a geographic area whose boundaries encompass everything from the surface of the ocean to the ocean floor, and all organisms that live within its borders.  MPAs are theoretically designed … Continue reading

Declining Sea Ice: Impacts on Arctic Cetaceans

By Rachael Ragen, SRC intern Climate change has had a major impact on Arctic waters especially since it is reducing and thinning sea ice. Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have caused the temperature to increase by about 0.2 ºC and almost all of this heat is absorbed by the ocean (Hoegh-Guldberg and Bruno 2010). This negatively impacts the sea ice, which can be problematic for marine mammals since many behaviors are tied to seasonal ice conditions. In March of 1979 there was 16.5 million km2 of Arctic sea ice, but this number decreased to 15.25 million km2 by March of 2009 … Continue reading

Epibionts and Sea Turtles

By Grant Voirol, SRC intern Sea turtles are notoriously difficult to study due to their large size and highly migratory behavior. However, a new technique is being utilized to help shed light on their habitat use and migration patterns. When looking at a sea turtle, oftentimes you are not just looking at a sea turtle. What you are looking at is an extensive community of micro and macro organisms that participate in complex interactions (Caine, EA 1986). Attached to the surface of the turtle’s shell are a wide variety of organisms that spend their entire lives traveling the seas with … Continue reading

A Story of Dramatic Conservation Effort: Saving the Vaquita Porpoise (Phocoena sinus) from Extinction

By Chelsea Black, SRC intern It has been clear for several years that the vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus) is in danger of extinction, but only recently has the plight of this species received global attention. The vaquita is the most critically endangered marine mammal in the world and is endemic to the northern Gulf of California, Mexico (Rojas-Bracho, Reeves & Jaramillo-Legorreta, 2006). Genetic analyses and population simulations suggest that this species has always maintained a small population size (Rojas-Bracho et al., 2006), but accidental deaths caused by gillnet fishing gear have been the primary reason for their rapid demise (Jaramillo-Legorreta … Continue reading

How Marine Reserves Can Help Preserve Ecosystems by Reducing Bycatch

By Jess Daly, SRC Intern One of the greatest environmental impacts of industrial fisheries is the accidental removal of species in bycatch. Many fisheries have a single target species that they look to catch when they fish. Any other species that pull up in their nets or on their lines are known as bycatch. These fish are often simply discarded since the fisherman will not make money off them, even though they may be of great importance to the ecosystem. Bottom trawling is one type of fishing that involves dropping weighted nets to the bottom of the ocean and dragging … Continue reading

Disrupting a Biological Clock: Ticking Away Towards Further Environmental Contamination

By Casey Dresbach, SRC Intern In an anthropogenic epoch, where industrial growth has become evermore prolific, threats of disturbance continue to change the environment. Some of these disturbances include habitat destruction and pollution, both of which threaten biodiversity and healthy ecosystems worldwide. (Palumbi, 2001; Dudgeon et al., 2006; Sih, Ferrari, & Harris, 2011). Fortunately, organisms may be able to adapt to changes in their environment to cope with this territorial renovation. These adaptations allow for species to persist under conditions that are polluted by destructive contaminants. However, such adaptation can also be associated with unforeseen tradeoffs that can actually pose … Continue reading