Posts Tagged 'ocean research'

James Cameron Inspires Future Generations of Explorers in Washington, DC!

You don’t have to go to space to find great exploration horizons!

Yesterday, ocean pioneer and Academy-Award winning filmmaker, James Cameron, and his submersible, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, arrived in Washington, DC!

It was the fifth stop on the DeepSea America Tour, a nation-wide trek to bring the sub to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts where it will be studied by engineering students who are building the next generation of submersible research vessels!

In Washington, the tour made two stops: first, on Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of ocean research and exploration; and second, at an outdoor event for local school children. At the second event, students were invited to come see the vessel and learn more about the ocean, exploration and science. National Aquarium was honored to be asked by Cameron and his foundation to support these DC outreach efforts. Our CEO, John Racanelli, and education team were delighted to be on-site  participating in yesterday’s educational program!

Here at the Aquarium, one of the most important aspects of living our mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures is engaging the community and our youth through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education topics!

We have a variety of learning programs including internships, on-site field trips, teacher workshops, after-school programs and more that provide local students the hands-on experience and knowledge they need to become the next generation of ocean explorers!

Click here to learn more about how National Aquarium is taking education beyond the classroom!

The Ocean, Our Planet’s Final Frontier

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In Barcelona in 2006, oceanographer Sylvia Earle received an international award for her storied career as an ocean explorer. Also honored that day was John Hanke, developer of the now-famous Earth visualization tool Google Earth. Smiling slyly, Dr. Earle commended John for creating an amazing new way to view the world, then asked, “When do you plan to finish it? You’ve done a great job with the land—‘Google Dirt.’ What about the ocean?” Thus challenged, John asked Sylvia and her team to help him fix this oversight and in early 2009, we unveiled Ocean in Google Earth, offering earthlings a global view of the ocean’s vast bathymetry.

This story illustrates a truth about how many of us think (or more accurately, don’t think) about the ocean. Though half the world’s population lives within 50 miles of a coast, the cliché “out of sight, out of mind” describes the way most of us relate to the expansive, interconnected ocean that covers 70 percent of Earth’s surface and contains 97 percent of its water.

This blue planet is indeed a water planet, yet incredibly, over 90 percent of the ocean remains unexplored and unseen by humans. In a world that’s increasingly tamed and cataloged, it’s astounding to learn that until last year, only two human beings had been to the ocean’s greatest depth: Challenger Deep, off the Mariana Islands. That epic descent occurred in 1960—before we’d even ventured into space! Just last year, one more explorer made the voyage: renowned filmmaker James Cameron piloted a new craft, Deepsea Challenger, there and back. I suspect we’ll soon be treated to some spectacular footage of a world we understand less than we do the planet Mars.

Experts believe that up to two-thirds of the plant and animal species in the ocean may still await our discovery, with as many as one million species of non-bacterial sealife yet to be identified. In other words, we’ve only scratched the ocean’s surface.

Scientists, poets and philosophers have referred to the ocean as our planet’s life-support system, its blue lungs. Our air, weather, freshwater, climate and much of our food are ultimately regulated, moderated or provided by the sea’s seemingly limitless bounty. Over 2.6 billion people rely on the ocean for their primary source of protein. And we count on the ocean to absorb more than 30 percent of the climate-changing carbon dioxide (CO2) we produce.

Yet for all these benefits (called ‘ecosystem services’ by ecologists), the ocean cannot sustain our unrelenting onslaught. We put in too many bad things, take out too many good things, and reconfigure its shores, chemistry and balance. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists have calculated that the ocean absorbs and stores 50 times more CO2 than the atmosphere, yet it’s no secret that atmospheric levels of this greenhouse gas are rising at an alarming rate and now routinely approach 400 parts per million; at this rate, we are poised to double pre-Industrial Revolution CO2 levels in the next few decades. And, in case you’re wondering, human-influenced climate change is no longer mere theory, as if it ever were. In a review of 12,000 papers published in research journals, 97 percent of the authors—atmospheric scientists who seldom agree on anything—concur that it is directly attributed to human activities.

Against this gloomy backdrop, one might ask, “What hope is there?” In my view, there’s plenty. We have never known so much about aquatic systems and the delicate interplay between them. We’ve doubled the area of our National Marine Sanctuary system over the past decade. We have a National Ocean Policy and a nascent implementation plan, the first in our nation’s history. Whether in fisheries management, ecosystem thinking or product life-cycle planning, we’re learning from our past and planning a better future.

Here at National Aquarium, we value the conservation of aquatic treasures—by which we mean habitats and inhabitants, human and non-human, individual and community. By definition, treasures are worth protecting. World Oceans Day is one way of celebrating such oceanic treasures. This year, I invite you to embrace a thought, one shared by all of us who commit our lives to the sea: the ocean matters to me and to those I love. With every drop of water you drink and every breath you take, you are connected to this complex ecosystem, whether you live on the coast, in the mountains, in a city or a desert.

Simply by existing, the ocean gives us the gift of life. It’s time we returned the favor.

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5 Gyres “Last Straw Plastic Pollution” Bike Tour Events at National Aquarium!

Patches of plastic and trash cover large portions of our blue planet. The largest patch, the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is estimated to cover anywhere from 270,000 to 5,800,000 square miles of ocean. These congregations of pollution exist in all five gyres or large systems of rotating ocean currents. Without immediate action, this plastic pollution will continue to do irreparable damage.

Map of five ocean gyres or large systems of rotating ocean currents

5 gyres, a conservation organization striving to end plastic pollution, is spreading the word about the five main oceanic garbage patches by biking 1,400 miles down the Atlantic coast on their “Last Straw Plastic Pollution” tour.

Tomorrow, the 5 gyres team will be hitting the streets of Baltimore, Maryland  and making a stop at National Aquarium from 5 – 6:30 PM. The team will share photographs from their journey and talk about their research on the impact of plastic pollution and what the community can do to eliminate this crippling harm to local waters and marine life. Click here to RSVP for the Baltimore event! 

As the 5 gyres team continues their Atlantic tour, they will also be making a stop at our Washington, D.C. venue on Tuesday, October 23. Click here to RSVP for the Washington, DC event! 

For additional details on 5 gyres  and these upcoming events, click here.

5 Gyres sails to the most remote regions of our oceans to research plastic density in areas where no one has before, and takes the evidence of home to engage with government, industry and concerned citizens to drive common sense solutions to plastic pollution through policy, education and sustainable business. For more information, visit http://www.5gyres.org


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