Posts Tagged 'A Blue View'

A Blue View: A Free Spring Chorus, Courtesy of Frogs

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

April 2, 2014: The Sounds of Spring Peepers & Wood Frogs

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss the
chorus of sounds produced by frogs to
attract mates during the breeding season!

Through the winter, woodlands and meadows are mostly quiet at night. But with the arrival of spring rains and warming temperatures, that silence is broken by loud choruses of wood frogs and spring peepers. These are the first frog species to come out of hibernation and begin the year’s amphibian breeding season.

Spring peepers are small, just one inch in length, but you wouldn’t know it from their sound. Each peeper can produce a call as loud as 90 decibels. Multiply that by the number of frogs in a wetland habitat, and you have a sound that can rival that of a rock concert.

Spring Peeper

Photo of spring peeper via Wiki Commons.

Why so noisy? That’s how the male spring peepers attract females from the surrounding woodlands. As the females come out of hibernation, they are carrying between 200 and 1,000 eggs, and the females are outnumbered by the males at about 9 to 1. Competition is intense, and females choose males based on the quality of his song.

Because of this competition, males wrestle for the best spots at the chorusing site. Interestingly, Dr. Don Forester and David Lykens of Towson University discovered that some spring peeper males were successful in breeding with females through a very deceptive strategy. Because calling requires a huge amount of energy, some spring peeper males, known as satellite males, don’t call at all.

Instead, these satellite males save energy by positioning themselves near the top singers. They then intercept females moving toward the calling males. Satellite males are smaller than calling males and would probably be at a disadvantage in trying to attract females with a less impressive voice.

Though the spring peeper is often considered the first frog to emerge from hibernation and therefore an early sign that winter is indeed over, the wood frog is usually ahead of the peeper. In fact, in mild winters, wood frogs have been observed arriving in woodland pools as early as February.

Wood Frog

Photo of a wood frog via Wiki Commons.

Wood frogs are often referred to as “explosive breeders” because they arrive in large numbers and have a short breeding season, usually only lasting the first few weeks of late winter or early spring. Wood frogs almost exclusively lay their eggs in vernal pools, which are small temporary bodies of water that form in depressions.

Because these pools dry over the summer, wood frogs must lay their eggs, the eggs must hatch, and tadpoles must fully develop and metamorphose before the pools dry. The wood frog’s strategy is to arrive first and maximize the time needed to make it the entire way through the process. Wood frog tadpoles often dine on the newly laid eggs of later arriving frog species.

Even as these frogs perpetuate their life cycle, they do face challenges. Their well-being is intricately linked to the survival of their woodland home and their vernal pools. Be considerate of these habitats in your neighborhood by preventing trash and other pollution from traveling through your waterways. Slow down while driving on warm spring nights, allowing amphibians to migrate safely across roadways. And when you pay these amazing creatures a visit in their natural habitat, observe but don’t disturb.

Want to buff up a bit more on your amphibian knowledge? Check out our latest infographic on all things frog

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A Blue View: From the Bottom of the Food Chain

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

January 16, 2014: From the Bottom of the Food Chain

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss the importance
of plankton in the ocean’s complex food chain
!

The ocean food web is much more than the dramatic clash of sharks devouring marine mammals and large fish. While many of us know that the ocean food web is complex, it’s easy to focus on the apex predators at the top. But the view from the bottom up is an essential component in understanding the ocean and all of its inhabitants. Microscopic drifting organisms, called plankton, serve as the foundation upon which the ocean’s entire food web is built.

The very definition of these tiny drifters is formed from the Greek word planktos, meaning “wanderer.” And that’s exactly what these tremendously important animals and plants do, touching all the creatures of the sea as they flow along its ever-changing currents.

Plankton include both phytoplankton and zooplankton. Phytoplankton are tiny microscopic cells that include bacteria, plants, and algae found near the surface of the water where photosynthesis occurs. A single drop of water contains thousands of phytoplankton.

Crab Megalopa Larva Audubon Magazine

This is a crab megalopa larva (magnification x 40). Image via Audubon Magazine.

Not all zooplankton is tiny. After all, jellies are a type of zooplankton. But most zookplankton are microscopic, including the tiny larvae of crabs, jellyfish, corals, and worms as well as adult animals like tiny shrimps, copepods and krill. To understand the size of these small zooplankton, consider this analogy: to fill a coffee cup, it would take a quarter of a million copepods, small crustaceans that are the most common zooplankton in the ocean. A single gallon of water from the Chesapeake Bay can contain half a million zooplankton.

Zooplankton eat phytoplankton, and are themselves eaten by small fish and a few large species like the whale shark and baleen whales. Small plankton-eaters are, in turn, eaten by larger fish, and so on until you get to the apex predators: large squids, fish, marine mammals, and, yes, the voracious human species.

All levels of the food chain are critical to ensuring a healthy balance in the oceans, but as we grapple with issues related to sea level rise and ocean acidification, scientists are studying what these changes will mean for the base of this complex web—the consequences of which will affect literally every marine species in the world.

Sea Angel Audubon Magazine

These juvenile “sea angels” (magnification x 20) are only 5 millimeters long. Image via Audubon Magazine.

One very important ecosystem service that plankton provide: they produce as much as 70 percent of the world’s oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis, an essential function that impacts the very air we breathe. Ocean scientist and explorer Sylvia Earle estimates that one family alone—Prochlorococcus—is perhaps the most abundant photosynthetic organism in the world and provides the oxygen for one in every five breaths we take.

This is even more incredible when one considers that all of this activity is happening in just the upper layer of the ocean, the epipelagic zone, where sunlight can reach. Though this zone is just a drop in the overall makeup of the ocean, what plankton do there reverberates from the deepest parts of the ocean to the upper atmosphere.

Plankton are not normally visible, except when huge blooms show up as blue/green swirls of color when viewed from above. Scientists are able to monitor the distribution of phytoplankton from space by analyzing the reflected light from the water’s surface. The Climate, Ocean, and Sea Ice Modeling team at Los Alamos National Laboratory is at the forefront of the development of these computer simulations. This group is focused on understanding how global climate change may impact the world’s phytoplankton population.

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A Blue View: Taking Care of Turtles

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

December 18, 2013: Taking Care of Turtles

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John and our Manager
of Animal Rescue, Jenn Dittmar
discuss this
year’s influx of cold- 
stunned sea turtle patients!

Last winter was an historic year for turtle rescue, with a cold-stun incident stranding hundreds of turtles along the northeast coast. This year is off to another quick start, with many turtles stranded already and more coming in every day (In fact, our team is slated to get another 6-9 patients this afternoon!).

national aquarium kemps ridley turtle

How cold-stunning works: A sea turtles body temperature will drop (from the ideal range of 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit) to match the temperature of the water that surrounds them.  As the weather gets colder in our area and water temps dip, the turtles become hypothermic.

The hypothermia suppresses the turtles’ immune system, leaving them susceptible to pneumonia and infections, and can keep them from diving properly, which is how they collect much of their food.

So far this season,  close to 100 cold-stunned turtles have come into Animal Rescue facilities along the Northeast. While the numbers have yet to match last year’s historic influx, this season has already seen a lot of activity!

Click here to listen to Jenn describe how the turtles are rescued and released! 

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A Blue View: Seafood Fraud

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

October 30, 2013: Seafood Fraud

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John and Oceana’s Beth Lowell
discuss the importance of 
traceability.

Throughout October, we’ve talked about National Seafood Month and how our seafood choices and personal actions are related to healthy ocean ecosystems, healthy economies and healthy families.

Americans love to eat seafood. In fact, the United States is the second largest consumer of seafood in the world, only behind China. Unfortunately, although seafood can be healthy and delicious choice, the current lack of traceability in the U.S. seafood supply chain may be putting the oceans and seafood consumers at risk.

Americans are often left in the dark about where, when and how their seafood was caught. The only information that seafood consumers have to rely on is the label, which is often vague, misleading or even flat out false. From 2010-2012, Oceana conducted one of the largest seafood fraud studies in the world to date, collecting more than 1,200 seafood samples from 21 states. DNA testing revealed that one-third (33 percent) of the samples were mislabeled, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.

Seafood fraud can impact everyone along the supply chain, whether it is the buyer, the seller, or the ocean itself. Consumers who avoid certain fish due to health concerns may be unwittingly ingesting a high mercury fish, as Oceana found multiple instances of in our testing. Many times, they also may be paying top prices but getting lower cost fish.

In July, Oceana released a report that evaluated the economic cost of seafood fraud. An eight-ounce fillet of tilapia, which would usually sell for about $15, could sell for as much as $22 if it was mislabeled as red snapper or $27 if it was mislabeled as grouper. In addition, a species of fish like salmon often sells for a higher price if it is labeled as wild-caught, versus farm-raised.

Seafood fraud also hurts our oceans. Illegal fishermen can launder their product into the U.S. market, not having to account for the capture method they used, or if their catch is an overfished species that warrants protection. Not only does this undermine conservation efforts, it puts honest fishermen at a competitive disadvantage.

Although some species of fish may have a distinctive look while swimming around in the ocean, they may look, smell and taste similar to another fish once they have been filleted and covered in sauce. In June, Oceana teamed up with the National Aquarium for a recent Fresh Thoughts dinner, focusing on seafood fraud. By offering dinner attendees commonly swapped fish side-by-side, Oceana demonstrated just how difficult it was for anyone, even experts, to tell between many species of fish.

seafood fraud quiz fresh thoughts

Without requiring that fish are tracked from the ocean to our plate, it can be impossible to tell if our seafood is honestly labeled. Although U.S. fishermen are required to record where, when and how their fish was caught, much of that documentation does not always stay with the fish to the end consumer.

That is why Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) are leading the charge to fight seafood fraud. The Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE Seafood) Act was introduced in March and would require traceability for all seafood sold in the U.S, allow the U.S. to block imports of seafood suspected to be mislabeled or illegal, and improve the information consumers receive about their seafood. The bill has since gained support from chefs, restaurant owners, consumers, fishermen and environmental groups.

Fighting seafood fraud is a win for consumers, fishermen, honest seafood businesses, our oceans and our health!

Beth Lowell is a campaign director at Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans.

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A Blue View: From Bait to Plate

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

October 16, 2013: From Bait to Plate

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John and Oceana’s
Beth Lowell discuss the importance of
sustainable consumer practices.

It’s National Seafood Month, and there’s more to talk about than what’s for dinner. Throughout the month of October, smart seafood choices, sustainable fisheries and the health benefits of eating a diet rich in seafood are highlighted to encourage consumers to make good decisions about their seafood selections.

We talked about the journey that seafood takes from boat to plate with Beth Lowell, Campaign Director for Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Beth kindly shared the following tips on how everyone can make better choices about their seafood:

How to be a Smart Seafood Consumer

  1. Ask Questions. Consumers should ask more questions, including what kind of fish it is, if it is wild or farm raised, and where, when and how it was caught.
  2. Check the Price. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is, and you are likely purchasing a completely different species than what is on the label.
  3. Purchase the Whole Fish. When possible, consumers can purchase the whole fish, which makes it more difficult to swap one species for another.
  4. Trace Seafood. Until we have a national traceability system in place, consumers can support voluntary traceability programs like Gulf Seafood Trace or other traceable seafood.

Listen to this week’s podcast to get even more sustainable consumer tips from Beth! 

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