Posts Tagged 'TED'

A Blue View: Inspiring Hope for the Ocean

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.

February 26, 2014: Inspiring Hope

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss how
“Her Deepness,” Dr. Sylvia Earle is
inspiring hope for the ocean’s future!

It’s been said that hope is the most powerful motivator in the world…a principle with which I happen to agree. I came to this, in good measure, due to a remarkable person named Dr. Sylvia Earle, oceanographer, scientist, National Geographic explorer-in-residence, and one of this blue planet’s most ardent champions.

Dr. Sylvia Earle

I had the good fortune of working with Dr. Earle a few years ago in launching a new organization called Mission Blue. What I learned while working with this ardent advocate for what she calls Earth’s blue heart, is that conservation is ultimately about the power of hope.

In this time of 24-hour news cycle, we hear endlessly about the world’s “hot spots,” bleak stories of civil wars, droughts and degraded ecosystems. Sylvia, however, took an entirely new tack when she launched the idea of “hope spots,” special places in our ocean that are critical to our planet’s health and worth restoring and preserving as marine protected areas.

These hope spots are found throughout world, including areas such as the Coral Triangle in the western Pacific – perhaps the most diverse marine ecosystem on Earth; the deep underwater canyons of Alaska’s Bering Sea – home to whales, fur seals, king crabs, and even cold water corals; the evocatively named White Shark Café – a critical breeding and feeding ground in the deep Pacific for great white sharks; and the Mesoamerican Reef – the world’s second longest coral reef, which spans three Central American nations. The message that Sylvia wants to share is that there is still hope, provided we take decisive action, now.

In fact, she has identified 51 existing or potential hope spots …impressive, until we learn that less than two percent of the ocean is currently protected, in contrast to over 12 percent of the world’s land area. Considering that the ocean covers 71 percent of the planet, we have a long way to go.

When Sylvia received the coveted TED Prize a few years ago, she declared that the next 10 years will likely be more important than the last 10,000 to the future of the ocean. What we do right now will set the tone for our relationship with this ocean planet for a long time to come.

So, where do we stand? Well, it would be easy to despair… we humans have eaten more than 90 percent of the sea’s big fish, nearly half the world’s coral reefs have disappeared or are at risk, dead zones continue to increase around the mouths of many of our mightiest rivers and we have now identified five massive trash gyres in the world’s largest oceans.

5 gyres

But in the midst of all this negativity, Sylvia reminds us that there is hope. Ten percent of those big fish still live—enough to restore most fish stocks, given time. Fifty percent of coral reefs are still thriving and worthy of saving. And we can bring those dead zones back to life just by taking better care of the water that flows down our rivers. In fact, the percentage of marine protected areas has doubled since Sylvia began this mission seven years ago by deftly steering former President George Bush into declaring two of the largest marine protected areas in US history.

In a storied career that includes leading more than 100 ocean science expeditions and logging more than 7,000 hours underwater, Sylvia knows the ocean as few do. She believes that a global network of hope spots can support biodiversity, absorb our carbon, generate life-giving oxygen, preserve critical habitat and allow low-impact activities like adventure travel and artisanal fishing to thrive.

Now that’s reason for hope.

Learn more about our 2014 Marjorie Lynn Bank Lecture Series and get tickets and information on upcoming events.

national aquarium CEO john racanelli

The Interspecies Internet: A TED Talk Featuring Diana Reiss and Our Dolphins

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Diana Reiss, renowned cognitive psychologist and dolphin researcher, recently filmed a TED Talk featuring our pod of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins! 

Diana Reiss with dolphins

Researcher Diana Reiss with some of the National Aquarium’s dolphins. Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

Diana joined Neil Gershenfeld, Director, MIT Bits and Atoms Lab; Peter Gabriel, singer, songwriter and producer; and Vint Cerf, credited as co-founder of the internet and currently CEO of the Association for Computing Machinery, the world’s largest and most prestigious scientific and educational computing society. Watch their full talk here: 

The main objective of creating an “interspecies internet” would be to promote increased choice and control for animals through the use of technology. This concept for an interactive internet effectively links people to other animals through live or online experiences. It would create a new network and set of technologies that would carry science, welfare and conservation-related information, ideas and messages into the future.

Diana specifically touched on the cognitive intelligence of dolphins and how they communicate – a topic she’s been researching here at the Aquarium!  To learn more about Diana’s recent discoveries while working with our dolphins, check out this interview she recently recorded with our CEO John Racanelli for A Blue View.

The next big piece of this “interspecies internet” will involve the creation of a touchscreen keyboard. Diana will then study how our dolphins interact with this keyboard, using the information gathered to add to the conversation about these amazing animals and how they communicate.

Tell us your reaction to this idea of an “interspecies internet” in the comments section! 

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National Aquarium at the TEDxDeExtinction Conference!

On March 15th, researchers and theorists from around the world gathered at the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC to discuss the real possibility of bringing species like the woolly mammoth, the passenger pigeon and the Cuban red macaw back from extinction. This first-ever TEDxDeExtinction conference was considered to be the global introduction to a new field in conservation biology, “de-extinction.” By closely examining the DNA of museum specimens, this emerging field of scientists hopes to incorporate the genes responsible for certain traits of the extinct species into the genome of a similar species.

During Friday’s talk, National Aquarium staff and our blue hyacinth macaw, Margaret, were on hand to talk to the 500+ attendees about the immediate changes we can make as a global society to PREVENT species extinction. As exciting as this new concept is, scientists have also voiced concern that de-extinction will distract from the conservation of species like the hyacinth macaw.

TED prize winner Sylvia Earle stopped by to say hello to Margaret during Friday's event.

TED prize winner Sylvia Earle stopped by to say hello to Margaret during Friday’s event.

Native to the Patanal region of South America, hyacinth macaws are an endangered species. Similar to the Cuban red macaw – one of the species being discussed on stage as a candidate for de-extinction – habitat loss, local hunting practices and the pet trade are all factors contributing to the decline of hyacinth macaw populations in the wild. Unfortunately, more than a century after the extinction of the Cuban red macaw, birds like Margaret are still facing these human-imposed challenges to survival.

Margaret, now 24 years old, came to our organization from a private home. As is the case with many exotic pets, pet owners under-estimate size (from head to the tip of her tail, Margaret is about 3 ft. long!) and cost of care and eventually, can no longer care for the animal. Luckily, Margaret’s previous owner worked with the Aquarium to find her a good home. Margaret is now an advocate for the preservation of her species and others like her!

Stay tuned for more updates on TEDxDeExtinction! 



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