February 2011 Archives

From the Bow Seat

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Looking for an introduction to the Gulf of Maine?

If you get a chance, check out the film: From the Bow Seat.  It's a good introduction to some of the iconic Gulf of Maine stories: the lobster fishery, the infamous cod stock collapse, and Maine Audubon's puffin restoration project (Project Puffin, which I've done some work with myself).  The film is essentially a sailing voyage through the gulf, learning about these topics, and hearing entertaining tales spun by some big names, like Colin Woodard, Diane Cowan, and Stephen Kress. 

There's also an opportunity to win $2,500, if you're a high school student.  If there is something that moves you about the Gulf of Maine, in particular any one of the stories mentioned above, enter the essay contest.  Your words will be read by many, and you might win a nice cash prize.

Here's the link:

Nick Record, signing off.

The Grammys!

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Wow!  What excitement last night with the Grammys!

Well, I didn't watch them.  In fact, I've never watched them, as far as I can remember.  Still, it's a nice reminder of how we make everything--even music, TV, and movies--a competition.  

It might seem a bit strange to some people that we, as Americans, can't let a single year pass without declaring a superior competitor in the field of "best boxed or special limited edition package."  It might seem strange to someone from away that everything in our culture is a competition.

As an ecologist, however, competition has a special place in my heart.  Over the past 150 years, the bulk of ecological theory has been based on the notion of competition.  From the writings of Darwin, to Hutchison's "paradox of the plankton", competition has played a central role.  So instead of asking why everything in our culture is a competition, I have different question to ask: Why don't we have a "Grammys" equivalent in science?

Think about it.  We could have all kinds of awards.  "Most Days in the Field."  "Maddest Experiment."  We could give out a "Best Supporting Post-Doc of the Year" award to the recent PhD grad with the highest impact factor as a second author.  The biannual Ocean Sciences Meeting would become a highly televised celebrity event.

Well, it has to start somewhere.  To kick things off, I hereby declare a "Best Journal Cover" award, given each year to the scientific journal with the best cover design.  Criteria include aesthetic value, intellectual merit, and any biases of the judging committee-of-one.

And now to announce the winner for 2010... drumroll.....

The award goes to: The Journal of Plankton Research (December 2010), with the depiction of "Ocean ecosystem through the eyes of a continuous plankton recorder."

Nick Record, signing off.


Climate Lecture

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sea_state_6.0_postcard.jpgI'll be giving a public lecture at GMRI on "Understanding Climate Change and the Climate Change Debate."  GMRI may put the video online, and if so, I'll post the link.  In the meantime, here are some resources I found helpful in preparing the talk:

  • The most complete description of the current understanding of climate change is found in the Intergovernmental Panel and Climate Change reports.  Their "Summaries for Policy Makers" are fairly easy to read.  
  • The Skeptical Science blog has good descriptions of many of the "most used skeptic arguments and what the science really says."
  • I liked James Hansen's "Storms of My Grandchildren" (see my review).  Hansen has good, accessible descriptions of climate physics and some behind the scenes insight into meetings with Al Gore and Dick Cheney, among others.

Armchair oceanographers

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I compose this entry aboard the Machigonne II, en route from Portland Harbor to my cozy apartment on Peaks Island.  A thick shroud of snow is falling over a flat calm sea, and there is a stir of sea life about: loons, long-tailed ducks, eiders, red-breasted mergansers, hooded mergansers, harbor seals, and even the occasional gray seal.  


It is a simple fact that most oceanographers spend most of their time on dry land.  In my department at the School of Marine Sciences in Maine, I would speculate that some of the oceanographers can spend as much as 4-10 months without even seeing the ocean.  When I was a young whippersnapper, the majority of the time that I spent studying the ocean was spent actually on the ocean itself--much like Pete's current adventures in the field.  These days, however, I'm in a lab like the rest, working mostly on a computer.  Were it not for my daily commute across the water, I would probably spend only a few weeks in the summer on the high seas, and maybe a day here and there.

My observation is that there is a tendency for us to become more landlocked as we get older.  Not that I desire to disparage the theoretical and analytical work that takes place in the intellectual realm of a campus or lab--this is often where we take great conceptual steps forward and advance the field.  There is also a great need to synthesize the immense amount of data that span decades and thousands of miles of dynamic oceans.  This can only be done at a desk.

I would, however, like to put in a word for the value of daily observation of the sea to our intuition, understanding, and inspiration.  One morning last week, a dense cloud of sea smoke rose up from the waters of Casco Bay like an apparition, and billowed over the bow as we lumbered into the harbor.  It happens only once or twice a year, and one feels as though a skeleton ship might well rise up from the abyss.

These are not the pictures that we envision as we plot x against y.  This is not the view of the ocean that we see through our 21 inch monitors.  When I witness these singular scenes on the water--scenes that do not stand out in our data they way the do in our memories--I have to think that our understanding of the ocean is affected the more we view it through a digital lens.

Nick Record, signing off.


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This page is an archive of entries from February 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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