Uncharted Atolls lives!

And we’re back!  After a year or so hiatus, it seems.  The past year has been busy!  I’ve been getting established into my new PhD program, writing grants, other typical grad-studenty type shenanigans.

But anyway, the important news:  Uncharted Atolls is getting rebooted (no, not like that), so watch this space for eco/evo papers/topics that I need to talk about here, as not to annoy my wife and cats too badly.

Also, I will be in Panama this fall, so I’ll likely be talking about what took me there in the coming months.


The deep sea of the Coral Triangle

Last year, Dr. Tim Shank led an expedition into the deep sea of the Coral Triangle, finding dozens of new species. The diversity of species the team is describing may be evidence for a deep-sea Wallace line. Read more at the Economist.

Arctic Sea Ice, Shipping, and Dispersal


The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that the Arctic sea ice extent recently reached its third lowest for the month of September since we’ve had satellite data.  The minimum extent occurred on September 19th, with 4.6 million square kilometers of ice.  This melt season has since ended; the 5-day average ice extent was recorded at 5.44 million square kilometers on October 1st.

On September 20th, the U.S National Ice Center identified the opening of the Northwest Passage as  satellite images indicated minute levels of multi-year ice present there.  The first commercial ship, the MV Camilla Desgagnés, successfully navigated through the Passage in 2008, potentially leading the way in utilizing this new route for trans-ocean shipping.  However, the opening of Arctic sea ice could bring more than just cargo.  The Arctic has served as a major biogeogaphic barrier since the mid-Pliocene (~3 million years ago).  It has recently been pointed out that with temperature shifts and decreased ice, marine organisms are likely to use the Arctic as a throughway between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, with unknown ecological effects1.  This may be already occurring to some extent:  a Pacific diatom was observed in 1999 in the Labrador/Irminger seas, betwixt Canada and Greenland.  This particular species was known to have last lived in the north Atlantic more than 800,000 years ago, according to sediment records2.  Shipping is expected to assist this trans-Arctic dispersal of species.  This opening of the Arctic has also spurred claims to the seafloor among Russia, Denmark, Norway, Canada, and the US in order to be able to capitalize on oil and gas reserves likely present there.

Images:  1) National Snow and Ice Data Center, 2) Bill Rankin, Radical Cartography (cc)

1. Sutherland, W., Clout, M., Côté, I., Daszak, P., Depledge, M., Fellman, L., Fleishman, E., Garthwaite, R., Gibbons, D., & De Lurio, J. (2010). A horizon scan of global conservation issues for 2010. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 25 2. Reid PC (2008) Trans-Arctic invasion in modern times. Science 322

Dr Jeremy Jackson on the modern ocean

This is a sobering TED talk from Dr Jeremy Jackson, a well-known marine ecologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, on what’s going on today in the global ocean. You might need a drink afterwards.

(TED licenses their talks with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license.)


Just an admin note:  things are going to be changing a bit around here, so please bear with me as I fiddle with layout and aesthetics.  It’s good to be back after a bit of a hiatus.

Greetings from Iceland!

I’m in Reykjavik, Iceland for the week attending the Deep Sea Biology Symposium and showing some ongoing work on deep-sea corals.  If you want a play-by-play, Dr. M from Deep Sea News seems to be on top of that…you can follow him on twitter at @DrCraigMc.  I can’t really handle twitter at the moment…I giggle whenever someone uses the word ‘tweet’ as a verb.


Leif Ericson



Cephalopod: 1, H. Sapien: 0

A crafty cephalopod makes off with a diver’s video camera (complete with invertebrate-themed soundtrack!).

PS:  I’ve been lax with Anthozoa for the past few weeks due to grad student frantic-ness, among other things.  This shall soon be fixed.  Have patience my dear reader(s)!

Via The Daily Beast.

Beer and bugs

Well,  that’s unpleasant.

For a tinge of perspective, I spent about 6 months in East Africa (not where this study was done, but there’s malaria there as well) when I was in college.  I was on anti-malarial meds, and as a result, had crazy vivid dreams in which I was always on a pirate ship–the “but where has the rum gone?”, not the “let’s hijack a tanker” kind.  In some of the more rural places I visited, bottled beer was cheaper than treated water, which says something about clean water availability and now apparently, risk of malaria.  I don’t mean to imply that people will simply supply themselves with beer rather than water, but many places worldwide have little access to safe water supplies.  And then there’s the malaria issue, as brought up by this paper.  There are potentially enormous public health implications in this research.

Speaking of malaria, you can donate to the United Nations Foundation to help supply bed nets to children in Africa here.  In more of an aqueous mood?  Check out these sites (here and here) to give clean water.  I’m really on no Western pedestal here…just spreading information.

article via PLoS ONE