Yearly Archives: 2014

Bioluminescence in the Ocean


Bioluminescent organisms can create their own light! There are many weird and wonderful bioluminescent creatures in the ocean. Some emit light as a predatory tactic, like the anglerfish, which has a light-emitting photophore that protrudes from the top of its head. The anglerfish has a symbiotic relationship with bioluminescent bacteria that collect on the photophore and help lure prey towards the fish’s mouth. This is helpful in the darkness of the deep sea where food is scarce and hard to find.

Other organisms use bioluminescence to defend themselves. Dinoflagellates are a type of phytoplankton that flash a blue-green light when they get agitated by waves or predators at nighttime. This light can startle and distract the phytoplankton’s predators, or it can act as a burglar alarm that attracts bigger predators to come to the feeding site. Sperm whales are known to linger around places with lots of these bioluminescent organisms because their glowing alerts the whale that there is prey in the area.

Next time you are by the ocean at nighttime, try splashing around in the water and see if these dinoflagellates will light up for you!

What is a Gyre and How Does it Work?


A gyre is the circular rotation of water within a basin that is driven by the wind.  There are three different cells of wind that blow across each hemisphere of the Earth.  In the Northern Hemisphere wind blows from east to west at the equator, pushing surface water to the northwest.  As it rises and makes its way to about 30 degrees latitude, the wind shifts directions and blows from west to east, changing the path of the surface water to turn back down towards the southeast.  This continuing pattern results in a slow clockwise rotation of water across the entire Pacific Ocean.  This same phenomenon repeats itself in all 5 gyres found around the globe with the direction of rotation depending on the hemisphere: the North Atlantic gyre, the South Atlantic Gyre, the North Pacific Gyre, the South Pacific Gyre, and the Indian Ocean Gyre. 

 

Map-of-ocean-gyres_full_size_landscape

sciencelearn.org

The constant circulation combined with the Coriolis effect has a tendency to draw water towards the center of the gyre, almost like the rotation in your toilet, almost. Essentially pulling garbage and anything floating in the water towards the middle.  All of the garbage simply floats around breaking into smaller and smaller pieces, but never goes away.  However, gyres also extremely important to help spread eggs and larvae around the Ocean.  Certain species rely on the currents from gyres to help spread their young into new water so that they do not end up competing for space in the future.  Pretty smart!

Check out National Geographic’s page for information on gyres and more: http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/encyclopedia/ocean-gyre/?ar_a=1

Upwelling: Movement in the Ocean


Upwelling is a process that involves cold, nutrient rich water being brought up to the surface.  At the equator, upwelling is a regular occurrence due to the combination of the Earth’s rotation and the wind mostly blowing from East to West.  This constantly pushes air along the equator and results in water being pushed away from the equator and towards both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.  As the surface water is forced outwards from the equator, water from below rises up to take its place.  This water is typically cold and full of nutrients.

Upwelling can also occur along coastlines.  When wind blows south along the California coast, the friction along the surface of the water combined with the rotation of the Earth cause the surface water to be pushed out away from land.  Again, deeper water comes to the surface bringing with it nutrients and cooler water temperatures.  In some places, upwelling can even affect the weather.  In places such as San Francisco, the cool water temperatures brought by upwelling can cause air temperatures to drop and result in even more dense fog.

The combination of the rotation of the Earth and the friction between the various layers of water, result in overall transportation of water by 90 degrees in a different direction than the wind.  In the northern hemisphere, water is moved 90 degrees to the right and in the southern hemisphere the same affect results in water moving to the left.  This process is called the Ekman transport.

For more information on the Ekman transport visit: http://oceanmotion.org/html/background/ocean-in-motion.htm

Garibaldi: The California State Marine Fish

 

 
The Garibaldi, or Hypsypops rubicundus, is the official California state marine fish and is protected in Californian coastal waters. They are found in shallow water up to 100 ft in depth usually in rock reefs and rocky sea bottoms.  This species of damselfish inhabits the waters of the Pacific Ocean from Monterey Bay, California to Baja, California along rocky coastal reefs and among kelp forests. They are especially common to the more southern Channel Islands.

Extremely visible by their bright orange coloration, adult fish may reach up to 15 inches in length. Juvenile garibaldi fish are yellow-orange with iridescent blue spots and which signify to adults in the area that they are not a threat.  As they grow, the blue spots disappear until they are solid orange.  These fish are not considered mature until five or six years old and are about eight inches long. They feed on various sponges, algae, and invertebrates including tubeworms, nudibranchs, and bryozoans.

Adult male garibaldi carefully construct circular nest sites about one foot in diameter in shallow reef habitats weeding out all organisms except for red algae.  The more well-prepared and maintained the nests are, the more likely a female will choose that nest to deposit her eggs for fertilization by the hosting male.  As soon as a female has laid her eggs, the male chases her away before she has the chance to munch on any other eggs in his nest.  Once the eggs are fertilized, the male continues to guard the nest often warning divers of their close proximity with a loud thumping noises.

Summer Scuba Adventure at Camp


If you want to join these amazing underwater creatures then you will want to check out Catalina Sea Camp scuba diving program. Catalina Sea Camp offers beginners to master diver courses. Check back at the beginning of the year for a full list of all Catalina Sea Camp course descriptions.

Have you never been scuba diving before? If you have always wanted to give it a test then our Try Dive scuba class is for you! Some of our instructors only want to teach this Try Dive class because it is all about having fun while trying a new, mind-blowing experience. The instructors love seeing first time divers with faces lighting up with pure enjoyment. I still remember my first time breathing underwater and I want to share that experience with anyone willing to give something new a try. A course like this is hands-down the best part of being an instructor at Catalina Sea Camp. This class is an ideal choice for our younger campers (12 to 14 years old) as it tends to make campers feel more comfortable for future certification courses. The course is not a certification but an equivalent to a “resort course”. The campers will experience a total of 6 water sessions: 2 skin dives and 4 scuba dives with a maximum depth of 25 feet.

We hope you are ready to give something new and amazing a try at Catalina Sea Camp. Register for camp before December 31st, 2014 and you will save up to $255. Click this link to sign up now: www.catalinaseacamp.org/manage-account/

Happy Diving!

Whale Teeth vs. Baleen

Teeth Vs. Bristles

There are over 80 species of Cetaceans, or whales, which are divided into two groups, or suborders, based on how they eat. The two suborders of Cetaceans are Odontocetes and Mysticetes. Cetaceans that have teeth belong in a very diverse group called Odontocetes, which includes over 70 different species. Toothed whales typically have a single blowhole and use echolocation to find their food, which they have to chew up to eat.  Some examples of Odontocetes are dolphins, sperm whales, belugas, and narwhals (That’s right! The big unicorn horn on narwhals is actually a TOOTH!).

Credit: Chicago Zoological Society, Sarasota Dolphin Research Program

So if this other group of whales called Mysticetes doesn’t have teeth, then what do they have? Baleen. Mysticetes, quite literally means, “mustache whales,” named after all the bristly, hairy baleen in their mouths. Baleen is an elaborate structure made of hundreds of plates hanging from the upper jaw, while the inner surface makes a dense mat of hair acting as a strainer. This suborder includes over 10 species like the Humpback whale, Sei whale, and Blue whale (which happens to be the biggest animal that has ever lived! Even bigger than the Titanosaur!). Mysticetes have two blowholes, instead of one, and typically do not use echolocation to hunt. They eat by sucking in huge volumes of water (with prey in it), then spitting the water back out through their baleen, which traps the food on its inner surface.

For more information on Whales and their baleen visit https://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112803585/baleen-whale-teeth-entangle-prey-031413/

Marine Protected Areas

 
Just like national parks protect land, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) preserve underwater ecosystems. As of now, there are more than 6,500 MPAs, protecting about 2% of our oceans. There are different types of MPAs ranging from “Strict Nature Reserve” that allows no resource removal, to “Sustainable use of Natural Resources” where limited resources can be taken. Catalina Island has a whopping nine marine protected areas, both coastal and offshore. Some of them, like the Long Point State Marine Reserve is a strict “no-take” zone. However, the Bird Rock State Marine Reserve allows the removal of certain types of pelagic finfish.

Marine protected areas can benefit both the environment and the fishing economy. Protected species can grow larger, thus reproducing with higher success rate as well as reproducing more often. This means that as fish populate, some of them will venture out of the MPA. These potentially animals can be caught by fishermen in the area, leading to higher numbers caught, and larger animals caught.

Geology Rocks in 15 Seconds

This Geology Rocks in 15 Seconds video demonstrates the unique geological landscape that is Cherry Cove. Once a mining community, Cherry was a large producer of Galena, a metallic mineral that is an important source of lead and, on rare occasions, silvers! Near Cherry, the rock quarry was used to harvest stones used for many things on the mainland, including Long Beach break walls.

One can find many types of stones in or near Cherry Cove; Lion’s Head, an iconic landmark of Cherry is made of blue schist, Bird Rock is made of Sedimentary Breccia, Ship Rock is composed of mostly igneous rock from volcanic activity, and one can find Diatomaceous Earth, rock made from the remains of dead plankton, within the walls of Little Fisherman’s Cove. There are many more different rock types that can be found on Catalina Island, ranging from the iridescent emerald of Green Schist to the soft textured Soapstone. Stay tuned for more rock explorations!

Deep Ocean and What Lives There


This Deep Ocean and What Lives There video is a simple illustration of the depth of the ocean. The deepest part of the ocean is called the Marianas Trench. The creatures of the Marianas Trench have many strange and unique adaptations to live in such a harsh environment. With no sunlight reaching the deepest parts of the ocean, it may seem like a very dark place. However, animals actually light up the darkness by producing their own light, in a phenomenon known as bioluminescence. Because there are relatively few organisms in the deep sea, this light production is used to signal to other animals. These signals include attracting prey, distracting predators and finding mates. Many organisms, including fish, shrimp and plankton use this adaptation.

There are also organisms that produce bioluminescence at the surface of the ocean, during the nighttime. On Catalina Island, if you were to wave your hands around underwater at night, the water would explode with the resemblance of hundreds of tiny stars. These glowing specks are a type of bioluminescent phytoplankton. It takes each phytoplankton 24 hours to produce the bioluminescence produced when touched, meaning it must wait until the next night to recharge its batteries!

WELCOME TO THE SEA CAMPER BLOG

We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. Catalina Sea Camp is a hands-on marine science program with an emphasis on ocean exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and ocean happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at minimum a Bachelors Degree in Marine Science or related subject. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science and ocean information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.catalinaseacamp.org for additional information. Happy Reading!

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