Tag Archives: Ocean

Under Pressure

It may not always be noticeable but everything on earth is under pressure. Above the ocean’s surface everything is subject to the air pressure of our atmosphere, which equals about fourteen and a half pounds per square inch, or one atmosphere of pressure.

If that doesn’t seem like much then consider the fact that it is pressing down on every single part of your body at all times. You’ve probably opened a brand new bottle of soda before and noticed how when the seal is cracked there is a familiar hissing sound and the bottle becomes more flexible. This is because sodas are stored under a few atmospheres of pressure to help keep them carbonated or “fizzy”.

fish

That’s only one example of pressure though. Now, consider water weighs a lot more than air. The amount of pressure that most animals in the ocean have to live with is a lot greater than the amount that surface dwellers have to live with. At a depth of only thirty-three feet, the surrounding water pressure is now two atmospheres or double the amount of air pressure at the surface. At this depth there is no need to worry about the pressure being strong enough to do any physical harm but for fish that use a swim bladder, which is a gas filled organ used to maintain buoyancy, the increase in density of their bodies becomes an issue. The deeper you go, the denser you become. The denser you become, the faster you will sink without being able to stop it. Luckily most fish have the ability to deal with this issue before a problem occurs, but for others like the chambered nautilus, maintaining the right depth is crucial for survival. The nautilus uses chambers of gas inside its hard shell and water exchange for buoyancy so unlike many fish, it cannot raise or lower its buoyancy level very quickly if need be.
To witness how pressure exists all around us you can do an experiment for yourself. Try cracking an egg under water and notice how the surrounding water pressure keeps the egg round instead of it falling apart.

It’s Shark Week!

For as long as humans have roamed the Earth, sharks have swam the oceans. In fact, sharks have been around for much longer than us…about 100 times longer, to be exact! Sharks have been in existence for about 450 million years, and we are currently aware of about 450 different species of shark, discovering new ones each year!

The truth of the matter is that we really don’t know all that much about sharks, but what we do know is that these ocean creatures are as fascinating as they are mysterious, because not much is directly known about their breeding, migrating, or feeding habits. Luckily, Discovery Channel’s Shark Week airs once a year to teach us all about the latest findings within the marine science community.

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Every year during the summer, this weeklong series focuses on the fascinating lives of the most feared ocean creatures, sharks! This biting program has aired since 1988, making it the longest running cable television event in history. Shark Week focuses on the habits of these elusive animals, and seeks ultimately to debunk irrational fears that people have developed surrounding these ocean apex predators.

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Shark Week has been educating the public for decades, and has helped to make incredible strides for the conservation and advocacy of these often overlooked and misunderstood animals. In fact, one could argue that Shark Week has boosted the popularity of these elusive predators in mainstream media. Beginning with this weeklong series, public fears and curiosity were confronted with cool shark facts and fascinating footage, which captivated audiences and began to assuage our age-old shark fears. In fact, there’s been a noticeable shift in the general public’s outlook on our most feared ocean-dwelling friends.

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For instance, a few Great White Sharks made headlines last year when they beached themselves on the coast of Cape Cod. As opposed to running the opposite direction, beachgoers ran instead to their rescue. The footage of the public running to the aid of these long feared creatures and the immediate Internet attention this video received shows how people’s perspectives have begun to take a turn for the better. Similarly, some of these White Sharks have massive twitter followings. OCEARCH, a shark research organization, developed real-time tracking for a handful of White Shark individuals, giving them names like Mary Lee and Kathrine. These females and their movements captivated social media followers and have amassed a base of over 80,000 twitter followers, making them the most famous White Sharks of the ocean!

Katherine

Thanks to the efforts of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week and organizations like OCEARCH, shark populations off US waters have begun to make a comeback. The North Atlantic population has bounced back from decimated numbers, and as well human perception has begun to see a shift from fear to fascination. These top predators may look scary from the outside, but they are key species to the oceanic ecosystem, and hey, sharks have feelings too! So be sure to tune in to Shark Week on June 26th, because it’s guaranteed to provide us with some incredible shark footage and scientific insight!

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Sailing into the Sea Camp Family

I joined the Sea Camp sail staff in 2012 after USC’s School of Cinematic Arts accepted me into their Film and Television Production program. Before coming to Catalina, I worked for ten years as the Assistant Sail Director for a day camp in Coconut Grove, Florida for children ages 7-13. I also sailed competitively throughout high school, traveling around the country to various regattas.

My first summer on the island was filled with new experiences, exciting adventures, and lifelong friendships. I earned the sail name Ripple Dill my very first week at camp after reading a label on a bucket and it immediately became part of my identity. Check these camper sail names: What would your sail be?

It has been an incredible privilege to be part of the sail staff and we have created our own little family. We collaborate to create the safest and most enjoyable program possible for our campers, we plan trips together for our days off, and reunite regularly when we are off the island. In particular, the Tubbs family, who have had all three of their children work at Toyon Bay, have welcomed me into their family, which is a great resource for someone from the east coast.

Ripple Dill

I have also enjoyed watching our campers share my passion for sailing and grow from children into young adults. This past spring, one of my favorite sailors was accepted to my alma mater, Bowdoin College, and will be attending in the fall. When I return to Los Angeles at the end of the summer, I will graduate from my masters program and plan to pursue a career at a talent agency. I know that the lessons that I have learned here will serve me well for the rest of my life and Toyon Bay will always be a place that I call home.

Rippledill

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill: 26 Years Later

According to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, on March 29th, 1989 approximately 11 million gallons, or 17 Olympic-sized swimming pools, of crude oil were spilled into Prince William Sound, Alaska. Due to the amount of oil, timing of the spill, and pristine location in which it occurred, the Exxon Valdez oil spill is still widely considered one of the worst oil spills in history in terms of environmental damage. The spill covered 460 miles, and approximately 1,300 miles of shoreline were impacted. Even after 26 years, the habitat and wildlife are still suffering from effects of the spill.

Though almost all animals were affected by this environmental disaster, birds were among the most immediately and widely affected. The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council estimates that 250,000 seabirds were killed by the spill. Birds are particularly susceptible to oil damage because of their feathers. Birds use their feathers as insulation to protect them from cold water. When oil penetrates feathers, they can no longer hold air to keep the birds warm. Many birds died of hypothermia because of this lack of insulation.

Birds often perform preening, an act of straightening their feathers with their beak. The beak also has a specialized gland that produces an oily substance to keep the feathers waterproof. Along with destroying the effects of this waterproofing substance, crude oil is likely to be ingested by birds while preening. When ingested, the crude oil acts as a poison, killing the bird. Clean up efforts required washing individual animals with dish soap to rid their feathers of crude oil. Unfortunately, it also stripped the feathers of natural oils, so a recovery period was necessary.

Crude oil is considered a persistent oil; meaning natural processes are not usually enough to remove it from the environment. Because a large amount of oil was pouring out of a number of holes into calm seas, the oil slick spread consistently on top of the water. Compounding this issue, the lack wave action or turbulence in Prince William Sound during the spring did not break up the oil into fragments or droplets. Without this breakup of the oil slick, natural processes such as dissolution or biodegradation, along with clean up substances being dropped onto the slick, did not have opportunity to take effect.

There is a simple experiment that can be performed to examine the effects of crude oil on bird feathers. Buy soft feathers from a craft store. Create a “crude oil” mixture by mixing 3 parts vegetable oil and 1 part cocoa powder. Make one bowl each of salt water, fresh water and fresh water with dish soap. Dip feathers in the crude oil mixture and compare the washing effect of each type of water. Feel how oily each feather is after washing. Pouring the crude oil mixture at different speeds can also simulate the effect of turbulence. First, pour the oil into the salt water bowl quickly, taking note of the natural separation of the oil into droplets. Quickly pouring the oil creates turbulence in the bowl, simulating wave action and rough water separating an oil slick. Then, pour the mixture slowly. This represents calm seas, in which the oil will spread evenly, coating the entire surface of the water.

Sea Cucumbers: The More You Know


Sea cucumbers are a species of invertebrates under the phylum Echinodermata similar to sea stars and sea urchins. Sea cucumbers live in the benthic zone or ocean floor. They are nocturnal creatures but can be seen in the day as well. Sea cucumber uses their tube feet for locomotion and eating. The mouth is surrounded by twenty retractable tentacles that help them bring food in. They may seem slow, but have a very effective defense mechanism called evisceration in which they can jettison their internal organs to distract or in hopes their prey will eat their organs instead of attacking them. Sea cucumbers can regenerate these organs within days.

Sea cucumbers diets consist of algae, aquatic invertebrates, and waste particles in the ocean. Sea cucumbers are in high demands in Asian markets for their use in medicine and food. Sea cucumbers reproduce by the female launching her eggs in the waters, the male does a similar process with his sperm. Sea cucumbers can also self-reproduce as well.

Sea cucumber’s shape is elongated and is found on the sea floor worldwide. The most common species found on Catalina Island include the warty sea cucumber and the giant California sea cucumber.

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Ocean Echolocation

Echolocation is the emittance of sound and the reflection of vibrations off of an object back to the sender. This is commonly used by bats and dolphins! Dolphins release a high pitch click or snap sound that travels through the ocean in an effort to locate their food source. However some scientists do not agree about where the sound comes from.  “Some scientists suggest that sound is emitted from a nasal plug and that the shape of the melon is altered by muscles to focus sound.  Other scientists believe that the larynx emits sound and argue that echolocation focusing is achieved by bouncing sound off various parts of the skull.” (http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/nmml/education/cetaceans/cetaceaechol.php). The time it takes for a dolphin to send and receive this information varies depending on how far the vibrations have to travel back to the dolphin.

Here at CIMI we teach echolocation to students a few different fun ways. Jacque, a Toyon Bay CIMI Instructor, is seen teaching her students how echolocation works through the use of props such as the sample dolphin skull she is seen holding. Her students also participate in a fun game of echolocation! Four students are split up into dolphins and fish. The dolphins are blindfolded and will emit a sound, a clip or snap, and the fish will repeat that sound. It is the dolphins job to find the fish using “echolocation” or the repetition of their sound. Our students find out that it is a bit harder than they realized!

Pacific Electric Ray

 
The Pacific Electric Ray, Torpedo californica, is one of 14 described species of electric rays, but is the only species limited with the west coast of the United States. These rays are also called torpedo rays, electric rays and pacific torpedo rays. Their habitat is found on sandy bottoms around rocky reefs and kelp forests. They are mostly solitary and nomadic and endemic to the coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean from Baja, California to British Columbia.

Rays can generate and control electrical charges at will. Muscle tissues in two kidney-shaped glands on their head can produce currents of up to 45 volts—an electrical shock strong enough to knock down an adult. Torpedo rays jaws are highly distensible, allowing it to swallow surprisingly large prey, a 4-foot female has been observed ingesting a coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) nearly half her length. The pacific torpedo employs several strategies to capture prey including using bottom topography to sneak up on prey, cupping its pectoral fins and executing a barrel roll to manipulate prey into the mouth.

Torpedo rays generate two types of electrical pulse: a regular ‘warning pulses’ when pursued and sharp, powerful blasts to stun their prey. Pacific electric rays are ovoviviparous with embryos feeding initially on yolk and eventually receiving additional food from the mother through absorption of uterine fluid.

DIY Algae Press 9 Simple Steps


DIY Algae presses are a fun way for students to take a little piece of CIMI home with them. After learning about the three different types of algae (Chlorophyta, Phaeophyta, and Rhodophyta), each student has an opportunity to design their very own algae art piece. Now if you’re trying to do this at home, you may not have easy access to tons of algae, like us, so feel free to go find some plants or flowers in your neighborhood to use.

Things you’ll need:

  • Something to press, like flowers or leaves (stay away from anything with a large stem, as it won’t press very flat)
  • A piece of cardstock or thick paper cut to about 6 by 9 inches
  • Some wax paper or parchment paper
  • Cardboard cut into small 6 by 9 inch sections or so
  • Rubber bands
  • A few heavy books
  • Two weeks of patience
  1. To start, gather all your plants and decide upon a design that you want to create.
  2. Take your piece of cardstock and carefully place your plants down in the shape you picked out. Try not to overlap pieces of plants, instead try to keep just one plant layer all over your paper.
  3. Do not use glue to stick the plants down; they will change shape and size as they dry.
  4. Once you have positioned your plants as you like, place a sheet of wax paper on top of your creation. This will keep the plants from sticking to the cardboard as they dry.
  5. When you are ready, place the cardstock and wax paper in between two piece of cardboard. Basically making a sandwich.
  6. Then use 4-5 rubber bands in both directions to hold your project together.
  7. Find a few heavy books and place your project in a cool dry place for about 2 weeks.
  8. If you check your press after two weeks and its not completely dry, leave it there for another week.
  9. Once everything is dry you can remove your press from the cardboard and wax paper. If the plants aren’t staying in place, feel free to glue them or get your press laminated, this will protect it from general wear and tear.

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. 

 

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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

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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