I watched a fascinating science special on PBS recently. It’s part of a series developed by Jean-Michel Cousteau called Ocean Adventures. This segment focused on America’s National Marine Sanctuaries. In addition to learning about many sanctuaries I’ve never heard of before, the show also introduced me to some research projects which provide fascinating websites for us non-scientists to check out.
First there’s toppcensus.org. TOPP stands for Tagging of Pacific Pelagics. This project is putting radio transmitters on a host of different species that roam the Pacific Ocean. For many of these creatures, we’ve never known where they go when they’re not right under our noses. These transmitters allow us to follow them as they range over thousands of miles of open ocean.
One of the neatest things about this site is that it offers maps of the Pacific showing exactly where these fish and mammals have gone. We can view the tracks just as the scientists see them. Each animal can be tracked individually, it’s very cool. Here’s a picture of the track for Elephant Seal 37593. It got tagged off the coast of California and now it’s far out to sea in the northern Pacific.
Another group doing research on the Pacific coast is the Monterey Aquarium. First of all, this is a wonderful aquarium that I highly recommend you visit if you ever get the chance. What I didn’t know was the amount of research it’s got going. There’s work on sea otters, great white sharks, tunas. It’s also a partner in the TOPP project. There’s much information at it’s website. They even have a section called Seafood Watch where you can explore the health of various fish and seafood you eat. By health they mean both what eating the fish might do to your health, and what your eating the fish will do to the health of the fish’s population in the ocean.
Finally, here’s a link to an Atlantic Ocean research group, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. They weren’t mentioned in the tv special, but they’re doing good work and their web site’s worth checking out if you have any interest in ocean research. There are such things as daily reports from expeditions as they happen. For example, here's a diary from an antarctic cruise from May and June of 2006. (Click on Daily Updates and a particular date to see that day's entry.)