The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: science

A Little Tribute to my Late, Great Friend Sean Collins – via NPR’s Science Friday


Sean Collins with one of his early hand-drawn maps of swell, reef and bathymetry.
Photo: Chris Dixon

It’s damned difficult for me to believe, but it’s been four years since surf forecaster Sean Collins died of a heart attack. He wasn’t surfing some off-the-grid Baja point break, but simply enjoying a game of tennis. Sean was a buddy, a competitor and a colleague since I first met him back in 1995 when we were working on the respective launches of and’s a Wayback Machine link to one of the site’s first home pages, built using raw HTML). Collins’ would become the world’s first definitive online surf forecasting service. And though Collins kept some cards very close to his chest, he and I talked technology and where this new thing called the World Wide Web was heading at least once a week. Like any competitors, we butted heads occasionally, but I constantly marveled at his discipline and the technology Sean managed to pioneer; live surf cameras, wave models and cellular modems to broadcast big wave contests from a boat off Todos Santos. Without his early warnings of swells, I never would have had some of my surf stories published in The New York Timesand it’s arguable that my book Ghost Wave would never have seen a printing press.

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Using Engineered Algae as the Next Potential Targeted Chemotherapy for Cancer?


Diatoms under the microscope. Image from David Darling and Encyclopedia of Science. 

One of the biggest challenges in cancer treatments is developing therapies that target diseased cells but do not harm healthy ones. New interdisciplinary research has revealed the frontline role tiny algae could play in the battle against cancer, through the innovative use of nanotechnology – or the manipulation of very small molecules at the atomic level.


Microscopic views showing the highly porous surface of diatoms. Image from Nature Communications

The team of Nico Voelcker, Ph.D at the University of South Australia and collaborators in Dresden, Germany, have genetically engineered diatom algae to become therapeutic nanoporous particles, which, when loaded with chemotherapeutic drugs can be used to destroy cancer cells in the human body, without harming healthy cells.

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Join the Russian-based ‘Aquatilis’ Expedition After They Return From Exploring Three Oceans to Learn More About Gelatinous Microorgansims


The focus of the Aquatilis expedition is to learn more about gelatinous plankton. Image from the Aquatilis Web site.

A team of Russian marine biologists just returned from five months at sea, where they traveled over 30,000 miles and through three oceans to learn more about Gelata, a subcategory of zooplankton (microscopic animals). Gelata are soft-bodied and gelatinous zooplankton that have a unifying characteristic of  soft and extremely fragile jelly-like bodies, like jellyfish.


The route of the Aquatilis. Image from the Aquatilis Web site.

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Sea Turtles Don Poop-Collecting Wetsuits – for the Sake of Science


Sea turtle collection in Moreton Bay, Australia for important diet studies. Photograph from University of Queensland News

Researchers at the University of Queensland, have been working from the ‘bottom’ up to figure out what loggerhead sea turtles eat and where that prey is from so improved conservation measures can better protect the endangered species.

When faced with the dilemma of trying to collect feces from extremely heavy sea turtles, UQ researchers Owen Coffee and Carmen da Silva came up with a new way to use the old standby for poop collection – a turtle diaper.

swimsuit harness

The sea turtles customized giant ‘nappy’. Photograph from University of Queensland News

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How to Farm Fish Without Killing the Planet


Photo: Ocean Farm Technologies.

Aquaculture has been the world’s fastest-growing food sector for several decades, and some argue it is the only feasible answer to the predicament of trying to feed a growing global population that is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.

And they have a point. Since the 1970s, roughly half of the world’s fish and seafood harvested for human consumption has been farmed, and in 2011, aquaculture exceeded global beef production for the first time in history.

But how can it be done without introducing pathogens (as well has hormones and potential toxins, like antibiotics) and depleting the ocean of precious oxygen and nutrients?

While there appears to be plenty of space in the ocean for the industry to expand, many, if not most of these farms lie in lakes and near-coastal waterways where, if not properly managed, they pose a serious threat to the surrounding environment.


Graphic: Dr. George Pararas-Carayannis.

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Buenos Días El Niño – Yellow Bellied Sea Snakes off Southern California – and Live on the Beach at Oxnard


A yellow bellied sea snake found and photographed by Robert Forbes on the beach at Oxnard. Photo: Robert Forbes.

In California, the 2015-16 El Niño continues its strange and ominous march towards the record books. Today there was not only massive, wild flooding up in Tehachapi, but my buddy Brandon Cruz, better known to many in the surf world as Bonzer5Fin and to the larger world as Eddie from famed late 60’s CBS sitcom The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, helped confirm rumors floating around Southern California. Yeah, that’s a picture of a yellow bellied sea snake, known in Latin as Pelamis platura. On the beach. In Oxnard. Yeah, it’s alive.

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Watch NatGeo Scientists Get Caught in an Underwater Avalanche in the Bahamas, and Learn About MBARI’s New Underwater Avalanche Experiment in Monterey Bay

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“…all of a sudden, it just started raining down on top of me. . . . We’ve trained ourselves to take slow, deep breaths and keep your heart rate down.” – Kenny Broad, Environmental Anthropologist and NatGeo Grantee. Screenshot from NatGeo’s video below.

When diving into a maze of caves like the Bahamas’ blue holes, explorers set trace lines so they can find their way out. In the event of an underwater avalanche, it can be as much of a challenge locating the trace itself, let alone an exit route. NatGeo Grantee Kenny Broad and team were in the midst of a dive in one of the Bahamas’ blue holes when, perhaps due to their presence, they were suddenly silted in by a sedimentary flow.

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“It’s lucky that it was a very narrow passageway, because in a giant passageway I wouldn’t have hit the line,” Paull concludes as he surfaces. Screenshot from NatGeo’s video below.

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Baby Stingrays, Like Tadpoles, Grow Legs. They’re Also Adorable.


‘Baby stingrays look like raviolo stuffed with tiny damned souls,’ writes Reddit uploader catfun4ever. (video below).

They look like tadpoles. They act like tadpoles, and I couldn’t say whether they smell, taste, or sound like tadpoles, but could they be long lost cousins?

Well, it’s highly unlikely, as Chondricthyes (sharks and rays) have very little in common with amphibians. No, they’re more like fish with feet, which might be more telling in regards to where we came from . . . but that’s another debate, for another blog.

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