The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: Uncategorized

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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A Surfboard Made from John Steinbeck’s House? Ventana Surfboards and Supplies Brings Historic California Back to Life in Their Upcycled Products


Ventana’s stunning 6’0″ Cannery Row – made from wood that once adorned John Steinbeck’s cottage in Pacific Grove. Image courtesy Ventana Surfboards and Supplies.

I was first introduced to Ventana Surfboards and Supplies when they contacted me to be their November featured author for The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival. The company is located in Santa Cruz, California – near my old Monterey Bay stomping grounds; a place near and dear to my heart.

When I started poking around their Web site, I was floored by the stunning beauty of their surfboards. All wood, with intricate designs, alternating inlays and a spot of pearlescence, from abalone shell. But quickly I learned that Ventana, is far more than a simple surfboard and supplies manufacturer. They’re bringing new life to old wood, through upcycling – an ecofriendly use of materials that have already served another purpose and would otherwise be thrown away. As an example, check out their recent show-stopper board made of wood panels, from the cottage of famous Cannery Row author, John Steinbeck.

Ventana Surfboards is the brainchild of Martijn Stiphout and David Dennis, who built the company with sustainability at its heart and a message of eco-responsibility echoed throughout the local community. Stiphout is the master craftsman and board design visionary and David drives sales, marketing and surf supply innovation.

I had a chance to catch up with the busy duo, as they prepare for a full calendar of events leading up to the holidays. Their expanding on-line shop sells not only surfboards and supplies, but recycled and repurposed products ranging from t-shirts to the Save A Surf wax box.  


Handmade handplanes in action. Image courtesy Ventana Surfboards and Supplies.

Carolyn Sotka: How did this John Steinbeck project and product unfold?

David Dennis: John Steinbeck is one of the great American authors. He even won the Nobel Prize for literature. We’re really excited to have old growth redwood from his first house. I was on a panel talking to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Teen Conservation Leaders about sustainable business practices. I mentioned our Upcycle Partner Program and how we’re turning “trash” from local companies into surfboards and surf supplies. One of the adult volunteers at the aquarium, René Gaudette, came up to me afterwards and said he was working on the restoration of Steinbeck’s house with Houstons Home Improvement & Repair. He asked if he could donate the wood to us. I was speechless! We now have a few larger planks and some smaller pieces, even a board from Steinbeck’s bathroom! You can still see the cutout where his medicine cabinet used to be!


Martijn Stiphout at work in the Ventana shop. Image courtesy Ventana Surfboards and Supplies.

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Stay Tuned for a New Film Series of Never Told Stories About California’s Channel Islands and the Oldest Site of Human Habitation in North America


Screen shot from the new film series about the history of California’s Channel Islands.

A recent Kickstarter campaign to bring short films about the West of the West: Tales from California’s Channel Islands to PBS and into California schools was successfully funded last week. The ‘West of the West tells the human history of California’s eight Channel Islands, which lie west of what is traditionally regarded as America’s frontier. In fact, those islands are our western frontier. But, their history, including that of the oldest discovered site of human habitation in all of North America, is virtually unknown.

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Happy Halloween From Your Friends at The Scuttlefish!


Image from



Trainers at the New England Aquarium provided pumpkins for the seals and sea lions to explore as a festive means of enrichment. Exploring new textures and shapes and smells is a fun activity that keeps these marine mammals healthy and happy. This is how the Leu the fur seal and Zoe the sea lion celebrated Halloween! Image from the New England Aquarium.


To all of our readers! Have a safe and happy Halloween!




Meet the Banabans. Forgotten People of the Pacific.


Two of Banaba’s elders. Photo from Janice Cantieri.

The island nation of Kiribati has been the poster child for proactively addressing the reality of global sea level rise. The country has taken climate change by the horns and implemented a series remediation efforts to extend life and infrastructure in the islands, but also look ahead to a likely need to relocate it citizens.

But the residents of one Kiribati’s islands have already been forced to relocate, over seventy years ago. After annexation by the British in 1900, along with the other 33 islands that today make up Kiribati, Banaba Island (aka ‘Ocean Island’) was quickly ‘purchased’ by the British Phosphate Commission and mining leases contracts were set up for the next 999 years. Phosphate is used for fertilizer and industrial chemicals. Banaba, after absorbing eons of phosphate-rich seabird poo, was well-endowed.

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Some Whales That Dodged Harpoons in the Days of Herman Melville Are Still Alive and Well Today

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It may be unlikely, but it’s quite possible that some of these mammoths crossed beneath the feet of American novelist Herman Melville while he was aboard a whaling ship in the 1840s, unwittingly researching his forthcoming tome.

Bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) are baleen whales that can grow up to 60 feet long and weigh just as much in tons. Their heads, over a third the size of its body, are built to smash through ice–up to a foot-and-a-half thick–on their way to the surface.

They’re also the longest-living mammals on earth (the oldest ever to be aged was 211), and a few who are still alive today were plying the Pacific around the same time Herman Melville was stumbling around the deck of a Yankee whaling ship and penning his classic tale of the elusive white whale.

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Wish You Were Here: Meditating at an Underwater Temple in Bali


Image by Natalia Maslova posted in WetPixel. 

For many, scuba diving is one of the most tranquil, fulfilling and relaxing experiences. The quietude of the underwater world contrasted against the bright array of colors, can calm the soul. But the Underwater Temple Garden in Bali takes it to a whole new level.

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The Blob: How A Long, Strange Influx of Warm Water is Changing West Coast Ecosystems

sandiego bluefin

Recreational fishing has had a gangbuster season in San Diego, thanks to the presence of tropical fish not normally found in those waters, like the bluefin tuna shown here. Photo by Point Loma Sportfishing.

Over the last few years, the waters off the West coast have been warming to about 4 to 5 degrees fahrenheit above average. This might seem like a small change, but it can cause major changes in the coastal ecosystems. The warm water, which scientists have nicknamed “the Blob,” formed two years ago near Alaska and has spread down the West Coast and is especially evident in Southern California. With the warmer waters, tiger sharks, hammerheads and even tropical sea snakes have moved northward.

the blob

The map of the West coast “Blob’ shows how much above (red) or below (blue) water temperatures were in 2015 compared to the long-term average from 2003 to 2012. Photo by Nasa. 

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