Surf’s Up: Monstrous 64-foot Wave Measured In Southern Ocean

Ocean Leadership ~

One of the largest waves recorded in the Southern Hemisphere was found by buoys. (Credit:

(Click to enlarge) One of the largest waves recorded in the Southern Hemisphere was found by buoys. (Credit:

Surf’s up in the Southern Ocean.

A massive, 64-foot high wave was measured by an automated buoy about 400 miles south of New Zealand in the Southern Ocean on Saturday. That’s taller than a six-story building.

(From USA TODAY / By Doyle Rice ) — “This is one of the largest waves recorded in the Southern Hemisphere,” said oceanographer Tom Durrant of MetOcean Solutions, a private weather firm in New Zealand. “This is the world’s southernmost wave buoy moored in the open ocean, and we are excited to put it to the test in large seas,” he wrote on the company’s blog.

The buoy was installed only three months ago to “get valuable observations from this remote part of the ocean,” the company said. The wild winds, seas and storms of the Southern Ocean create some of the biggest waves in the world.

“Southern Ocean waves are described by sailors as ‘liquid Himalayas’ and remain largely unstudied, including our ability to forecast them,” said researcher Sally Garrett of the New Zealand Defence Force, shortly after the buoy was launched.

“Accurate measurements of these conditions will help us understand waves and air-sea interactions in these extreme conditions,” Durrant said, referring to the new buoy. “This, in turn, will lead to improvements in the models used to simulate the waves, providing better forecasts, both for the Southern Ocean and for the wider region.”

Read the full story here:

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‘Trojan Fish’: Invasive Rabbitfish Spread Invasive Species

Ocean Leadership ~

Saddle Rabbitfish. (Credit: Wikicommons)

(Click to enlarge) Saddle Rabbitfish. (Credit: Wikicommons)

For some time, unicellular benthic organisms from the Indo-Pacific have been spreading in the Mediterranean. An international team of scientists with the participation of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel has now found evidence that a possible path of invasion has been in the gut of fish. The study was published in the international journal Limnology and Oceanography Letters this week.

(From — The mystery of how some invasive species may rapidly invade and spread in the world’s oceans without assistance by marine traffic may have been partly solved by a new Mediterranean Sea study. Red Sea rabbitfish invaded the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal in the 20th century. Soon after, more than 60 species of small Red Sea marine animals, known as foraminifera, also invaded the Mediterranean.

New research, lead by Tamar Guy-Haim of the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research (IOLR) / the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel released in Limnology and Oceanography Letters this week, reveals that the rabbitfish brought the other marine life with them. The research was done in collaboration with Orit Hyams-Kaphzan (Geological Survey of Israel, GSI), Erez Yeruham (IOLR), Ahuva Almogi-Labin (GSI), and James Carlton (Williams College – Mystic Seaport, USA).

Although plant-eaters, the rabbitfish accidentally scoop up marine animals from the sea floor while feeding. After feeding and swimming long distances, the fish defecate the live animals that had survived the trip through the fish’s digestive system. Fish moving plants and animals—called “ichthyochory,” or dispersal of species by fish—has been known in lakes and rivers but hardly from the marine environment.

The new study is the first to document fish dispersal as a means of long-distance dispersal of alien species in the ocean. The researchers studied fresh waste from the fish. They found live forams as well as other live marine animals, such as snails, clams, and worms. Museum specimens confirmed that rabbitfish have been eating and moving species for decades.

The research team found that the spread of the fish through the Mediterranean matched the timing and sites of the spread of the exotic forams as well. While the marine life in ships’ ballast water and attached to ship hulls explains the invasion of many species in the sea, the forams, and similar bottom-dwellers not found in the water or attached to hulls, are believed to be rarely moved by ships.

Read the full story here:

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Jon White – From the President’s Office: 5-22-2017

Ocean Leadership ~

Jon White, President of Ocean LeadershipToday, the NOAA Corps turns 100. I was honored to be MC at their 100th anniversary event in Washington, D.C this past Saturday. One of our nation’s seven uniformed services, NOAA Corps’ work at sea, in the air, and on the ground over the last century has ensured the safety, security, and prosperity of our nation in so many ways. Their work in charting and exploring our ocean and in gathering crucial atmospheric and oceanographic data (in some of the harshest conditions and locations on our planet, such as during hurricanes and at both poles) have been of exceptional value. As we look to the future, the importance of their work only increases as we expand and accelerate our complex coexistence in an increasingly technological world, where we will need absolute certainty about the reference frames of our physical world and its dynamic environment. The men and women of NOAA Corps, and all who work with them, have done this with great success and efficiency for the past  century – one of revolutionary technological and industrial change. I know that we can count on them to continue to do so in the next century as well, for I know their caliber and their commitment. We, at COL and in the broader ocean community, must continue our work to ensure they receive the resources and support they need for their critical missions.

Prior to this event, I visited two of our member institutions in the Northeast – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of New Hampshire. I spent time with exceptional faculty, researchers, and students at both institutions. I am impressed by their work, commitment, and vision as they create the future of ocean science and technology that organizations like NOAA will be putting to good use. From ground-breaking autonomy and artificial intelligence to innovative ways to efficiently measure, analyze, and visualize key ocean parameters and contents (such as sound and hydrocarbons), I am inspired by their work and optimistic about the future. Thus, I continue to recognize the importance of the collective work of our consortium as we boldly advocate for increased discovery, understanding, and action related to our ocean.  

RADM Jonathan W. White, USN (ret.)
President and CEO
Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Member Highlight
Antarctic Dispatches: Miles of Ice Collapsing Into The Sea
The acceleration is making some scientists fear that Antarctica’s ice sheet may have entered the early stages of an unstoppable disintegration. Because the collapse of vulnerable parts of the ice sheet could raise the sea level dramatically, the continued existence of the world’s great coastal cities — Miami, New York, Shanghai and many more — is tied to Antarctica’s fate. Four New York Times journalists joined a Columbia University team in Antarctica late last year to fly across the world’s largest chunk of floating ice in an American military cargo plane loaded with the latest scientific gear.

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36m-Year-Old Fossil Discovery Is Missing Link In Whale Evolution, Say Researchers

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A new study helps understand how baleen whales feed and filter water for food. (Credit: Teddy Llovet/Flickr)

(Click to enlarge)  (Credit: Teddy Llovet/Flickr)

Fossil hunters say they have unearthed a missing link in the evolution of baleen whales after digging up the remains of a creature thought to have lived more than 36 million years ago.

(From The Guardian) —  The whales, known as mysticeti, sport a bristling collection of sieve-like plates known as baleen that they use to filter water for food. Species include the enormous blue whale, the gray whale and the humpback whale.

But while baleen whales are known to have shared a common ancestor with toothed whales, which are the other major group of modern whales, the path by which the creatures emerged has been somewhat hazily understood. Now researchers say they have discovered the oldest known cousin of modern baleen whales, offering unprecedented insights into their evolution.

“This [split in the family tree] has been dated to about 38 or 39m years ago,” said Olivier Lambert, co-author of the research from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. “The whale we discovered here has been dated to 36.4 [million years ago], so it is only two to three million years younger than this presumed origin.”

Unearthed at a site known as Playa Media Luna on the southern coast of Peru, the newly discovered creature has been named Mystacodon selenensis – a portmanteau of the Greek for “moustache” and “tooth”, together with a nod to the Greek goddess of the moon.

The animal would have been just under four metres in length but, rather than boasting baleen, it had a mouthful of teeth and apparently vestigial hind limbs.

From an analysis of the skull, jaw and teeth, Lambert says that the newly unearthed animal likely hoovered up other marine creatures by suction feeding, moving its tongue to lower the pressure inside its mouth and draw its prey in, before expelling the water.

“If it was indeed using suction to catch its prey, it means that the prey items could not be too large, because the whole animal was swallowed in a single gulp – so medium sized fish, maybe small squid, could have been a good type of prey for such an animal,” he said.

By contrast, the ancestors of both baleen and toothed whales are thought to have captured prey by grabbing it with their teeth, a method also used by many modern toothed whales.

Read the full story here:

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New Zealand’s Yellow-Eyed Penguins May Be In Trouble

Ocean Leadership ~

(Photo Credit: Christian Mehlführer)

The yellow-eyed penguin—a rare species named for its distinctive band of golden feathers—has become one of New Zealand’s most prominent cultural icons (second to the kiwi, of course). Images of the penguins are stamped on the country’s $ 5 notes and splashed across airport billboards. Tourism centered on the birds contributes some $ 100 million NZD to the local economy each year. But a new study suggests that these beloved penguin populations are perilously declining, Kendra Pierre-Louis reports for Popular Science.

(From Smithsonian Magazine / by Brigit Katz) — New Zealand’s yellow-eyed penguins make their home on the Otago Peninsula, on the east coast of South Island. Extensive records of the birds’ population have been kept since the 1940s; researchers from the University of Otago relied on data recorded at Kumo Kumo Whero Bay between 1937 and 1948, and data recorded at at Boulder Beach between 1982 and 2015.

The study, published in the journal Peer J, used prediction models to estimate the influence of climate in penguin populations size. The results suggest that increases in sea surface temperature is one of the biggest factors influencing survival of the birds. 

Models were then used to estimate future population size, and the results suggest that the birds will be locally extinct by 2060. And when researchers factored in sudden die-offs—like the one that occurred in 2013—the date of extinction became much sooner. The birds could be locally extinct as early as in the next 25 years, Dr Stefan Meyer, one of the study’s the co-authors, says in a University of Otago press release.

But as Pierre-Louis​ reportsresearchers caution that they do not have enough data to fully quantify human impact on penguin populations. “Climate data is wildly available, so we have all of this climate data that we can use in our models, but we have hardly any quantifiable data for fisheries impact, rate of pollution, the impact of tourism, and so on,” Thomas Mattern, lead author of the study, tells Pierre-Louis. Gillnets, for instance, likely pose a significant threat to penguins; the nets are hung vertically in the water to catch fish, but penguins become entangled in them and drown.

Read the full story here:

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Video Solves Mystery of How Narwhals Use Their Tusks

Ocean Leadership ~

A new study has shown narwhals , who live in the Arctic, can see with sound. (Credit: Dr. Kristin Laidre/NOAA)

(Click to enlarge) (Credit: Dr. Kristin Laidre/NOAA)

The unicorn of the sea just got a little less mysterious. Until now, how narwhals used their long tusks had been subject to much speculation by scientists. Behavior captured for the first time on camera shows narwhals using the long tusks protruding from their heads to stun Arctic cod by hitting them, using jagged, quick movements. This behavior immobilizes the fish, making them easier to prey upon.

(From National Geographic / by Sarah Gibbens) — The footage was shot by two drones in Tremblay Sound, Nunavat, in Canada’s far Northeastern regions by Adam Ravetch for the World Wildlife Fund Canada and researchers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Brandon Laforest, a senior specialist of Arctic species and ecosystems with WWF-Canada, explained why narwhals have been such a mysterious species.

“They don’t jump like other whales. They are also notoriously skittish,” said Laforest. “This is an entirely new observation of how the tusk is used.”

Laforest, working with officials from the Canadian government, spent time camped in the narwhal’s winter habitat. Because of the remote regions in which narwhals live, visual confirmation of their behavior has been difficult to ascertain.

Marianne Marcoux, a research scientist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, noted that drones have been an innovative tool for studying these elusive animals.

“Drones are very exciting, we can see things we couldn’t see before,” said Marcoux. Previous aerial observations were conducted by small planes that often provided an incomplete view or frightened the animals.

Three quarters of the world’s population can be found in neighboring Lancaster Sound, which is being considered by the Canadian government for a protected area.

While the footage confirms one theory of how narwhals use their tusks, they may be used for other purposes as well, such as for ice picks, weapons, sexual selection, or as a tool for echolocation. Laforest, however, thinks they may be especially important as sensory organs. Their tusks are covered in thousands of nerve endings and pores that help narwhals sense the environment around them.

“They can feel their surroundings similar to how a human’s broken tooth would have feeling,” said Marcoux.

The tusk is a left canine tooth protruding from the heads of males and can grow as long as nine feet. The right canine stays embedded, and no other teeth protrude from the inside of their mouths; narwhals instead use suction to swallow their prey whole.

The new footage is also significant for conservation efforts because it shows that narwhals feed in the waters in their summer waters. Scientists previously believed they fed exclusively in their winter waters around the southern portion of Baffin Island. Identifying the key regions that narwhals depend on for feeding and calving can help conservationists better preserve their environment and migratory routes.

Read the full story here:


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Polar Bears Shift From Seals To Bird Eggs As Arctic Ice Melts

Ocean Leadership ~

Polar bear diets are changing as ice melts. (Credit: Shailapic76/Flickr)

(Click to enlarge) Polar bear diets are changing as ice melts. (Credit: Shailapic76/Flickr)

Polar bears are ditching seafood in favour of scrambled eggs, as the heat rises in the Arctic melting the sea ice. A changing coastline has made it harder for the predators to catch the seals they favour and is pushing them towards poaching goose eggs.

(From New Scientist / By By Thom Hoffman) — This is according to a team led by Charmain Hamilton of the Norwegian Polar Institute that monitored the movements of local polar bears and seals before and after a sudden decline in sea ice in 2006, which altered coastal areas in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.

The researchers attached tracking devices to 60 ringed seals and 67 polar bears overall, which allowed them to compare their movements before and after the ice collapse.

Before the melt, when they were hunting on stable sea ice, the polar bears had a big advantage over their favoured prey. “Both sexes of all age classes successfully hunt seals by stalking or ‘still hunting’,” says Hamilton.

However, on a melting coastline punctuated by broken-up icebergs, the odds become stacked in the seal’s favour.

The polar bears must now swim undetected towards the seals before launching themselves out of the water to grab their prey on the floating chunks of ice. Not all bears have mastered this explosive technique and there is a high failure rate even among those that have.

“It seems that currently, it is mainly large, male bears using this aquatic hunting method on Svalbard,” says Hamilton. “It is likely [to be] more energetically demanding than the traditional hunting methods.”

In response, the bears are retreating from the coast. The tracking devices show them wandering greater distances in search of alternative land-based food. The bears also spend a lot more time near bird nesting grounds, which suggests eggs have become a significant food source.

But they would need an immense omelette to replace a seal breakfast and this type of mass egg hunting can devastate nesting bird populations.

Read the full story here:

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Assistant/Associate Professor: Physical Glaciology, Climate Science Institute and School of Earth and Climate Sciences, University of Maine (Jul. 17)

Ocean Leadership ~

This full-time, tenure-track position will have a joint appointment through the University of Maine’s (UMaine) Climate Change Institute
(CCI) and their School of Earth and Climate Sciences (SECS), with tenure placement in the SECS and position responsibilities distributed between research and teaching.

Application deadline: 17 July 2017.

The successful candidate will integrate observations from field study and remote sensing of critical cryosphere phenomena into a physical framework that joins glacier dynamics to Earth’s climate on short and long periods. This position will be expected to develop and carry out glaciological field investigations with an emphasis on ice sheet dynamics, and to establish and maintain collaborations with UMaine, national, and international research programs.

The successful candidate will contribute to the research agenda of CCI and SECS, secure external funding, lead and conduct field research in remote polar environments, advise graduate students in CCI and SECS graduate programs, mentor SECS undergraduates in research, and engage in public outreach. Teaching responsibilities will include undergraduate/graduate level courses in glaciology and remote sensing.

Potential research collaboration areas include, but are not limited to:

– Ice-ocean interactions and sea-level rise,
– Understanding the tempo and causes of global climate change through geological observations,
– Interpretation of ice core records with the larger Earth/climate system,
– Ice sheets and mountain glaciers as indicators of past and future climate change,
– Ice rheology, and
– Coupled ice mechanics and geochemical evolution of glaciers.

Position qualifications include a PhD in glaciology or closely related field and a documented ability to conduct high-quality scientific research evidenced by peer-reviewed publications. Postdoctoral experience, prior success in obtaining funding, student teaching and research mentoring, interdisciplinary research experience, polar field experience, and written and oral communication skill are desirable.

Applications must include:

– A cover letter,
– A curriculum vitae that describes experience with specific reference to the required and desirable qualifications,
– A statement of teaching philosophy and interests,
– A statement of research vision, and
– Contact information for three professional references.

Applicants must also complete the affirmative action survey, the self-identification of disability form, and the self-identification of veteran status form.

For a full position description and to apply, go to:

For questions, contact:
Karl Kreutz

University of Maine

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Research Scientist: Sea Ice Geophysics, Norwegian Polar Institute (Jun. 23)

Ocean Leadership ~

The Norwegian Polar Institute announces a call for applications for a research scientist in sea ice geophysics, with a focus on numerical process modeling and data analysis. This permanent position will located in the Institute’s Research Department, Section for Oceans and Sea Ice in Tromso, Norway.

Application deadline: 23 June 2017.

The successful candidate will contribute to the operation and improvement of the long-term sea ice observing system in Fram Strait, including analysis of the sea ice thickness time series, and increase understanding of key processes related to sea ice mass and energy balance by improving parameterizations in numerical models.

This position will be responsible for upward looking sonar (ULS) data analysis and development of the program and will be expected to develop and conduct process studies using numerical modeling to improve the understanding of thermodynamics and dynamics of Arctic sea ice. Modeling work will be integrated with observational data to support and strengthen ongoing research activities in the group. Collaboration with scientists in other disciplines is expected.

Qualifications for this position include:

– A PhD in sea ice research, geophysics, mathematics, oceanography, or relevant field;
– Strong scientific understanding on Arctic sea ice processes, especially mass and surface energy balance;
– Experience with analysis of corresponding observational data;
– Experience with one-dimensional thermodynamic sea ice models, regional ice-ocean modeling, sea ice process modeling, and time series analysis; and
– Good written and spoken communication skills in English.

Numerical modeling skills are essential and field experience on sea ice is desirable. The applicant’s publication record and ability to attain external funding will be taken into consideration.

Communication skills in Norwegian or other Scandinavian language are an asset.

Applications must include details of relevant qualifications and experience, a curriculum vitae, copies of transcripts, and the names of at least three references. Do not include copies of articles or other work in the application, but note that it may be requested later in the process.

To apply, submit application materials electronically at:

For a full positions description and to apply, go to:

For questions, contact:
Sebastian Gerland

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Exhibit Volunteer: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History (Sep. 1)

Ocean Leadership ~

The Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History announces a call for applications for volunteers for the “Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend” and Sant Ocean Hall exhibits in Washington, D.C.

Application deadline: 1 September 2017.

Volunteers will learn directly from Smithsonian scientists, who have discovered new species in the ocean and uncovered scientific mysteries about the narwhal, and gain experience communicating the importance of the ocean and Arctic to visitors.

Topics include narwhal biology, Inuit culture, the effects of climate change in the Arctic, biodiversity in the ocean, fossil records of marine life, and human’s impact on the ocean.

Volunteers must be 18 years of age or older, possess good oral communication skills, and enjoy interacting with diverse audiences.
Volunteers must also be able to commit to eight hours a week for at least one year of volunteer service, complete a background check, and attend all training and volunteer orientation classes.

Training session include:

– A three-hour museum orientation session;
– Three training sessions on 9 September, 23 September, and 30 September 2017; and
– Two evening sessions on 13 September and 21 September 2017.

For a full position description and to apply, go to:

For questions, contact:
Ellen Spooner
Phone: 202-633-1123

National Museum of Natural History
Phone: 202-633-1083

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