Whether you’ve been waiting a year, a month, or a week, the time has nearly come. Tomorrow, August 21, 2017, many people in the United States will be in the direct path of a total solar eclipse, and many more people outside of this path of totality will be able to experience the phenomenon in some way or another.
Rebecca “Bec” Wellard is a marine scientist currently focusing her research efforts on orcas in Australian waters. Building on her past research studying bottlenose dolphin communication and how boat noise affects this communication, Bec is now working on her PhD by researching orca population dynamics and acoustic behavior in Western Australia.
One of the best parts of writing Marine Science for Kids (which officially releases tomorrow, June 1), was interviewing marine scientists, finding out what inspires them, and getting a glimpse into their cool careers. While we don’t want to give away all the fun tidbits we uncovered in these exclusive interviews, here’s a preview of the inspirational people we included in our latest book.
Solomon David once considered becoming a medical doctor. He spent time in college as a pre-med student, but his deep-rooted interests in biology ultimately won out after he took ichthyology (the branch of zoology dealing with fishes) in his senior year. That’s when Solomon discovered his true path. As he puts it, “my future was with the fishes.” He decided to pursue a PhD in aquatics resource ecology and management.
We donned our striped thermals, rubber boots, and helmets and tramped down a muddy hillside to the entrance to Mangarongapu Cave. If we wanted to see glowworms in their natural environment, we were going to have to work for it. Most bioluminescent organisms live in the sea, particularly in the deep. On land, bioluminescent species include glowworms, a catch-all term that refers to luminescent insects like fireflies (winged beetles) and the fungus gnat of New Zealand, among others.
Ten years ago, the crew of the San Aspiring fishing vessel, which was on the hunt for Antarctic toothfish, pulled in a longline and discovered they had caught something unexpected. It was a huge, red blob—a deep-sea-dwelling colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) that had also been hunting for toothfish more than a mile below the surface. Recognizing they had something unique on their hands, the crew hauled the now-deceased squid onboard and froze its body.
Along with pandas, penguins, orcas, and skunks, zebras are well-known for their striking black-and-white coloration. But why do they have stripes in the first place? The short answer from the scientific community is: We don’t really know. But by asking questions and seeking answers through research, the scientific community is getting closer to the truth and learning more about zebras in the process.
Research and conservation are like peanut butter and jelly—they’re simply better together. Marine conservation biologist Simon Pierce, co-founder of the Marine Megafauna Foundation, has seen firsthand how important research can be in conserving species. Just this summer, Simon’s research on whale shark populations helped prompt the species’ reclassification from “vulnerable” to “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
In the movie Jurassic Park (1993), ambitious scientists and their patron, John Hammond, populate an island with living dinosaurs as part of a theme park attraction. The scientists accomplish this by extracting dinosaur blood from the preserved bodies of mosquitos and reconstructing dinosaur genomes. While the film takes some liberties (to say the least), there is such a concept as “de-extinction,” and there may come a day when de-extinction transcends fiction.
Back in October 2014, Asha de Vos, a Sri Lankan marine biologist, took the stage at TEDGlobal to deliver a 6-minute speech called “Why you should care about whale poo.” She spoke passionately about the devastating effects 200 years of whaling had on global whale populations. She argued that these animals’ importance extends far beyond their charismatic beauty. Rather, as “ecosystem engineers,” she said whales play an important role in maintaining the health of Earth’s oceans.