We received lots of positive feedback on our annual Website Visitor Survey. While there were many adults respondents, there were also a handful of middle school students who responded while trying to make it through the home stretch of a very challenging year.

We'll definitely be tracking these kids who are passionate about science.

(Not photographed are Brooke and David).

Did You Know: The Ocean Got Quieter During the Pandemic

When the world went on lockdown in early 2020, economic activity slowed and there was a steep decline in shipping traffic. The ocean is filled with animal sounds – whistles, songs, bellows, clicks, and more – and the sounds of storms and earthquakes. Added to that is noise pollution from ships.

Our friends at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), study all aspects of the ocean and part of a nation-wide team trying to better understand underwater sound within the National Marine Sanctuary System. They have an underwater microphone (hydrophone) deep in the ocean in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary that streams and records ocean sounds. Listen to orcas and Pacific white-sided dolphins.

Did You Know: Purple Comes from Snail Slime?!

Purple has always been a ‘royal’ color that originally came from snail slime. You heard right: snail slime!

Archeologists have dated “royal” purple garments dyed with snails to as old as 1,000 B.C and only three species produce this dye.

The marine snails from the genera Murex, Thais and Plicopurpura produce slime, a secretion from their mucus gland—like other snails. But in their slime is a compound, which in the presence of light and oxygen, is purple.

People Have Shaped Nature for Thousands of Years

The idea of “natural” or “wild” lands is a myth. Scientists released a study showing that about three quarters of terrestrial nature has been shaped over 12,000 years by the land use of Indigenous and traditional peoples. Those land use practices included burning, hunting, species propagation, domestication and cultivation.

The cause of the current biodiversity crisis is a result of intensifying and new uses of the biodiverse landscapes shaped and sustained by traditional societies. “[This study] shows that high biodiversity is compatible with, and in some cases a result of, people living in these landscapes,” says Yadvinder Malhi at the University of Oxford. “Working with local and traditional communities, and learning from them, is essential if we are to try to protect biodiversity.”

Coral Microbiome

Just like us, coral reefs have microbiomes that keep them healthy. Researchers, like our Featured Scientist, Colin Howe, study the microbiomes of coral reefs. They aim to identify microbes on specific reefs where they can discover how corals’ microbes help them become more resilient in the face of human-caused climate change and pollution.

Sea Star Wasting Disease

Sea Star Wasting Disease (SSWD) has decimated sea star populations around the world. Since the epidemic of dead, dissolving sea stars was discovered around 2013, scientists have been trying to figure out the cause of the disease.

WHOA! That Squid Really is GIANT!?

There is a squid so HUGE it has made sucker scars on sperm whales found washed ashore. We’ve long imagined an epic battle between the two animals, as depicted in the diorama above. In 2013, the first glimpse of the mysterious creature— the largest invertebrate on earth— was caught on video in Japan. Scientists, including our Featured Scientist Edie Widder, filmed the first in U.S. waters in 2019.

Check out the giant squid in U.S. waters here.

Bleaching along entire length of barrier reef for the FIRST TIME!

The Great Barrier Reef in Australia has lost  half of its coral in the last 25 years. Along its entire length (1,429 miles over an area of approximately 133,000 square miles) coral bleaching has destroyed the reef. When the ocean water near a reef gets too warm, the corals’ symbiotic algae begin producing toxins, and the corals expel them, turning white – this is coral bleaching. Bleached reefs can recover if the water cools.