Orange jellyfish swimming



Associated Shape of Life Content

Chordates and Human Interaction

Humans have always interacted with the other chordates we share the earth with. We hunt them and raise them for food. As pets they become part of our families. They are an important part of our spiritual connection to nature. But our interactions have become more intense, impacting almost every species. Mankind has left its footprint on every corner of the globe.

Here are quotes about why birds matter from the Audubon magazine.

We Have Seen the Enemy and IT’S US!

Think about the biggest, most powerful predators in any system. These are called apex predators. Some that come to mind are obvious— wolves in Yellowstone, lions on the Serengeti and orcas in the Pacific Northwest. There are others in many different ecosystems, like the sunflower star in nearshore waters off Alaska. Often the large predators at the top of the food web in a particular ecosystem. But, humans are the ultimate apex predator.

Whale Communication

From where we stand on land or on a boat deck, we may think the ocean is silent; but it most definitely isn’t. In the ocean where there’s little light, many marine animals rely on sound to communicate, navigate and find food. Sound travels far and fast in the ocean: it can travel about a 1000 times farther than light underwater, and more than four times faster in water than in air. 


Nature has inspired inventions since the first humans tried to make things. Biomimicry is the practice of looking to nature to help solve design problems. Today scientists and engineers are finding inspiration from animals and plants that may surprise you.

Paleontology Blog

What is paleontology? The word translates from the Greek as “old, being, science.” Paleontologists primarily use fossils for their study of “old beings.” Plants and animals are fossilized when they are covered by sediment and eventually minerals soak into the remains. Fossils are generally the hard parts like bones or shells. Or they can be evidence of the existence of ancient creatures like tracks and other traces.

BIODIVERSITY: Because Our Lives Depend On It!

We’re celebrating Earth Month by highlighting the importance of biodiversity for all ecosystems on earth and the animal kingdom. “Biodiversity (from “biological diversity”) refers to the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems, and can encompass the evolutionary, ecological, and cultural processes that sustain life.” Biodiversity is the most complex feature of our planet. And, biodiversity is the most vital part of earth although it’s mostly undiscovered.

Midway Memories

Imagine being half way across the Pacific ocean on a tiny island with two million birds. That’s what I did in February just before the world locked down and the atoll closed to visitors. We were so lucky to have the chance to visit this amazing place. It was a chance in a life time for me,  and what a memory I now have as I sequester at home!

By Nancy Burnett, Founder of Shape of Life

2020 Vision

Many of the scientists and teachers we interview freely admit it is not a level playing field for women pursuing a career in science. We frequently hear, from both men and women, that science is more favorably biased toward men.


by Denise Ryan

Whale Watching, Monterey Bay and Global Warming

Monterey Bay is our backyard. We’re lucky to be able to see the biggest creatures on earth gorge on krill and anchovies on a regular basis. It never gets ‘old’ to us.

We like to take a boat out of Moss Landing because it gets you quickly to where whales are feeding over the deep Monterey Canyon. During the upwelling season – April, May and June – cold water from the depths brings nutrients to the surface, which stimulates phytoplankton growth.

Welcome to the Plasti-Scene

“Plastic is one of the worst enemies of marine species,” the World Wildlife Fund.

We’ve all read too many headlines about plastic floating in the ocean, not breaking down, washing up on every beach, being eaten by marine creatures, and entangling lots of others. Scientists are now trying to figure out what exactly that means for all the life in the ocean – and us.

Aquariums to the Rescue!

When the Shape of Life team was in Long Beach for the National Marine Educators conference, we visited the Aquarium of the Pacific. We were admiring a giant clam when a guide heard us and said that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had confiscated this clam, as well as some others, as they were coming into the U.S. illegally. Sadly, FWS often confiscates fresh and saltwater fish and invertebrates from all over the world when they come into the U.S., mainly for the illegal pet trade. Aquariums have stepped in to help; here are some examples.



Giant clam Tridacna gigas on a coral reef

Got Water? YES WE DO!

By Nancy Burnett


California is leaping for joy with all the water we received this winter.  Our ponds are full of water just waiting for our amphibian friends.

I love visiting my favorite ponds to see what’s going on. In March the Western toads were already gathering. We could hardly drive at night there were so many crossing the road heading to the water.


Climate Change is Robbing Us of Tasty Food and Quality of Life

Let’s Fight for Our Planet!

Our last blog by Jane Silberstein revealed the beauty of the coral reefs of Fiji (I wish I had been on that trip!) and how climate change affects those extraordinary reefs.

Jane shared how changing ocean chemistry – ocean acidification – makes it more difficult for corals to build their reefs because they can’t absorb the necessary calcium carbonate. It’s our actions over the last 200 years that have changed the ocean: we have released about two trillion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And about a quarter of that has been absorbed by the oceans.

Read more about how you can help slow ocean acidification…