Video (TED): Camille Seaman on photographing icebergs

In this very short talk, Camille Seaman, photographer and author of Melting Away, talks about her approach to iceberg photography, and shows some of her pictures.

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Saeaman also photographs storm clouds; she started storm chasing in 2008. Depicting these clouds is another way for her to illustrated how everything in nature is connected.

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Video (TED): Tanya Streeter on freediving and plastic pollution

If you watched yesterday’s freediving documentary, “No Limits”, you may enjoy this talk by Tanya Streeter, a (now retired) British/Caymanian freediver who features in that film. She gave a talk at TEDxAustin in 2012. In it she talks about the sport of freediving, gas narcosis, motherhood, and plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.


Video (TED): Richard Pyle on exploring the reef’s twilight zone

In this TED talk, self proclaimed “fish nerd” Pyle speaks about his work studying coral reef fish that live in the 100-200 metre depth range. This depth is too deep for scuba, and too shallow for submersibles, so Pyle pioneered the use of rebreathers (he was an early adopter, in 1994) to access this part of the ocean. This is a high risk pursuit, but the diversity and numbers of new species to be discovered here is stunning.

I first heard about Richard Pyle through Monty, who encouraged the readers of his Scuba Culture newsletter to check out an article Pyle wrote about an incident of decompression sickness when he was nineteen. The article is called Confessions of a Mortal Diver: Learning the Hard Way, and Monty is right – you should read it. Pyle actually mentions this incident right at the start of his talk. Watch below:

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Video (TED): Stephen Palumbi on the hidden toxins in the fish we eat

In this TED talk  marine biologist Stephen Palumbi  explains how putting things into the bottom of the food chain – mercury from burning coal, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl – a molecule widely used in industrial applications that causes cancer in humans and animals), lead and dioxins – causes repercussions felt all the way to the top. Palumbi is the author of The Extreme Life of the Sea, reviewed yesterday.

PCBs accumulate in plankton, which are eaten by small fish (or directly by whales). Small fish are eaten by bigger fish, and so on – with PCBs building up at each step. This is called bioaccumulation.

Whales, dolphins, and bluefin tuna, for example, build up heavy metals and PCBs in their flesh which is toxic and often unsuitable for human consumption (hello, Japan). Carl Safina gives a personal example of this on his blog. The same is true of shark meat. Indigenous people in the Arctic, feeding off seals and whales, also build up these chemicals in their bodies and pass it on to their babies in breastmilk. Palumbi gives an example of a dolphin population in a bay off Texas, swimming in a sea of PCBs. Their mothers’ milk is so toxic that 60-80% of the firstborn calves die as a result of being fed by their mothers and having most of her chemical load transmitted this way.

This is a disturbing look at how – to put it delicately – polluting the ocean comes back to bite us on the backside, with direct and measurable impacts to human health.

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Video (TED): Robert Ballard on the deep ocean

Robert Ballard takes us on a whirlwind tour of the deep ocean in this TED talk – from chemosynthetic organisms living at hydrothermal vents, to ancient shipwrecks, perfectly preserved in the Black Sea.

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Ballard is the author of many books, the majority concerned with deep ocean exploration using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs): Adventures in Ocean ExplorationMystery of the Ancient SeafarersReturn to Titanic, The Eternal DarknessExplorations, Archaeological OceanographyGraveyards of the Pacific.

Video (TED): Brian Skerry on the ocean’s glory (and horror)

I am sure that everyone has seen at least one of National Geographic photojournalist Brian Skerry’s pictures – most likely the one featuring a diver standing on a sandy ocean floor, next to a huge right whale. It appears on greeting cards, desktop wallpaper, posters, the works. In this TED talk, Skerry gives a powerful message of ocean conservation while walking the audience through a series of his photographs, giving background information and filling in the details of how he captured the image, and why.

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Video (TED): Tierney Thys on ocean sunfish

I have only seen a giant sunfish once, from a distance, as it breached out of the water near Justin’s Caves on the Atlantic seaboard of the Cape Peninsula. (Their smaller relatives, slender sunfish, are also sometimes seen here.) In photographs, they have wise, structured faces. Their size is breathtaking. They are the largest bony fish.

Tierney Thys is a marine biologist who researches ocean sunfish (Mola mola). In this TED talk she spills all the secrets of this magnificent fish, including the fact that they carry (and seem largely unaffected by) a breathtaking parasite load.

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Video (TED): Edith Widder on filming giant squid

Giant squid – until very recently – are always seen dead, washed up on shore or floating at the ocean’s surface. This TED talk describes the Discovery Channel expedition that took place off Japan in 2012, which succeeded in filming a giant squid, alive, in the wild. The scientists used special, unobtrusive techniques to attract the squid so that they could capture it on film. You’ll hear about that, and see it in action, here:

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Yay science! And wow squid!

Video (TED): Barbara Block on tagging tuna

Barbara Block is a member of the Tagging of Pacific Predators (ToPP) project, with a focus on tuna. She is based at Stanford University, in partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium. ToPP is the project behind the Shark Net smartphone app.

Here Block eloquently explains why bluefin tuna are so wonderful, and how tagging studies can help to identify the seasonal “hope spots” that are critical to tuna, sharks, turtles, seabirds, and other wide-ranging pelagic species.

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Video (TED): Carl Safina on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

I’m not sure whether this TED talk came before or after author and naturalist Carl Safina’s angry book – A Sea in Flames – about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but the two can certainly be considered in tandem. His outrage is palpable.

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