Posts about water

The Secret Life of Plankton

Fun video with great shots of exotic ocean life that forms the base of the food chain in the ocean from TED Education.

Related: Hydromedusae, Siphonophora, Cnidarians, CtenophoresMilestones on the Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaMacropinna Microstoma: Fish with a Transparent Head

Underwater Pedestrian Bridge

photo of a 'bridge' parting the waters to allow pedestrian to pass

The Dutch water line was a series of water based defenses conceived by Maurice of Nassau in the early 17th century, and completed by his half brother Frederick Henry. Combined with natural bodies of water. The line could be used to protect the economic heartland of the Dutch Republic behind difficult to cross water barriers, when in danger.

The Fort de Roovere was part of this defense. In 2010 the fort was renovated and the moat revived with a small extra bit of engineering: a sunken pedestrian “bridge.” Where once engineers used ingenuity to use water to keep people out, now engineers used wood to let people experience the moat while still reaching the fort.

via: Sunken Pedestrian Bridge in the Netherlands Parts Moat Waters Like Moses!

Related: Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-TunnelMonkey BridgeQuantum Teleportation

Friday Fun: Octopus Walks on Land

Just a fun video for your Friday. Octopuses are really very cool. Not quite as cool as cats but way up there in the realm of cool animals. Octopuses, octopi and octopodes are all acceptable words for plural of octopus?

A few year ago (2008) I posted about another very cool octopus, who liked to juggling fellow aquarium occupants.

I think I will devote more time to learning about octopuses and posting more about them.

Related: Hydromedusae, Siphonophora, Cnidarians, CtenophoresCritter Cam: Sea Lion versus OctopusRed octopus at a brine lake beneath the sea

Student Engineers Without Borders Project: Learning While Making a Difference in Kenya

photo of workers digging a large hole dug for the bio-gas latrine, while schoolchildren look on.

Engineers Without Borders students make progress, learn lessons in Kenya

Knowing nothing about Third-World development, the original [Engineers Without Borders] EWB students accepted an assignment from the national EWB to bring clean water wells and sanitary latrines to 58 elementary schools in the poor Khwisero district, where villagers live by subsistence farming.

Each year, new MSU students take up the challenge, aiming not only to provide healthier drinking water but to relieve Kenyan children of the chore of hiking more than a mile to fetch water every day from dirty water holes, which cuts into their schooling, particularly for girls.

They finally broke ground on their first pipeline system, which has been three years in the making. It will bring piping water from a high-quality well to several villages and eventually to a health clinic and a market. Villagers have committed to digging trenches for the water pipes.

This is a great program. Students learn a great deal by taking on real world problems and implementing solutions. As I have said before, I really love to see appropriate technology solutions put in place. We can drastically improve people’s lives by helping put solutions in place that work, are cost effective and can be maintained. Improving people’s quality of life is at the core of why engineering is so wonderful.

Related: Smokeless Stove Saves LivesEngineering a Better World: Bike Corn-ShellerHigh School Inventor Teams @ MIT Bring Clean Water to VillageWater and Electricity for All
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Photo of Fish Using a Rock to Open a Clam

photo of a blackspot tuskfish using a rock to crack open a clam

Blackspot tuskfish using a rock to crack open a clam. Photo by Scott Gardner

Diver Snaps First Photo of Fish Using Tools

While exploring Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, professional diver Scott Gardner heard an odd cracking sound and swam over to investigate. What he found was a footlong blackspot tuskfish (Choerodon schoenleinii) holding a clam in its mouth and whacking it against a rock. Soon the shell gave way, and the fish gobbled up the bivalve, spat out the shell fragments, and swam off. Fortunately, Gardner had a camera handy and snapped what seem to be the first photographs of a wild fish using a tool.

Tool use, once thought to be the distinctive hallmark of human intelligence, has been identified in a wide variety of animals in recent decades…

There have also been a handful of reports of fish cracking open hard-shelled prey, such as bivalves and sea urchins, by banging them on rocks or coral, but there’s no photo or video evidence to back it up, according to Culum Brown, a behavioral ecologist at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and a co-author of the present paper, to be published in a forthcoming issue of Coral Reefs.

The more we learn about animals the more tool use we find. It is continually interesting to see the wide variety of behavior documented.

Related: Bird Using Bait to FishDolphins Using Tools to HuntOrangutan Attempts to Fish with SpearAncient Chimps Used Stone “Hammers”

The State of the Oceans

World’s oceans in ‘shocking’ decline

In a new report, [an expert panel of scientists] warn that ocean life is “at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history”. They conclude that issues such as over-fishing, pollution and climate change are acting together in ways that have not previously been recognised.

ocean acidification, warming, local pollution and overfishing are acting together to increase the threat to coral reefs – so much so that three-quarters of the world’s reefs are at risk of severe decline.

The report also notes that previous mass extinction events have been associated with trends being observed now – disturbances of the carbon cycle, and acidification and hypoxia (depletion of oxygen) of seawater.

Levels of CO2 being absorbed by the oceans are already far greater than during the great extinction of marine species 55 million years ago (during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum), it concludes.

The overfishing of our oceans has been a problem for over 100 years and a known problem, that we continue to give too little attention to. Adding to that impacts of climate change and the state of ocean life is in trouble. The decision of our population to not deal with the causes of climate change will have very bad consequences. It is a shame we have so little caring about the consequences of our decisions. And even sadder that our “leaders” do such an appalling job of leading – instead they pander to selfish immediate gratification.

Related: Altered Oceans: the Crisis at Sea (2006)Unless We Take Decisive Action, Climate Change Will Ravage Our PlanetArctic System on Trajectory to New, Seasonally Ice-Free State (2005)

Hydromedusae, Siphonophora, Cnidarians, Ctenophores

Jellyfish is a common name for gelatinous water dwelling animals. The diversity of these invertebrates is amazing. And what actually counts as a jellyfish is not easy to determine. Watch this great video to learn about Cnidarians, Urochordata, Polychaetes and Ctenophores.

Related: Darwin’s JellyfishesOcean LifeCritter Cam: Sea Lion versus OctopusImage of Map Showing Concentration of Life in Oceans

Image of Map Showing Concentration of Life in Oceans

Image showing regions of life in the oceans

This image shows the abundance of life in the sea, measured by the SeaWiFS instrument aboard the Seastar satellite. Dark blue represents warmer areas where there is little life due to lack of nutrients, and greens and reds represent cooler nutrient-rich areas.

The nutrient-rich areas include coastal regions where cold water rises from the sea floor bringing nutrients along and areas at the mouths of rivers where the rivers have brought nutrients into the ocean from the land. NASA has posted a large gallery of great images for Earth Day.

Related: Altered Oceans: the Crisis at SeaMicrobes Beneath the Sea FloorA single Liter of Seawater Can Hold More Than One Billion Microorganisms

Most Genes? A crustacean the size of a grain of rice

photo of Daphnia, a crustacean

“Daphnia are ubiquitous in freshwater ponds and lakes and are often used to assess the health of ponds. Since the creature is so well studied by ecologists, knowing its genetics should reveal a lot about how genes respond to different environments.

The first scientists to describe Daphnia thought they were a kind of flea because they assumed the red color came from sucking blood as fleas do. It turns out they’re not bloodsuckers – they’re blood makers. Daphnia have genes that make hemoglobin, so when the animal is stressed out, those genes switch on and the animal looks red.

In fact Daphnia have an astonishingly large number of genes. “We count more than 31,000 genes,” says [John] Colbourne. By comparison, the human genome has more like 23,000 genes. If Guinness tracks such things, Daphnia would hold the record for the most genes of any animal studied to date.

“Many of those genes – we estimate around 35 percent of them – are brand new to science,”

Daphnia can grow its own spear and helmet when threatened by an attacker

Related: Our Genome Changes as We AgeAmazing Designs of LifeOne Species’ Genome Discovered Inside Another SpeciesBdelloid Rotifers Abandoned Sex 100 Million Years Ago

Volleyball Sized Hail

photo of volleyball sized hail

On July 23, 2010, a severe thunderstorm struck Vivian, South Dakota, USA, a quiet rural community of less than 200. While there was nothing unusual about a violent summer storm, the softball (and larger)-sized hail that accompanied it was extraordinary. In fact, it led to the discovery of the largest hailstone ever recorded in the United States.

Once the thunderstorm passed, Vivian resident Les Scott ventured outside to see if there was any damage as a result of the storm. He was surprised to see a tremendous number of large hailstones on the ground, including one about the size of a volleyball. Scott gathered up that stone, along with a few smaller ones, and placed them in his freezer.

How does hail form?

  • Inside of a thunderstorm are strong updrafts of warm air and downdrafts of cold air.
  • If a water droplet is picked up by the updrafts…it can be carried well into colder zones and the water droplet freezes.
  • As the frozen droplet begins to fall, carried by cold downdrafts, it may partially thaw as it moves into warmer air toward the bottom of the thunderstorm
  • But, if the little half-frozen droplet get picked up again by another updraft and is carried back into very cold air it will re-freeze. With each trip above and below the freezing level our frozen droplet adds another layer of ice.
  • Finally, the frozen hail, with many layers of ice, much like the rings in a tree falls to the ground.

According to NOAA, the Kansas City hail storm on April 10, 2001 was the costliest hail storm in the U.S. which caused damages of an estimated $2 billion.

Image from NOAA

Related: 500 Year FloodsClouds Alive With BacteriaRare “Rainbow” Over IdahoWhy is it Colder at Higher Elevations?

Critter Cam: Sea Lion versus Octopus

Octopus vs. Sea Lion – First Ever Video

Sea lions fitted with GPS trackers and a National Geographic Crittercam are taking scientists on amazing journeys to previously unknown marine ‘hot spots.’ These areas are important not only for providing the sea lions’ food, but also for maintaining fish populations.

The Crittercams were deployed at Dangerous Reef in Spencer Gulf, a rocky island the size of a football field, and home to the biggest Australian sea lion colony.

Dr. Page says, “One important discovery is that the sea lions always feed on the sea floor” and they don’t eat open ocean fish, known as pelagic. “This is critical information because the marine parks are being set up to protect sea floor habitats,” a move that the scientists can now confirm will protect critical sea lion resources.

In one of the more spectacular pieces of Crittercam video so far, we can see this female working hard to handle a challenging prey item – a large octopus. Too big to swallow in one gulp, she drags it to the surface where she can breathe while she works at breaking it down into bite-size pieces.

Related: Orcas Create Wave to Push Seal Off IceOctopus Juggling Fellow Aquarium OccupantsWater Buffaloes, Lions and Crocodiles Oh MyCat and Crow Friends

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