CA – Ocean Sciences Meeting, fieldtrip and opening plenary

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February 17, 2020 by Dr. G

Today was the day before the official start of technical sessions for the Ocean Sciences Meeting 2020 in San Diego, California. The day was filled with half-day and full-day workshops on everything from programs to manage oceanographic data to improving science communication skills. Since this was my first-time ever in San Diego, I took the opportunity to participate in a fieldtrip to see something “scientific”. When I saw there was a trip to the Birch Aquarium and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, I knew this was the Sunday event for me!

There were 30 of us that boarded a bus to head to our first stop, the Birch Aquarium at Scripps. It was a great group of people – most were participants from other countries (I think only four of us were from the United States), and we were from varied fields (from chemistry to biology to art).

On the ride over to the aquarium, I learned some fascinating facts about San Diego.

  • It is the second-largest city in California, with the highest point at 1,000 feet above sea level (and where Dr. Seuss once lived)
  • All of the palm trees were planted and are watered. In fact, the only native plant is the torrey pine (this landscape should only have chaparral)
  • 25% of the Navy and 20% of the Marines are in San Diego
  • San Diego has the steepest incline of any international airport for descent to land, and it is the busiest one runway airport in the United States

OK, but for the interesting science facts:

  • It receives less than 12 inches of rainfall per year
  • The city imports 80% of their water
  • The city has four climate zones – desert, beach, mountains, and snow-bearing mountains
  • Fire is more of a hazard than earthquakes, thanks to the Santa Ana winds in the dry season

Then we learned a little background about Mr. Scripps. He is actually responsible for bringing eucalyptus trees to San Diego, as he thought you could make railroad ties from the wood. It turns out that the wood was no good (too brittle). And the trees actually poison the ground right below/around it. Although… because of all the trees, San Diego was the first zoo to get koala bears, since they already had the food koalas eat, and koalas don’t drink water (ideal for a location with low rainfall amounts!).

We saw lots of sites at the aquarium in a very short time. I posted on Instagram about some of the sites – check out my posts!

We then headed to the Scripps Institution of Oceanograhy, where we had box lunches and heard some of the history of Scripps from Kirk Gardner.

Next, we toured the Scripps Pier, the Hubbs Research Aquarium, and the marine vertebrate collection.

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Being a part of the #OSM20 fieldtrip allowed us special access to the @scripps_ocean Scripps Pier. This 1,000 foot-long pier increases six feet in height as you walk out from the shore, so water can filtered and be pumped back to the laboratories in the black seawater flume that runs along its length. The pier is designed to lower their smaller research vessels and divers, but it also takes important water measurements (looking down the opening where literally a bucket is lowered to collect a sample) and air measurements through weather stations and the pink pole at the end of the pier. These temperature measurements are critical for climate change mapping. What a view of sandstone faces, surfers, and oh yes – we saw dolphins, too!

A post shared by Dr. Laura Guertin (@drlauraguertin) on

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Next stop at #OSM20 @scripps_ocean was the Hubbs Research Aquarium – which is true to its name, as it clearly resembles a research laboratory! So many cool experiments are being done here by Scripps faculty. The work on the white sea bass was interesting, looking at the otoliths (inner ear bone) and what impact changing ocean pH will have on them for equilibrium and their growth? As this fish is used alot in the aquaculture industry, this work has great releavance. The sea urchin work on the white, purple (no photo), and red varieties was also fascinating. For example, how do human chemicals that wash into the ocean impact the growth and defense mechanisms of these sea creatures? In some cases, the reaction can be seen under a microscope. And the albino shark was just really cool to see…

A post shared by Dr. Laura Guertin (@drlauraguertin) on

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The last stop on the #OSM20 @scripps_ocean tour was the marine vertebrate collection. This collection focuses on fish-only, as the whale bones were given to NOAA once the Marine Mammal Protection Act went into effect. The collection was founded in 1944 and focuses mostly on eastern Pacific marine fish. We learned many cool, random fish facts! For example, this collection has over 2 million individual fish specimens that represents more than 6,000 fish species. Yet there have been 35,000 fish species identified in the world, with 500 new fish species identified each year. We saw the deepest fish ever caught – a type of snail fish from the Mariana Trench (~7,966 m deep). We also saw lots of fish in jars – a whale shark, goblin shark, viper fish, angler fish, and blob fish!

A post shared by Dr. Laura Guertin (@drlauraguertin) on

My favorite part of the day? Seeing the building (at least the outside) where Charles Keeling worked! I also got my photo with the signage outside. After visiting the Mauna Loa Observatory a few years ago and being at the field site, it was pretty cool to be at his “office” site, too.

Then for the evening, it was time for a plenary lecture, an incredibly passionate and inspiring talk by Nainoa Thompson. Please see my post on my AGU blog GeoEd Trek for my reflections on this speaker and his journey not only on the ocean but to connect science and education.

 

 

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