September 28th, 2013
by Alex Hallatt
My friend, Vicki sent me a message a while back, which included this:
… as I’m progressing through the development of my research, I can’t help being slightly alarmed by the fact that in the marine science circles, there are really serious and pressing concerns about ocean acidification, but this doesn’t seem to be a conversation that’s being had in the broader public arena. See, for example:
Now, you’d easily have to be the broadest-reaching science communicator I know, so I’m just wondering what your perspective is on this problem? Since marine scientists are predicting major changes to the ecosystem, affecting fisheries, livelihoods, and all the cute and cuddly marine animals we all know and love (and the ones we don’t like or don’t even know about yet!), why do you think people aren’t aware of the issue (like they are about climate change now)? What can be done about this?
I addressed the topic before, but it’s a tough one, partly because it is so depressing. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to raise the issue in a way that was funny. This was my first go at the subject, way back in 2009:
But Vicki persisted:
Which reminds me, I just gave a conference presentation to a bunch of communication researchers – so of course no one there knew about ocean acidification, and I was expecting that. So I gave them a brief description of the problem, then mentioned some of the latest research in the field in which marine scientists found that increased CO2 levels impaired the ability of the damselfish to learn to identify their predators. Obviously not good news for the damselfish … but the thing is that the damselfish is closely related to the anemone fish (otherwise known as Nemo), so I couldn’t help wonder if Nemo would be affected in the same way. In which case, I suggested that the sequel to Finding Nemo – which is due out in a couple of years – might require some script changes! Not to mention a change to the title …
The link to the research is http://oceanacidification.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/impaired-learning-of-predators-and-lower-prey-survival-under-elevated-co2-a-consequence-of-neurotransmitter-interference/
Anyway, that may be too far removed for you to use, but I thought it was funny.
And she was right; that really was a gift:
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