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Marathon Migration Mystery
 
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I’d like to take this time to break from the norm,
I hope you’ll accept today’s intro in poetic form.
This week’s stories, as usual, are pretty fishy,
If you read them all, that would be our greatest wishy.
 
There’s a new marine reserve off the coast of Peru,
The efficacy of which is under review.
Both industrial and artisanal fishing is allowed,
A move that hasn’t impressed the conservationist crowd.
 
If reading about climate change is more your beat,
Scientists are searching for fish that can handle the heat.
Temperature tolerance is a trait to be bred,
Otherwise, you can raise fish in warm water instead.
 
Natural disasters can leave you in fear.
That’s why volunteer engineers have made the group StEER.
You’ll find them there after a hurricane,
Working on how to keep buildings from toppling again.
 
And if you’re looking for a story you can read in a blink,
We recommend looking at One Great Shot: Discoveries in the Drink.
There’s a cute little fish, electric yellow,
It peers from a beer bottle, as if to say hello.
 
But if you’re looking for a beach read to make you feel placid,
You can read up on how shorebirds fly off fatty acid.
Some of these acids have tails that are kinky,
And the sandpipers poop every two minutes, leaving the beach kind of stinky.
 
Hopefully I’ve started your Friday with a bang,
That’s it from me.
Marina Wang
(Journalism fellow)
 
 
 
This Week’s Stories
 
 
Flying by the Fat of the Sea
 
Scientists may have cracked an essential secret of shorebirds’ marathon migrations.
 
by Amorina Kingdon • 5,300 words / 26 mins
 
 
 
The Aquaculture Industry Needs a Heat-Loving Salmon
 
Climate change is a huge threat to salmon farming. Scientists are on the hunt for a fish that can handle the heat.
 
by Chris Baraniuk • 950 words / 4 mins
 
 
 
What Survives the Storm
 
StEER engineers flock into the site of natural disasters to support first responders, and learn from the destruction.
 
by Eric Bender • 1,100 words / 5 mins
 
 
 
The Hole in Peru’s Nazca Ridge National Reserve
 
By allowing fishing to persist in the protected area, biologists say the country’s new marine reserve fails to protect the unique Nazca Ridge ecosystem.
 
by Eduardo Campos Lima • 900 words / 4 mins
 
 
 
One Great Shot: Discoveries in the Drink
 
One person’s trash can be a fish’s treasure.
 
by Shane Gross • a quick read with one great photo
 
 
 
 
What We’re Reading
 
West Indian manatees are Florida’s statewide mascot, but with 866 dying in the first seven months of 2021 alone scientists are again raising the alarm that degradation to their coastal habitat—and in particular seagrasses, their primary food source—needs to be reversed, and soon. (Mongabay)

Hurricanes and tropical storms not only disrupt lives in Louisiana, they disrupt research—with power outages, flooding, and university closures—repeatedly impacting labs, research sites, researchers, and students. (Nature)

The pandemic has caused a profound change—and prolonged disruptions—in global container shipping. Will this permanently shift the pattern of trade? (The Economist)

After centuries of colonialism, and decades of overtourism, some Hawaiians are pushing back, encouraging people to learn the deeper, less sunny, history of the islands. (Afar)

Abuses of their crew by Chinese tuna fishing firms is insidious and widespread, as this incredible, in-depth story from multiple authors reveals. (Mongabay)

On land, a phenomenon called vortex shedding can cause catastrophic damage to chimneys and smokestacks. Cylindrical glass sponges in the ocean can experience the same problem, but they’ve engineered a “structure superpower” to avoid it. (New York Times)

After the catastrophic wildfires in Australia’s “Black Summer” (2019–20), scientists have found a conclusive link between wildfire smoke and major plankton blooms, spurred by iron-laden nutrients in the smoke. (Inside Science) 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

As author Cynthia Barnett notes, for too long we’ve looked at shells as pretty things to admire or exploit (think, jewelry or tourist trinkets) rather than as home for mollusks that actually build these fascinating structures. In her latest book, The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans, Barnett skillfully combines environmental science and cultural history to create a rich and compelling narrative. Along the way, she brings in the observations and work of scientists, artists, naturalists, and more, to explore our relationship to seashells and the biology of dozens of species including queen conchs, giant clams, murex, cowries, wentletraps, and more. The result is a book “as complex, multichambered, and beautiful as its subject.” For more, here’s an interview of Barnett discussing her book.
 
 
 
 
 
Congratulations to ‘Cúagilákv (Jess Housty) who is a finalist in the Excellence in Environment Reporting category of the Jack Webster Awards for her story “Thriving Together: Salmon, Berries, and People” which we published in April. It’s a worthy recognition for this beautiful and thoughtful story.
 
 
 
Behind the Story
 
 

Ami Kingdon, author of “Flying by the Fat of the Sea,” tells of how one particular experience she had while working on this story gave her newfound respect for birds.

 

During one field trip for this story, I accompanied a group of researchers on a nighttime bird-banding trip to a coastal mudflat, where I was given the task of carrying bewildered muffin-sized semipalmated sandpipers out into the dark and releasing them.

 

While tromping barefoot through the muck, away from the lights of the tent erected above the tideline for fieldwork, I had a few minutes to study the bird in my hand.

 

Until I worked on this story I found birds kind of boring, to be honest. But up close, I found myself astonished. The bird’s body was warm, warmer than the summer night, warmer than my hand. It was profoundly soft. And it was so light! Like holding air. How could such a delicate creature fly a sixth of the way around the globe? What did it make of being snatched from the night by the invisible threads of a mist net and gently fumbled to and fro by big bare hands?

 

The bird’s eye was the size of a blackberry drupelet and gleamed with a pinprick reflection of the rising moon, and it was deeply, profoundly aware. A human in the same situation would be overcome with rage, or fear, or shame; the bird displayed no such obvious ego. Its eye was keen and steady, and it simply watched the world and waited to do something. It was a master class in something, and I didn’t completely understand what it was. I knew I’d never find a bird boring again.

 

When the deepening water reached my ankles, I did as I’d been shown: I cupped my hand beneath the bird and reached my fingers up and around it like a cage. I held my arm out. I opened my fingers. The bird stayed a moment, maybe getting its bearings, maybe wondering if this freedom was a trap. Then I felt its tiny toothpick legs scrabble on my palm and press down slightly, and the sound of wingbeats like someone shaking out very small laundry, and it was gone.

(This photo was taken the day before this experience, so this is not the same bird.)
 
 
 
 
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