World Oceans Day 2021

By Luke Warwick | June 8, 2021

Shortfin Mako shark. Photo credit: ©Andy Murch

The ocean’s top predators are in decline. We now know that sharks and their flattened relatives, rays, are one of the most threatened groups of vertebrates on the planet. A third of the one thousand-plus species are already at imminent threat of extinction, and some, such as open ocean shark populations, have plummeted 70 percent in the last 50 years.

The major threats are overfishing, with sharks and rays still poorly managed or un-managed throughout much of the world despite high levels of catch, and international trade in their products, such as fins…

World Oceans Day 2021

By Tim McClanahan | June 8, 2021

Dr. Tim McClanahan underwater surveying coral reefs in coastal Tanzania. Photo credit: ©Michael Markovina

“Everything is connected” is a truism frequently expressed by ecologists. It’s an adage that practicing ecologists like myself keep in mind. While practically speaking this aphorism rarely commands my daily attention, which is more frequently focused on more specific intricacies of nature, there are times when I look up and, once again, recognize its simple truth.

This aha moment recently resurfaced during my ongoing investigations into the drama of marine life in East Africa. I realized that Kilimanjaro and corals were connected, and to the benefit of corals. …

By Hugo Costa | May 21, 2021

Rhampholeon nebulauctor, a threatened chameleon (Vulnerable) endemic from Mount Chiperone KBA, credit: Harith Farooq

Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) are the most important places in the world for the persistence of biodiversity. This year, Endangered Species Day and the International Day for Biodiversity (May 21 and May 22 respectively) are being celebrated in Mozambique in a very particular way: 29 KBAs are being presented to the country and the world by the Minister of Land and Environment of Mozambique.

Mozambique has a notable abundance of natural resources and biodiversity that are vital pillars for the country’s sustainable development. The country’s mostly rural population depends on biodiversity and ecosystem…

By Jorge Sitoe, Hugo Costa, Rhett Bennett, Dave van Beuningen, and Stela Fernando | May 14, 2021

Photo credit: Erwan Sola/WCS

The Role of Sharks and Rays in Marine Ecosystems

Sharks and rays play important roles in marine ecosystems, both as predators and as prey. They control the abundance of organisms in the food chain below them, thereby maintaining an ecological balance. Changes in their presence and diversity can provide a barometer for the health of the oceans.

In Mozambique, approximately 147 shark and ray species have been documented to-date, with southern Mozambique considered a global “hotspot” for shark and ray species richness. Slow…

By Allison Catalano, Jon Fisher & Heidi Kretser | March 16, 2021

Photo: ©Gustavo Frazao

In Part 1 of this blog, we covered the barriers to learning from failure, as identified by participants at the 2020 North America Congress for Conservation Biology (NACCB) workshop, “Never Waste a Good Failure: What You Can Do to Fail Intelligently and Why It Matters.”

Here we pivot to ideas participants generated to encourage learning from failure, with a focus on shifting the culture in conservation toward viewing failure as a normal outcome in complex systems and a valuable learning opportunity.

To kick off the discussion at the…

By Allison Catalano, Jon Fisher & Heidi Kretser | March 17, 2021

Credit ©Jeff Reed 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Everybody makes mistakes, and we’ve all been involved in projects that don’t go entirely according to plan. But it’s not uncommon to move quickly from one project to the next without taking time to reflect on how things went — and why. It is especially hard to discuss failure because, let’s face it, talking about failure isn’t easy or fun.

Yet research (Sitkin 1992, Mittelstaedt 2005, Madsen and Desai 2010) shows that we can all learn more from failure than success. …

By Lauren Oakes | February 23, 2021

Tree seedlings for reforestation, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Credit: Wolfgang Gaehler Getty Images

[Note: this story was originally published at Scientific American]

In Senegal’s Siné-Saloum and Casamance deltas, green seedlings poke through the water’s surface, standing on end like string beans reaching to the sky. There, in spindly clusters and lines, is the next generation of mangroves: six native species selected, seed collected from mature groves, then planted directly, or sometimes grown first in nurseries.

Some villagers say that without reforestation, they would have left their ancestor’s lands. Mangroves, reaching down into the salty water, provide habitat for fish and oysters that support local diets and…

By Rebecca McGuire | January 28, 2021

The Dunlin breeds in the Arctic and sub-Arctic. Credit: Getty Images

[Note: This commentary was originally published at Scientific American.]

Collaboration has almost become a dirty word in America, tending more toward a definition of “traitorous cooperation with an enemy” and away from “working with others to create something.” This saddens me, as it should you. We need to find common ground to work together and to share-at all levels.

Although election angst is on many of our minds, I am not pointing simply at our politicians here, but to people in all walks of life, and to my fellow scientists in particular. …

By Simon Cripps | January 4, 2021

Ocean sunfish (Mola mola). Image by Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay.

[Note: a version of this story was published originally at Mongabay.]

The world is on the brink of an important break-through. At the upcoming meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), nations will soon pledge to expand the area of our oceans that must be covered by Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to at least 30 percent. This signifies a growing understanding of the need to manage the seas more sustainably and sensitively.

We need more than the current 10 percent protection target because species and their habitats continue to decline at an…

By Jonathan Slaght | January 4, 2021

[Note: this story was originally published at Scientific American]

After weeks of delays, I’d finally reached the wild. I was in the Samarga River basin, a mountainous, roadless corner of the Russian Far East inhabited by indigenous Udege hunters, Amur tigers and-most importantly for me-Blakiston’s fish owls. These were the largest owls in the world; endangered giants that hunt for salmon in rivers and nest in enormous trees. Joined by Sergey Avdeyuk, an experienced woodsman, I was dipping my toe into my first year of fish owl fieldwork, the first of many. …

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