The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a huge area of ocean where hundreds of millions of tons of plastic garbage floats, brought there by a swirling ocean current. Much of the waste comes from single use items like plastic bags, straws, and water bottles. As time passes the trash breaks into smaller fragments but never disappears entirely, posing a threat to ocean life. Listen to hear a reporter describe what this “island of plastic” looks like, and learn what businesses and individuals, including young people, can do to help clean up ocean pollution.
Current Event January 15, 2020
The first person to ever cross the Antarctic alone decided to attempt another dangerous, icy expedition. Colin O’Brady wanted to row from South America to Antarctica with a team of daring travelers. Although he had never rowed before he decided to take this journey, he made sure to prepare himself both mentally and physically for the challenging trip. Listen to learn what motivated O’Brady to go on this thrilling expedition and find out what he needed to do to prepare for it.
Update: Since this story first aired, O’Brady’s team successfully completed the journey across the Drake Passage.
Current Event November 13, 2019
Coral reefs are endangered all around the world. Scientists are working on a variety of solutions to protect these important ecosystems and species. Recently, one Florida-based team was able to successfully breed corals in a lab. This is quite an accomplishment, especially since corals are delicate and require specific conditions to reproduce. Listen to learn how the Florida scientists managed to get corals to breed in a lab, and find out what it might mean for coral reefs around the world.
Current Event October 21, 2019
A recently released United Nations report looks at changes in the world’s oceans caused by a warming climate. The report found that oceans are rising at a faster rate than ever before and becoming more acidic, threatening human and fish populations. Communities that depend on the sea for their food and way of life are especially vulnerable. Listen to learn more about the challenges humans will face as sea levels continue to rise.
Current Event April 3, 2019
When a young diver found thousands of golf balls underwater, she decided to collect them and ask a scientist about the risks they might pose to the marine environment. They began investigating the situation together. Listen to find out what they learned and why the diver thinks “people would be shocked.”
Current Event February 13, 2019
An ocean cleanup project in the Pacific has run into some problems cleaning up a floating debris field known as the Great Pacific garbage patch. The 2000-ft. long, U-shaped floating barrier is designed to catch plastic trash in the Pacific ocean, where an enormous garbage patch has collected. The ambitious system is the brainchild of a 17-year-old scientist. The device is not yet working exactly as hoped, but engineers are trying to address the issues that are getting in its way. Listen to hear more about this creative pollution solution and the inventor’s optimistic outlook on its potential to help the environment.
Current Event July 19, 2017
Earth’s largest living organism, the Great Barrier Reef, has had record losses of coral in the last few years. A team of scientists estimate that an average of one-third of the corals along the entire Great Barrier Reef died between March and November of 2016. The global rise in greenhouse gas emissions has made ocean temperatures rise and has contributed to the number of coral that is dying, which is devastating for thousands of species that depend on the reef. Listen to hear more details about the loss of coral and the causes.
Current Event August 25, 2016
A 2,000 year old shipwreck was discovered off the Greek Island of Antikythera. It was full of expensive items such as marble and bronze statues, gold jewelry, perfume bottles and more. It was discovered over 100 years ago, but divers and scientists have recently returned to the wreck with sophisticated diving gear to search for more artifacts. They have found what they believe is not a luxury item but a torpedo-like device made of lead. Listen to hear how the ancient writings by the Greek historian, Thucydides, helped scientists find out how this was used.
Current Event December 28, 2015
The field of bioacoustics, studying the sound of animals, extends far below the surface of oceans. Whale vocalizations can be used as data to track migration and populations. Researchers have found ways to identify which whales are making which sounds. But in oceans, human-made sounds are often louder than other noises, making it hard for marine animals to hear the sounds in their own world. Listen to this story about what can be learned by tracking whale sounds, and how new guidelines are helping whales communicate with each other.
Current Event September 24, 2015
New technology is revolutionizing underwater science. A brand new field is using DNA testing to study and track species diversity in various ecosystems and environments. Biologists can study one liter of seawater and identify the fish that swam through that water. This allows them to study fish and whales without having seen them and without the expense of divers and equipment. But, there are a few issues with some of the data, such as finding the DNA of food that was eaten miles away. Listen to how data from genetic testing can be used to protect marine life, and how it is changing the research process.
As plants and animals reproduce over time, they are able to change and adapt to ensure or improve their chances of survival. The evolutionary goal of reproduction is paired with the concept of natural selection and survival of the fittest to determine who will reproduce. From colorful plumage to size, different species use different strategies to ensure reproduction and mate selection. The sand tiger shark has a unique strategy to ensure successful reproduction - and it depends on the timing of mating. Listen to learn more about the ultimate sibling rivalry while in the womb.
Animals adapt to their environment in ways that protect them from predation and allow them to find prey. Electric eels look like water snakes but use electricity to hunt. New scientific studies have gained insight into how electric eels use different electric volts to find and kill their prey. Listen to learn how the eel’s hunting method is adapted to their environment.
Current Event December 19, 2014
Electric eels look like water snakes but they can create their own electricity. New scientific studies have gained more insight into how electric eels use different electric volts to find and kill their prey. Listen to learn more about this fascinating creature from an expert neurobiologist.
There is debate whether fish like the bluefin tuna are going to go extinct. Some argue that the decline in bluefin results from excessive fishing. However, long time bluefin fishers like Eric Stewart, disagree with this stance as he sees an increasing population of bluefin. Listen to hear from both sides, and how one bluefin tuna can swim across the entire ocean.
Oceans around the world see declines in healthy reefs. The increase in ocean temperatures due to global warming is one of the factors that cause this deterioration. Part of the coral reefs are endangered, but some corals are still thriving despite the increase in ocean temperature. Listen to learn who relies on coral reefs and what would happen if they completely deteriorated.
Ice is an essential component of the ecosystem of the Bering Sea region. For example, sea ice cover can dramatically affect the levels of phytoplankton which has enormous effects on the entire food web. In this public radio story we hear about the health of the Bering Sea ecology by studying scientific observations.
What happens when human structures and nature come into conflict? Ocean Beach in San Francisco is naturally eroding, but the consequence of this shifting shoreline is that a sewage treatment plant is put in peril. Without intervention, raw sewage could be dumped into the ocean. A rock wall has temporarily stabilized the pipeline, but not without complications. Listen to learn about the other solutions that are being considered, including construction of an artificial dune.
Biologists studying right whales face the challenge of exploring rare and large organisms that spend the majority of their time underwater. These unpredictable animals are examined by researchers to try to understand the method of communication between male and female whales. Listen to learn why it's so hard to study these animals.
Small green sea slugs puzzle scientists because they can photosynthesize energy, just like plants. These Eastern Emerald Elysia sea slugs also appear to have several different types of DNA. Scientists are hopeful these sea slugs might help them discover more about human DNA and treat human diseases. Listen to learn how these tiny creatures are teaching us more about genetics.
Human behavior continues to have an effect on marine life under the water. This story highlights how humans make the ocean so noisy. Scientists are worried that the noise is causing a disruption to animals and threatening their existence. Listen to learn what humans are doing and what can be changed.