Do water molecules “surf” the waves?

It seems like water molecules might follow the path of a wave given what we know from the water cycle.

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But, if you watch a floating object like a toy boat on a wave in the open sea it won’t travel with the wave but rather bob up and down. The water molecules are actually swirling under the waves helping to move energy to the wave. This swirling motion is known to oceanographers as the “circular orbital motion”.

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Waves are mostly moved by wind. The water molecules in waves of the open ocean are not traveling along with the waves but rather under the waves in a circular motion.

When you get closer to the shore the orbital motion is non-existent because the waves touch the bottom. That phenomenon helps when you lose your boogie board in the surf zone.

A quiz on the geography of the ocean (i.e., oceanography)

I’m joyfully studying for an earth science test this month to teach high school oceanography (one day)! I thought I’d share some fun questions here to test your knowledge. And, here’s an image of features of the ocean floor on the from glogster to help jog your memory!

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1. The deepest ocean is the
A. Pacific
B. Atlantic

2. Which feature is formed where oceanic plates are separating?
A. submarine canyon
B. rift

3. Which of the following describes a seamount?
A. underwater mountain range
B. isolated mid-ocean volcano

4. A small area of ocean that is partially surrounded by land is called a(n)
A. sea
B. continental shelf

5. A large flat area on the ocean floor is called a(n)
A. rift valley
B. abyssal plain

Comment your answers below (or Facebook or Tweet ’em!)! All correct answers will be dropped into a raffle at the end of the month for a copy of 10 Beachcombing Adventures: A guide for investigating the Atlantic coast shoreline.

What they’re into … with Jim Wharton (Seattle Aquarium)

This is a series I’ve been featuring each Tuesday this summer to get a special sneak peek at the different personalities behind the scientists, activists, and educators (including bloggers) who play an integral role in the marine science conservation field. It’s essentially an extension of the overwhelmingly popular and well done Tumblr blog, This Is What A Scientist Looks Like, (BCS was featured in April!) which sets out to illustrate that scientists are not just crazy haired nerds in lab coats. I’ve sent a list of 15 random questions to some folks I know and asked that each person share at least their answers to 5 of them. This week’s feature shares some insight into the world of Jim Wharton.

Jim Wharton, Director of Conservation and Education at the Seattle Aquarium, feels at  home again in the Pacific Northwest after over 8 years in Florida working for the Smithsonian Marine Station and Mote Marine Laboratory. He started his career in marine science education as a volunteer, then educator at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Jim is also deeply involved with the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA) where he is a member of the board of directors and more committees than he has time for. You can learn more about him at about.me/jimwharton or follow his on Twitter for marine science miscellanea @jimwharton.

Jim notes, “The mission of the Seattle Aquarium is ‘Inspiring conservation of our marine environment’. To be true stewards of the marine environment people have to be science-literate and ocean-literate…but first they have to care. Marine science education helps people develop all these muscles, for flexing in support of the ocean.”

What is the last thing you bought that you shouldn’t have?
Unagi. I know freshwater eel is on SeafoodWatch’s sushi red list, but sometimes I’m weak. A colleague explained to me recently that one of the precursors to behavior change is a public declaration…so consider this mine. Any animal that swims thousands of miles out to sea to reproduce deserves a little more respect from me.

What is your favorite sundae topping?
Dark chocolate and caramel combo…on principles of general awesomeness.

What three things would you take with you to an island?
Assuming my family and/or a satellite phone is cheating…The Demon-Haunted World, mask/fin/snorkel, sunglasses. The Demon-Haunted World, by Carl Sagan, is a treatise of reason and a book I can read over and over. Mask/fins/snorkel, well, it’s an island. And anyone who knows me knows that I would be very uncomfortable without my sunglasses.

How superstitious are you?
Not at all (see above). I used to pretend to be superstitious (probably because everyone around me seemed to be), but I’ve given up believing that jinxes, broken mirrors, or wearing the same socks on gamedays have any real effect on the external world. I do think the idea of finding some locus of control in a chaotic world is a very human and understandable impulse. Wait, did I just call myself ‘inhuman?’

What is your favorite day of the week?
I’ve often bragged that Fridays and Mondays are meaningless to me. It’s a fringe benefit of loving the work you do. 

If you were a geometric shape, what would you like to be?
A star? Too much? I guess I’ll go with a triangle. Triangles are well-balanced and they have a point. I just hope people don’t find me obtuse.

What’s some other random favorite information about you?
I actually enjoy public speaking, but hate making toasts. Go figure.

Thank you for participating, Jim, keep up the great work! Everyone else, don’t forget to check out previous editions of “What they’re into …” with David Helvarg and Miriam Goldstein.

What is oceanography?

If you take biology, physics, meteorology, chemistry, geology, geography and mix them all together (via the same concept as Ekman transport) you come up with oceanography. See this very concise infographic from the Sea Blog for a visual depiction of how it all comes together. Click here to understand the difference between a marine biologist and an oceanographer.

Save Our Seas Foundation

In case you didn’t notice, every month I like to share one of my favorite marine science conservation website or blogs. And, even though I just posted on The Daily Ocean I want to highlight the Save Our Seas Foundation.

This is the organization (or ‘organisation’ since they are based in Switzerland) that produces the Naked Oceans podcast (one of the 8 great podcasts listed on the right sidebar). The website for this major player in the fight to save the world’s oceans manages to be in-your-face while still maintaining class and a jovial nature. They cite important messages in large font in the center of the page followed up with bullets and lists (see the threats page for a great example of this).

Also, the blog for Save Our Seas Foundation posts pertinent information (in an easy to digest language) about the research projects their own science team is conducting with pictures they actually took in the field. A lot of the focus of their research is on sharks. Recently they hosted a Dutch film crew doing a documentary between the relations of sharks and surfers (no, they aren’t cousins).

All in all, it seems as though the people working with the Save Our Seas Foundation are dedicated, passionate, and fun and I hope you follow and support them in the future.

Farting on a school bus – bad; Farting as part of a school of herring – ok

Recently two Ohio middle school boys were suspended from riding the bus for farting on the bus. If these boys were part of a school of herring they’d have no repercussions. In fact, they’d be making the grade in language arts.

Back in 2003 an article published in the U.K. science journal Biology Letters explained a phenomenon discovered by scientists at the Bamfield Marine Science Centre, British Columbia, Canada, where herring produce high-frequency sound bursts followed by a fine stream of bubbles, dubbed Fast Repetitive Tick (FRT).

The noise can be up 22 kilohertz.

It is suspected that these FRTs are not to be a call to hunger or a call to breed but rather are triggered while the fish are swimming at night while in large densities as a means of communications. According to a National Geographic article on the subject, “It might seem an amusing idea to us that herring communicate using farts. But for herring and the mammals that prey on them, FRTs may signal safety—or the next meal.”

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Tomorrow: Ocean released by National Geographic

Tomorrow the National Geographic Society releases a special edition ‘Ocean‘ magazine that takes an in depth look at the world’s oceans ecosystem including breathtaking pictures and a pull out of the “Our Water World”. As they put it “Here’s your chance to dive below the surface and examine a dynamic, interdependent ecosphere that is rarely seen. In three compelling sections, explore life at every depth and see how they affect each other. Then learn why fishing industries, manufacturing, and society must protect planet ocean.”

You can purchase at your local newsstand or have your special someone purchase it here.

Image (c) National Geographic Society.