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About gina

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  1. gecko1: Wow, a whale at Lobos, and then Cordell Bank. Incredible! -Gina
  2. Thanks for posting this. I've never submitted an article for publication so I had no idea this was a growing sector of the industry. (And yeah, it would be nice to have more articles available for free to the general public, but that's a whole other topic.) Thanks I've also been Santa for Christmas, complete with beard over my full-face mask. -Gina
  3. What made me wonder about Animal Biotelemetry is not only that it didn't show up in my university's library database (which is why I put in an inquiry to the science librarian), but also the fact that they are a pay-to-publish journal. With some exceptions, authors have to pay a fee in order to be published. This put up a red flag for me--do they publish everyone who pays the fee? (Does this happen with any of the known and respected journals?) I didn't see anything that addressed this particular facet, and if it's not the case, it would be nice to see something that specifically says that does not happen. I understand that circumstantial evidence does not imply guilt, but again, I want to address the red flag. And speaking of red flags, that's really what the whole Ocearch thing is about. When I heard about an organization of non-scientist fishermen who were catching sharks, invasively placing tags on them, and basing a television show around this, that didn't sound good. So I decided to look into it and found the scientific articles they cited were not actual peer-reviewed articles from legitimate journals, their not-exactly-true claims of answering to IACUCs, etc. Again, while I cannot find any concrete evidence that Ocearch is "bad" or lying or whatever you want to call it, those red flags are waving around like crazy. Personally, I do not trust Ocearch and I do wish there was a way they could be stopped. I did read it, and it's pretty much just a general book review. They say these papers came from an international white shark symposium in Honolulu in 2010, but there is no information on any peer-review that may have happened. An article is only as good as its science, and sometimes even good science goes out of date as new information comes around. But unfortunately, there is at least some bad science out there (not necessarily to deceive, although I'm sure that happens, but done using bad methods) and peer-reviewed journals are one sort of protection against that sort of thing. When you have a panel of scientists critiquing the work of others it helps eliminate some of the bad studies. Which is why I (and many/most scientists) are such sticklers for legitimate peer-review. I (and many/most scientists) am willing to change my mind in light of quality evidence to the contrary. -Gina
  4. According to Ocearch's own website they only mention the IACUCs of the institutions they are associated with. So, if an IACUC is not involved then no, they mention no one else overseeing them. If they were actively working in conjunction with an American institution (I don't know how rules work outside the U.S.) and anyone had a complaint with how the research was being done then you could file a formal complaint with that institute's IACUC--that's one of the reasons they exist. But if the project is complete (so far as that institution's involvement is concerned) then you can only complain to Ocearch themselves. Since the white shark is only currently listed as Vulnerable with the IUCN there are no international regulations governing their use/abuse. If they ever get listed as Endangered, or better, if they get listed on an appropriate CITES appendix, then there may be regulations prohibiting catching the animals. What I suggest is finding out if there are any researchers who are currently working with Ocearch and have open protocols. If so, then you can contact their IACUCs and talk with someone there about the procedures being used, and file a complaint if necessary. -Gina
  5. Do you have any information on who does the peer-reviewing in a book like that? Are the articles reviewed by other authors in the book, or by unrelated third-parties? What I see is an editor publishing his own papers (along with papers written by others), but I cannot find any record of those papers being peer-reviewed or published in any respected scientific journals (such as Science, Nature, PLOS, Copeia, etc.). As a biologist, if I were to go to my advisor with this book as a reference she would disregard it. That link references a paper published in a journal called Animal Biotelemetry. I can find no record of this journal in my university's database of scientific journals. I have an inquiry in to our science librarian to check on its legitimacy, but the school is closed this week for Thanksgiving holiday so I may not hear back until next week. Regarding that study, it does say "These observations suggest that SPOT tags designed to rust and fall out within 12 months are unlikely to cause permanent damage to the structure of the shark's fin as long as they detach within that time." However, it also says "Damage to the fins structure was evident from the observation after 24 months. ... This result suggests that white sharks yet to obtain full size - particularly while sub-adult and growing fast are unable to sustain SPOT tags in place much longer than 12 months without such damage occurring. ... We therefore conclude that based on the tags deployed in South Africa in 2003–2004, SPOT tags did not cause long term damage to the sharks when detached within 12–24 months, but they had the ability to cause permanent structural damage to the dorsal fin when left in place for longer periods." If Ocearch is indeed using tags that stay in place longer than 12-24 months then evidence points to their SPOT tags have "the ability to cause permanent structural damage to the dorsal fin." I see the crux of the matter as two-fold: Is Ocearch participating in valid scientific work, and, are their methods considered cruel or harmful to the animal? If they are using long-term (>12-24 months) SPOT tags then yes, according to the Jewell, et al, study their methods can be considered harmful. Are they considered cruel? That's difficult to say. Having a hole drilled through its (cartilaginous) skeleton most likely causes the animal pain, but to what degree? What can we do about it? Since Ocearch says they "follow the standards of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC.org) of each institution" I called U.C. Davis and spoke to their IACUC administrator to get some information about how an IACUC works with a third-party tagger such as Ocearch. (Drs. Klimley, Padilla, and Hearn from UCD are listed on the Ocearch website as "collaborating scientists".) He said they currently have no open protocols calling for the use of Ocearch data as the studies are now complete. In this case they did have a protocol for the tagging work that was being done because UCD researchers were there on the boat participating in the tagging. But they don't always have protocols--it depends on the work being done, the level of researcher participation, and the type of funding. He specifically mentioned that if a researcher was going to use Ocearch data that had already been collected (Ocearch maintains all of their tagging data is available for all to use) then the IACUC is not at all involved with the project. This means that the FAQ question/answer on Ocearch's website "Q- Does Ocearch decide how sharks are handled? A- The tagging, handling and sampling procedures employed during the expedition follow the standards of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC.org) of each institution" is just some clever wording. The truth is that, in at least some cases, they answer to no one. -Gina
  6. My personal belief is that Ocearch is not a true scientific research institute, but rather, a bunch of fishermen who think it's cool to catch and tag sharks, and they found a loophole that allows them to do this. But, I am also a scientist and require proof. So I started looking around for hard evidence, one way or the other. The information I got on Ocearch was from their own website, http://www.ocearch.org/. Chris Fischer is the "expedition leader and founding chairman" of Ocearch. While it appears he has gone to college, I cannot find any information about what he studied. Presumably if he had studied something like biology that would relate to legitimate research it would have been mentioned. He has, however, been an avid fisherman since childhood. Fischer's Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/CHRISFISCHEROCEARCH/info, says "By breaking down institutional barriers, the resource-focused projects of his non-profit, OCEARCH, facilitate research progress at a rate otherwise not possible." I interpret that to mean, "Since we have no one to answer to, we can do what we want," but you may read it differently. Under the "Partners" section of their website they list: Cat[erpillar] tractors & engines Costa sunglasses and apparel Landry's dining, entertainment, and gaming Contender boats Yamaha outboards Yeti coolers Safe boats Xavient Information Systems The Billfish Foundation (sportfishing) LightHawk aircraft None of these organizations are conservation or scientific organizations. Thus we are forced to assume that no legitimate scientific organizations have partnered with Ocearch. However, please note they are partnered with a sportfishing company, on whose board Chris Fischer previously served. There is a question in the FAQ section, "Does Ocearch decide how sharks are handled?" Their answer is, "The tagging, handling and sampling procedures employed during the expedition follow the standards of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC.org) of each institution, which are made up of scientists and veterinarians." Having previously worked in Stanford University's Human and Animal Research Compliance Office I know a little bit about how organizational IACUCs work and how research protocols are approved. Any time an animal research project protocol is sent for review the reviewers (which do include peer scientists and veterinarians, and usually a lay community member) will scrutinize and approve or disapprove the methods being used by the researcher. However, what I do not know is a) if Ocearch's methods are reviewed and approved by institutional IACUCs, since they are a third-party, and if they are b) how detailed are the descriptions of Ocearch's methods, and c) does the IACUC have the ability to have Ocearch change their methods. And of course, there is always the possibility that some research, especially if the institute is based outside the U.S., is done without IACUC review or protocol approval. Under the "Science" section of their website they throw out words like methodology but do not provide any actual information. As I was looking at this their website went down so I was unable to access the "Scientific Papers" section, but please see below. Ocearch states, "There are approximately 40 research papers currently in preparation or completed based on OCEARCH expeditions and resulting studies." This is what really matters, right? Is what they are doing to the sharks worth it? So I did a literature search using Google Scholar through my university. I found seven mentions of Ocearch: 1 in Russian, appears to be about the Cat company 1 article was not available, but is not from a peer-reviewed journal and appears just to mention that Ocearch does tracking 4 blog entries and non-peer-reviewed papers 1 legitimate peer-reviewed scientific paper. Ocearch was given a citation here, and the tracking information used within was a brief mention not directly related to the research topic Fischer's Facebook page lists five "Published Scientific Papers." All five references are mentions in one book, "Global Perspectives on the Biology and Life History of the White Shark," edited by Michael L. Domeier. The only place I could find these papers published was in this book; these are not peer-reviewed scientific papers. All papers listed Michael Domeier as an author. Yes, there may be more research papers that have not yet been published, but their track record isn't good so far. I can say with confidence that, as of today, there have been no legitimate, peer-reviewed research papers that have used data collected by Ocearch to support their hypotheses. (Ocearch founder and leader Chris Fischer has zero shark research papers to his name.) I welcome any additional information about Ocearch. -Gina
  7. I was using an Ikelite housing with the little slider port clips. I suspect that when the camera was handed down to me off the boat someone must have grabbed the housing by the port and loosened it. I took my camera/housing and started to descend, only to watch the housing fill with water -Gina
  8. Wonderful! I'm very happy to know there are so many fish there.
  9. There is a new petition, started by Ric O'Barry of "The Cove" fame, to ban the capture of dolphins and whales in US waters which would then be put on public display. So, in essence, this means aquariums and sea parks could not use animals captured in US waters. This petition is on the US Government website, and if it can attain 100,000 signatures it will be reviewed and considered by the Obama administration. (You do need to register in order to use the site, but they do not spam you.) I do not know if you have to be a US citizen or resident in order to register and sign. Today there is a growing backlash to keeping cetaceans in captivity. This is based on the knowledge that they are large, far-travelling animals that need dozens or hundreds of square miles to swim. In addition, animals like orcas live in tight-knit family groups for their entire lives, which can be 50-70 years or longer. This petition is a small step towards protecting those animals from a lifetime of captivity, which usually ends when the animal dies after a short life. Your signature here will be greatly appreciated. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/we-undersigned-call-permanent-law-banning-capture-us-waters-dolphins-whales-public-display/3tXMLzxX -Gina
  10. I love these guys (although I have yet to see one in the wild). Nice pic. -Gina
  11. I'm very glad you liked KDC. And wow, you had an amazing trip! You saw all the cool stuff, what great luck -Gina
  12. Here's an article that talks about the trip, and some of the work that's being done: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/08/16/citizen-divers-enlisted-in-conservation-study-of-sea-turtles-and-sharks-at-cocos-island-national-park-the-most-beautiful-island-in-the-world/ -Gina
  13. Sea Turtle Restoration Project and PRETOMA are running a shark and sea turtle tagging trip to Cocos Island. You can join them and help to tag turtles and sharks! Head to Cocos on the Undersea Hunter boat Argo from November 10-22, 2013 and join biologists in a multi-year study focusing on the locations and migrations of sharks and sea turtles. You will be able to dive all the great spots around Cocos and help with this important work. They will teach you how to catch sea turtles if you are interested (although you do not have to do this if you don't want to). Filling the boat with "citizen scientists" allows the biologists to be able to do their research, plus it provides the average diver with a great insight into how research is done. In addition, your costs associated with the trip can be tax-deductible. Imagine that, writing off an entire dive trip! More info here: http://www.seaturtles.org/article.php?id=1703 Disclaimer: I am in no way involved with the organizations running this trip other than as a paid client. I've done the trip twice before (and hope to do it again next year) and I fully support the work STRP and PRETOMA are doing, so I just want them to succeed. If you have any questions about the trip or the diving I'd be glad to answer them as best I can. -Gina
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