[Coral-List] Listing Criteria Observation

Delbeek, Charles CDelbeek at calacademy.org
Wed Dec 19 13:13:42 EST 2012

This reminds me of a comment overheard between a woman and her elementary aged daughter as she read the ID label for an exhibit of a preserved coelacanth "Look honey, this fish was extinct and then they found more. Just goes to show ... you can't trust what a scientist tells you." Yes people, we have an image problem and we have a major scientific literacy problem in this country. I think that many institutions should put a much greater effort into training their staff on a) how to give effective presentations and b) how to interact with the media. 

Best regards,

J. Charles Delbeek, M.Sc.
Assistant Curator, Steinhart Aquarium
California Academy of Sciences

p 415.379.5303
f. 415.379.5304
cdelbeek at calacademy.org

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Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94118

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-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Dennis Hubbard
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 6:22 AM
To: Szmant, Alina
Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov; Jon Skrapits
Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Listing Criteria Observation

Alina makes an excellent point that I have thought about many times. We, as
scientists, are not particularly good at public speaking. Yes, we stand in
front of (hopefully) huge audiences at international conventions and are
(again hopefully) asked by colleagues to give lectures to various academic
audiences. But, few of us are particularly good at laying out our ideas in
a public forum (let alone a hostile one). This is not for lack of good
intentions, but the reality is that MOST of us don't take on these public
opportunities as carefully as we might. In academic circles, we double- and
triple-check our slides and what we have in them (well, some of us do
anyway - we've all been to one of those talks where you wish someone had
taken Gene up on his suggestions to have a basket of duck calls at the
entrance to blow on when you see an awful slide). But, in public, we either
don't have control of the medium we are using (TV, radio) or we simply
aren't as careful and assume the venue will be similar to a professional
meeting. Two examples come to mind, and I use them because these are
friends (at least I hope they still will be) and well-respected scientists.
Also, I cinsider them to be among the very best of us at public advocacy.

When I was still at West Indies Laboratory, a movie outlet produced "City
of Coral". They had the appropriate star sitting on the gunwale of a whaler
and John Ogden sitting on the other. Over they went to view the reef. Enter
the narrator...." as they swim over the fields of *Acropora
cervicornis*waving in the current". OK, missing gorgonians didn't put
staghorn on the
endangered list, but this gaff is still in the movie. On another instance,
I saw Jim Porter on something like CNN describing their recent surveys of
the Florida Keys well after the decimation of *A. palmata*. He made the
point that the species was exceedingly rare - that it just wasn't there or
it was sufficiently rare that it didn't appear in a single quadra... can't
remember which. BUT..... the station had either gone through some video he
brought with him or had stock video from somewhere else and picked the most
striking segment. You guessed it..... non-stop healthy stands of *A. palmata

So, coming back to Alina's post, we have to be very careful when we step
outside the protected walls of the scientific cloister. There are things I
discuss in class or mention in this forum that I am scared to death to
mention in a public form full of skeptics. I believe that the apparent
dies-back of *A. palmata* ca 6,000 and 3,000 years ago is important and is
telling us something important about the species. I still don't know what
that is, but I'd really hesitate to bring this up in a more skeptical
setting where there are many opportunities to take this out of context and
post something like, "Scientists report *Acropora* went extinct and came
back from the dead..... twice!!!" So, we need to take control of our
science and make sure it is well represented - I am assuming, of course,
that the "scientist didn't believe it was acidification making rings on
corals, in which case we have a bigger problem.


On Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 10:16 PM, Szmant, Alina <szmanta at uncw.edu> wrote:

> Wow!  The first sentence in the article pointed to by the link below has
> left me speechless (but luckily I can still type!).
> It shows a photo of some A cervicornis with some strips of tissue missing
> (likely Coralliophila predation or some such), and the caption below this
> photo reads:
> "Staghorn coral afflicted by whitening, which is associated with ocean
> acidification and rising ocean temperatures.".
> This kind of pseudo-reporting and sensationalism by whomever wrote this
> article and whomever scientist was interviewed is a large part of the
> problem of why people stop believing 'scientists'.  Ocean acidification has
> not reached levels in any place in the Caribbean to have any possible or
> even dreamed about physiological effects on staghorn coral, and cannot at
> all be responsible for the lesions visible in the photograph.  Nor can
> "rising ocean temperatures" which can cause bleaching but that is NOT what
> this photo shows.
> Can we please get back to real science and have some quality control over
> what information is broadly disseminated?
> *************************************************************************
> Dr. Alina M. Szmant
> Professor of Marine Biology
> Center for Marine Science and Dept of Biology and Marine Biology
> University of North Carolina Wilmington
> 5600 Marvin Moss Ln
> Wilmington NC 28409 USA
> tel:  910-962-2362  fax: 910-962-2410  cell: 910-200-3913
> http://people.uncw.edu/szmanta
> *******************************************************
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov [mailto:
> coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Jon Skrapits
> Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 2:26 PM
> To: Steve Mussman
> Cc: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Listing Criteria Observation
> Agreed Steve,
> I was being sarcastic about the parrot and trying to show that they are a
> benefit but at a quick glance it may seem as though they are destructive.
> Check this out.
> http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/finding-a-place-for-coral-farms-in-a-changing-ocean/
> How can we develop scientific studies on the benefits of aquaculture if we
> never pursue that avenue due to restrictions.
> On Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 2:21 PM, Steve Mussman <sealab at earthlink.net>
> wrote:
> > Jon,
> >
> > In response to your side note:
> >
> > **
> > "If limiting actions that deplete the ocean such as harvesting coral
> > to grow it, then why aren't we destroying parrot fish that eat the
> > coral? I blame them for the destruction of the reef".
> >
> > A paper by the Universities of Exeter and California Davis, published
> > November 1, 2007 in Nature explains that Parrotfish are now the sole
> > grazers of seaweed on many Caribbean reefs, but fishing has limited
> > their numbers. With insufficient Parrotfish grazing, corals are unable
> > to recover after major disturbances like hurricanes and become much
> > less healthy as a result. The paper argues that in order to secure a
> > future for coral reefs, particularly in light of the predicted impact
> > of climate change, Parrotfish need to be protected. The good news is
> > that we can take practical steps to protect Parrotfish and help reef
> > regeneration. We recommend a change in policy to establish controls
> > over the use of fish traps, which Parrotfish are particularly
> > vulnerable to. We also call on anyone who visits the Caribbean and
> > sees Parrotfish on a restaurant menu to voice their concern to the
> management.
> >
> > This research was published in Nature: vol 450, issue 7166.
> >
> > Regards,
> >   Steve
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > >From: Jon Skrapits **
> > >Sent: Dec 18, 2012 10:24 AM
> > >To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> > >Subject: [Coral-List] Listing Criteria Observation
> > >
> > >I looked over the criteria the best I could. I apologize if I
> > misunderstood
> > >but it seems as though the driving factor for determining the listing
> > >of a coral is by counting the number of animals distributed in an
> ecosystem.
> > >Then many different hypotheses are thrown out to state a personal
> > >case or blame a general global phenomenon or "problem." I never heard
> > >more
> > specific
> > >questions such as these.
> > >
> > >What does an acropora(or other corals) look like when it is subjected
> > >to low pH?
> > >How about inadequate flow?(How can a fragmentation survive if you
> > >place it
> > >improperly?)
> > >How about elevated levels of nitrates?(does it even affect them?)
> > >Phosphates?
> > >Insufficient calcium levels?
> > >What about the overall chemistry of seawater when Magnesium is low?
> > >Temp fluctuations?
> > >Effects of a changing ecosystem causing a lack of food for corals?
> > >Do corals really need fish or is it the other way around?( I have
> > >many systems w/out fish and pleny of corals)
> > >
> > >These and many other questions must be answered every hour in
> > >aquaculture and guessing wrong causes mass deaths in some cases. Much
> > >can be learned from this.
> > >
> > >
> > >On a side note.... If limiting actions that deplete the ocean such as
> > >harvesting coral to grow it, then why aren't we destroying parrot
> > >fish
> > that
> > >eat the coral? I blame them for the destruction of the reefs.
> > >
> > >As I have said many times, gov. regulation will only kill the reefs.
> > Making
> > >it a profitable venture will save them. Educate not regulate. If we
> > >can't agree on what is killing the reefs and change our habits, the
> > >ocean will not improve and the corals will sit on the reef awaiting
> > >their demise. Are the oceans improving? What are we doing to improve
> > >that? Just ban havesting? That is the answer? I will collect as many
> > >species as possible to have a genetic pool of hearty corals that have
> > >been through
> > fluctuations
> > >and hopefully one day I can help or my kids can help to replant the
> ocean.
> > >I will watch the rest of mankind squabble over what they think is the
> > >problem as it worsens. Maybe we will knock off parrot fish as a last
> > resort
> > >if they are still alive.
> > >
> > >
> > >--
> > >Thanks,
> > >_______________________________________________
> > >Coral-List mailing list
> > >Coral-List at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> > >http://coral.aoml.noaa.gov/mailman/listinfo/coral-list
> > **
> >
> --
> Thanks,
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Dennis Hubbard
Dept of Geology-Oberlin College Oberlin OH 44074
(440) 775-8346

* "When you get on the wrong train.... every stop is the wrong stop"*
 Benjamin Stein: "*Ludes, A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream*"
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