[Coral-List] Reassessing Coral Reef Scientists

Dennis Hubbard dennis.hubbard at oberlin.edu
Wed Apr 8 16:53:50 EDT 2015

*caveat - the following comment is not aimed at Gene, but rather the
"scientist" in the photo (see Gene's post).Come on..... at least TRY to
look like you care!!!*

Hi Gene:

I have mixed thoughts from the article that you reference, given the recent
back-and-forth over the dive industry.

SO, let's start with the science. Temperature is an odd control.
Thermodynamically, warmer water does make it harder for CO2 to be absorbed
in water. The basic carbonate equations show that calcification is enhanced
by warmer water (think CCD), and there have been several recent papers by
very good researchers showing increased calcification or colony density.

Like most things related to CO2 specifically, or climate change in general,
none of this works in a vacuum. The acidification that often accompanies
these chemical variations work in the opposite direction, leaving it up in
the air whether the net effect will be positive or negative. Then, all that
CO2 that isn't being absorbed in sea water stays in the atmosphere. As a
result of lost buffering capacity from the ocean, GHGs go up, temperatures
rise and atmospheric stability drops ever further. Then, as the point
buried in the last line alludes to, if a coral expels its zoox during a
bleaching event or gets hit by disease, it matters little whether or not
CO2 absorption is easier or not. So, I don't see "bad science" here....
maybe bad journalism, but.....

On the less scientific side, I will switch from the journal *Nature Climate
Change* to the more appropriate and often ignored journal, *DUH*. The
photo in the article you referenced makes me cringe. I have seen way too
many photographs of fellow scientists sprawled out on top of a large coral
atop a contraption out of a Marquis de Sade primer. We have drilled
multiple long cores on corals with minimal contact except for the obvious
(the bit). Drill assemblies can be stabilized with lines off to the side
that do not touch the coral. Hoses can be floated on submersible buoys and
the tripod or similar system can be far less offensive than what is in the
picture - but rarely are.

In our reef coring, we use a 350-lb tripod and frame and often sink 20-30 m
of core pipe, so I do know how difficult it can be to avoid contact. All
that pipe has to go somewhere when it's not in the hole and there are tools
galore... but at least we try and are generally successful.

We remove the drill head and add a smaller handling system for coral work -
and have managed to extract long coral cores with a LOT less contact than
in this photo. When we're working, there are hydraulic and water hoses
everywhere and all sorts of tools. However, everything is floated or
secured and, referring to the photo again, we at least TRY to not make
contact. Oh, look - is that a mesh bag I see secured to the hose? I wonder
how many pipe wrenches and heavy tools are inside!!!!

It's not easy, but it's not THAT hard either. In the photo, the diver
hasn't even taken off his flippers before he squatted down on top of the
coral. My giess, and it's a sad one" is that he's thinking "I'll really
weight myself down and be reeeealy secure so I don't do any damage." And,
the sad thing is that this isn't the worst I've seen - by far. To me, this
picture and too many like it just says, "I don't really care that much....
I'm a scientist and my time is too valuable."

I am not saying with any assurance that either permanent or significant
damage is being done to the pictured coral (as hard as I find it to believe
otherwise). However, if we want to create a public perception that we are
not uncaring scientists who feel that any harm we might do is justified by
the importance of our research and the depth of our knowledge, we need to
be more proactive. The recent discussions about how little the dive
industry does to project a need to respect our resources seems pretty
ironic as I look at this - and too many similar - photos of "scientists at
work". At the bare minimum, if you can't figure out how to do a better job
of being careful than this photo suggests.... at least ban cameras.


On Tue, Apr 7, 2015 at 4:46 PM, Eugene Shinn <eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>

> Listers, Here is a report of work done by coral scientists in Australia
> readers might want to reassess. Gene
> http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/study-finds-coral-reef-growth-thrives-in-warmer-waters/story-e6frg8y6-1226261278615
> --
> No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
> ------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
> E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
> University of South Florida
> College of Marine Science Room 221A
> 140 Seventh Avenue South
> St. Petersburg, FL 33701
> <eugeneshinn at mail.usf.edu>
> Tel 727 553-1158
> ---------------------------------- -----------------------------------
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Dennis Hubbard
Chair, 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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