Barbara Block – Sushi and Satellites: Tracking Predators Across the Blue Serengeti


[music playing] – Welcome to the 2016
NASA Ames Summer Series. Imagine being on a spacecraft
exploring the universe and not knowing how your
life-support system works and its weaknesses. This, for NASA, will be considered
a very risky mission. Planet Earth is
such a spacecraft where its surface is
mostly covered by oceans that we don’t fully understand. Today’s presentation is entitled “Sushi and Satellites: Tracking Predators
Across the Blue Serengeti” will be given by
Dr. Barbara Block. Dr. Block is a Charles
and Elizabeth Prothro Professor in Marine Sciences, Evolutionary, Cellular,
and Molecular Physiology at Stanford University. She is the co-founder of the Monterey Bay Aquarium of the Tuna Research
and Conservation Center… And is a Co-chief Scientist for the Tagging
of Pacific Predators program. Dr. Block started her career
with a Bachelor’s of Arts at–from
the University of Vermont and began her oceanography
career with– at Woods Hole Institute. She earned a PhD
from Duke University and did a postdoc at
the University of Pennsylvania. Please join me
in welcoming Dr. Block. [applause] – Well, it’s an honor,
a privilege to be here at a NASA facility
giving a talk about Earth. And I hope that today I can take you
planetary explorers back to our planet and give you
a sense of what’s happening in the fluid part of the–
the world, the oceans. So how many of you,
a personal question, eat sushi? Everybody. All right, and who–who’s having
a tuna fish sandwich for lunch today? Oh, someone in the back,
all right. So today I hope that
you’re going to learn more about one of the Olympians
in the sea, some of the animals we study, the oceans they move through, and then walk away from the talk
with an understanding of how
NASA Satellite Oceanography and NOAA Satellite Oceanography provides a lot of the background for how we understand
how animals are moving across 2/3 of our planet. So the challenge,
if I take you back to Earth, and we watch the spinning
SeaWiFS view of the planet, is I’m going to argue today
that significant portions of our federal budget should be
spent on our planet because we really don’t
understand 2/3 of it all right? So our view has changed
radically since we’ve had
Earth-orbiting satellites. We see the seasonal changes, but the challenge for
the terrestrial vertebrate, the primate called man or woman, is we have a hard time
understanding the mathematics,
the fluid dynamics, and the challenges of modeling organisms as they live in
this fluid realm that’s not very transparent. And to this day, we’re just
beginning, all right? We haven’t been here very long and we’re just trying
to figure out, really, how this planet works. Now, put in context what I do. I study the Olympian of the sea, the giant bluefin tuna
or a white shark, and as they slip
beneath the waves, just like a whale, everything
becomes nontransparent and radio signals don’t work. So how do you study animals who move across
such large realms, and what can it teach us if we’re trying to go
to other galaxies and study other places? I’ve always enjoyed this view,
this NASA view of our planet. I used it many times
in a program called the Census of Marine Life. Perhaps our globe’s largest
program ever in the last decade to understand the biodiversity
of our planet. I was fortunate enough
to lead one of the projects called TOPP, and this enabled us to basically
study large predators as they moved across
the Pacific Ocean, the largest ocean on the planet. So the dots that you’ll see on
maps today represent where animals go. And part of the lesson today is
how is it that we build the engineering
devices that enable us to see where the fastest
animals in the ocean go beneath the waves where you can’t use
radio signals? And I want you to be thinking
about that because the challenge is great. So up until recently,
our view of our own planet– coming from this institution
too–was one in which all we could do
was see the surface. We didn’t really see
beneath the sea, and the level of spending that
we do to understand our planet isn’t high enough
to actually ensure that the next generation of
engineering tools, the next generation of
computational tools, are getting into our ocean
quick enough so we solve the major questions
of our time. What’s the ocean
atmosphere interaction and how is it creating and impacting the change
that we call climate? We have to separate
the variability from the overall change
that we know is occurring on this planet, and we haven’t yet
really spent the time, created the mathematics, created the tools
that are allowing us to understand 2/3
of our planet Earth. So then add to that
that researchers like myself want to study the animals
who live in the planet, beneath the sea
that’s not transparent, and try to figure out
how they work before it’s too late
for many of these populations because our appetite across
the globe for sushi is actually threatening
many populations of animals, such as tunas, in the sea. So I’d argue here at NASA that the most important thing
we do in the next 100 years, the most important thing we’re
doing in the next 50 years is using some of the technology
you’re creating to go to other planets right here on Earth so that we can
better understand how is it that we will know when our seascapes
are changing, and what is it we should know to prevent having any big
surprises happen on our planet? And we’re going to tell you
today, as oceanographers, it’s not easy, and it requires
a national commitment to oceans
that we haven’t yet seen. So I study big tunas. I became fascinated with tunas
at the age of an intern in this room, a person who basically started
as an intern in a laboratory at Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution and was fascinated
because these are one of the few warm fish
in the sea. They’re endothermic,
warm-bodied like we are. They’re powerful animals that if you catch one
at the end of a hook and line, you may be battling it
for hours. So these Olympians are known
across the planet to everybody else as sushi,
all right? And the next time you have
your sushi dinner or lunch, I want you to take a good look
at that piece of red muscle, which is really white muscle, it looks red, and ask yourself,
where did it come from? And then hopefully you’ll share
one of the lessons perhaps that you’ll learn today. We’ve made it easy
for all of you to see tunas just a hundred miles
down the road at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where behind a wall
of very thick acrylic… we’ve got one of
the largest displays of bluefin tuna
from the Pacific, an animal that’s now
being proposed for an ESA, an Endangered
Species Act, listing here in North America. We’ve also had, in the past–
[clears throat] Excuse me– white sharks. We’re the only aquarium that’s been able to keep alive young white sharks
in captivity. So what’s the importance of
having tunas and white sharks behind glass? Well, the first thing is if you
look at this animal moving and perhaps… can we
bring the lights down at all so that we can see the ocean
a little better? You’d be interested to know
that from a Navy perspective, tunas are quite interesting. They’re one of the most
fusiform shapes in the sea. They have the lowest
coefficient of drag that you’ll ever find
in nature. And we’re interested in how
everything from their skin to their biomechanics is uniquely formed morphologically
and physiologically to help enhance these animals
as they cross the oceans. We only just, in the past year, were able to put a camera that,
working with a company, we’ve helped to engineer to do
exactly what we want on a tuna so that we can watch
the flip of its tail as it goes behind the sea. How this animal creates
vorticity may be a secret of how the most efficient
machines on the planet, if they were in the ocean,
should be moving. All right, these are animals
who cross tens of thousands of nautical miles in a year in the ocean. So my real fascination is what makes the Olympian
so unique, the tuna? I don’t want to give
that lecture today but I’ve just left you
with a few thoughts. They’re actually moving
like a kangaroo. A kangaroo bounces,
stores elastic energy, and then hops again at an almost
free energetic cost. A tuna bends its tail,
stretching elastic tendons, as we’ve been learning, and actually can bring its tail
back to its center position without much muscular energy
being utilized. If we could make
an autonomous vehicle that’s using
the biomechanics of a tuna, we might be able to go places
further. These animals are powered, as that infrared image shows you
its heat, by warm muscles, and it helps us understand
the mechanical advantages really of being warm. But when it comes to
understanding a tuna’s journey beneath the sea, as I’ve said,
they’re difficult to study, that’s why we know so little
up until recently. They’re highly migratory. A single tuna will be born
in the seas off Japan, in its lifetime
swim over to Mexico, spend four years
here in California waters swimming north and south
between California and Mexico, go back to Japan, and then take
a post-spawning migration down to New Zealand
and come back. Largest life history
of any fish we know in the sea. How can we study that? So in our field,
there’s been a push towards small,
miniature electronic devices that we can put on the animals. There’s been a push towards
using genomics and chemical markers, these
would be elements in the animal that tell us where it’s been. Has it been off the waters
of Fukushima? And then come on over,
we can actually measure that, and then we can begin to put
together the migrations. And there’s a lot of
novel techniques in the last few years
that have developed, but overall, these fields
aren’t well-funded, and so knowing
simple questions, like how many white sharks
there are in the sea, how many are there
off California, how big is the spawning
population of bluefin left in the Pacific Ocean? These are not
easy-to-answer questions. They require
interdisciplinary science of ocean science,
satellite oceanography, electronic tagging,
and computational mathematics to help put together models
of how many animals there are. So certainly,
you won’t forget this, that the next time you go over
the Golden Gate Bridge, let me be the first to tell you
that our research has shown that white sharks
are crossing beneath you and moving in to the
San Francisco Bay, all right? So we know this primarily
from electronic tags, but when you see across
the bridge into the surface, you hardly know what’s
happening beneath you. We know from
electronic tags, and I’m just giving
an overview at this point, that we can see
in the white dots from satellite tags–I’ll
explain how they work shortly– we can see where
a white shark goes and the only boundaries
for its protection are the green areas
barely visible on the map. Those would be sanctuaries
and reserves. And you’re looking at 1/3,
if you will, of the Pacific there,
from our shores to Hawaii. And the black areas are EEZs. So a white shark,
if we’re asking, is this an animal
that has any protection? It’s an animal that’s listed at
the highest levels of being concerned. It’s really got
this huge open space where it roams. And these open spaces
we’ve only just been studying. So this is tracks
from our satellite tags I’ll be talking about in which
a white shark is moving from California
to a center place halfway between Hawaii
and California, a place we call
the White Shark Café. And these places
weren’t even known less than a decade ago. All of the North American
white sharks gather in a single place, and this single place
we’ve never been to but we know it exists, and we want to know why. We want to know why
because that’s a picture that has been generated through listening to
the radio signals of AIS, that’s what we use on ships
to avoid collisions. Our collaborators at Google
and SkyTruth have created a program called Global FishWatch. That’s human beings.
We’re predators. That’s where we are. This is just the fishing
human beings with AIS. And right in the café
we’ve got an area that humans are actually
interacting within. So we’re concerned that
no matter what we do for white sharks on our coast, if we have this
human predation situation, this is all sort of the wild
west of where humans are on our planet, we might have a problem
conserving these animals if we can’t actually
keep track of who’s there. I also do what some of you do
here at NASA at Ames, I’m actually a card-carrying
animal physiologist. That’s what I teach at Stanford. I’m interested in how
an organism works from its genes
to its environment. I’m interested primarily
in the cardiac physiology of how the Olympic athlete,
the tuna, works. I think as a nation we’re not
really considering enough, if we really are headed towards
this warming world, what will be the impact
on mammals such as ourselves? I study what the impact is
on fish, and what we’re learning is that
the atrium of our hearts is actually
a very sensitive organ. All right, so what we can learn
from studying fish physiology can teach us about what’s
happening in the world around us of humans, of polar bears, all from studying
an Olympic heart of a tuna. We do this by having
unusual facilities in Monterey in back of
the Monterey Bay Aquarium. At Stanford University,
we’ve got treadmills that allows us to put fish inside the flume
and ask the question, what’s it like to swim
to Japan? And we can find out
how these animals operate. We can work with our friends
from ONR, instrument the animals
all along their bodies or make models
and instrument them, and try to learn the secrets
of how, when they swim, they actually keep flow laminar
across most of their body in a way that’s
extraordinarily unique. And then we can build AUVs
or automated vehicles that– that use these principles
in the mechanical design. And then most important,
even for a mission to Mars, we have to,
as physiologists, work together to understand what is resilience
in the physiological system? What is it that we need to be
paying attention to in a warming sea
or a cooling sea? What do you need to be
paying attention to for an organism that has to
travel a long distance without much gravity? And we are at the cutting edge of trying to figure out what
are the tools of genomics that can teach us
the clear signals we should be watching for
in our organelles as we look for these changes
that we call adaptation or resilience to warming seas. It’s hard to focus on
the individual organism when we really have
this collective planet, this planet that all of us
in this room need to be thinking about which is undergoing extraordinary
physiological changes, but we’ve only just begun to
develop the monitoring system to keep our eyes
on what’s happening. This ocean is warming along with the planet. Perhaps less understood is the fact it’s deoxygenating. This ocean that gave rise
to all of life on this planet is losing its oxygen as
the physics of warming happens. And then the most concerning
aspect of the oceans is as it buffers this planet,
the CO2 that’s being absorbed, we’re getting an increase
of acidity. The physiology of Earth may be the most important thing
that we’re studying right now, and yet the NASA budget
probably doesn’t have a whole lot in it for
this particular enterprise. All right? This is really our future, this planet. Our planet is a planet in which
climate change is real and it’s happening and we can
measure it in the seas. And our planet is a planet
in which humans across this planet are taking
the sharks and the tunas, all of the large predators,
out at an alarming rate and despite enormous efforts
of good management here in our nation, we still have to actually
deal with the fact that much of the problems
are in unregulated seas. So predators are in decline and when you put a long line in
to capture a tuna or a shark, it often captures
a leatherback– every species of turtle
on this planet that’s a marine turtle
is endangered– an albatross,
or many other species. This happens because of
our appetite on this planet for sushi and tuna, all right? We’re at a point where there’s
7 billion people headed to potentially 8 or 9, and now that tuna stocks
are down, sharks are becoming
a targeted species. I like to remind myself that
all of this happened in my lifetime. When I was born and the Apollo missions
were happening, our oceans were virgin places, barely understood. I was drawn into
Woods Hole Oceanographic, like many of you to exploration, because of the enormous
excitement around discovery of the vents. And the 50 years of this
lifetime my own, is the 50 years that
a lot of the challenges that we’re facing
on this planet at the level of Earth
have happened. And so the optimism in the room is that we have
such great young people, great universities, and that we
have to come up with solutions that are based
in new technologies. Let me just give you
one last glimpse of this. This is the Atlantic Ocean,
number of hooks. This is when I was born. This is Japan and other nations
exploring what it would be like
to set hooks in log scale. Hot color would be
lots of hooks. This is when I went to– I guess I must have graduated
from high school. This is graduating
from college, red areas being very hot. And then this is when
I came to Stanford. And now, after being
a professor. So when we see these pictures, what they represent are
hundreds of thousands of hooks in five-by-five blocks being
set across the planet. And because it’s out of sight
and out of mind, maybe a tuna might sell for
a million dollars and you’ll hear about it. That’s not what
most tunas sell for. But it really is amazing how much of the planetary
organismal fish and sharks get removed
and nobody really pays attention to it. All right? So we don’t want our kids
to grow up in an ocean, as Daniel Pauly says,
in which we’re fishing down the marine food chain and that jellyfish
will be the future. We want an ocean with
healthy ecosystems. So to have an ocean
with healthy ecosystems means we have to build
the technologies of today that will take us
into our oceans and allow us to see
what’s happening, a reef that’s changing
its acidity, a shark population
that’s being overfished. We have to use the new tools
that we have around us in ways that are, really,
ways they haven’t been used. And so my community
of scientists have responded
to this challenge, first, for the interest
in physiology, but then, because of
the conservation need. So we call the area
of biologging, the area of being able to take
data and telemetry it back, an area that, certainly,
NASA created without question. I can still remember
being in my car and hearing about an astronaut who was having its body
temperature monitored and telemetered home, and I remember
thinking to myself, gee, I’d like to do that
in a tuna fish. I want to measure
when a tuna eats a meal and learn in the tank
exactly when it happens. So we’ve been building tags
with companies for a long time, and these tags,
which you might think of are fish-and-chips
type of activity, they’re helping us understand where everything goes
in the sea. And to take back our seas, we’re even imagining a day soon when chips on fish will allow us
to catch the poachers. The bigger challenge we face, and this is one of my favorite
images of Earth– it’s a SeaWiFS
satellite image– is we don’t entirely understand
how the ecosystems that these animals live in
actually operate. So when we look at
a picture of Earth– let’s see if I can get
the laser pointer working. We see this gorgeous picture in which the green is
the pastures of our oceans, the blue is the deserts, and until I saw
that image, I had learned everything
in a textbook about oceans, but then I saw our planet and I
realized how it really works. Here are the big gyres, where you might not want to go
if you’re feeding, and you begin to understand
why fisheries happen along
our coastlines. We have
the satellite imagery but why is it we don’t know
where carnivores go in the ocean? Why is it that all of you can
close your eyes and really imagine what it’s
like when a white shark– excuse me, when a lion
takes down its prey, but it’s a little harder
for a tuna, a little easier for
a white shark because of Shark Week. We don’t know the basics,
though. We know how many lions
there are, how many giraffes there are. We know we’re losing elephants
and rhinos. And we know the disastrous
situation for many animals in the African plains
and the Serengeti, but we don’t really understand
the answers to those questions
for tunas and sharks. We barely understand
what’s going on in Monterey on a summer afternoon. Cloudy as could be
all summer there. We, as oceanographers,
have begun to figure it out. We know that
the winds of spring, the northwest winds that
are so strong in spring, are creating upwelling, bringing
up the nutrient-rich water that then seeds the pastures
of summer. And that would be
the phytoplankton that then draws in the krill that then brings the anchovy or the sardine and then brings in
the blue whale, the humpback, and the bluefin tuna. We barely understand,
until our tagging program, where the places,
like for wildebeest are, in which there might be
a long migration or how the seasonal migrations
of the Serengeti might work at an ocean scale and who’d be at
the watering hole. And it wasn’t until 2002
that we began actually putting the first
electronics on a bluefin tuna who might swim from our side
back to Japan and down to New Zealand and back and hope that we might see
that tag again. All right, so the challenge is
not only in the electronics but it’s also
in the challenge of how do you put things
on large objects that move through a fluid medium
that has a lot of salt? And how do you keep
the engineering going? Or how, like my colleagues
in TOPP, Dr. Bruce Mate from
Oregon State University, how do you go up
to a blue whale and put an electronic tag
on a blue whale? And then how do you take
all of this and put it in a context
of a moving fluid that changes at both seasonal
and decadal scales and tell a story about
how our planet Earth functions? So you begin by building
a tuna center, which we did in 1994, with the Monterey Bay Aquarium
in Stanford, and then you have to convince
your colleagues, your engineers,
that this is an exciting area. It’s not the most well-funded
part of our science stream, but what we began doing, partnering with the Navy and NOAA and many different funding
streams under NOPP, is we began building
the instruments we needed to put on the animals that we could measure
what’s happening in the ocean. My favorite instrument that we
spent a lot of time building is called an archival tag. It’s simply a computer. I’d say it has the most
sensitive light sensor on the planet. It’s arguable, but it’s
a nine-decade light sensor, has oceanographic quality
temperature and pressure. It goes into a fish surgically. The fish carries it
in the ocean, and we want to get it back
up to six years later, that’s what we’re doing
right now, and tell the journey
that fish took. How do we do that? Well, we have to depend upon
humans to get it back. That’s not always a good thing
to depend upon. So there’s a fishery,
targeted fishery, in which there’s about three
or four languages on the tag. It says return the tag,
return the computer, and if you get it back, we’re able, underneath the sea, to draw a map of a fish
that was tagged here went up the coast,
moved offshore once, all the way back again, and then went back to Japan
and got caught. So how did we do that? We did it using
the mathematics that was invested
in astronomy and sailing
from a long time ago, and that is if I have
an accurate clock, not an easy thing to build
and keep in a tuna, and I have photons, I can measure
sunrise and sunset, and I can actually do
mathematical algorithms that tell me where I am
on the planet and correct
for the diving fish. All right, so that’s
what we’re doing. And that geo-location has now been put into
a variety of tag types that sometimes
you have to get back and at other times you can
actually pop it off the animal and get it back through
satellite uplink. And I’m gonna tell you about
a whole family of tags that engineers have built
around the biologging community that have really led
to a breakthrough in understanding
where animals go. A second type of tag that
happens in animal tagging is obvious to most people. You put a radio tag
on the back of an animal. When it comes to the surface,
it sends up its signal. But it’s harder to put that
on a fish ’cause fish don’t come
to the surface. So we use pop-up satellite
archival tags at the top. Sometimes we can take
a dorsal fin of a shark and we can put a tag
at the tip. We’re only learning every day
more and more about how to do this. We can send
Argos satellite signals. We can now send GPS signals. We’re only just, as a community, learning how to do that well. We helped to bring
Fastloc technology from military applications
into the marine realm because when an animal comes to
the surface, like a whale, and goes… [breathes in and out] And gets a breath,
or a pinniped, it’s not there for very long. And so how long does it take to get a global satellite
signal? A lot longer than a breathing
whale at the surface or a shark who’s finning. This is the first shark
over the past year that we’ve put GPS at the tip
of its dorsal fin, and what we’re able to do is–
in tan is our Argos signal, and yellow is our GPS signal. I didn’t put
the geo-location signal, but we learned that, you know,
we’re doing pretty well with the methodologies
we have and GPS is getting us
somewhere there, but it’s hard to get the signal
off the animal. So these are the types of tags. The most complex tags
we’re doing right now are camera tags
with magnetometers and accelerometers that tell us
everything about pitch and speed underneath the sea. And we’re trying to put these
on tunas and sharks and find out how they work. But the most important thing
we do is we get a lot of points
about animals who are the most targeted
animals on the planet, about 100,000 points
from 2,000 days of tagging, huge amounts of effort catching
each fish individually. And in the Pacific–I took this
off the web this morning. There’s–
this is from ten hours ago, it says, “Pacific bluefin tuna
could become extinct without a fishing ban.” All right, so the importance
of this type of work is that without finding out
what they do, we can’t manage these animals. So I’m gonna give you
a couple of examples. This is the Atlantic Ocean. 60 nations are meeting next
week in Europe, in Spain, to decide, how does
the science support best splitting up
the last tuna for the two different sides
of the ocean, and how can we best manage
what we hope is a recovery? So we have two populations that are thought to not cross
the ocean originally, but now we’ve learned
from tagging, they do. We manage the western side of
the basin differently than the eastern side. We have a smaller stock
in the west off North America, a larger stock in the Med. This is the American stock, so this is lots of
breeding tunas. It declined long ago, hovering near its minimum
down here. Maybe there’s an uptick, but
then we had a Gulf oil spill, and it’s not really clear
what’s going on. So as I mentioned, we surgically put these tags
into the tuna, we let them go, we mark the tuna with
a small mark that’s green that says if you return me,
you’ll get $1,000. And we get fishermen
returning the tags, and when they return
the big tunas, it’s about 22% of
our instruments come back, and the small tunas, where there’s a higher
mortality rate in the Pacific, we get about half of them back, and that’s a lot to get back
from a wild ocean. So then what we do is we
compute where the fish went. So in the color is a track
of a fish beneath the sea. It’s never sent us
a radio signal. This is all
beneath the sea, all done with
a geo-location algorithm. It’s a probability function of
where is the animal? We hook those probabilities
together with an error, and then what
we’re able to do is run a states-based model
that, over time, has improved
telling us where an animal that’s completely
beneath the sea is going. And what is the reward for
your hard work over 20 years is to get tracks like this. The colors are day–or months in which the first year
the animal, he was over in America, then
the animal went to Ireland, and then Ireland to Spain and back and forth again. They breed
in the Mediterranean, so you start over here
and realize that a fish that you met
off the coast of North Carolina is really
a Mediterranean breeder. So we begin to separate
who’s who in the ocean. Another example,
a fish in the first year swimming right across to Spain and then the same thing, going
in the Balearics to breed for three years in a row. And so it’s through
this type of activity that we can begin to separate
populations. This is a population–
this is one fish who’s gone into the Gulf twice
to breed. And we begin to see that there
is a very, very small North American
giant bluefin tuna that’s separate from
the European bluefin tuna, but they mix
on their foraging grounds. We can also see into the ocean
with the animal as it dives. It’s become a sensor. There’s the day in the life
of a tuna down here in which the animal’s diving maybe to get a cod
or something like that. This is
the ambient temperature. There’s the warm-body
temperature. The animal is moving along
this trajectory, and over the life
of this tag, a year and a half of data,
you get this gorgeous data at the level of
oceanographic equipment. To get the pop-up tag to work
took a lot of effort by many people, and so this is pop-up tagging
here at Monterey. Learning how to pop the tags
off first in pens and then building an instrument that was robust enough to work
in the wild. Now, what we do routinely is put the external tag
on the outside of a fish. It’s pretty hard to keep it on. It’s 30 grams,
hard to get it smaller with its radio transmitters. It then does all
the computational math of the modeling
of sunrise and sunset on the tag. We correct the latitude by taking the zero pressure
in blue and temperature
and fitting that with sea surface temperature we get from satellites
from NASA and NOAA. We then can bring these two
models of where the fish is along a known light longitude
together and then get that probability. And the hard part about
pop-up tags is you have to send
that data back. So the tag is small, it rides,
records all this data. It does some smart
computational functions, comes to the surface
on a release that you program in, and then sends the data
back to Argos system. So then we’re able to take
imagery from NASA and NOAA, bring it together
with the track, and for the first time
in our lives, really see how it is that
the Gulf Stream becomes, for example,
the transporter of the tuna and how rings off
the Gulf Stream are places that they really love to go, and then how an animal might
probe the Gulf of Maine, look for something in there,
find it’s too cold, and then go back before heading
back down to North Carolina. And so this type of work
is challenging to do. So we are also able to,
as I said, send back these
oceanographic signals, find out how a fish
in a population are using the Gulf of Mexico. We’re able to see that
some of these fish move across to
the Mediterranean, as I told you,
combine it with genetics, such that we can see Gulf fish,
Mediterranean fish, and fish that are sort of
in the North Atlantic. We can use ear bones
with elements to tell us
from which population, red from the Gulf
and blue from the Med, saltier sea
the animals come from and we take all this
information and, for the first time,
we’re able to say to the world there’s two populations, maybe a third that’s
residential in the Med, and we need to manage
the mathematics of how many tunas there are
with this understanding and tell the bodies
that manage the tuna that your models need to have
an overlap mathematics and not this separation. Tunas also came into
the Gulf of Mexico to breed. And this is where we had
the world’s largest oil spill not too long ago, and we’re just publishing
some papers now in which we look at
what happened after spawning, what did the Gulf oil do
to the animals, and what did it do to their
spawn that’s going to impact
the population? And we do that with satellite
oceanography again coming from both NOAA and NASA
in which along a trajectory
of where a tuna is, we can tell a behavior
of spawning. That is, we can tell when the
tunas, if you will, have sex. And they do, like us,
some unusual things. I’m not gonna go into
the detail. They have a pattern up here
of behavior, of temperature and pressure that you could almost
with your eyes see on a dial base,
is different than the pattern below. And we know from our own work
physiologically that petroleum is
a cardiac arrhythmatic agent. We actually–I showed that. And so we can actually then
make some population estimates of what happened when tunas
spawn in oceanographic places that are oiled. So we can bring the layers
together and then ask the question,
what was the probability in the oil spill
of a tuna habitat in high probability green being covered with oil, and then also having
a spawning event occur? And that’s how we bring
together these disparate fields of satellite oceanography
and behavior. I’m gonna skip past this
because of time and tell you slightly about
our other project. So out here in the Pacific, which is a bit more
of the unknown, we have big sanctuaries
and we’re trying to understand, as I mentioned, we’ve been
talking about the tunas, how does an ocean
as big as the Pacific operate? To do that, we took
all of our equipment, our satellite tags
on the heads of seals, our pop-up tags,
our tuna archival tags, and the simple questions
that we’re asking are, if we understand that
there’s a relationship between upwelling
and productivity, how do you get optimum habitat
off California, and why does it occur only for about four to five months
of the year? Why is the hot spot,
if you will, July to November? So we satellite
oceanographically tagged from UCSC and Daniel Costa’s
lab in TOPP the e-seals off of– off of Año Nuevo. We built special tags with
our British colleagues that carried CTDs on the top
there. So these are true CTDs
like you’d see off an oceanographic ship. They measure salinity,
temperature. They now do
fluorescents, and we put this
on animals along with the Fastloc GPS, and we began to get, you know,
precision oceanography about what they’re doing. And what we learned from
this type of activity the elephant seal goes 1/3 to
halfway across the Pacific and comes back to the beach where you can get
the data back. We’ve got the sharks
I told you about. Here’s some salmon sharks here,
some tuna here. We found that we had a
neighborhood in our backyard, that we have this ocean called
the Pacific. But once we put tags on, we found that from Hawaii
to here is sort of an ocean neighborhood, and then in the summer months from New Zealand, from
Indonesia, from the Bering Sea, animals know it’s such
a great place to feed– it’s sort of the McDonald’s
of the west coast– that they all come up here,
unremarkable migrations, to feed here. And so what we learned by
studying many animals and guilds working together
as scientists is that the west coast
of North America has a place that attracts
albatross, that has tunas, that has sharks,
and for the first time, we could separate in colors
their different species and their habitats
with tagging. And the main result
of the project was to learn, in red,
that if you tag 4,000 animals and get tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands
of points, that the hot spot,
after you correct for having put many of the tags
in the west coast, isn’t just a diffusional place
that they go to because you
tagged them here. The hot spot is here
because it’s actually aggregating
much of the wildlife of the Pacific in
the northern Pacific Ocean. And there’s three hot spots
in particular. We found the highway, the
North Pacific Transition Zone, the California Current,
and the White Shark Café. We also found that,
much to our surprise, when we started,
we didn’t really know this, that if you take
oceanographic values– this would be chlorophyll. This down here is temperature
with red being warm colors. and you run the mean latitude
of all these guilds through the year, that there’s
a very seasonal pattern of either going north-south
or going inshore-offshore, that there’s actually a clock
that the animals are on. That clock is a seasonal clock in which this is the hot spot. All of the west coast
of North America in blue are transit periods and yellow is
the residency period. So I’ve told you a lot about
Pacific bluefin tuna. I’m not gonna say–
I mean, Atlantic bluefin tuna. On the Pacific side,
a tuna would be tagged, excuse me,
and go north and south for quite some time. And in blue is bluefin,
in red is yellowfin, three different species, in white will be albacore tuna. Those are the tunas of the west
coast of North America. This would be a NASA-generated surface temperature map
from JPL. And what we’ll have is then
tuna showing you their migration highway home. They always go along
that highway. And then we’ll see that in red,
the yellowfin tuna will be clinging
to North America. They’ll stay here. That’s what makes
the population. And then the albacore are
going out towards the café. Perhaps the biggest migrators
we learned, we took tuna tags and, through
the work of Scott Shaffer at San Jose State, we were able to show
with light-based geo-location that animals as small
as shearwaters that you see here in the summer
are coming up from New Zealand, ending up on our coast, maybe going over to Japan,
and then coming back down on some of the largest
migrations on the planet. These are with small
light-based geo-location tags that the birds carry
on their feet. And when we do all this tagging
together, we begin to see that
we understand that the transition zone, we need satellites
to really see this, is between the subarctic front
and the subtropical gyre that an albatross
on a single trip will use that frontal zone
with a satellite tag that a Pacific bluefin tuna
will migrate along this frontal zone
and so will the elephant seals ’cause that’s where
the food is. So we’re beginning to know
where the highways that we have to watch where
humans might be gathering. We’ll use this satellite data to make the synthesis of taking
all the data that we have, putting it together
with GAM models, and asking the question,
what is it that structures the habitat? How is it that temperature
and chlorophyll are structuring these places? And then we’ll
look at something like our elephant seal
or pinniped information and we’ll take this
to a step further where it helps the planet Earth where the data that
we’re gathering as–as– as biologists now as the animals move up and down is being sent to the world,
you know, GTS data set and the animals themselves,
as they cross the Pacific and come back with their tags can actually take more data than any manmade automated
vehicle at a lower cost, you know, the cost
of a sardine or two, across the entire ocean basin. All right, so this Animals
as Ocean Sensors project is something that’s grown up
out of TOPP. It’s happening
across the planet. What we do as
animal oceanographers is we take our data,
we’re learning to strip the ocean data from it,
send it up to the world system so that we can have a better
view of that in situ look at the oceans, such that if
this is last year’s El Niño– this is my colleague
Dan Costa’s team– where we’re sending out
the elephant seals to see the warm blob
that developed. And you look at, you know,
the Argo float program, a well-funded oceanographic
program, and the red are the hot areas, of how much data is coming back
in terms of casts, the seals, for a very low cost, can actually generate
quite a bit of data. This has really been taken
to heart at the Arctic and Antarctic zones
where those are animal tags from five nations in
the MEOP program being put out, versus the Argo floats in red, which can’t really get
to some of the places that the animals can get to. So animals are being cohorts in
oceanography across the planet. I want to just tell you
just a few more stories. This is a satellite tag
on a shark. We didn’t know when we started
we could send data from the fin of a shark. This is coming down
from Alaska, a salmon shark really roving
over the northeast Pacific. Here’s a mako
over three years tagged here,
one year, two years, and the third year,
and then today, off the web… this is this morning. A salmon shark we tagged last
year or a year ago in Alaska is right in Monterey Bay. I might go out and see
that shark this weekend. So we, again,
another story here, learned about this whole other
cousin of white sharks. Their enormous migrations
with satellite tags. They’re–this is the population
on the right, a single individual on the–
on the left. And you know, I would argue
that we don’t have polar bear tracks for this
long, again, from technology that is allowing us
to figure out where they are and what their impact are
on salmon. And then the one that everybody
wants to hear about are the white sharks
in our backyard. Two tags, acoustic and pop-up. Everybody wants to know
how we do it. We bring ’em close to the boat. We don’t recommend
you do this at home. And when you bring a white
shark close to the boat, you can attract them
with a seal decoy and a piece of blubber. You can get the animal moving
right into the boat area, and if you put on a tag,
like a satellite tag, in red are individual tracks
and in yellow is the whole population. That’s how we learn that every
shark here on California coast is going offshore,
back inshore, and hanging out at places
like the White Shark Café. The depth information
on the tag gives us the incredible story
that in close to shore, this is what you’re most
interested in for the surfers in the room, they’re right here
at the surface. Red being
the high-occupancy areas. Once they go offshore, they’re
doing a dial behavior and in the café,
my colleague, Sal Jorgensen, has shown that they’re doing
a rapid oscillatory diving. We think this could be
behaviorally some sort of behavior that’s attracting
males and females in the café. So they’re eating pinnipeds
close to home, squid offshore,
and the café is the place for meet and greet. And in this café, we know very
little that’s happening there. We know it’s
a concentrated place. We haven’t been there yet. We can use satellites
to look down on it. And what we’re doing right now with our Google colleagues is looking at who’s in
the café. This is now human fishing
hours in the café using the AIS beacons to ask,
“Who is in our Blue Serengeti?” And note there’s very little
activity in our North American ocean. That’s good. All right, so I’ll sum that up by showing
all three species now. Makos, white sharks,
salmon sharks all moving through space
and time in an ocean of color, of temperature,
and we see the three species and their shadows there
separated, and basically the white sharks
out there in the café. You could learn what time would
be a good time to go swimming in Monterey. April looks pretty good. And then these sharks
are gonna come back and you’ll see that they’ll
peak on our shore right about–coming up in the–
in the summertime. They just headed back. The first shark
showed up yesterday. And then by November,
all those white dots are gonna be out of
the open sea and into the coastal ocean. We sometimes have salmon sharks
get eaten by white sharks. That’s a good story there. All right, you can see the body
temperature getting constant and warm. But the main story
that I’ve told you today is we are a team
working with many others discovered that we have
a Blue Serengeti, a place as equivalent to
Kruger National Park in our backyard. All the animals are here. We’re trying now
to raise awareness of how do you make an MPA,
a marine protected area, that would protect this region beyond the sanctuaries? How is it that we make
a Yellowstone in the ocean? How do we make Yosemite
in the ocean? So there’s a map
of the great blue areas. We call these the large
marine protected areas. There are not very many
in the ocean. Less than 10% of the ocean
is protected. Here’s the Phoenix Islands
Protected Area, Chagos. Here’s our backyard, not very well protected. In order to protect
these places and look to the future, we need to have
apex predator monitoring. To do that, cool technologies
like Wave Gliders and buoys are being used. I’m gonna finish up by just
giving a couple examples. These are where the animals
are from our satellite tags. The black is where
the protection zones are. Those are the national marine
sanctuaries White are white sharks. Don’t get nervous
when you see that slide. Orange are the salmon sharks. It’s a shark-y backyard
we have. We live in peace in
this backyard with our sharks. We’ve developed a system
in which we put receivers, built by a company called
VEMCO, in the ocean at just a few places. We can keep track acoustically
of the white sharks as they come and go. Those are just different white
sharks hitting the receivers. We’ve put iridium satellite
devices on the top of our receivers now, and you on your iPhone
can keep track, and if you come
into our app or take a look on the web of when a white shark
swims by the buoy. You can see when it’s here. This is–you can see the gap
when they’re away. This is yesterday, and I just noticed
this white shark just showed up on our coast. So you can do that
by going to topp.org and going to a buoy. These buoys have
physical oceanography. They’re built in collaboration
with MBARI now, and we’ve got a few of them
in the ocean right at Hopkins. We can tell our undergrads,
“Hey, look, there’s 14 large white sharks
that come by.” The gliders give us
continuous coverage, and the future of oceanography
is to begin to enable this mechanized world
that samples allows us to go in, do things
like go around Farallones and see with a mechanized
glider, all in yellow, that white sharks are
circling the Farallones. Not a great place to go
swimming in the summertime. That’s a bunch of different
white sharks all gathered there that we couldn’t visualize
ourselves until we had gliders
that were circling. So in conclusion,
the future really is a future in which
we bring together these disparate worlds of– of surveillance, technologies that are
latecomers to our oceans that you probably are using on
other planetary missions. And we begin to understand how is it that we can see
what’s happening in our sea? And that’s what
we’re trying to do with our colleagues right now. And the future
is something like having not only
the mechanized vehicles and the tagged animals, but also developing this world
of environmental DNA, being able to do signatures of being able to see where
the animals are, and also pick up
their signature from their genetic material. So an evolving area of science
is the fact that wherever you go,
especially in the sea, you can find the shedding cells
and tell who’s been there. We envision the day soon where we could just send out
a glider to the café and the glider remotely could
sample what’s happening there and send it back to the lab. Something you’d be doing
on Mars, perhaps. And then we envision
the day soon where we take back our seas
from the poachers that with the Google
and SkyTruth-enabled ability to follow where humans are that we can actually,
in these remote places, the largest MPAs on Earth, build the type of devices
that help us prevent the taking of the sharks. I’m gonna just go back–back
right past this very sad story, the largest MPA on Earth
where we work, completely overrun with
poachers that we can’t stop. And I’ll end on this last note. My hope for the future is that with coming together of
different groups, we can do things like build
what we’re building right now with our Stanford colleagues
and aerospace, the fin alert shark tag, a tag that, when we take a shark
from the sea, it will have the same type
of device we have in clothes at Macy’s where it will alert
the patrol boats that the animal’s been taken and the patrol boat can come
and say, hey, you know, you’re not
supposed to be in our MPA, our marine protected area. That type of technology
is what we need combined with
the satellite technology to own this place called Earth and to prevent
what’s happening, the decimation of
the large marine predators in the open sea
beyond U.S. borders. So I’m gonna end
by saying thanks for listening. Monitoring with technology, bringing together
these disparate paths is really the future
of our oceans, and to do all this work, there’s many people
I would have to thank but I particularly want to
thank my own laboratory that actually has led
the charge with me throughout the years,
many different people, and then the combination of
philanthropic and federal funding
that’s allowed us to span two ocean basins in pursuit of a healthier ocean. Thank you very much. [applause] – Great talk. So we have time
for a few questions. If you have a question,
please raise your hand, wait for the microphone,
stand up, and one question only. – Hi, thank you for the talk.
That was great. I’m wondering, when you’re
making these global conclusions on fish trends, how do you deal with the
potential for oversampling of fish in this region
and maybe under-sampling of populations that are
based in Latin America or Australia? – Okay, so I’m gonna–
I’m not entirely sure exactly which particular aspect
of the study you’re–you’re–
you’re focused on, but let me just talk about
fish trends. The fish in the world
are reported to regional fishery management
organizations that are international
called RFMOs or to FAO. And so most of the grids
for fish reporting are five-by-five grids, and all you’re getting is what
humans tell other humans they’re doing. So there’s a lot of
illegal fishing, too, but most of what you’re seeing
in graphs is reported fishing pressure. And there’s been study after
study across the planet that’s shown that the trends
are, you know, going down. It’s called the fishing down
of the food web. – I mean, more of when
you’re tagging fish, how do you–how do you
deal with– – Wait for the mic. – Tagging only ones that are in
this area, or tagging sharks– – Okay, sorry. When we tag and we look at
where an animal goes, we have to actually account
for that tagging area. So we either have to do a
statistical, robust analysis in which we have to measure
how many animals do we tag, what was the length of a tag on, how do we deal with dispersion
versus advection, so it’s just a math model. I’m not–maybe I didn’t get
your question exactly. – Hi, that was fascinating.
I have two questions. The first question is,
when the animals are going out way offshore,
they’re crossing deserts. I mean, are they going deep? I mean, are they–their surface
waters are oligotrophic, so how are they managing? And they don’t seem to be
following currents. They seem to be going
countercurrents. So what have you learned
about that aspect? And then I have
another question. – I think that’s–
that’s a really great question. That’s sort of the secret
of the planet Earth. So the biggest peanut butter
shop on the planet is in what we call
the mesopelagic, so that’s the layer
underneath the open sea, so the pelagic. And in that layer is
a fish with oil that may be the real
peanut butter of the sea called a lantern fish. So a lot of these animals
are diving down to that layer that
doesn’t have light, the mesopelagic,
or it’s got low light, feeding in that sometimes
low-oxygen layer, sometimes not low-oxygen, and then coming back
to the surface. So we see a lot of that
dial behavior out in the open sea, and so there’s– there’s three parts to
the answer to your question that–that we studied today. How are these animals
so efficient in moving? That is, how is it that
they don’t have such high energetic costs
that they can do that? They can use planetary scales
that we could only dream of with a Rover or an AUV. So every AUV on the planet,
what limits where it goes? Anybody? Batteries, right?
– Yeah. – Okay, so unless you have
a solar-powered AUV, you can’t go very far on
the planet compared to a tuna. And so what the animals
are doing is they’re combining
elastic energy storage with mechanical muscle power. Once they get out there,
it’s a desert. So the question really is
where do you feed? And the answer is
you’re feeding below the surface satellite imagery. And I think the café is
a great example where, you know, by surface signal,
we would never know that that was a place that all
the white sharks gather, or would we know why. And so when we go there
physically perhaps for the first time– we’ve applied for
some cruise time– maybe what we’ll find
is what I think is going on, and that is that
there is an edge there that we don’t naturally
recognize as vertebrates, as primates. The edge is formed by
a hypoxic layer and a very well-oxygenated
piece of the ocean and maybe along
that frontal boundary, that’s a kind of
frontal boundary that we don’t normally see
from the surface, there’s a stack of, like,
cordwood of prey or maybe it’s for
some other reason, but I think what the animals
are teaching us is we don’t entirely yet
understand our planet as to where the carbon
gets stored that then makes for
a good food web. – Well, that’s interesting. There may also be
some metabolic issues because it’s a lower
temperature, but the following question
I have is that the ocean is
an acoustic environment, not a visual environment. Have you thought about look–
listening to the animals as they’re moving through
the ocean, and not only to understand
what they’re doing, but also to learn about
the surrounding environment acoustically? – Yeah, it’s a superb question. I’d say that we vertebrate
researchers, especially in fish, are behind on the acoustics. We actually, for the Navy,
did a project where we measured tuna’s
capacity to hear. It’s quite good. And so I think what probably
is going on that we haven’t ever put
a perception on in terms of a human perception
of how it works is that certainly when things
move through the ocean there’s sound signals, right? How a fish would pick that up
isn’t something anybody’s, you know, done at
the pelagic level very well, but perhaps–
perhaps it’s working. I think that smell
is certainly big. You look at a marlin,
a tuna, swordfish, they’ve got a very large rosette
that is nasal. So clearly,
the smell of a squid, you know, may be something
they can pick up. I mean, I get fascinated
primarily by simple questions like this: how does a giant tuna
swimming in the North Atlantic decide to go to 1,000 meters and do it in less than
ten minutes? You know, how did it know that there was something
worth chasing down there? So how does it find the squid
that’s down there? And wouldn’t you love to see
from a camera what’s really going on? Imagine all of you
who spend every day wanting to go
to some other planet, we’ve barely seen what’s on
this planet at depth, all right? We’ve been to
the Marianas Trench. We’ve been to some of
these incredible places, but do we really understand places like the open sea, what’s happening in the richest, most biodiverse region,
the mesopelagic, which covers the largest zone
of the ocean? So we oceanographers
have been behind at sending our message out. We’re perhaps not as articulate
a crowd as our colleagues
of this institution, and I think that, you know,
there’s some really clear issues across 2/3 of the planet
that have to be sorted out. And I think that, you know,
it’s challenging to make it compelling. – Hi, thanks for coming
to talk to us. I had a question in terms of–
you talked about a lot of different technologies
that are being developed. In terms of one
establishing MPAs across–for California, and then sort of supporting
the establishment and retaining them, what types of advancements
in technologies or developments do you see? Is it sort of supporting, like,
population or looking at species or– maybe you could speak
a little bit to that. – Okay, and that’s a–
that’s a terrific question, a very hard question, too, so thank you for
the difficult question. And I don’t think we have
a clear answer to that question. I think that many of you
may know that there’s been an act passed
in California that protects
very important domains that are inshore, so the Marine Life
Protection Act. That means that a hundred years
from now, you know, your kids’ kids
might be able to see what happens in a California
intertidal zone that’s almost undisturbed. So it protects small places
close to shore. We have sanctuaries now,
and these sanctuaries, such as Monterey Bay
National Marine Sanctuary, the Gulf of the Farallones
Sanctuary, Cordell Bank Sanctuary, they protect larger parcels
of the ocean that are quite important, but they still allow fishing and many activities
to occur there. There is a push going on
right now by–by the west-coast folks in–in oceans
to now take seamounts and through the Monument Act put those out of reach
of certain types of fishers, the fishers who can drag a net
along a seamount and change the biodiversity
overnight. So that is an– is an Antiquities Act type
of protection that may go in play at the end
of the Obama administration. What other tools do we have
to protect pelagic areas? Very few is the answer. Even building
a World Heritage Site, you know, the same type of site
that might be around the Great Barrier Reef, is something that’s very unique
to a temperate zone like ours and doesn’t necessarily come
with a lot of protection as much as it raises the profile
of an area. So the answer is
that’s our challenge. How do we tell the fleets
of boats that we are seeing now that we have the AIS tools– so remember, the biggest tool
that came of age in the last two years is the capacity to use
a collision-avoidance system as a way to see what humans
are doing on the planet, and it’s been shocking to see
all the nations out beyond our borders who are fishing every last fish
they can get. So we may be the best
at making laws that conserve and manage
our fisheries. We do quite well as Americans. But just beyond our borders, where the animals
are coming in from, we’ve got many nations, and I’m not gonna name names,
but the fleets are big. I’ll name some of the biggest
fleets, China, Korea, Japan. And they’re fishing
in the offshore realm. So we won’t save that part
of this planet until we come up with ways
of monitoring, and monitoring can only be done
with satellites and with tools that
would allow us to count, you know, what’s being taken. So my dream is beyond the tag
I told you about unfunded–
I call it fish chip– is to chip the carcasses
tomorrow, not–not, you know,
ten years from now. So by chipping the carcasses
with a satellite chip– it isn’t as easy as you think. You want to have Veridium. You want to have RFID. You want to be able to see
an animal in container ships, so you need GPS, Veridium, a
bunch of different technologies together on the chip so that we can’t have
a black market of tuna, toothfish, you know. Other people might worry about
rhinoceroses, but you want to be able
to chip the wildlife so it can’t be traveling
the planet without us knowing. And I think we could do that as soon as people come together
and say, “We care about these problems.” – So with that, please join me
in thanking Dr. Block for an excellent talk. [applause] [musical tones]
[electronic sounds of data]

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