Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Seal eats shark!

Hi Sea Fans!

You have GOT to see this!  I was amazed when I first read about it because sharks are known for eating seals...not the other way around.  Chris Fallows, a well-known Great White Shark photographer saw it first hand.

This seal didn't only eat one, but FIVE blue sharks (bits of the sharks that were the tastiest) while Mr Fallows watched!  The sharks were all around 1.1 - 1.4m long, which could explain why they became supper.  Cape Fur Seals can grow up to 3 metres long and 315 kg.  I guess you always have to watch out when you're the smaller animal!!

If you want to read more, go to:

Have a great week Sea Fans!

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More at Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Hi Sea Fans!

After diving in the exhibits at DISL and partying up a storm with the docents at their annual party, I got to spend a day with the Discovery Hall Programs.

The day that I went, the elementary school on the island visited the Sea Lab for a Touch Lab.  DISL’s marine educators use the hands-on Touch Lab, a collection of preserved marine animals (animals that died and have been dried or put in special liquid called formalin that makes them stay in one piece), to teach students from across Alabama and beyond about the amazing creatures inhabiting their local waters. I joined the Dauphin Island Elementary 3rd graders in learning about marine life of the Gulf of Mexico.

Students examine a preserved pregnant female Blue Crab.  Female Blue Crabs can produce up to 2 million eggs at a time!
Students took turns checking out the baby Lightning Whelk Snails under the microscope.
A Lightning Whelk.   Photo:
Students learnt about the different body shapes and adaptation fish can have, from the round and spiky puffer or blowfish, to the flat and camouflaged flounder and the remora (shark sucker) which has a suction cup on top of its head!
Checking out the Pufferfish.
We then got to check out sharks, skates and stingrays...which are all related and have skeletons made up of cartilage.  (If you want to find out more about some different sharks and other predators, check out my book called PREDATORS in a bookstore near you OR order it online from Art Publishers,

A Bull Shark Jaw (known as a Zambezi where I come from).
The last thing we got to check out was bones bones bones!  
The boys loved the skull of the Loggerhead Turtle.
So all in all, it was a great time had by all.  I think the boys and girls had so much fun because it was all smiles when they said goodbye.  It was great to meet you all and I hope some of you decide to become marine biologists one day!! : )

That's it from me for today Sea Fans, chat soon.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sweet Home Alabama

Hi Sea Fans!

So much news and so many's difficult to know where to start.  Hmmm, well, I'll tell you about my visit to The Estuarium at The Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL).

It was so cool, I haven't dived in a while and I was really missing "blowing bubbles" (our nickname for diving) when Melissa, an aquarist at DISL, asked if I'd like to join her.  Well, I was in for a surprise because they didn't want me to dive with SCUBA gear (breathing equipment that divers normally use where they carry a cylinder that looks like a bottle on their back that's filled with air.  SCUBA stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) , they wanted me to go down in the exhibit in a homemade submersible (my own personal submarine).  I was game for anything!

Me and Melissa underwater in the Gulf of Mexico tank.
I must have looked really odd because all of the fish came to have a closer look at me.  I saw Scamp, Red Grouper, Red Snapper....

and a Nurse Shark!  

For those of you that haven't heard of a Scamp before:
This is it!
I was also invited to join the docents (those friendly people you meet at aquariums who tell you all about the fish) at their annual party.

We had a ball and I made so many friends. Thanks so much DISL, I had a great time!  

So next time you're in the area, check Dauphin Island Sea Lab out and let me know what you think.

Have a great weekend Sea Fans!
Chat soon.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Aussie Aussie Aussie oi oi oi!

Hi Sea Fans!

Well, more from Australia! J

I had a great time in Perth (Western Australia) visiting the Naturaliste Marine Discovery Centre (NMDC).  The NMDC is very similar to the Marine and Freshwater Discovery Centre in Queenscliff, but with a little less focus on freshwater.  It is mostly a research facility with part of the building being used for public education. 

I had a great time looking at their aquariums and one of my favourite things to do was to watch the cleaner wrasse busy themselves in the gills of the Yellow-spotted rockcod.  The NMDC Customer Service Assistant, Sarah, showed me the otolith aging lab so that I could look at Dhufish otoliths (Dhufish are only found in Western Australia!!).  

The best picture I could find on the internet of the Dhufish.  Photo: Neville Coleman

They had such a clever discovery centre area with ipads where I ended up spending my free time (not much seeing as I was busy busy busy checking things out in the aquarium but hey, it was fun!) doing puzzles and I was also lucky enough to get to see the octopus larvae that hatched on the Friday, under the microeye.

Carina, my host at NMDC, also organised for me to participate in the school holiday activity ‘A Year with the Ocean’.  In this activity we learnt about two key marine habitats – SEAGRASS and CORAL REEFS (found in Western Australia) - and the organisms that inhabit them.  I got to help participants design their habitat picture page for their own calendars that they took home to stick on the fridge.  I just LOVED the glitter glue effect!

On the Friday, the NMDC was host to an environmental education professional learning (PL) day.  The PL course runs for three days and is called Catchments, Corridors and Coasts.  On the first day, participants discover the wider Perth catchment area.  They spend the second day in the corridor between the hills and the coast.  The third day is then spent on the coast.  I got to be the lifeguard whilst the participants were snorkelling and reef walking in the morning!  : )  We learnt about dune vegetation with the local Coastcare coordinator, checked out the sea wrack and then helped participants with their classifying activity in the lab with Carina.

My next adventure in the land Down Under is in Henley Beach, but to get to get to my hosts Tim and John, I need to cross the Nullarbor (a long stretch of desert road between Western Australia and South Australia).

Stay tuned Sea Fans and see what’s going to happen next!
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Friday, February 8, 2013

I've gone Down Under!

Hi Sea Fans!

My latest update is from...da dada daaaaa....AUSTRALIA!!

I recently spent some time in Queenscliff (which is in Victoria at the bottom of Australia) at the Marine and Freshwater Discovery Centre, which is an educational marine/freshwater aquarium, where I got to check out an iconic Australian freshwater fish that can grow to over 1.5 metres in length ... the Murray Cod.  

This fish was definitely eyeballing me! : )

Thanks to Julie Murphy, my host, I got to spend time at the facility doing a variety of things.  I helped the volunteers;

Searching for plankton under the microscope.

I checked out some bones (It was fascinating to see a dolphin skeleton again, I haven’t seen one of those since I volunteered at one of the local museums!  I used to have to help keep all the skeleton information in order for future research);

and, following my visit to the education centre, I was lucky enough to be invited to spend a day in their research facility next door. The most fun was working with fish otoliths.  Do you know what those are?  Fish ear bones!  They’re used to age a a tree, you can count the rings on an otolith and find out how old a fish is.  
We used a diamond saw to cut the otoliths very, very thinly!

Looking at the otoliths under the microscope made me realise, once again, how amazing fish are...actually, all animals... because they're made up of so many complicated little things that seem so simple, but without every little one, the animal can't function.

I also spent some time in the chemistry lab doing nutrient testing on seawater samples.
Me behind the equipment that was analysing a seawater sample from a sewage outlet.
It's been so much fun checking out how the Aussies do it! :) Thanks Julie and the MFDC crew, it was great to meet you.

There's more to come Sea Fans, so keep an eye on  this blog for more on the work done in Australia.

Have a great week.
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