Radio Program

Our regular Science and the SeaTM radio program presents marine science topics in an engaging two-minute story format. Our script writers gather ideas for the radio program from the University of Texas Marine Science Institute's researchers and from our very popular college class, Introduction to Oceanography, which we teach to hundreds of non-science majors at The University of Texas at Austin every year. Our radio programs are distributed at to commercial and public radio stations across the country.

June 12, 2016
Model of a Steller's sea cow in the Natural History Museum in London. Credit: Emoke Denes, Wikipedia,  Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license

In the summer of 1741, a Russian expedition was in trouble. Led by Vitus Bering, it had crossed the northern Pacific Ocean from Siberia to Alaska, and was on its way home. But after months at sea, Bering and many of his men were suffering from scurvy. When a storm hit, they were shipwrecked on an island they’d discovered a few months before.

June 5, 2016
The Dead Sea contains some of the saltiest water in the world. Credit: Bernard Gagnon, Wikipedia, GNU Free Documentation License

You can barely open a cookbook or watch a show on Food Network these days without being bombarded with the virtues of sea salt. Some chefs think it tastes better than table salt, or they prefer its texture or color. And some even claim that it’s better for you than table salt.

Yet chemically, sea salt and table salt are almost identical. And they have the same origin as well — both come from minerals that settled to the bottom of the ocean or another body of water.

May 29, 2016
Japanese spider crab. Credit: Popular Science Magazine, June 1920.

Most of the crabs you find scuttling along the beach are a few inches to perhaps a foot or so across. But they have some relatives off the coast of Japan that are a bit more intimidating. In fact, they’ve been described as “crabzilla.” Spread out, their legs can span 13 feet, and the crabs can weigh up to 40 pounds. Not only does that make them the largest of all crabs, it makes them the largest of all arthropods — a class of creatures that includes everything from crabs and shrimp to scorpions and spiders.

May 22, 2016
Davidson Seamount is located off the coast of central California. Credit: C. King, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Volcanic mountains dot the west coast of the United States. Some are dormant, some are extinct — and some hide below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

These underwater mountains are known as seamounts. And the first one ever listed as a seamount lies about 75 miles southwest of Monterey, California. It was discovered in 1933, and a few years later it was named for George Davidson, a leader in exploring America’s Pacific coast.

May 15, 2016
Floating fin whale in Alaska. Credit: Bree Witteveen, Sea Grant Alaska

You could forgive the fin whale if it has an inferiority complex. It’s the second-largest animal on the planet, yet it’s virtually unknown. It’s overshadowed by its bigger cousin, the blue whale. And that’s a shame, because it’s a beautiful and graceful animal.

The fin whale is found around the world, mainly in colder waters. A northern species rings the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans, while a southern species is found around Antarctica. The northern whales grow up to about 75 feet long, while the southern ones can be about 10 feet longer, and can weigh up to 70 or 80 tons.

May 8, 2016
Aboveground nuclear test conducted at the Nevada Test Site on May 25, 1953. Credit: Nevada Department of Environmental Protection

It’s been decades since any country exploded a nuclear bomb in the atmosphere. Yet many of the byproducts of those blasts are still with us. And one of them helps scientists track ocean currents.

From 1945 to 1980, the world conducted about 500 nuclear tests in the atmosphere, at sites scattered around the world. Most of those sites were in the northern hemisphere, so much of the radioactive debris fell into northern oceans — especially the North Atlantic.

May 1, 2016
Sea foam at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The foam on a latte, or the foamy meringue on top of a lemon pie, can be a delightful treat. The foam on the ocean? Not so much. It contains some ingredients that you don’t want to eat.

Sea foam is created by strong winds. As the wind blows across the water, it creates waves. When the waves ripple and break, they create bubbles of air. But it’s the material that forms the “skin” of the bubbles that can be so unappetizing.

April 24, 2016
 Gentoo penguins in Antarctica. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Penguins may look cool, but they never seem to get cold. And recent research has provided some reasons: tiny holes in their feathers, and a special oil that acts as a sort of antifreeze.Researchers compared the feathers of two types of penguins — the gentoo, which lives in Antarctica, and the magellanic, which lives in the warmer climate of South America.

April 17, 2016
Microbeads Credit: University of Washington, Tacoma.

Your shower gel, eye makeup, and even toothpaste may develop a slightly different feel in the years ahead. That’s because the United States has banned one of their key ingredients: tiny balls of plastic known as microbeads.

As the name suggests, most of these beads are microscopic. They’ve been used as abrasives in many personal cleaning products, and as lubricants in many cosmetics. The problem, though, is that when you rinse them off, they don’t stop — they can rinse into rivers, lakes, and all the way into the oceans.

April 10, 2016
A 12-foot female tiger shark swims above a row of SCUBA divers in the Bahamas. Credit: Jim Abernethy of Jim Abernethy's,

People love sharks. We might be scared of them, but we still love to watch them glide through the water. Most of us watch them on TV, but many prefer to see the real thing — to see their menacing shapes from a boat, or even to plunge in and swim with the sharks.

In fact, shark tourism is big business. And in the next couple of decades, it could become even bigger. As a result, sharks could be worth a lot more alive than dead.