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.

August 9, 2015
Much of the gold in the oceans is not found in bar form, but dissolved in the water. Credit: Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited

Don’t tell anyone else, but we know where you can find a fortune in gold -- about 20 million tons of it. It’s in the oceans. Not in sunken pirate ships or Spanish galleons, but dissolved in the water itself.

In fact, ocean water is like a well-stocked chemical warehouse. About three-and-a-half-percent of it consists of molecules of something other than H-2-O.

August 2, 2015
A preserved specimen of a frilled shark at an aquarium in Paris. Credit: Citron, GNU Free Documentation License

Getting to know all the fish in the seas is a tough job. There’s a lot of ocean to cover, after all, and many species aren’t especially easy to find -- they have limited numbers or range, or they lurk in waters that aren’t often explored.

An example is the frilled shark. It looks almost nothing like most other shark species. Its body is long and sinuous, like an eel’s, and its head looks more like a snake than a fish. It has a prehistoric look, which is appropriate, since its ancestors were around at least 80 million years ago.

July 26, 2015
Image shows heat radiating from the Pacific Ocean as imaged by the NASA’s Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System instrument on the Terra satellite. Credit: NASA

A few years back, McDonald’s tried a change in the way it packaged its burgers. They were separated to keep the hot ingredients hot and the cold ingredients cold. And there seems to be a similar separation in the oceans. The warm upper layers seem to be getting warmer than thought, while the cold lower layers don’t seem to be getting any warmer at all.

About 90 percent of the extra heat created by global warming goes into the oceans. But tracking just where that heat is going is a tough job.

July 19, 2015
Cone snails are lethal hunters. Credit: Richard Ling 2005, GNU Free Documentation License

The geographic cone snail was already known as a quiet killer. It’s only a few inches long. And like many other species of cone snail, it lurks at the bottom of warm, shallow waters near coral reefs, sometimes burying itself beneath sand and pebbles. It waits until an unwise fish swims close by, then zaps it with a small “harpoon” laced with a powerful neurotoxin. The fish is paralyzed in seconds, ready for the snail to pull it in and swallow it whole.

July 12, 2015
An Argo float being deployed in 2004 between Hawaii and San Diego. Credit: Dr. James Swift, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego

In Greek mythology, the Argo was a ship that carried Jason and his band of heroes on adventures through unknown waters. Today, another Argo is exploring unknown waters. In fact, it’s turning the un-known into the known.

This Argo is an international project that’s measuring ocean conditions down to depths of almost a mile. It consists of more than 3800 probes that measure temperature, salinity, and currents in all the world’s oceans.

July 5, 2015
Some fish are moving between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium / TOPP

Many species of marine life are changing addresses. As the oceans get warmer, they’re moving to new waters to seek out comfortable temperatures. But quite a few species of fish could be about to make a really big move -- from the north Atlantic to the north Pacific or vice versa. That could mean big changes for the ecosystems of both regions -- and for the people that depend on them.

June 28, 2015
A snail fish in the Canada Basin at roughly 6000 feet water depth. Credit: Bodil Bluhm, University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and Ian MacDonald, Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi

More than five miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, the temperature is near freezing, there’s no sunlight, and the pressure is more than five tons per square inch. Yet that forbidding zone is home to the deepest fish yet seen — a tadpole-shaped creature known as a snailfish.

June 21, 2015
Atlantic/Indian Ocean seafloor topography from satelliet altimetry in 1997. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Most of the ocean floor is more poorly mapped than the surfaces of the Moon or Mars. That fact has been highlighted by the search for Malaysian Airlines flight 370, which vanished in 2014. Investigators concluded that it crashed into the southern Indian Ocean. But the search was hampered by the lack of good maps of the ocean floor.

That poor view hinders research as well. The contours of the ocean floor guide currents, and they affect the way different layers of water mix together. So good maps help scientists develop better models of ocean circulation, climate change, and more.

June 14, 2015
Seals and sea lions can carry tuberculosis and can even transmit it to humans. Credit: Vladimir Burkanov, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

When Europeans began settling in the Americas, they carried diseases that decimated the native populations. Centuries earlier, though, other visitors from the Old World may also have brought a deadly disease to the New: tuberculosis. But these visitors weren’t intent on conquest or searching for gold. In fact, they weren’t even human — they were seals and sea lions that crossed the Atlantic Ocean.

June 7, 2015
This image shows the maximum wave heights of the tsunami generated by the Japan earthquake on March 11, 2011. It does NOT represent levels of radiation from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in the oceans almost never stays put. Ocean currents transport materials across vast distances. So if something unpleasant happens in one spot in the oceans, its effects may be felt thousands of miles away.