The Marine Science Institute's monthly column, Science and the SeaTM, is an informative and entertaining article that explains many interesting features of the marine environment and the creatures that live there.  Science and the SeaTM articles appear monthly in one of Texas' most widely read fishing magazines, Texas Saltwater Fishing, the Port Aransas South Jetty newspaper, the Flour Bluff News, and the Island Moon newspaper. Our article archive is available also on our website.

June 1, 2008

Texas may be famous for its beautiful wildflowers, but how many Texans know about the amazing flower gardens hidden off the Texas Coast?

In the Gulf of Mexico about 110 miles south of the Texas-Louisiana border lay the Flower Garden Banks, the northernmost coral reefs in the United States. Named for their brightly colored plant and animal life, these underwater communities have a unique geological past.

May 1, 2008
In oceans across the world, fishing boats sometimes pull up their lines to find an unlucky catch:  seabirds.

Seabirds, such as petrels and albatrosses, often face peril from longline fishing, which mainly targets tuna and swordfish. These fishing boats pay out very long lines with baited hooks which sink to their fishing depth to lure prized fish. But before the lines sink very far, seabirds dive after the bait and get snared by the hook and dragged under.

April 1, 2008

On some late spring nights, the beaches of southern California come alive with the silver tide — hundreds of small, shiny fish.

These silvery fish are California grunion. They’re about 5-7 inches long and found only along the coast of southern California and northern Baja, Mexico. The name grunion comes from the Spanish word for grunter because of the squeaking noise the fish make during spawning.

March 1, 2008

There’s a reason why an octopus always draws a crowd at aquariums — this eight-armed creature is considered one of the sea’s smartest animals.

For their size, octopuses have the largest brains of any invertebrate, and stories of how they use these brains are legendary. Octopuses have been known to untwist jar lids to get at food inside. They are able to distinguish colors and shapes, and they use this skill to orient themselves to visual landmarks for navigation.

February 1, 2008

Ocean waves are a powerful force — and a potential source of renewable energy. Engineers have been working on devices to harness wave power for years, and in 2007, the world’s first wave farm was launched off the coast of Portugal.

Just like wave farms, which use rows of wind turbines to harness energy from moving air, a wave farm converts energy from moving water to electricity. Because water is denser than air, it packs even more energy when in motion.

January 1, 2008
People have been raising marine animals for food for hundreds of years — a process called aquaculture. But as the demand for seafood has grown, some sea farmers have pioneered organic techniques to reduce the impact of aquaculture on the marine environment.
December 1, 2007

When we think of the world’s biggest repositories of trash, we usually picture vast landfills. But thanks to the nature of ocean currents (and the indestructibility of some garbage), an area called the North Pacific Gyre has become known as the vortex of trash.

November 1, 2007

Imagine living in a place where crashing waves pound against jagged rocks, the blazing sun bakes the ground, and predators stalk the shore. This is life in the intertidal zone.

The intertidal zone is the area on a shoreline between the high and low tides, and it offers an abundance of nourishment for marine life. Nutrients washed down from the land and gases churned by the waves feed algae and plankton, which form the base of the intricate intertidal food web.

October 1, 2007

A house made of glass may not seem like the ideal shelter, that is, unless you’re a certain kind of tiny marine creature. Fragile and beautiful cities composed of these glass homes are created by only a few unique species of sponges and can cover miles of ocean floor, forming what are known as glass sponge reefs.

September 1, 2007

Native Alaskan hunters made an incredible discovery during a bowhead whale hunt in May 2007. Embedded in the blubber of a 50-ton whale was a fragment of a harpoon dating from the 1800s.

Scientists typically find it difficult to determine the age of whales, but in this case, they could put a time-stamp on the whale in question. Since the harpoon found in its body was a unique design, used only in New England from about 1885-1895, the whale must have been carrying it around for over one hundred years.