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.

December 29, 2007

Although it’s best known from Hollywood movies, with tense submarine crews listening to the “pings” from enemy ships, sonar is an important tool for exploring the oceans. Over the last few decades, marine scientists have used it to map the ocean floor.

“Sonar” is short for Sound Navigation and Ranging. A device sends out a pulse of sound, and a detector picks up its reflection from solid objects below it. The military uses sonar to detect submarines, and archaeologists use it to find shipwrecks and sunken cities.

December 22, 2007

All of the paddling, stroking, and squirting that propel creatures through the oceans may act like a blender, churning water between the surface and deeper layers. That could help bring nutrients to the surface, sustaining the ocean food chain.

A couple of studies released last year support the idea.

December 15, 2007

It’s been 35 years since people last walked on the Moon. Astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt wrapped up the Apollo program in December of 1972. In all, a dozen men left their footprints in the lunar soil -- and there are plans for new missions in about a decade.

It’s been a good bit longer since anyone saw the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean -- the Challenger Deep, in the Mariana Trench of the eastern Pacific. And there are no plans to send anyone back anytime soon.

December 8, 2007

A great “river” flows through the eastern Gulf of Mexico -- the Loop Current. It sometimes pinches off to form eddies as big as Louisiana. These spinning pockets of warm water can provide the energy to boost a hurricane from a relatively minor storm to a monster in just hours inside the Gulf.

The Loop Current develops as warm water flows into the Gulf through the Straits of Yucatan -- the gap between Cuba and the Yucatan. The current curls around Cuba and continues through the Straits of Florida into the Atlantic, forming the warm current known as the Gulf Stream.

December 1, 2007

The bulkiest animal on the planet is the blue whale. But it may not be the longest. That distinction may go to one of the most ethereal of all animals -- a jellyfish. The tentacles of one species can stretch almost half the length of a football field.

November 24, 2007

When Ferdinand Magellan sailed into a great new ocean west of the Americas, it was so tranquil that he named it the Pacific -- a name that means calm and peaceful.

But the rim of the Pacific is anything but peaceful. It’s known as the “Ring of Fire,” and it’s one of the most geologically active zones on the planet. It’s best known for the volcanoes that dot the landscape from New Zealand to Alaska to the tip of South America. But it’s also responsible for arcs of volcanic islands, and for the deepest chasms in the oceans.

November 17, 2007

Marine scientists explore the sea in many ways. They drop instruments over the sides of boats, watch with orbiting satellites, and scoot around below the surface for a few hours at a time inside small submarines. But there’s only one place where they can hang out below the surface for long periods: an underwater lab known as Aquarius.

November 10, 2007

At the bottom of almost any ocean, you’ll find an assortment of creatures with small disk-like bodies and five gangly arms: brittle stars. They’re described as among the most “cosmopolitan” creatures in the sea, because they’re found around the world -- from the Arctic and Antarctic to the tropics.

November 3, 2007

In the early 1800s, much of the economy of the infant United States depended on the sea -- fishing, whaling, and international trade. Yet sailing into American harbors could be tricky, because there were few good charts of hidden reefs and other obstructions -- or even of the coastline itself. So in 1807, Congress created a new agency -- the Survey of the Coast -- to map the entire coastline.

October 27, 2007

One of the world’s longest mountain ranges twists it way down the center of the Atlantic Ocean -- the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Its peaks can tower up to two miles high, and they’re separated by steep-sided canyons. The ridge marks the boundary between oceanic plates, where hot rock is pushing up from far below the ocean floor to make new crust.