Week 3: Science for a changing world

Whoops a little overdue for an update. Week three was spent mostly reading, I’m still working through the literature related to decapods and pH. I had my most intern-like task of all this week which involved reorganizing my mentor’s bookshelves. Now I’m just waiting for the coffee orders to start coming in. Ha-ha.

Through all of my reading the thing that stands out the most is how far science has come in the past century. During our first days at HMSC it was remarked that now is a great time to be a scientist. This brings to mind the quote or curse (depends on who you ask) “may you live in interesting times.” Human caused global climate change has altered and will continue to alter our world in ways that are difficult to predict and understand. Many of the advances in science, especially ocean and atmospheric science in this century stem from pressing necessity rather than simple curiosity.

Waiting at the HMSC bus stop

The studies I look at focus on pH and its effect on marine invertebrates. Studies done after the year 2000 all include standardized methods of bubbling CO2 through ambient seawater pumped in from an area near to where organisms were collected. Multiple components of pH are measured and all other conditions are monitored constantly. Organisms are exposed to pH conditions predicted for the year 2100 determined by complex ocean/atmosphere computer models. In other words, good accurate science is being conducted.

In contrast, a study from 1975 looking at pH tolerance of crayfish simply put some crayfish in a jar of acid, a jar of NaOH and measured how long it took for them to die. Turns out crayfish will die within 24 hours if put in a beaker of HCl (Newcombe, 1975). They say there is no such thing as a bad question but there is definitely such a thing as poor scientific design and I am sure at least the crayfish involved would wonder if the question of how long an organism can live in pure acid is something we really need to answer.

Friday I caught a bus out of Newport and headed home for a long relaxing 4th of July weekend. It was nice to have a break from the bunkhouse and see family and friends. 

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2 thoughts on “Week 3: Science for a changing world

  1. Great comparison between those two studies! Hopefully our world never turns into pure acid or else I don’t think many of us would survive more than 24 hours either! With our quickly changing world, it is somewhat unfortunately a great time to be predicting and then observing those changes.

  2. Nice reflections on the changing climate – both of earth, and of scientific methods. The idea of investigations for a purpose – applied science – beyond pure discovery – basic science – is definitely an interesting point to ponder.

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