Turn Down for Whales

Researchers have found that ocean noise is a big problem for underwater life. Human activities like shipping, naval exercises, and oil exploration pump the oceans full of loud noises that marine species haven’t adapted to. So when the global economy ground to a halt due to COVID-19, did the ocean quiet down?


Rosalind Rolland, et al. “Evidence that ship noise increases stress in right whales.” Proc. R. Soc. B. 279: 2363–2368 (2012).

Dugald J. M. Thomson and David Barclay. “Real-time observations of the impact of COVID-19 on underwater noise.” The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 147: 3390 (2020).

A Quarantine Aquarium

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As the pandemic rages, we’re all staying home. That has cut many of us off from the places we go to find solace in normal times. Coupled with the endless stream of terrible news washing over us, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. So where do you turn to calm down when you can’t pull your eyes away from your computer screen? Filmmaker Jessica Ellis has a suggestion: aquarium webcams. Watching some swaying kelp or undulating jellies helps her restore mental balance. And she’s not alone. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Ken Peterson, their web traffic is up ten-fold since the start of the lockdown.


Monterey Bay Aquarium web cams

“What Lies West”

Hub & Spoke


“Kelp Forest” by Douglas Morton


“Jellyfish” by r_kim via Flickr

Episode #7: The White Whale

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Michael Gorman looked up to his older brother Kevin. Kevin was smart, independent, rebellious. He became a commercial fisherman, despite the fact that fishing jobs were drying up. But along the way Kevin developed a heroin addiction that took over his life, and he died of an overdose. Michael’s response to his brother’s death was to write a series of plays that make parallels between Melville’s “Moby Dick” and opiate addiction in the fishing industry. Continue reading “Episode #7: The White Whale”

Episode #5: Something Fishy, part 1

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Tim Rider loves to fish, and he does it well: the fish he catches bring top dollar at high-end restaurants in Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire for their quality. But even though his operation is a model of ecological stewardship, regulations designed to help rebuild depleted fish stocks in New England are making it hard for small-scale fishermen like Tim to make a living. Continue reading “Episode #5: Something Fishy, part 1”

Episode #2: Fish Camp

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Jeff and Deb Sandler (a.k.a. Mr. and Mrs. Fish) couldn’t stand each other when they met – they were rivals for the job of education director of Maine’s Portland Aquarium. Four decades later, they’ve traveled all over the world getting kids excited about marine biology with a mix of theater, slapstick comedy, and songs. Along the way, they fell in love. Now they’ve reached the last week of Fish Camp, and they’re getting ready to hang up their flippers. Continue reading “Episode #2: Fish Camp”

Episode #1: Whales of New York

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Hundreds of years of hunting decimated whale populations around the world. More than 50 years since global whaling restrictions were put in place, the North Atlantic right whale is still on the verge of extinction. Other species have begun to bounce back – notably humpback whales, which have returned to the waters around New York City. But now they face a new danger: swimming in the East Coast’s busiest shipping lanes. Continue reading “Episode #1: Whales of New York”