Jon Copley

Jon Copley

Professor of Ocean Exploration & Science Communication,
University of Southampton

Author of "Ask an Ocean Explorer", 2019: http://bit.ly/oceanxplr

Science advisor for BBC Blue Planet II

www.joncopley.com

Location Southampton, UK

Activity

  • Hi David - the Marine Conservation Society's annual beach clean found facemasks as widepsread litter items in 2020, although they didn't outnumber cigarette butts as individual items - https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/06/face-masks-and-gloves-found-on-30-of-uk-beaches-in-clean-up

  • Hi Jeannie - they are animals; you can think of a sea anemone as a bit like an upside-down jellyfish, living on a rock rather than floating around in the ocean.

  • Hi William - the vast majority of marine viruses are not harmful to us. But some infectious viruses can be transmitted in seawater, and in particular those are "enteric viruses" that come from human sewage (such as Norovirus). Here's a review paper about disease-causing viruses in coastal waters - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC145303/

    Because...

  • "The dark oceans were the womb of life: from the protecting oceans life emerged. We still bear in our bodies - in our blood, in the salty bitterness of our tears - the marks of this remote past. Retracing the past, Man, the present dominator of the emerged Earth, is now returning to the ocean depths. His penetration of the deep could mark the beginning of the...

  • Our blood has a salinity of about 9, compared with about 35 for seawater, so it's just under one-third as salty as the sea.

    Unfortunately that's one of the reasons we can't drink seawater to survive (e.g. as a castaway). Our kidneys can only make urine that is more dilute than seawater, so if you were drinking seawater, you would end up producing more urine...

  • Hi Jesse - the variations that we see in salinity between oceans result from variations in freshwater input (e.g. lower salinities where there is lots of run-off from rivers, or from melting ice, or from rainfall) and evaporation or freezing (which increase salinity). There's some useful further info in this free online textbook here -...

  • (...part 2 of 2...)

    So it's not just about rotating and non-rotating frames of reference, as roundabout demonstrations show - that's one-half of Coriolis. The other half involves gravity (the balance between centrifugal force and gravity), and a full demonstration of Coriolis requires a spinning turntable that is also a parabolic dish (dipping towards its...

  • Hi Dee - the Coriolis force (which is an "apparent" force, resulting from a change in the balance between two other forces) is zero at the equator, and increases towards the poles.

    If you're standing on the equator, the centrifugal force from the Earth's rotation is in a vertical direction, up through your head (because at the Equator, you're standing at 90...

  • There are consequences even beyond that, Lee: the overturning circulation also carries oxygen into the deep ocean from the atmosphere in polar regions.

    As it weakens (which it has been doing), the amount of oxygen reaching the deep ocean declines - but that change can take centuries to work through the global circulation.

    A recent study shows that even...

  • For more on the Messinian Salinity Crisis when the Med dried up (and the astonishing Zanclean Megaflood that refilled it), this is a great thread by Mike Sowden (with some links to further info): https://twitter.com/Mikeachim/status/1491080740586782720?s=20&t=2gK_MHH-WfLB3FKUraDp8w

    (and you don't need to be on Twitter to read it).

  • Hi Lee - there's a lot of research investigating how animals perceive cycles such as tides to respond to them. In some cases, they can sense tidal variations in water temperature (e.g. to detect tides at hydrothermal vents) or water pressure (to detect tides in shallow water). Detecting those variations in their environment can then trigger the animal...

  • If you are in the UK, there was an episode of Radio 4's "In Our Time" all about the Challenger expedition yesterday, now available online on BBC iPlayer at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001fcvd (with apologies to those outside the UK, where I don't think you can listen to it unfortunately).

  • We've sort-of had underwater colonies already; there were quite a few experiments in the 1960s and 1970s involving people living and working in "undersea habitats".

    One of those was the US Navy's Sealab II experiment in 1965, where people lived in a series of chambers at 62 metres deep - and astronaut Scott Carpenter stayed longest there for 30 days. They...

  • It's a good question Ken, and we may find out: as it's the 150th anniversary of the Challenger expedition setting out, there's now a "Challenger 150" international programme that will help to coordinate deep-sea research expeditions over UN Decade for Ocean Science. Rather than a single expedition, lots of expeditions will be part of "Challenger 150", adopting...

  • If you like the Kraken, Dee, you might like to look for it in this - https://archive.org/details/naturalhistoryNc2Pont/page/n6/mode/2up - a compendium of the natural history of Norway, published by Erich Pontoppidan, Bishop of Bergen and natural historian, in 1752. In it, he describes marine life of the region, including many species we know today, but also...

  • Welcome back Lee! It's great to have you aboard for another run of "Ocean".

  • Some recent positive news in coordination of Marine Protected Areas - Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and Colombia have committed to "joining up" their Marine Protected Areas, so that the "corridors" used by migrating species such as whale sharks between them will also be...

  • Hi Sue - in a sense, river water is slightly "salty", because it carries dissolved minerals from the continental rocks, taking those dissolved minerals out to sea. But the water then evaporates from the ocean (leaving the minerals behind there) to repeat that cycle, which means the sea becomes much saltier than rivers.

    So the big question is then "why...

  • The several species of deep-sea anglerfishes that have "parasitic" males are even more amazing when it comes to their immune systems.

    One of the potential challenges for having a parasitic mate attached to you, with their circulation system fused to yours etc, is that they would normally be "rejected" by the vertebrate immune system (similar to the...

  • According to a recent research paper, some large whales may undertake long migrations to maintain healthy skin - it may be beneficial for them to molt their skin in warmer tropical waters, even though there is less food for them there:
    https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/why-do-whales-migrate-they-return-tropics-shed-their-skin-scientists-say

  • Hi Seren - the situation in the Arctic differs in the oceanographic changes taking place in the region.

    In the Antarctic, the "invasion" of crabs is enabled by relatively warmer "circumpolar deep water" now flowing up onto the Antarctic continental shelf of the Amundsen and Bellingshausen Seas, channeled through underwater canyons ("glacial troughs") in the...

  • As a quick update on deep-sea mining developments:

    In July this year, the Republic of Nauru made waves by triggering a clause in the regulations of the International Seabed Authority that require the regulations for mining of manganese nodules to be finalised within two years - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-57687129

    Nauru is the...

  • Jon Copley made a comment

    The numbers of microbes in seawater that we have been talking about here are for uncontaminated surface seawater (and that normal abundance and diversity of microbes is important for the health of the ocean).

    But in the UK at the moment, there is a lot of concern about discharges of sewage into our coastal waters, e.g....

  • Hi Maarten - the Ocean Cleanup project does attract a lot of media attention, and of course its overall aim is admirable. But what has attracted less attention is the detailed critiquing of the project by many specialists, with backgrounds from ocean engineering, marine ecology, and those working to tackle plastic pollution more widely.

    Here's a recent...

  • Hi Sue - marker buoys are indeed fixed in place, to indicate hazards etc; but in this case the buoys are drifter buoys, designed to go with the ocean currents to track them.

  • Jon Copley made a comment

    Welcome to Week 2! This week we will be dipping our toes into how ocean circulation works, and what makes the sea salty.

    On Tuesday evening this week (26th October, 6 pm to 7 pm UK time), the University of Southampton is hosting a free online event discussing "Is it too late to save our oceans?" -...

  • Yes! Here's a research paper that compared HMS Challenger temperature measurements with measurements in 2004-2010 by the global fleet of Argo floats - https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate1461 - showing a global average approx 0.6 deg C warming of the surface ocean over 135 years.

    That might not sound like much, but the specific heat capacity of water -...

  • Hi Maria - for more on the uses of bioluminescence, both in nature and by us, I think this is a very nice article: https://www.hakaimagazine.com/features/secret-history-bioluminescence/

  • On Tuesday next week (26th October), the University of Southampton is hosting a free online event discussing "Is it too late to save our oceans?" (6 pm to 7 pm UK time) - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/is-it-too-late-to-save-our-oceans-tickets-174205402047

    Three speakers will talk about how the ocean is changing, some of the technological advances that may...

  • Jon Copley made a comment

    Another medieval map that amazes me is the world map compiled by monk Fra Mauro, who lived in Venice in the 15th century - https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/fra-mauro-map

    In addition to being decorated with creatures, Fra Mauro's map was annotated with other information that he collected from travellers, and included details of the Indian Ocean, showed...

  • Welcome Lee! It's great to have you join us for another run of the course - it wouldn't be Exploring Our Ocean without you, and thank you for continuing to share your perspective.

  • Welcome to Exploring Our Ocean! I hope you enjoy the next four weeks exploring the ocean and its vital role in our future, as we begin the United Nations Ocean Decade and governments meet for the COP15 biodiversity and COP26 climate summits.

    We have a great team of early-career scientists (who you will meet in the next "step") to answer your questions and...

  • Hi Janine - some billionaires have / are philanthropically funding ocean exploration: Eric Schmidt (co-founder of Google) established the Schmidt Ocean Institute ( https://schmidtocean.org/ ), currently live-streaming ROV video from their research ship expedition exploring deep-sea corals in the Pacific.

    David Packard (co-founder of Hewlett Packard) funded...

  • @LaurieHinks Yes - during the Cold War, contour maps of the ocean floor were considered classified information by the US Navy (as potentially useful for submarine navigation by other nations).

    That's why Marie Tharp and Bruce Heezen teamed up with artist Henrich Berann to produce their "Floor of the Ocean" maps during that time (e.g....

  • @PaulKamill Thank you Paul! I also enjoyed The Big Blue.

    Here's a short film about the person who set the >200 metre free-diving record - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCpJST_c2Ko

  • There are other forms of sinking food, e.g. the discarded mucus feeding webs of larvaceans (https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2018/09/20/giant-larvaceans-make-their-houses-from-mucus). And of course, carcarsses of dead animals sink as well, so it's not just faeces.

    In terms of "live" food, there's the vertical migration of zooplankton...

  • Much of it is "dead food", i.e. remains of marine life - and much of that is packaged up as faecal pellets, e.g. those produced by copepods containing remanants of phytoplankton algae that they eat, or those produced by predators eating animals like copepods and so on. All those faeces still contain "undigested" organic matter that is food for life...

  • Yes, "observable" is the key. As a mind-bender: the "observable universe" is a sphere of radius ~46 billion light years around us.

    The Universe is ~13.8 billion years old, and nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Putting those two facts together, you might think that the maximum distance to which we can "see" (i.e. from which any light, or...

  • @JohnHewitt Methane hydrate is still being explored / pursued as a fuel source; Japan in particular is a leader in this area, e.g. with successful test wells for methane production from hydrate beds - https://www.japex.co.jp/english/business/innovate/methanehydrate.html

  • You're right Lee - in anglerfish species where the male fuses permanently with the female, death of his "host" means death of the "parasitic" male as well.

    There are lots of different species of deep-sea anglerfishes, and they fall into three broad categories when it comes to mating: some have males that only attach temporarily to females (avoiding the...

  • Baikal was explored by the Mir submersibles (the same minisubs that featured in the movie Titanic) in 2009; at the bottom they found methane hydrate beds (a form of methane-water "ice" formed in cold, high-pressure conditions) and hydrocarbon seeps. There's a report, with some pictures, here -...

  • There's actually a seafloor spreading centre running north-south across the bottom of the Cayman Trough (which trends largely E-W).

    The "Mid-Cayman Spreading Centre" is very short (about 110 km long) and "ultraslow" spreading (about 15-17 mm per year), forming the boundary between the North American plate (to the west) and the Gonâve Microplate (to the...

  • For some more on life at hydrothermal vents, BBC Earth have produced an online "mini-episode" to accompany David Attenborough's new series "A Perfect Planet" -