Jon Copley

Jon Copley

Assoc Prof of Ocean Exploration & Public Engagement, 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

  • 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" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibC5LT3CSyI

    (If you watch closely, it includes a glimpse of the shrimp at the Beebe Vent Field in the Cayman Trough - along with great footage of other animals at...

  • @PaulKamill The potential problem with dissolved gases, at saturation levels under pressure, is if pressure is suddenly reduced (like opening the top of a fizzy drink bottle). Normally for deep-sea animals, that's not a problem - they don't move vertically so dramatically as to "degas" the solution.

    It can be a problem for breath-hold diving animals,...

  • @PaulKamill Sperm whales are indeed phenomenal breath-hold divers, but the deepest dive recorded by any whale wearing a tag that measures depth is a Cuvier's beaked whale that reached 2992 metres:

    https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0092633

    Some whales might even go even deeper (just haven't been tagged doing so yet). There...

  • Purely as an optional extra, if you would like some more about the adaptations of deep-sea species (such as hatchetfish and "zombie" worms) and the different environments in the deep sea (e.g. the twilight and midnight zones of midwater, and hydrothermal vents, whalefalls and woodfalls on the ocean floor)...

    ...I recently recorded a three-part podcast...

  • Hi Janet - the rift valley runs along the centre of the ridge (so it looks like a "notch" in the top of it, if viewed as a cross-section - here's a diagram of that: http://www.eeescience.utoledo.edu/Faculty/Krantz/Oceanography/Exercises/Pacific%20transect.MOR.jpg )

  • Hi Lee - it's in their genes (and ours), as explored in this brilliant article "The oysters that knew what time it was" by Jo Marchant: https://www.wired.com/story/oysters-that-knew-what-time-it-was/

  • Edmund Halley was one of the first people to theorise about "where does the salt come from?" and publish a paper about it. Although famous as an astronomer (remembered for the comet later named after him), he was also an early marine scientist, and you can read his 1715 Royal Society paper about the saltiness of the ocean here -...

  • If you would like more about the history of ocean exploration, then purely as an "optional extra" (as there is a lot of information there!), I have prepared a timeline of exploring the deep from ~600 BCE to 2019, which you can browse at:

    http://www.joncopley.com/timeline.html

    We celebrate the scientific achievements of the Challenger expedition in laying...

  • A recent survey of the different types of viruses in the ocean revealed more "species" than previously thought - and some patterns in their distribution (with the Arctic being one of the "hotspots" for ocean virus diversity):
    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01329-w

  • Where space and time get mixed up certainly is complicated; the "observable" Universe is actually about 46 billion light years in radius, because of space itself stretching, on a large scale, during the ~13.7 billion years since the Big Bang (https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2018/07/14/ask-ethan-how-large-is-the-entire-unobservable-universe/). So...

  • You're absolutely right Lee; so the "royalty" payments scheme of the ISA is designed to tackle that, for "non-living marine resources" in the "High Seas", by providing funds to support landlocked & developing countries to become involved the "blue economy".

    Access-for-all was a founding principle of UNCLOS; here's some of the text of the bold speech by...

  • Another spin-off from ocean life that's in the news at the moment: the anti-viral drug Remdevisir has been approved for treating Covid-19 by the EU and US, and is based on a compound originally found in a sea...

  • A quick update on the story of potential deep-sea vent mining in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Papua New Guinea:

    In November 2019, the mining company Nautilus Minerals went into bankruptcy (https://www.pwc.com/ca/en/services/insolvency-assignments/nautilus-minerals-inc.html), having been delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange in April 2019...

  • Since 2017, the UN has convened an Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (https://www.un.org/bbnj/), which is seeking to define the details for a new treaty under UNCLOS to protect marine biodiversity of the "High Seas".

    One of the drivers for the new "BBNJ" treaty is to make sure there is a joined-up and...

  • That's a very interesting question, James; and I think there are several factors at work in the "lag" at the start of the curve:

    (1) It takes time to describe new species after specimens have been collected. Traditionally they have to go to someone specialising in that particular animal group, who then carries out the work for the species description, and...

  • As it happens, I had a chat with Brian Cox about it - and the sums involved - in this episode of Radio 4's The Infinite Monkey Cage a few years ago (about 23 mins 30 secs into the show): https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08crt6c

  • A reminder that if you enjoyed the history of HMS Challenger in Week 1 (and Project FAMOUS, above), and would like more about the history of ocean exploration, then purely as an "optional extra" (as there's a lot of material and further links...), I've recently created a timeline of ocean exploration, from ~600 BCE to 2019, for people to browse...

  • @FredFoster There is a further link between the Challenger expedition and the Indian Ocean: John Murray of the Challenger later became independently wealthy as a co-founder of the Christmas Island Phosphate Company (created to mine deposits of phosphate, in demand for fertiliser, found there by HMS Egeria in 1887 - Murray analysed the Egeria's samples while...

  • If you have enjoyed finding out about the history of HMS Challenger, and would like to find out more about the history of ocean exploration, I have prepared a timeline that runs from ~600 BCE to 2019, available here:

    http://www.joncopley.com/timeline.html

    As we've seen here, the Challenger expedition was important in laying foundations of modern...

  • If you are home-schooling during the current lockdown, and might like ocean-related material for 4-11 year-olds, including some experiments and lots of things to make at home, this week's episodes of "Let's Go Live!" by Maddie Moate (presenter of CBeebies's "Do You Know?") and Greg Foot have been about the ocean, and are all available...

  • Several learners said how much they enjoyed finding out about some of the history of ocean exploration (HMS Challenger) in Week 1, so as a bonus for anyone in "lockdown" who might like to find out even more, here is a timeline of exploring the deep ocean (from ancient Greece to the latest dives into the Mariana Trench - and covering threads such as deep-sea...

  • Hi Hugh - the perhaps surprising reality is that most of them don't need to withstand pressure; the pressure inside their bodies is the same as the pressure surrounding them, *unlike* a submarine.

    Most deep-sea animals don't have any gas-filled spaces inside them - their bodies are made of solid tissues and liquids. Both of those are pretty much...

  • Jon Copley made a comment

    As well as its decoration with sea beasts, the map by Olaus Magnus does have some ocean features on it - in particular, note the whorls in the sea between Iceland, the Faroes, and Norway.

    That decoration doesn't appear elsewhere, and it corresponds with where there are eddies from the Iceland-Faroes Front, a region where warmer Atlantic surface waters mix...

  • Here is the Abstract and Highlights of recent research paper describing a method to extract cobalt (needed for electric car batteries) directly from seawater, without mining deep-ocean environments, using abandoned oil rigs:
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032119300838

  • If you boil a saucepan of water with some peas in it, you can watch the peas circulate, carried to the surface by the water heated at the bottom of the pan, then floating across the surface a little bit as that hot water spreads out and cools, and then sinking again with the slightly cooled water, before starting that circulation again as the water is heated...

  • Hi Anne - it was a statue of a rhino; part of a charity art trail for conservation, and to celebrate the 40th anniversary of nearby Marwell wildlife park: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-23268301

  • Just in case anyone is interested (and has considerably more time!), there's also a more recent but much longer talk that I gave available online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWoYj5K794g

    (for info, that talk above, from January 2019, was a lecture for Gresham College - http://www.gresham.ac.uk/ - which is the UK's oldest public lecture series,...

  • Thank you Karen, and in a way I hope that future generations will be appalled by the plunder of the ocean from the late 19th to early 21st centuries. But I hope they will also see the signs of a change in our relationship with the ocean, where human choices and actions began to turn fate around for biodiversity in the ocean.

    A couple of examples would be:...

  • I recently put together an updated blog post, examining how we got from the "common heritage of mankind" to the current situation with deep-sea mining - and who is likely to benefit most from the ISA's procedures: http://www.joncopley.com/blog_aug18.html

  • If you are interested in more about how communities are being affected by the changes that are taking place in the oceans, the BBC World Service has produced a mini-series of radio programmes called The Compass: Ocean Stories, which should be available for anyone anywhere to listen to via https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w27vpyb8

    Each of the 4 episodes...

  • More recently, I had the opportunity to take part in the first dives by human-occupied vehicles to reach 1 km deep in the Antarctic, for the filming of the Blue Planet II series.

    The two subs we used (one doing the filming, one scouting for things to film) were a little different to the Shinkai6500: rather than a hollow metal ball for a hull, they had an...

  • There are some commercial operators offering that - back in the 1990s there was a company that chartered the Russian Mir subs for tourist dives to the wreck of the Titanic, and a new company has developed a new sub called Titan to do the same in future - http://www.oceangate.com/expeditions/titanic-survey-expedition.html

  • Safety is definitely an advantage of ROVs, though statistically, human-occupied vehicles are a very safe form of transport - they have carried tens of thousands of people into the deep sea (defined as more than 200 metres deep) with very few incidents. The Alvin sub, for example, has completed more than 4600 dives since 1964, carrying more than 14000 people...

  • About ten times the cost, for vehicles with deeper (e.g. >3000 m) capability.