Amorous Elephant Seals, Scientist-Inuit Partnerships, and the Social Consequences of Climate Change

A few great Nooze stories to send you into your weekend: lauren sommerFirst, we bring you one more love-related story, because who says Valentine's Day is the only time people (or seals) think about love?  From Lauren Sommer reporting for NPR:

With Brawls and Calls, Love is in the Air for Elephant Seals

A male northern elephant seal calling near Santa Cruz, Calif. (Photo by A. Friendlaender/NMFS Permit No. 14636)

On this Valentine's Day, we bring you a story from the California coast, where love is in the air. It sounds something like this.

That's a male northern elephant seal. It's the peak of their mating season right now. Elephant seals spend of the most of the year alone, out in the Pacific Ocean. So you can probably guess what happens when they get together every winter.

Naturalist Lisa Wolfklain is leading a public tour at Ano Nuevo State Reserve, two hours south of San Francisco, where hundreds of elephant seals are packed together on a narrow strip of beach... Read and hear more.


isabelle grocNext, from Isabelle Groc, reporting for Scientific American, a story about a unique partnership that's studying narwhals in the rapidly changing Arctic:

Being There: Scientists Enlist Inuit for Long-Term Observations of Arctic Wildlife

 The research team is getting ready to release a narwhal after attaching the satellite tag and taking other measurements. This is a critical moment, and the team needs to be in control. The narwhal is anxious to go and will try to roll and swim away upside down, which can damage the tag in shallow water. (Photo by Isabelle Groc)

During the summer in Qaanaaq, Greenland, an Inuit hunter paddling next to a resting narwhal observed a thin gauzelike layer coming off the narwhal's body and dissipating into the water. The event lasted only a few seconds, but Connecticut-based dentist Martin Nweeia, a Harvard University and Smithsonian Institution researcher who studies narwhal tusks as his passion, immediately saw the scientific significance of the hunter's observation.

Whereas the beluga, the narwhal's nearest relative, is known to enter warmer estuarine waters in the summer to molt, this skin-renewal process had never been scientifically documented for narwhal, in part because no scientist has ever spent sufficient time in remote Arctic locations to record such an event. "One voice from an Inuit hunter can be more significant than 100 scientists," says Nweeia, who presented his findings at the 18th Inuit Studies Conference in Washington, D.C... Read and see more. 


Francesca LymanAnd finally, Francesca Lyman writes in SEJournal about the human health and social consequences of climate change:

Are We Ready for the Next Superstorm?

Eisberg’s sailboat became a lifeboat when the floodwaters of Barnegat Bay forced him from his house. The morning after Sandy, the yard and bulkhead behind his Brick Township house were still submerged. (Photo courtesy Jon Eisberg.)

When New Jersey yacht captain Jon Eisberg heard weather reports of a tropical storm named Sandy hurtling north on an ominous path along the Eastern seaboard, he swiftly shifted course and soon headed back home to the Jersey Shore, where this tropical cyclone — now upgraded to a superstorm — was predicted to take an unexpected perpendicular left turn west, and hit within 36 to 48 hours.

Back “down the shore,” in an inlet off Barnegat Bay, a mile west of the Atlantic Ocean, the captain rode out a rattling night of high winds and pelting rain as the upper, water-whipping edge of the counterclockwise-spiraling hurricane passed over his home in coastal Brick Township. But the seasoned skipper, who’d weathered plenty of storms, Nor’easters and blizzards in his years as a charter yacht-delivery captain, was unprepared for what happened next... Read more. 

On the day after the hurricane, the flooded Chadwick Beach Island development on the N.J. shore north of Seaside Heights looks more like Venice, as witnessed by Governor Chris Christie during a damage inspection flight. (Photo by Tim Larsen, New Jersey Governor's Office.)