NEW YORK (Reuters) – Eleven years ago, environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel dreamed aloud in a commencement speech: What if scientists could record the sounds of the ocean in the days before propeller-driven ships and boats spanned the globe?
The chief scientist of the Census of Marine Life, Ron O’Dor, passed away in Nova Scotia from COVID-19 at the age of 75 on 11 May 2020. Ron was a curious, good-humored colleague.
Jesse first met Ron in December 1997 at a meeting at the New England Aquarium to assess the feasibility of censusing the “non-fish nekton.” Ron represented the cephalopods, very well. Ron’s creativity immediately became apparent. Chats about the potential of Internet databases with spatial information about marine species led Ron to enlist his grad student James Wood to create CephBase, for all squids and octopi. CephBase launched in 1998, biblical times for on-line services, pre-dating Google. By the time the CoML officially launched at the start of 2000, it was clear the program would need a full-time senior scientist. Ron was the unanimous preference of the founding members of the Scientific Steering Committee.
The CoML went terrifically well in large part because Ron brought many outstanding people into the program, always neatly aligned with CoML objectives. His ability to work on airplanes and in hotel rooms amazed everyone. It did not matter where he was or when it was, work got done, and was always well-written and clean. The Baseline Report that Ron (sole author) produced in October 2003 was a tour de force and did much to establish the credibility of the program.
The Ron O’Dor Memorial Fund has been set-up to sustain his legacy: giving.dal.ca/ronodor Deep condolences to his widow Janet and family and the Dalhousie science community of which he was a formative member.
The website Human Progress launches a new video series called The Covid Tonic. The series features conversations between renowned scholars and editor, Marian L. Tupy. The interviews focus on the global impact of COVID-19 and the continued importance of rational optimism. Episode 1 features the environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel, a Human Progress Board Member and Director of the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University in New York City.
Program for the Human Environment, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY, United States
An accurate, comprehensive reference sequence library maximizes information gained from environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding of marine fishes. Here, we used a regional checklist and early results from an ongoing eDNA time series to target mid-Atlantic U.S. coastal fishes lacking reference sequences. We obtained 60 specimens representing 31 species from NOAA trawl surveys and institutional collections, and analyzed 12S and COI barcode regions, the latter to confirm specimen identification. Combined with existing GenBank accessions, the enhanced 12S dataset covered most (74%) of 341 fishes on New Jersey State checklist including 95% of those categorized abundant or common. For eDNA time series, we collected water samples approximately twice monthly for 24 months at an ocean and a bay site in New Jersey. Metabarcoding was performed using separate 12S primer sets targeting bony and cartilaginous fishes. Bioinformatic analysis of Illumina MiSeq fastq files with the augmented library yielded exact matches for 90% of the 104 fish amplicon sequence variants generated from field samples. Newly obtained reference sequences revealed two southern U.S. species as relatively common warm season migrants: Gulf kingfish (Menticirrhus littoralis) and Brazilian cownose ray (Rhinoptera brasiliensis). A beach wrack specimen corroborated the local presence of Brazilian cownose ray. Our results highlight the value of strengthening reference libraries and demonstrate that eDNA can help detect range shifts including those of species overlooked by traditional surveys.
We all continue healthy and working long hours and hard, though mostly from our homes. We are catching up on lots of writing and editing but also trying to seize immediate, unique opportunities.
For example, COVID-19 may have created the reduction of additions of human noise that we dreamed about for the International Quiet Ocean Experiment. IQOE welcomes ideas about how the present quieting of the world economy may advance research in marine sound. High-quality observations of the ocean soundscape, as well as possibly related behavior of marine life during this period, may offer unique opportunities of exceptional value.