Deep-sea Coral Reefs // Mineral-Mining

This week’s How On Earth offers two features:

Deep-sea Coral
photo credit: NOAA

Deep-sea coral reef discovery (start time: 0:58)  Scientists recently discovered and mapped the largest known deep-sea coral reef in the world. It’s located up to 200 miles off the U.S. Atlantic Coast, and it’s larger than Vermont. The news comes as a bright spot for oceans and marine life, when ocean acidification related to global warming, as well as overfishing, have been destroying coral reefs around the world. Contributing host Kara Fox interviews Kasey Cantwell, the operations chief for the Expeditions and Exploration Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, about the big discovery and its implications.

Deep-sea mineral nodules
photo credit: NOAA

Deep-sea mining: promises and perils (start time: 10:48)  Exploratory mining of the ocean floor for minerals began decades ago. Although commercialization remains elusive, some some companies are moving rapidly to exploit the seabed for commercial use. They aim to harness critical minerals – manganese, nickel, copper, cobalt and others for use in the production of electric vehicle batteries, cell phones, wind turbines, etc. Some scientists, environmentalists, a regulatory body, and even some auto and tech companies, have called for at least a temporary ban on seabed mining, out of concern about its impact on marine life. Host Kara Fox interviews Farah Obaidullah, founder of the conservation group The Ocean and Us, and editor of a book of the same name, about seabed mining.

Hosts/Producers: Kara Fox, Susan Moran
Engineer: Sam Fuqua
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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The Unnatural World

the-unnatural-world-9781476743905_lgThe Unnatural World (start time: 6:58): It’s an audacious topic for a book: the planet, and audacious individuals who are working to save — actually, to remake — human civilization and our home on Earth. David Biello is the science curator at TED and a contributing editor at Scientific American. His debut book, The Unnatural World: The Race to Remake Civilization in Earth’s Newest Age (Scribner), will be out in paperback next month. It explores how we have altered “nature” in so many ways, from burning fossil fuels and warming the oceans and atmosphere, to tearing down tropical rain forests, to killing off so many species. In this newest epoch, dubbed by many the Anthropocene, humans are not just messing things up; they are also inventing solutions, as Biello notes. Daring optimists in his book include Elon Musk and his Tesla electric cars and trucks.

Hosts: Chip Grantis, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Chip Grantis
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Additional Contributions: Joel Parker

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Ocean Acidification // Citizen Science



Top Image: Ocean Acidification process. Bottom Image: New Horizons spacecraft flies by a Kuiper belt object.


Feature #1: Many problems plague the oceans and the fish and other species that inhabit them: overfishing, pollution, and much more. But perhaps the greatest threat to sea life – and possibly to humans – is ocean acidification.  That’s when the chemistry of the ocean changes and causes seawater to become more acidic because the ocean is absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This increase in ocean acidity makes it difficult for many plants and animals in the ocean to make or maintain their shells or skeletons.  The head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Jane Lubchenco, recently said that the ocean is becoming more acidic at rates not seen for at least 20 million years, and that’s due mostly to increases in CO2 in the atmosphere.  The threat is so grave that NOAA recently created a distinct Ocean Acidification Program. In May, Dr. Libby Jewett was appointed the first director of the program. We talk with Dr. Jewett find out more about the problem and what she aims to do about it.

Feature #2: Some sciences have a tradition of fruitful interactions between professional researchers and amateurs, and this has been made even more accessible with data being able to be shared over the internet across the world.  Dr. Pamela Gay, an Astronomer at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, is the architect and participant in many such collaborations. In addition to her teaching and research, she does extensive public outreach to share the excitement of astronomy (such as her podcast and even finds ways to let anyone with an internet connection make new scientific discoveries and find new worlds that will be visited by spacecraft (  We talk with Dr. Gay about the Zooniverse and her hunt for of icy objects in the outer solar system.

Hosts: Susan Moran and Joel Parker
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Tom McKinnon

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