News Media — Press Conference Schedule

The following schedule of press conferences is subject to change, before or during the Ocean Sciences Meeting. Press conferences may be added or dropped, their titles and emphases may change, and participants may change. All updates to this schedule will be announced in the Press Room (F150, on the first level of the Oregon Convention Center).

Times for press conferences are Pacific Standard Time. Session numbers at the end of each press conference listing may show only the first in a series of related sessions on the topic.

(Note to Public Information Officers: If you have prepared press releases or other handouts for press conferences listed below, please email electronic copies of the documents to Peter Weiss ( so they can be made available online to reporters calling in from outside the meeting.)

Exploring the Corals of the Saudi Arabian Red Sea

Monday, 22 February

Coral reefs are treasured for their biological, recreational, and economic value, yet thorough assessments of such seascapes are rare. New findings from one of the most expansive and detailed surveys of coral reefs to date — conducted in the Saudi Arabian Red Sea− suggest that the global importance of this region in terms of reef area and diversity may have been severely underplayed. Researchers used a variety of remote sensing techniques and technologies in this novel basin-scale assessment.


Sam Purkis
Assistant Professor, National Coral Reef Institute, Nova Southeastern University, Dania Beach, Florida, USA;

Gwilym Rowlands
Research Associate, National Coral Reef Institute, Nova Southeastern University, Dania Beach, Florida, USA.

Session: IT13B

Sperm whales collaborative hunting

Monday, 22 February

Toothed whales are known to form long-standing social groups, but in sperm whales only the female aggregations are long-term, while the associations of males are short-term. Scientists have hypothesized that the females bond to look after each others' offspring during deep dives and to fend off sub-dominant males interested in mating. However, a new study of sperm whales, using GPS, Argos, and time-depth recorder technologies, suggests that male and female aggregations may actually be collaborations for coordinated feeding behavior — taking turns making deep dives to “herd” bait balls of Humboldt squid.


Bruce Mate
Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute, OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport, Oregon, USA.

Session: BO15I

Dead zones: How low (oxygen) will critters go for the right meal?

Monday, 22 February

A major factor in ocean change is growth of low-oxygen zones (a.k.a. “dead zones”), which are hazardous to the health of sea life and which reduce useable seafloor habitats. In an unorthodox experiment conducted in a low-oxygen zone, seafloor species such as crab, shrimp and octopus stretch their oxygen limits in order to strip flesh from “homicide victims” simulated by dead pigs. The latest findings reveal effects on these scavengers of variations in oxygen concentrations. Observations of the process and rates of decomposition also provide novel input to forensic studies supporting criminal investigations.


Verena Tunnicliffe
Canada Research Chair, Professor, Department of Biology and School of Earth/Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, Canada; and Director, VENUS — Subsea Cabled Observatory, Victoria, Canada;

Richard Dewey
Associate Director, Research, VENUS — Subsea Cabled Observatory, Victoria, Canada.

Session: BO21B

Next-generation ocean bots

Tuesday, 23 February

Improvements to undersea robots are extending the capabilities of oceanographic research. A novel optical communications technology promises to banish cumbersome tethers that now harness robotic undersea vehicles to their support ships. Another powerful, innovative technology — a self-contained biochemistry lab able to identify microscopic animals from genetic material in seawater — has recently been configured to work at enormous depths, and has begun exploring the microdenizens of the abyss. Yet another technology development is bestowing on submerged robots a kind of independence they have never before known: the ability to make autonomous decisions, and so to handle unexpected situations.


James Birch
Instrumentation Group Leader, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), Moss Landing, California, USA;

Norman E. Farr
Senior Engineer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA;

Thom Maughan
Software Engineer, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), Moss Landing, California, USA.

Sessions: MT23A

Plastic oceans

Tuesday, 23 February

It's well known that plastic pollution has formed “garbage patches” in some parts of the ocean, but just how bad the problem is remains uncertain. Now, an analysis of 22 years worth of data collected in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea by undergraduate students reveals some surprising findings. Also, new research on surface currents, ocean mixing, and the physical characteristics of plastic debris is helping scientists understand where the plastic debris comes from, what happens to it once it enters the oceans, and where else garbage patches might be found. Other new findings suggest that the problem might go deeper than previously realized.


Kara Lavender Law
Oceanography Faculty Scientist, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA;

Nikolai Maximenko
Senior Researcher, International Pacific Research Center, School of Ocean and Earth and Science and Technology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA;

Giora Proskurowski
Oceanography Faculty Scientist, Sea Education Association, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA; Visiting Investigator, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA.

Sessions: IT31C, IT35H

Haiti tsunami

Wednesday, 24 February

It is little known that the devastating January 12 earthquake in Haiti spawned a tsunami that also caused some loss of life. The first researcher to assess the earthquake-caused waves' effects from his direct field observations earlier this month along the Haiti and the Dominican Republic coasts describes his findings. A NOAA tsunami expert also recounts how the agency’s tsunami warning system alerted other Caribbean nations to the oncoming waves and provided an accurate assessment (based on a buoy measurement) that the tsunami posed minimal danger to their shores. Besides contributing to the Haitian calamity, the tsunami exposed a severe lack of tsunami awareness, education, and preparedness in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, although both nations are likely to face strong tsunamis in the future.


Hermann Fritz
Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Savannah, Georgia, USA;

Eddie Bernard
Tsunami Expert and Director, NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle, Washington, USA.

Sessions: PO41F, PO43E

Underwater Waves

Wednesday, 24 February

Large amplitude nonlinear internal waves are huge, steep waves beneath the ocean surface between layers of warm and cold water. These waves occur widely, travel far, and can stir up sediment, create hazards to submarine navigation, and impact the propagation of underwater sound. Scientists are just beginning to gain a clear understanding of the properties of these waves and how they are generated. And new findings on how these waves transport materials might reveal how they affect larvae and coastal ecosystems.


David Farmer
University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, Kingston, Rhode Island, USA;

James Moum
Oregon State University College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Corvallis, Oregon, USA;

James Lerczak
Oregon State University College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Corvallis, Oregon, USA.

Session: PO41D

Long-distance larvae

Thursday, 25 February

In a series of remarkable studies, researchers have observed a Pacific Ocean hydrothermal vent where the ecosystem was destroyed by an eruption and then the site was recolonized by new organisms. Most extraordinary are the distances that larvae apparently have traveled to claim new territory. These studies' findings are changing scientists' ideas about what controls species composition and diversity at vents. Besides observing the site of the eruption and recolonization, researchers have also measured and modeled ocean currents in the region to better understand how tiny larvae may have traveled vast distances from one vent to another.


Lauren Mullineaux
Senior Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA;

Dennis J. McGillicuddy, Jr.
Senior Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA;

Andreas Thurnherr
Physical Oceanographer, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, New York, USA.

Sessions: IT45G

How is a whale like a tree?

Thursday, 25 February

Whales are the largest animals on the planet, and when it comes to storing carbon, they act like trees in a forest. Just as forest fires release carbon into the air as carbon dioxide, industrial whaling returned hundreds of years of stored carbon to the atmosphere. A new study discusses how applying carbon accounting to whales and large fish provides a new way to look at marine ecosystems and suggests new incentives to conserve the largest animals in the sea.


Andrew J. Pershing
Assistant Research Professor, School of Marine Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, Maine, USA; and Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Portland, Maine, USA.

Session: IT44D