a wymsical monday

cloudy mornings, working on the couch, slow drive through woodstock, dear rae jewelry, watching the rain from jammie stairs, outside picnics, wandering minds, leather shoes, pretty skirts, aeroplane noises, being quite happily caught up in ones own imagination :)
hope you have had a happy wymsical monday x

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I recently came across a study, conducted in the wake of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil spill. This particular research discovered that crude oil was causing heart defects in juvenile fish in the Gulf.  Particularly in species that are commercially important, such as tuna and amberjack. As a budding biologist and keen conservationist this topic captured my mind and kept me reading.

To create a bit of context, there was an oil spill off the oil rig Deep Horizon between April and July 2010.It resulted in the release of 4 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The outcry was huge, the environmental impact incomprehensible and vast. What wasn’t realised at the time was how vast the scope and far-reaching the consequences would be.

bp-rig Oil-Rig-Explosion-in-Gulf-of-Mexico-10 gulf-oil-spill-615-500x332

Every season, huge spawning (when sperm and eggs are released into the water to be externally fertilised) events occur in the Gulf (in the upper layer, or ‘pelagic’ region) and it quickly becomes a nursery ground for many fish. This study explained how the developing fish heart is very sensitive to the effects of some of the compounds in crude oil, specifically to a family known as the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). This compound has a particularly negative effect on heart development.


By recreating the oceanic conditions of the Gulf at the time of the oil spill and exposing newly fertilised fish embryos (an unhatched developing fish egg) to the oil, the effects on the development of the heart became apparent. The scientist who conducted this study used yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna and amberjack to run these tests, as these are commercially important pelagic fish that are found in the Gulf. Getting to this point of choosing species was quite hard though and required many considerations. For example, embryos are very sensitive to physical contact and are therefore hard to handle in a laboratory environment. Also, getting access to embryos of these species is not a simple task. The results however, were quite clear.

Fish that had been exposed to the oily water suffered from two particular defects which were outwardly visible in a variety of malformations. The next bit, the defects, have some complicated words, but it’s quite simple really, so don’t freak out :)

The first defect is Pericaridal Edema. This is the build-up of fluid in the sac around the heart (pericardial fluid) and it happens because the circulatory system is failing. All species exposed to the oil showed signs of this defect. The other is a more general decrease in heart rate and increase in irregular arrhythmias (when the heart beats in an abnormal rhythm). Visibly, one can see that an embryo is suffering from these defects if the eye and tail aren’t properly developing and if the body axis is curved upward.


There were many conclusions that were drawn from this particular study. It was shown that the amount of oil the embryos were exposed to is not as important as the size of the egg, a small egg resulting in the faster draw up of oil. It was also shown that the response of embryos to the oil is pretty uniform and doesn’t change between species or with the way in which the embryo was exposed.

This study is the first to analyse the effects of the oil spill on these commercially important fish. It therefore opens up many opportunities for future research to occur and more questions to be asked. This also means that this is the first time these methods have been applied. It is possible that future work might find better ways of overcoming the difficulties that were faced during this research, such as working with embryos in lab environments.

I found this an interesting study to read as I can see how it might be applied to other places where oil exploration and extraction is ongoing or increasing, such as the North Arctic. It is also incredibly relevant because it is looking at aspects of two very important industries: Oil and Commercial fishing. When events like this oil spill occur, we are dealing not only with a huge environmental disaster, but with possible food crises from a lack of fish in the affected area. Job losses in the fishing industry and slowing economies are also concerns that arise in coastal towns and cities reliant on the Gulf for food, jobs and trade. Exposing these far-reaching effects of this oil spill puts pressure on oil companies, too. It means that their “mistakes” and “slip ups” have consequences that are long-lasting and influence the quality of life of many people.

These consequences - defective fish stocks, trade, food availability - are not the charismatic and disastrous corollaries one thinks of when discussing oil spills, yet these are issues that have the greatest consequence. It is sobering, yet important to realise just how far-reaching the harmful human hand can be and for us to be constantly aware of how a single action can have a ripple effect of results.

Photo credits: National Geographic

This blog piece was based upon the following paper: Incardona J.P. et al. 2014. Deepwater Horizon crude oil impacts the developing hearts of large predatory pelagic fish,Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.



there are lots of lists and plans, presents and adventure ideas constantly floating around my head. one of them is a soundtrack to my future life :) every now and again-a song will sound like how i want to live-and it goes onto that mental playlist.
this is one of those songs:



faces and spaces (part I)

i am a lucky girl. one of the luckiest. the faces and spaces that i encounter everyday are some of the most beautiful in the world. it overwhelms me so very often. these are just a few of them :)(<code)

meet my cubicle (perk of being a postgrad :P). she has nice light, fresh air,some underwater plants and a whole lot of pinterest pictures!

shona: radiant, selfless, so utterly diligent. always always smiling. prone to giggle fits. has an amusing caterpillar phobia :)

our university avenue! crossed multiple times a day (usually on tea bound expeditions)

dan the man!!! keen adventurer. admirer of beauty. ALWAYS keen ALWAYS involved ALWAYS game. not easily embarrassed. never dull to be around:)

stairs descended daily.

gabe: impecable taste (especially in music and attire). BIG smile. diverse interests. witty. patient. hairy. the best possible mate :)

my desk at home -not much work takes place in this space ;)

ange (left): inately creative and green. deeply passionate about the environment. a total foodie and fellow pinterest addict :)

sarah (right): gorgeous smile. baking goddess! jammie buddy. coziest hugger of all times :)

road crossed daily. so comforting to be welcomed home by this beautiful mountain at the end of every day.

IZ!!! the jol of ANY and EVERY occassion. one of the funniest people i know. tanned. supple. unnatural obsession with boy bands :)

Beyond privelaged to call these people my friends.
Beyond privelaged to call these places home.

Tales of tides and turtles

I have a soft spot in my heart for turtles. Their vulnerable state, resilience in the wild, glorious grace as they move and quite simply, those little faces and big eyes :) I also have a dream of how I want to live one day. It involves palm trees, hammocks, the sound of the sea as you fall asleep and water temperatures above 25' C.
These past few days I got to experience both the above- lucky girl.
Along with one of my project supervisor, her 2 kids and a local contact we roadtripped from Durban to Hluhluwi up to Bhanga Nek (right on the Mozam border!).
Through herds of cows, national parks and local villages we drove. Over sand-dunes and through tropical jungle we made our way.
We stayed in little huts overlooking the mouth of an estuary that leads to Bhanga Nek. We showered with bees, frogs and cockroaches, ate with ants and slept with mosquitoes:P
The beach below, Bhanga Nek- is sight to the turtle monitoring station established by George Hughes (my hero!). Every year, adult turtles come and lay their eggs here and every year, just a few months on, the babies hatch and make their way to the sea. We got to witness the second! :) A night trek along sand dunes, revealed nests of newly hatched loggerheads scampering down to the sea! It was quite overwhelming-watching these little beauties so determined to get to the ocean, knowing that they are going to face so many difficulties and obstacles, that only one in every thousand is going to live long enough to come back and nest in 20 years.

Other adventures over the 4 days included snorkling in warm water! (glorious!), enduring 95% humidity, driving through a KZN thunderstorm at 3 am and getting stuck (and unstuck) on sand-dunes in the jungle :)

What a treat and privelage to see something so special and to live amongst the palms, pineapples and sugar cane of the tropics. To be able to live by the currents, plan by the tides and follow the sun in the truest sense :)



























good shark karma

we are pretty blessed down south to have so many sharks.
people might not think so-but rather than creating a fear of the ocean, sharks invoke awe and power, grace and strength. Being so misunderstood and vulnerable, there are many organisations and campaigns that are trying to reshape how we think about the shark.
To have the word associated with protection, beauty, power and diversity.
SAVE OUR SEAS SHARK CENTRE is one of the places where such operations occur.
It't time to think beyond your fear of sharks- and this is how it is happening...

happy friday seagypsies! its an exciting weekend ahead-can't wait to tell you about it soon!