Villains of the sea

By: Grace Helmke

Killers of the deep.

The sinister shadow that lurks beneath, ready to attack.

The shark has been plunged into the public eye inspiring widespread fear amongst individuals all over the world. Their razor sharp teeth, ready to rip practically anything to shreds, and their silent, menacing movements make for the perfect Hollywood villain. Are these sea-dwelling creatures the fearsome menace that the media portrays? 

Hollywood has made a significant impact on the general public view of sharks, depicting them as beings of malicious intent. The 1975 film ‘Jaws’ is most likely the source of the widespread fear, and Hollywood’s overuse of the demonized shark character.

Because of its incredible successes all over the nation, creating multiple millions at the box office, and bursting its way into pop culture as a well known classic film series, copycat movies were bound to emerge. It created an endless cycle of Hollywood movies based on the perpetuating stereotype of the vengeful killer shark, leaving America in a fascinated fear. 

This was an incredible shift of thought from what the notion was before the movie was released. It was once believed that sharks were harmless creatures. They stayed out of the way of humans, and humans did the same.

When swimming became a regular recreational activity, sharks were acknowledged very little. Even in the scientific world, they were seen as simply another oceanic inhabitant instead of a test subject with interesting, unusual or even dangerous enough behavior to study. They were simply just there.  But ‘Jaws’ flipped the nation overnight. It created a fearsome character that the public latched onto, and never let go of. 

Today, because they have captured public attention, sharks are studied extensively. Their behavioral patterns are documented and analyzed religiously by scientists all over the world.

What has come from this research is an enormous amount of myth debunking. The most impactful myth created in Hollywood was that sharks are man eaters. Of course, because that meant that sharks threatened human lives, they became the villain.

But the reality is that sharks do NOT like the taste of human flesh, nor do they actively hunt humans for prey.

In the extremely rare occurrence of a shark attack, it is just a case of mistaken identity in an area of low visibility. They would likely just be giving a bite out of curiosity more than have the desire to make a meal out of a human. That is why there are more documented shark bittings than shark fatalities.

There just isn’t enough blood-vessel-containing-fat on humans for us to be a hearty snack. Even an individual with a high concentration of fat on their body does not have enough fat, that contains blood vessels, for sharks to want them. Our blood and fat isn’t something they enjoy. 

That leads into the next completely false myth that sharks are just mindless killers. While sharks are predatory creatures, they don’t kill anything they see, nor do they constantly think about food. They are incredibly intelligent and evolved creatures, who can navigate themselves across the ocean using only their sense of smell.

Much like humans, sharks are curious and sociable creatures. An experiment was implemented in which two objects were placed in the water: one resembling the shape of a seal, the other a square. The great whites approached the square out of curiosity over the seal shaped object. Instead of biting and attacking the object, they would bump into it, attempting to “feel” what it was. This inquisitive characteristic was exhibited in several experiments, the sharks in question having no intent to harm the object, only discovering what it could be. 

The news has also impacted our perception of sharks. It seems that anytime there’s a shark attack or shark encounter, it’s plastered all over the news. It makes it seems as though shark attacks are common events happening all the time.

But the truth is, that there is an incredibly low chance of an individual even seeing a shark in the wild, much less attacked.

Let’s put this into perspective. You have about a 1 in 3,784,067 chance of being attacked by a shark. And that counts non-malicious shark encounters as well. When you think about the millions of people that enter the water a day, that number is extremely low. You have a greater chance of being struck by lightning, or winning an Olympic gold medal. 

That being said, do sharks deserve to be so villainized?

The answer is no. They have been wrongfully dubbed a malicious creature due to aggressive news coverage, and Hollywood’s fabrication of the shark villain. Not only do they have an aversion to the taste of humans, they are incredibly intelligent beings capable of high functioning brain activity. They have simply fallen victim to a Hollywood charade. 

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Tiger endangerment

By: Jalalaisa Geleto

The Tiger is a troubled species of cat. They have been pushed to the brink of extinction many times, and some tiger subspecies are no longer with us.

Their territories were once all of east China, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Eastern Siberia, Central Asia, and the Malaysian Islands. Now, they are restricted to small pockets in each of those lands. They don’t even exist in most of China, Korea, and Central Asia anymore. To see a tiger that doesn’t live in India, or a Southeastern Asian country, is a miracle.

The reason tigers populations aren’t increasing much, even though organizations are actively trying to save them, is because each tiger needs a lot of land for themselves. They are not pack animals. There isn’t a place that’s “densely” populated with tigers, because they live on their own and far from each other.

The average tiger male requires 23 to 39 square miles to himself. The average female only needs 7. The amount of space tigers are allowed to live in has only decreased, leading to more tigers dying.

Since 1900, 93% of tiger lands have been taken from them, severely lowering their population. Since the 1990s, their population has decreased another 43%.

Tigers are a doomed species, and there is nothing you can do about it without giving them more land to live on. Which is not going to happen.

The Indians are mostly poor and are looking for land to make farms and build infrastructure. Many of them don’t care about the cultural aspects of tigers and focus on material things. At the rate India is modernizing and growing, the tigers might not have much space left.

In China, the tigers are doomed and are on their last legs. There are barely any tiger sightings in the country anymore. In Siberia, Russia, they find the Siberian tiger once or twice every year.

The only way to save tigers is to open more lands for wildlife. Until then, they will stay rare or even become extinct (especially in China).

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Important resources that are depleting

By Olivia Kendle

Some of our most vital, natural resources are starting to run low due to human capacity and destruction in the environment; destruction such as deforestation, pollution, etc. Here are some of those resources, and why they are so important to us and the creatures and environment around us.

One very big one is water. Only 2.7% of all water is freshwater, meaning that there won’t be enough water in the coming years. It is estimated that in 2025, some countries will go into severe dehydration with barely any supply of fresh and clean water.

Not only is drinking water being affected by water in oceans and lakes, where other animals and creatures live are slowly depleting and poisoned too; the Mediterranean Sea being one of the most polluted oceans in the world. According to ‘A Dive Into Junk’ blogs; “​The United Nations Environment Programme has estimated that 650,000,000 tons of sewage, 129,000 tons of mineral oil, 60,000 tons of mercury, 3,800 tons of lead and 36,000 tons of phosphates are dumped into the Mediterranean each year.”

The next important resource is oil. In 2010, the S​tatistical Review of World Energy, in June​, concluded that there was 171.3 tons of oil worldwide, and that if industries and the economy kept using oil at the current rate it is now, there would be little to no oil on Earth in about 47 years from 2010. Oil is very important to the production and natural gas industry and has helped put around 10 million people in jobs. Oil has also been used to power transportation vehicles.

There are many other very important resources, but those are just a couple of the main ones.

Lack of diversity in psychology 

By: Joxery Mezen Camacho

Image taken from: ttps://online.csp.edu/blog/psychology/basic-psychology-disciplines/

Do you ever wonder how the mind works and why humans do things that they do? Well, that’s what psychology is for.

According to the American Psychological Association, psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Thousands of studies have been done over the years in order to learn more about the human mind, but to what extent are all of these studies able to be considered worldwide? 

According to ‘The Conversation’, many of the studies, data, and knowledge, that we know of human psychology is focused on college members, those of the middle class, those who live near universities, and citizens of affluent, developed and democratic nations who are highly educated. Many scholars now use the acronym WEIRD in order to more easily describe the focuses; it stands for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. 

It was discovered that there are rare influential psychological publications that emphasize race, and when race is discussed, it is often written, and just about exclusively edited by, white scholars. 

Steven O. Roberts, an assistant professor of psychology a the School of Humanities and Sciences decided to do an experiment that would look at the race of academic journal editors, which get to manage the journal’s editorial board, recruit other scholars to look over submissions, and oversee the publication of the academic journals. 

There were 60 editors-in-chief who Roberts, and his research team (Carmelle Bareket-Shavit, Forrest A. Dollins, Peter D. Goldie and Elizabeth Mortenson), looked at in between the years 1974 and 2018. Of those 60, 83% of the editors-in-chief were white, 5% were people of color, and 12% were unidentifiable for one reason or another. 

These results show a lack of diversity in the field of psychology. In both the researchers and those being studied. This makes it seem as though the data brought from psychological studies aren’t as worldwide as many people think. 

However, racism is indeed a worldwide problem. Steven O. Roberts says, “Psychologists are supposed to know about racial bias and how to prevent it from stratifying the world, but if we, the so-called experts, have a problem, then society really has a problem.” 

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Mass extinctions

By: Mohamed Ahmed

Image taken from Tabletop Gaming

According to Amnh.org, to qualify to be a mass extinction, at least half of all species die out in a relatively short period of time. In this article we will be looking at the top 5 largest mass extinctions, the: Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Triassic-Jurassic, and Cretaceous extinctions. 

The Ordovician-Silurian extinction was the second worst mass extinction, according to Study.com. This extinction wasn’t even that far behind the worst mass extinction, which we will later look at. Jawless fish were the most advanced life forms during this time, and the majority of all beings lived in the ocean. The global temperature cooled and sea levels fell. Most species were adapted to shallow, warm water, and that was the reason why 85 percent of all organisms on earth became extinct. It was one of many extinctions that happened in a short period of time. 

The Devonian extinction happened 375-360 million years ago. According to Britannica.com, the cause of the Devonian extinction was never actually solved definitively. There are many theories about this, varying from global warming, to meteors, or even a lack of oxygen. No matter the cause, the marine animals where the ones that made up the majority of the casualties. 

The Permian extinction happened 252 million years ago. This was the worst mass extinction in the history of the world and is known as “The Great Dying”. Over ninety-six percent of all marine life, and 70 percent of land species. No direct cause was found, but according to an article on MIT.edu, it is speculated that a volcano in Russia was the main cause of the extinction. 

According to ‘History of Life’, the Triassic-Jurassic extinction has a lot of debate about the specific percent of the death. The speculated causes are: large impacts, prolonged volcanic activity, climate change, volcanic gases rising, and rain becoming toxic other theories.

Only 66 million years ago, the most well known extinction happened. Why was it the most well known? Dinosaurs! They went extinct with some plant and marine life.  Around seventy-five percent of the population of earth was wiped out. The main cause is speculated to be an asteroid and a virus. The mixing of two is what made mammals the new dominators of the earth. 

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The effects of ADD in boys vs. girls

By: Olivia Miller

Image taken from: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fbalancehealth.me%2F2017%2F07%2F29%2Fback-school-addressing-attention-deficit-disorder-add%2F&psig=AOvVa w0BGCSmDAYnkDmkVrdvthbh&ust=1608258946888000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAMQjB1qFwoTCKCYh8390-0CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

According to Medicinenet.com, ADD is a mental disorder/condition that is common among children and adolescents. ADD/ADHD causes the person, who is diagnosed, to have difficulty paying attention. It can also affect how much the person is able to sit still (which could get difficult over a long period of time).

ADD is also known for taking a toll on young girls and boys learning ability in school. Getting homework/tests done can be twice as difficult for a kid with ADD. Also, these kids may not be able to sit still and quietly for a long period of time like most students do in school, which causes them to be seen as a kid who acts out, or is disruptive, which compromises their whole experience in school.

ADD also has many other effects that people don’t usually associate with ADD. These effects surprisingly can be very different between boys and girls who have been diagnosed.

Starting off, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, boys are three times as likely to be diagnosed with ADD than girls. Boys and girls can share some symptoms but other times symptoms can be different depending on gender. According to Healthline.com, boys seem to show external symptoms, which is usually the hyperactive side to ADD. This could mean running around, speaking out of turn, not being able to sit still, and any other external effects of ADD. Girls are the opposite, their symptoms are usually internal, this could mean having low self esteem, inattentiveness, and impulsivity.

In both boys and girls, ADD/ADHD can lead to other mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and various eating disorders. If not treated, ADD can be very difficult for children in school, and even adults when it comes to daily commitments. There are different medications that can be prescribed if someone is diagnosed with ADD. There are also different therapies as well that people try.

Although common, ADD is a disorder that can be hard to live with if you’re a kid. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl.

Music and the brain

By Nora Doyle

Image by Thrive Global

Why can listening to your favorite song sometimes cheer you up like nothing else? Why can we remember all the lyrics to a song we haven’t listened to in years, but not math formulas?

Professors at the University of Central Florida have been trying to answer questions like these for a long time. They explore how music impacts brain function and human behavior, including by reducing stress, pain, and symptoms of depression, as well as improving cognitive and motor skills.

These professors say that these reactions on the brain can be seen on an MRI. Professor Kiminobu Sugaya says, “Lots of different parts of the brain light up.”

Music affects different parts of the brain in different ways according to this study by the UCF professors. For the temporal lobe, which processes what we hear, professor Ayako Yonetani says that this part of the brain allows us to appreciate and enjoy music. Have a favorite song? This part of the brain is what likes it.

Music affects the Broca’s area, which enables us to produce speech. This is because playing an instrument may improve one’s ability to communicate. This is where we express music.

In the Wernicke’s area, where we comprehend written and spoken language, we simply enjoy the music through analyzing it. Analyzing lyrics, instrumentals, and tunes helps us enjoy a song.

In the optical lobe, which processes what we see, professor Sugaya says, in short, that musicians visualize cords and notes as they perform.

As for the cerebellum, which coordinates movement and stores physical memory, Sugaya says “An Alzheimer’s patient, even if he doesn’t recognize his wife, could still play the piano if he learned it when he was young because playing has become a muscle memory. Those memories in the cerebellum never fade out,” which is probably the most incredible thing that music can do to the brain! Muscle memory is a term that is also used in sports, like dance, because we also connect music to movement when it is choreographed.

The remaining parts of the brain are affected by music through translating notes from our brain to our fingers while playing an instrument.

There is the fact that music can be addictive like a drug. When I hear a song for the first time and love it, I want to play it over and over again. Also, songs are addictive in the way that they get stuck on our heads.

So, next time you listen to music, think of all the ways it’s affecting your brain!

Different animals going extinct

By: Leslie Lopez Ibanez

There are many animals going extinct. Some of them are: tigers, elephants, black rhinos, sloths, and red pandas.

There were, in total, 8 subspecies of tigers. 3 of them are now extinct. Tigers are endangered for a couple of reasons. Their habitat is being destroyed by human activities, by building road networks and clearing forests for agriculture and timber, and by the growth of human population. According to WWF, they have lost 95% of their historical range. Also, in some cultures, they use tiger parts to cure diseases like convulsions, rheumatism, dysentery, and typhoid fever.

There are around 40,000 elephants left in the world. The species is classified as endangered. They are going extinct because they are being killed to use their ivory tusks, which later are traded illegally in the international market. They also go through habitat destruction by building roads, mines, dams, and industrial complexes.

Black rhinos are critically endangered. They can be found in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. They are going extinct because they are a part of an illegal wildlife trade. They kill them and take their horn. According to WWF, some Asian consumers, in Vietnam and China, use them for folk remedies. There are about 5,500 black rhinos left in the world.

There are 6 different species of sloths but only 2 of them are going extinct. The maned sloth is one of them. They are going extinct because of habitat loss. Pygmy sloths are actually one of the most critically endangered mammals in the world. There are less than 100 of them hanging in their island home. They can only be found on a tiny island off the east coast of mainland Panama.

Red pandas are another animal that is endangered. They are only found in the mountainous areas in the forests of Asia. The main threat to their extinction is habitat loss by human growth in the area. Climate change has also affected them by the temperature rising and them having to adapt to that. Climate change has led them to fragmentation, and a loss of land that they can no longer live in anymore. Red pandas eat bamboo but only a specific part of it. But since their habitat is shrinking, it is becoming more difficult for them to find food. Red pandas are also hunted. People like them for their fur and meat. According to the WWF, they have found red panda fur hats for sale in Bhutan.

The journey of humankind

By: Irene Cohen and Ellie Mulvaney

Since the beginning of the earth, from the first single celled organisms to modern species, evolution has developed life as we know it. We see variance in this evolution all around us in the diverse animals that span our environment (for example, the genus canis includes the species: wolfs, dogs, jackals, and coyotes).

With many examples in nature such as this, a frequent question refers to whether or not modern day humans (genus homo) have separate species. Race, though sometimes believed to be, is not a difference in species. Humans everywhere are Homo sapiens, no matter the slight phenotypical differences between them.

To understand this, we have to go back in time to the earliest humans. According to Britannica, ape-like species, around 16-5.3 million years ago (also known as the Middle and Late Miocene Epoch), lead to the first humans. Based on genetic information, scientists are confident that, more specifically, they existed in the later years (11.6-5.3 million years ago).

These primates from Eurasia and Africa are assumed to have become the first Hominins, or the beginnings of human lineage, in the Pliocene Epoch. Among the species that were developed in that era, Graecopithecus, prevailed as ancestral to the following: Australopithecus, Parenthropus, and Homo of the human lineage, while some additionally believe that great apes such as Pan (chimpanzees and bonobos) and Gorilla also came from the species Graecopithecus.

The catalyst for the aforementioned Hominins, was the climatic changes in the Miocene Epoch, as told by BBC.. Forests were replaced by open plains and prairies, which benefited terrestrial life. This meant walking creatures had advantages over terrestrial, or tree-living, creatures, which was a defining factor in the development of bipedalism (the trait of walking on two feet).

Bipedalism is a defining feature of humankind, and though it is not exclusive to humans, we are the only mammalian bipeds to solely use it, while others combine jumping and waddling. Humans advanced further and further into this bipedalism to survive, being able to run away from predators and quickly find food.

As reported by Nature.com, the species Homo sapien, as we now know it, evolved in Africa 315,000 years ago. At the time, Homo sapiens lived alongside Neanderthals and Denisovans (both of which were branches of humanity that are now extinct), and also occasionally interbred, resulting in Neanderthal DNA in most humans excluding those originating from Africa.

The fossils of this species have been found in Europe and West Asia, while the less common Denisovan fossils have been found in Eastern Asia, just 12 years ago.

Neanderthals were defined by their large noses and prominent brow ridges. In stature, they were short and stocky, and had a long, low skull. Overall, they were more compressed and ape-like than humans today, weighing in at anywhere between 64-82kg. They had large front teeth for tough food, and a weak chin, alongside a wide nose, which is theorized to have helped internally warm and moisten the air in their colder environment.

While there is not enough fossil evidence to recreate the appearance of Denisovans, the genetics that we have received lead many scientists to agree on some key features. They may have had a wider jaw and skull, and are theorized to have large molar teeth. This was concluded from a Denisovan jaw bone that was found sporting a high dental arch that suggested the adaptation.

These species went extinct through a pure example of survival of the fittest. Natural selection ran its course as population increased, and, consequently, so did competition.

As mentioned above, climate conditions changed and food became more scarce, leading to a higher death rate. By chance, the random variation that made homosapiens unique, were well suited to these changes and they survived over their counterparts.

Overall, humans did once have multiple species, but one has reigned successfully to become the sole remaining Homo sapiens.

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Oceanic exploration 

By: Grace Helmke

The ocean is a great mystery. It is the alien world that exists on earth. It houses life so captivating we can’t help but stare at its beauty in awe and fear. Although this great expanse of saltwater accounts for most of our earth, we don’t know a lot about it. The deepest depths of the ocean, where unusual and interesting life resides, remains largely unexplored. However, the few that have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of oceanic discovery, have explored some of the most interesting places on our earth, and have discovered some of the most frightening and enlightening things.  

What is ocean exploration?

Ocean exploration is a process that focuses on discovery. It is the observation and recordation of new species or geological features within these bodies of water. It is not random wandering in hopes of finding the kraken. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ocean exploration “Is disciplined and organized and includes rigorous observations and documentation of biological, chemical, physiological, geological, and archaeological aspects of the ocean.”

Most of the ocean and its species residing on the continental shelf (the area in the ocean that is shallow, but still submerged), have been discovered, so most of the ocean exploration that goes on today revolves around the deep ocean. 

Current Exploration Missions

The NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) currently have a few missions in place.

The first is the E/V Nautilus field season. Professionals will pilot the Nautilus (an exploration vessel) to explore the coast of North America – starting at the west coast of British Columbia, and moving to California.

Another mission in place is the “Bioprospecting for Industrial Enzymes and Drug Compounds in an Ancient Submarine Forest.” Scientists working for the NOAA are hoping to discover new compounds, found within this forest, that will be used for medicine and biotechnology.

Of course, there are many more missions going on around the world, but these are the most significant projects that are funded by the United States. 

What are some of the most interesting things that have been discovered in the ocean?  

1. Bioluminescence

Bioluminescence is the production of light by an organism. There are examples of this throughout all depths of the ocean, but the most common place that bioluminescent organisms reside, is the deep sea. Because the depth, where so many organisms live is completely pitch black, it has been discovered that light is a form of communication between deep sea dwelling organisms.

According to ‘Smithsonian,’ bioluminescence may be the most common form of communication on the planet because of the fact that there is such an abundance of life in the deepest regions of the world. 

2. Deep sea gigantism

Organisms in the deep sea have an inexplicable tendency to grow WAY larger than their family members on the continental shelf, or in the more shallow areas. Of course, there are some animals that reside in the deeps that are of regular size, but there is a large portion that has evolved to become incredible monsters of the deep.

The Oarfish is a great example of this. Their relatives, the ribbon fish, reside in shallow areas, and can reach about 18 inches. However, Oarfish reside in the deep depths of the ocean, and can reach over 50 feet.

Another example of deep sea gigantism is the giant squid, the largest invertebrate on earth. They can reach over 33 ft, and weigh over 440 pounds. This is comparable to squid of the shallows that only grow to about 2 ft. 

3. The Mariana Trench 

An underwater trench containing a pit, that has now been declared the deepest part of the ocean, and subsequently the lowest point on earth, has been discovered in the Pacific Ocean east of the Mariana Islands.

The trench itself is crescent shaped and stretches 1,584 miles on the ocean floor. The pit has been named Challenger deep, and sinks to a depth of 35,800 ft below the surface. 

4. The Immortal Jellyfish 

Only one organism has ever been discovered to have the ability to live forever. That is the Turritopsis Dohrnii, a jellyfish originating in the Carribean and Mediteranian seas. When threatened, they are able to revert back to their juvenile form and start the process of growth all over again.

Essentially, they age in reverse.

Because this is the first of its kind on earth, scientists have speculated that they hold secrets that may provide incredible insight in the medical field. Some even believe we may learn the secret to immortality, however, that speculation is not backed up by any scientific evidence, so it’s likely untrue.  

Our planet is home to some amazing creatures and features, most of which reside in the most foreign place on earth: the oceans. Countless individuals have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of discovery within these bodies of water. It is their mission to understand the mystery that is our oceans, and discover what has yet to be unearthed.

For more on deep sea exploration and some of its wonders, please visit: