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EARTH Workshop, 2009 The Case of the Bloody Red Salt.

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1 EARTH Workshop, 2009 The Case of the Bloody Red Salt

2 Wanted: Scientists to solve…. “ The Case of the Bloody Red Salt”

3 Help! Scientists are baffled. The birds are sick and washing up on the beach. No one knows why. Can you help solve the mystery?

4 Here are the clues we have so far:

5 Clue #1: The government is spraying the area with bug spray to get rid of a moth that is harming the trees.

6 Is the spray making the birds sick?

7 Clue #2: An oil tanker has just crashed into a bridge 100 miles away. Oil is leaking into the ocean.

8 Is the oil coating the birds?

9 Clue #3: Surf’s up! There are some HUGE waves crashing on the shore lately.

10 Are the waves too big for the birds?

11 Clue #4: Look at the satellite picture of our ocean on the next slide. Do you see black shadows on the water?


13 The shadows are satellite pictures of algal blooms. Some people call these “red tides.”

14 Algal blooms are usually formed by millions of microscopic organisms called phytoplankton. Dinoflagellates are one kind of phytoplankton. They are harmless.

15 Clue #5: What is this foam on the surface of the ocean?

16 The scientists say the foam is from the waves combined with dinoflagellates.

17 Waves + dinoflagellates = foam

18 So…. What do you think is making the birds sick? 1. The moth spray? 2. The oil spill? 3. The waves? 4. The dinoflagellates? 5. The foam?

19 Let’s learn from scientists in Monterey Bay, California. This problem actually happened there in November, 2007. A local newspaper printed this news: On November 9, 2007, the morning after aerial spraying of pesticides had taken place, Jacquie Rainwater and her teenage daughter went for a beach walk in Capitola. There, they found several seabirds in distress, and took them to the local volunteer animal rescue center.

20 Many people in Monterey thought it was the moth spray. There were many protests to stop the spraying.

21 Actually, the moth spray wasn’t a problem. Scientists did not find evidence of the moth spray on the birds. Was it the moth spray?

22 That same day there was an oil spill… By FELICITY BARRINGERFELICITY BARRINGER Published: November 9, 2007 SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 8 — A South Korean container ship hit one of the stanchions of the Bay Bridge in a dense fog on Wednesday, spilling 58,000 gallons of bunker oil. Strong tides have since swept the slick through the mouth of San Francisco Bay, fouling beaches up to 20 miles north of the city and girdling Alcatraz Island with a belt of goo.

23 Was it the oil spill? No. The oil spill was 100 miles away, too far away to harm the birds.


25 Was it the huge waves? Huge waves are an important factor. They had something to do with it.

26 Was it the dinoflagellates? You are getting closer to solving the mystery. Did you know that the name of this dinoflagellate is: Akashiwo sanguinea ? That means Bloody Red Salt !

27 Look at the next tables to see how many dinoflagellates were in the Monterey Bay.

28 Source: F. Chavez, MBARI

29 Source: John Ryan, MBARI Monthly median (1989-2006, n=545) annual cycle of auto- and heterotrophic dinoflagellates in Monterey Bay.


31 But wait! Aren’t the dinoflagellates that make up the “red tide” harmless?

32 What do you remember about the foam?

33 Yes! The dinoflagellates got mixed around by the huge waves and created the foam. The foam, a clear protein slime, covered the birds’ feathers so the birds couldn’t stay warm.

34 In Monterey, the birds got sick and some even died because their feathers got coated by the foam and couldn’t keep them warm. They froze.

35 Monterey scientists tested this theory by performing an experiment. Look at what they found…

36 A simple experiment… Pelican feathers dipped in seawater, foam, and sediment Foam exposure coats the feathers, collapses the down and allows the water to contact the skin Source: M. Miller, CDFG

37 Verification! We reproduced the same effects in the lab… Unhealthy cells produce a proteinaceous material with the same chemical properties as the foam tested from the beach and birds

38 EARTH Workshop, 2009 The Case of the Bloody Red Salt

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