Andrew David Thaler is a freelance marine ecologist and editor-in-chief of Southern Fried Science ( www.southernfriedscience.com), a blog that highlights marine science and projects to protect the oceans.
Q. You cover topics ranging from shark conservation to why supposed photos of the Loch Ness monster aren’t real. What do you hope readers take away from the posts on your blog?
A. We have numerous writers with different interests and expertise ranging from shark conservation biology to deep-sea ecology. We want our readers to come away with an appreciation for just how big, weird and wonderful the ocean truly is.
Q. What are some of the most exciting recent discoveries in deep-sea science?
A. The deep sea has the tendency to totally upend everything we know about life on Earth. It happened in 1977 with the discovery of the first hydrothermal vents and the realization that life could survive absent energy from the sun, and then again in 1984, when methane cold seeps were discovered. More recently, the discovery of communities that grow around the decomposing carcasses of large pelagic animals, like whales, is further altering our perception of deep-sea energy sources.
By far, the most dramatic recent discovery is the deep biosphere microbes that live far beneath the seafloor and may dwarf all other living organisms in terms of biomass by orders of magnitude. Most life on Earth lives in an ecosystem we didn’t even know existed a decade ago.
Q. You say in your blog that the deep sea is “the Earth’s last great wilderness.” It seems as though most of what we read tells us how badly humans are treating that wilderness. Are there any hopeful developments?
A. People are finally realizing that the deep sea is an important part of ocean health, and the beginnings of essential regulations are forming. But we’re still a long way off, and for many, the deep sea, especially in the high seas outside of national jurisdiction, is less wilderness and more Wild West.
Q. Is there a story behind the blog’s name?
A. The blog’s name is an homage to an old underground ice-climbing guide to North Carolina called “Southern Fried Ice.” In my past life, I was a rock climbing guide out in Pisgah National Forest.