AES 2011 Day 1

I’ll have to be fairly brief with this recap of day 1 of JMIH/AES 2011 so I can make the shuttle to the first “official” social of the conference, so hear goes:

I ended up making it in earlier than the rest of the ECU folk yesterday, which gave me some time to check out the city with Dave, who was also waiting on his contingent.  We got the week off to a good (and somewhat typical) start by finding what, in my very small sampling period, is my favorite bar of Minneapolis so far: The Local.  Served at the local is the first Minnesota beer I’ve ever sampled, a great brew called Finnegan’s Irish Amber.  Despite the word “Irish” in the name, it hails from Minnesota, making it about as Irish as Killian’s.  That said, it’s a damn good beer.

Crucial eatery exploration accomplished, we met up with the rest of the AES crew, registered, and said our hellos.  Today, I chipped in helping out at the AES store (if you’re at the conference and reading this you’ve probably been in.  If not, please do, all the proceeds benefit student travel) and the talks began.

Because I was working in the shop, I missed all but the last five minutes of the plenary session by AES President Ken Goldman, but what I saw looked good.  After lunch the AES talks began in earnest, starting with shark attack guru George Burgess going over the Red Sea shark attacks and their possible causes.  The attacks seem to have been perpetrated by two different sharks, a shortfin mako and an oceanic whitetip, and were the result of a perfect storm of overfishing, the hydrography of the Red Sea, feeding by diver operators, floating docks (oddly enough), and sheep carcasses being thrown overboard.  The most surprising revelation was that only one oceanic whitetip seemed to be involved in the three attacks by that species; it was identified and photographed by divers at both whitetip attack sites, and was spotted several more times after the last attack.  The shark attacks continued with Randy Honebrink informing us about the first recorded attack on a human by a cookiecutter shark, something that created some discussion on the ol’ Twitter feed not too long ago.  The take-home lesson: don’t long-distance swim at night through schools of squid, because a cookiecutter shark might take a plug out of your leg.  Gnarly.

Amy Carlson kicked off the first dogfish talk with some technical difficulties, but rallied to show off some impressive findings from PSAT tagging spiny dogfish in the Gulf of Maine.  While previously it was assumed that all Atlantic dogfish make north-south migrations between Maine and North Carolina, the data from this study show inshore-offshore migrations instead, and dogfish from either side of Cape Cod stick to their home ranges.  Also, the dogfish tagged in this study seem to occupy midwater and almost never live the benthic lifestyle assumed in population surveys.

Dr. Brad Wetherbee and Marcus Drymon also tagged some sharks, with interesting results.  Using SPOT tags, Wetherbee and other researchers have shown that tiger sharks are dual citizens of the reef and pelagic ecosystems.  In the Bahamas, tiger sharks spend the winter foraging in the reefs and acting much as a coastal shark, but in the summer they head out into the open Atlantic, foraging in huge ranges out in the pelagic zone.  Marcus used acoustic tags and receivers in Mobile Bay, Alabama, to show that young of the year bull sharks are capable of tolerating fresh water like their older brothers and sisters, but prefer a narrower range of temperature and salinity.  Also, researchers in the Gulf of Mexico are forming a joint effort to share data from acoustic arrays, which is already paying dividends by showing that Marcus’ bull sharks are perfectly capable of wandering out of Mobile Bay.

That’s all for the first day, finished just in time to go catch the shuttle to Nicolette Island Park for the welcome social.  Tomorrow I and Dave give our talks, and more hilarity will ensue.