See an almost real-time map of global fishing

Using satellite tracking, machine learning, and common ship-tracking technology, researchers have directly quantified industrial fishing’s global footprint.

“…until now we didn’t really know where people were fishing in vast swaths of the ocean…”

Their data reveal, among other surprises, that five countries account for more than 85 percent of high seas fishing and that holidays affect fishing patterns much more than fish migrations or ocean conditions.

The researchers created an interactive map—which is freely available to the public—that shows a near real-time view of the fishing patterns of individual vessels and fleets. This allows anyone to see what is going on in their own backyard and to observe where policy boundaries are in place and where they are not.

The research opens a gateway to better management of global fleets and their response to changes in climate, policy, economics, and other drivers.

A global view

Fishing activity now covers at least 55 percent of the world’s oceans—four times the land area covered by agriculture—and can now be monitored, in near real time, to the level of individual vessels. In fact, 70,000 vessels of the global fishing fleet traveled 460 million kilometers in 2016, equivalent to traveling to the moon and back 600 times.

“I think most people will be surprised that until now we didn’t really know where people were fishing in vast swaths of the ocean,” says coauthor Christopher Costello, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. “This new real-time dataset will be instrumental in designing improved management of the world’s oceans that is good for the fish, ecosystems, and fishermen.”

“…policies, cultures, and economics play a huge role in driving fishing behavior…”

While the dataset is hundreds of times higher in resolution than previous global surveys, the total area of the ocean fished is likely higher than the 55 percent estimated. That’s because some fishing efforts in regions of poor satellite coverage or in exclusive economic zones with a low percentage of vessels using the automatic identification system (AIS) were not included.

The team used machine learning technology to analyze 22 billion messages publicly broadcasted from vessels’ AIS positions from 2012 to 2016, to answer the question, “What drives commercial fishing behavior?” Based solely on vessel movement patterns, the Global Fishing Watch algorithm was able to identify more than 70,000 commercial fishing vessels, the sizes and engine powers of these vessels, what type of fishing they engaged in, and when and where they fished down to the hour and kilometer.

This new global view of fishing draws on advances in satellite technology and big data processing.

So, what drives fishing activity?

Researchers observed more than 40 million hours of fishing activity in 2016, and while most nations appeared to fish predominantly within their own exclusive economic zones, China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea accounted for 85 percent of the observed fishing on the high seas.

Fishing has caused numbers of old fish to drop

“This dataset provides such high-level resolution on fishing activity that we can even see cultural patterns, such as when fishermen in different regions take time off,” says coauthor Juan Mayorga, a project scientist in the Sustainable Fisheries Group at the Bren School and with National Geographic’s Pristine Seas. For example, in the Chinese fishing fleet—the largest in the world—during Chinese New Year fishing activity is reduced to levels comparable to those during seasonal bans enforced by the government.

The investigative team also found that when and where fishing occurs are tied more to politics and culture than to natural cycles such as fish migrations and marine food production.

“Our analysis demonstrated that policies, cultures, and economics play a huge role in driving fishing behavior,” Costello says. “In addition, we examined whether fishing diminished when fuel prices were high and found a weak response. These are the kinds of things about which we’ve always speculated but haven’t ever been able to test—until now.”

“By making this data public, we are providing governments, management bodies, and researchers with the information needed to make transparent and well-informed decisions to better regulate fishing activities and reach conservation and sustainability goals,” Mayorga says.

For fishers, a variety of fish means more stable income

The study not only opens a gateway for improved ocean management but also confirms that fishing activity is clearly bounded according to differing management regimes, which indicates the role that well-enforced policy can play in curbing overexploitation.

The researchers report their findings in the journal Science.

Additional contributors to the research are from UC Santa Barbara, Global Fishing Watch, National Geographic Society’s Pristine Sea project, Dalhousie University, SkyTruth, Google, and Stanford University.

Source: UC Santa Barbara UniversityStanford University

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Toddlers like fairness until there’s a cookie shortage

New research provides an explanation for how infants and toddlers perceive playground disputes over fairness, like how to divvy up toys or cookies.

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examines how infants and toddlers rank fairness versus supporting their own social group, which the researchers call ingroup support.

“Our work provides new evidence that infants’ reasoning is guided by principles of fairness and ingroup support and, for the first time, demonstrates that infants also follow a context-sensitive ordering of these principles,” says lead author Lin Bian, a postdoctoral scholar of psychology at Stanford University. “When there is enough to go around, fairness is expected to prevail; when there is not enough to go around, however, ingroup support is expected to prevail.”

Favoritism vs. fairness

While recent research has shown that infants possess an understanding of fairness and loyalty, never have psychologists pitted the two moral principles against each other, says Bian, who is currently working with psychology professor Ellen Markman.

…when there were just enough cookies for the group, infants expected the distributing puppet to give all the cookies to their own social group.

To test how infants and toddlers respond when fairness and favoritism are put in opposition, Bian and coauthors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed 1.5- and 2.5-year-olds various scenarios of resources being distributed between two social groups.

In each setup, infants and toddlers watched live interactions between three puppets from two animal categories.

In the first set of experiments, infants watched one puppet present a tray of identical cookies to the other two puppets, one from their own social group and another from outside the group (Bian used a monkey and a giraffe puppet). Bian found that when there were more cookies than puppets, infants expected all the puppets—regardless of species—to receive equal cookies.

However, when there were just enough cookies for the group, infants expected the distributing puppet to give all the cookies to their own social group. Group loyalty overrode fairness, says Bian, who notes that infants noticed when the distributor gave any of the cookies to the outgroup puppet.

Toddlers seem to grasp social pecking order

The third experiment tested the same question with toddlers. Using toys instead of cookies, the group found that toddlers reacted much the same way as infants: They also expected fairness when there were as many toys as puppets but expected ingroup support when there were fewer toys than puppets. These findings show that beginning early in life, toddlers already have a sense of fairness.

Right and wrong

The study also offers a new understanding of what social and evolutionary psychologists call the “first draft” of morality.

Some scholars have suggested that over time, humans have gradually evolved a capacity for moral reasoning connected to their survival. This includes fairness and ingroup support, but also other expectations like avoiding harming others and deferring to authority.

“Our findings indicate that by the second year of life, children are already capable of sophisticated moral computations that take many factors into account,” Bian says. “This suggests that how we as humans reason about what is right and wrong is in part an evolved adaptation.”

Dogs and toddlers outdo chimps at social skills

On the practical side—like negotiating sandbox politics—Bian hopes that these findings can help parents understand what might have caused these disagreements to begin with.

Source: Stanford University

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Survey: Americans think lawmakers ignore public opinion

In an era of sharp disagreements between Democrats and Republicans, there is one thing Americans can agree on: They believe that elected officials are not paying enough attention to the general public. This finding comes from a study about how Americans think legislators should and do decide to vote.

“Americans are startlingly unhappy with Congress, and this is importantly because of what they perceive as an off-the-rails decision-making process,” says Jon Krosnick, a professor of communication and of political science at Stanford University.

“When people talk about draining the swamp and corruption, they are really talking about decisions being made based on the wrong criteria.”

At a time when approval of Congress is at a historic low, Krosnick’s latest research provides a possible explanation for dissatisfaction: a public disapproval of the influences they see in policy-making.

Conducted in collaboration with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs, which published the study, Krosnick and his collaborators from Stanford and the University of California, Santa Barbara, interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,021 American adults in 2015 and a similar sample in 2017. Despite the change to a unified government under a new president, Americans’ views of congressional decision-making did not change.

“A thoughtful, responsible legislator can consider a wide range of considerations when making voting decisions, and we set out to understand how Americans perceive that decision-making process and how Americans want that decision-making to be done,” Krosnick says.

Who influences legislators?

The researchers found that there is a perception among the American public that wealthy people, the people and organizations who helped lawmakers win their elections, the people who voted for them, and their own political parties influence them too much.

Americans surveyed believe that the most important factor that should guide representatives’ voting decisions is the general public’s wishes. Eighty percent of respondents wanted representatives to pay substantial attention to the general public when making decisions about how to vote and 57 percent ranked the opinions of the general public as meriting the most attention of any source of influence, the researchers found.

However, only 28 percent of Americans surveyed think that their representatives actually paid substantial attention to the general public’s views. Instead, 70 percent of respondents perceive that elected officials pay substantially more attention to the preferences of campaign donors and economic elites than they do to the general public.

“When people talk about draining the swamp and corruption, they are really talking about decisions being made based on the wrong criteria. I hope that if legislators choose to be more transparent about their decision-making in the future and do so more as the public wants, the country might say, ‘Washington is not as swampy as I thought,’” says Krosnick.

How to improve public perception

One of the study’s central findings is the importance of transparency in decision-making. Understanding the decision-making process is key to shaping citizens’ perception of the legitimacy of democratic institutions, says Krosnick. He found that when representatives provide appealing explanations about the rationales for their voting choices, public perceptions improve.

To test this claim, national survey respondents read various descriptions of a hypothetical US senator explaining their voting decisions. Statements confirming the senator’s focus on the general public led to more positive appraisals, whereas statements explaining voting decisions by attention to the wishes of economic elites and campaign donors led to lower evaluations of the hypothetical senator.

Book: Voters no more polarized today than pre-Reagan

Krosnick sees these findings as an opportunity to educate elected officials about how they can communicate decisions in a way that connects favorably with members of the public.

“If members of Congress want to improve their standing in the public’s eyes, they can pay close attention to the preferences of their constituents and explain the rationales for their voting decisions to those people,” says Krosnick, noting that the perception of how legislators make decisions is crucial to how much faith people have in government.

“Explaining rationales for voting decisions is evidence of the respect that the public deserves—transparency and accountability will help.”

The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

Source: Stanford University

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How bird guts give rare chili peppers a boost

New research looks at how a mutually beneficial relationship between birds and chili peppers in the Mariana Islands helps the plants grow in the wild.

The study shows biodiversity can lead to indirect benefits for humans, says study coauthor Haldre Rogers, an assistant professor of ecology, evolution, and organismal biology at Iowa State University.

Organisms depend on each other in intricate and often poorly understood ways, Rogers says, meaning the decline of an animal species may lead to declines in plants with which the animal species shares a mutualistic relationship.

The study, which appears in the journal Ecological Applications, focuses on the donne’ sali chili plant, which grows wild in the forests of the Mariana Islands. Birds eat the plant’s peppers and ingest the seeds, then disperse the seeds to other locations through their excrement.

chili peppers
The donne’ sali chili plant. (Credit: Monika Egerer/Iowa State)

The researchers conducted a range of experiments to determine that gut passage improves the odds that chili seeds will germinate. Video footage confirmed which bird species primarily dispersed the seeds, and then the researchers conducted feeding trials with captive birds to obtain gut-passed seeds. The seeds then underwent planting trials to determine how they performed compared to seeds that hadn’t passed through birds.

Study coauthor Evan Fricke, an Iowa State postdoctoral research associate, says gut passage separates the seeds from the pulp of the chili plants, which improves the likelihood of germination when the seeds settle on the ground. In addition, the researchers found a statistically significant improvement in seed germination separate from pulp removal in seeds passed through a local species of starling.

The finding suggests passage through starlings provides some other benefit to the performance of the chili seeds, though identifying the cause wasn’t in the scope of the experiments, Fricke says. In fact, the name of the pepper plants includes the word ‘sali,’ which is the local name for the Micronesian starling.

Birds don’t carry seeds far enough to save rainforest

The island of Guam, which lost its native bird population due to the introduction of an invasive predatory snake after World War II, further illustrates the importance of the mutualistic relationship between birds and the chili plants. Without birds to disperse the seeds, the researchers found much lower chili populations on Guam compared to the other Mariana Islands.

The research team chose to focus on the chili plants in question because of the unique social significance the people of the Mariana Islands place on them. Fricke says the harvested chili plants provide a source of income as well as a delicious ingredient for spicy foods. Fricke says many local residents claim that this type of chili plant is difficult to cultivate, and that cultivated plants don’t pack the same spicy punch as wild plants.

Fricke says public awareness of the importance of pollinating insects in growing crops and other important plants has increased in recent years, while appreciation for other mutualistic interactions such as seed dispersal lags behind. He says he hopes studies like this one begin to turn the tide.

“This study teaches us about a mutualism that directly benefits people and should bolster our reasons to care about conserving biodiversity,” he says. “The loss of a bird in Guam, for instance, can cascade into a negative impact for people who like to eat these spicy chilies.”

Kudos to snakes for moving seeds around

Monika Egerer, a graduate student at the University of California at Santa Cruz, led the study.

Source: Iowa State University

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Hand-crafted beauty pays tribute to the dawn of home computing

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sketching • Re: Gmay3′s Sketching Journey

Allright Gerry, I dropped a VO on this over lunch. I hope this helps a little bit. This video mainly covers proportions and a bit on shading. One thing I didn’t talk about is line quality. Getting those predictable, repeatable, dynamic lines down is so important.Once you train yourself to be able to put down some controlled arcs with nice line quality, it is just a matter of rotating the page and controlling the length/position of the lines…. easy to write, hard to do, it will take years of practice, but that is the same with anything.