Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Following Darwin's Footsteps: An Essay by Brett Davisson

As part of our year-long celebration, we sponsored an essay contest for high school students to learn how modern-day researchers with the global Census of Marine Life are following in the tradition of Charles Darwin. We are pleased to post the winning essay by Brett Davisson of Wells, Maine, who will also be receiving a copy of the new volume World Ocean Census. Thank you, David, and congratulations.  

Tagging of Pacific Predators;
Following Darwin’s Footsteps

Since the dawn of humanity, predators of the vast, mysterious Pacific have fascinated people around the world. Understanding these unique creatures and their ways of life has proven nearly impossible to the human race. However, in the year 2000, a team of researchers called Tagging of Pacific Predators, or TOPP, as they are commonly known to the world, set out to tag and track by satellite twenty-two species of marine animals. Traveling into vast, remote islands and the rugged coastline of the Pacific Ocean, these researchers risked it all in order to better understand the ways of these mystical predators of the sea.

Members of TOPP have been following in the footsteps of Sir Charles Darwin, thought to be the most influential naturalist in history. This team of marine biologists has spent the last nine years observing the rich and elaborate diversity of life that the Pacific Ocean contains. Discovering the secrets of migration patterns and daily activity of sea mammals such as leatherback turtles, black-footed albatross, and blue whales may hold the key to protecting these endangered species.

TOPP was instituted along with seventeen other collaborative projects nine years ago when the Census of Marine Life began. Since its founding, Tagging of Pacific Predators has personally tagged over 2,000 marine mammals in the Pacific Ocean. Ranging from elephant seals to sooty shearwaters, the team of marine biologists has opened up an entirely new world of information about marine life in the vast, blue waters of the Pacific.

This team of marine biologists and oceanographers has followed in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, observing and recording groundbreaking data about nearly two dozen species in the Pacific Ocean. Using archival, pop-up archival, smart position, and temperature transmitting tags, the marine biologists and engineers at TOPP have received invaluable information about these predators of the deep. These animals of the Pacific use annual migration routes just as college students flock to Florida on Spring break, according to researchers of the TOPP program.

As the deadline of the Census of Marine Life projects is rapidly approaching, Tagging of Pacific Predators is still discovering incredible information everyday. Hard work, dedication, and revolutionary equipment are creating a new way of thinking about marine life in the Pacific Ocean, just as Darwin himself had done all of those years ago. Using satellite technology, the team of marine biologists, researchers, engineers, journalists, and oceanographers at TOPP continue to make breakthrough discoveries that are changing the world as we know it.

Brett Davisson
Wells High School, Grade 9
Wells, Maine, USA

http://www.topp.org/about_ topp