Tag Archives: Stanford University

What’s for dinner? Island fish, brah: Study shows Hawaiian restaurant menus hold clues to reef health

27 Jan

hawaii_menu_02Most of us look at menus simply to make a quick decision about what we are going to consume in the near future and at what price.

We then give it back to our server and the menu is most likely forgotten.

But, some people may ask to take home a menu to remember their stay at a special place, such as the islands of the  Aloha state.

Scientists from Duke University, Stanford University and Colby College in Maine are using menus from Hawaiian seafood restaurants to look at changes in Pacific Ocean fisheries.   The menus were collected mostly from tourists who kept them as keepsakes.

During the mid-20th century, the researchers explained there was a period of almost five decades where official records documenting fish populations in the state were missing.  Now researchers must be innovative in how they analyze that time period.

“Market surveys and government statistics are the traditional sources for tracking fisheries,”  said Kyle S. Van Houtan, adjunct assistant professor at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and leader of the Marine Turtle Assessment Program at NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. “But when those records don’t exist, we have to be more creative. Here we found restaurant menus were a workable proxy that chronicled the rise and fall of fisheries.”

The study, which looked at 376 menus from 154 different restaurants, showed somewhat predictable results.

Prior to 1940, fish that dwell near shore were a common delicacy. But, by 1959 when Hawaii was named an official US state, fishes such as reef fish, jack fish and bottom fish only made up about 10 percent of the menus. Instead, the reef dwellers were replaced with large pelagic fish such as tuna.

The large ocean dwellers made up 95 percent of the menus, almost eliminating the presence of near shore fish by 1970.

“The decline in reef fish in just a few decades was somewhat of a surprise to us. We knew at the outset the menus would have a unique historical perspective, but we did not expect the results to be so striking,” said study co-author Jack Kittinger, an early career fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Ocean Solutions.

It could be the public’s taste buds simply changed, but Kittinger believes there is a logical reason for the change of the entree preference. He said the lack of the  shore dwelling fish on the menus went hand in hand with socioeconomic data showing decline in their populations in the wild.

 Loren McClenachan, assistant professor of environmental studies at Colby College in Maine and co-author of the study, said looking at the menus offered a different perspective on history.

“Historical ecology typically focuses on supply-side information,” McClenachan said. “Restaurant menus are an available but often overlooked source of information on the demand side; they document seafood consumption, availability and even value over time.”

What’s for dinner? Island fish, brah: Study shows Hawaiian restaurant menus hold clues to reef health

7 Aug

hawaii_menu_02Most of us look at menus simply to make a quick decision about what we are going to consume in the near future and at what price.

We then give it back to our server and the menu is most likely forgotten.

But, some people may ask to take home a menu to remember their stay at a special place, such as the islands of the  Aloha state.

Scientists from Duke University, Stanford University and Colby College in Maine are using menus from Hawaiian seafood restaurants to look at changes in Pacific Ocean fisheries.   The menus were collected mostly from tourists who kept them as keepsakes.

During the mid-20th century, the researchers explained there was a period of almost five decades where official records documenting fish populations in the state were missing.  Now researchers must be innovative in how they analyze that time period.

“Market surveys and government statistics are the traditional sources for tracking fisheries,”  said Kyle S. Van Houtan, adjunct assistant professor at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and leader of the Marine Turtle Assessment Program at NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. “But when those records don’t exist, we have to be more creative. Here we found restaurant menus were a workable proxy that chronicled the rise and fall of fisheries.”

The study, which looked at 376 menus from 154 different restaurants, showed somewhat predictable results.

Prior to 1940, fish that dwell near shore were a common delicacy. But, by 1959 when Hawaii was named an official US state, fishes such as reef fish, jack fish and bottom fish only made up about 10 percent of the menus. Instead, the reef dwellers were replaced with large pelagic fish such as tuna.

The large ocean dwellers made up 95 percent of the menus, almost eliminating the presence of near shore fish by 1970.

“The decline in reef fish in just a few decades was somewhat of a surprise to us. We knew at the outset the menus would have a unique historical perspective, but we did not expect the results to be so striking,” said study co-author Jack Kittinger, an early career fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Ocean Solutions.

It could be the public’s taste buds simply changed, but Kittinger believes there is a logical reason for the change of the entree preference. He said the lack of the  shore dwelling fish on the menus went hand in hand with socioeconomic data showing decline in their populations in the wild.

 Loren McClenachan, assistant professor of environmental studies at Colby College in Maine and co-author of the study, said looking at the menus offered a different perspective on history.

“Historical ecology typically focuses on supply-side information,” McClenachan said. “Restaurant menus are an available but often overlooked source of information on the demand side; they document seafood consumption, availability and even value over time.”

Great whites use stored liver oil to power through ocean “road trips”

18 Jul
This is a juvenile great white shark at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. (Credit: Randy Wilder)

This is a juvenile great white shark at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. (Credit: Randy Wilder)

Bears, sea lions and whales rely on their external blubber to power through hibernations and migrations.

For them, a little extra flab is crucial to their survival.

Would a Great white shark be so intimidating if it was a little overweight? Probably not. It may instead get the stigma of a cop eating a doughnut with his mouth open.

But, like other large megafauna, Great whites migrate thousands of miles across the Pacific ocean  without eating much, and their lean physiques have puzzled scientists.

Where is the fat to fuel the trip stored?

A new study by scientists at Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium found that instead of storing fat externally, Great white’s instead store the fat in their liver, discounting the previous notion that the sharks would periodically dine throughout the voyage.

“We have a glimpse now of how white sharks come in from nutrient-poor areas offshore, feed where elephant seal populations are expanding – much like going to an Outback Steakhouse – and store the energy in their livers so they can move offshore again,” researcher Barbara Block, a professor of marine sciences and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, said. “It helps us understand how important their near-shore habitats are as fueling stations for their entire life history.”

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