Some Jellies I Needed to See Right Now

There’s something about self-isolation that longs for the wandering ways of the jellies. So I’ve probably spent a bit too much time oogling videos lately. Luckily, there’s been plenty to virtually drift off to. The Schmidt Ocean Institute captured video of what will likely be named the longest creature in the world. A siphonophore called Apolema, it was spotted coiled in the deep sea off of Ningaloo Reef in western Australia, perhaps resting on a thermal gradient, a cool water mattress, if you will. If that alone doesn’t blow your mind, then get a load of this: it’s outer coil alone was estimated at over 150 feet. Rebecca Helm, jellybiologist extraordinairre, has started a #dailyjelly fix over on Twitter, and put up an amazing thread on siphonophore biology. Sometimes it really hits home that the deep sea is more poorly explored than the Moon. And […]

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The Epidemic No One’s Talking About

For the last few months, the world has been watching the spread of the deadly coronavirus and lives have been upended in the uncertainty of its trajectory. Governments have been mobilizing their responses and businesses have shut down operations. And all the while there’s been another lethal and massive epidemic building. One that has largely escaped our attention. For the third time in the last five years, the Great Barrier Reef’s corals are predicted to undergo widespread bleaching. On February 16, NOAA’s coral reef watch system issued an alert level of 1, meaning significant bleaching was likely, for the northern and southern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef, a region that spans 1400 miles, roughly the distance from Tijuana to Vancouver. Today, the alert has been raised to the highest level. NOAA’s map of the reef is slathered in blood-red. Severe bleaching and significant mortality […]

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The CORALS are Coming!

I’ve got a new book in the works! I’m beyond thrilled that Riverhead Books and my wonderful editor Courtney Young have agreed to publish another book by me. This one is about a creature similarly spineless, and yet it builds the most remarkable skeleton on our planet, one so impressive it can be seen from space: the coral. The story of coral is one that is both urgent and inspiring. The tropical reefs are the first major ecosystem that is existentially threatened by climate change. Corals live perilously close to their thermal limit, and the ocean is expected to continue to warm regardless of what we do to curb our carbon emissions. And yet, what I discovered on the ground in coastal communities around the world is hope that, in some places, the coral will survive. It’s not only scientists and NGOs who are working […]

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How Do I Not Know This #1: Janthina’s Violet Liquid

The news is terrible. I find myself picking up my phone and clicking the “News” ap on my phone every hour, twice an hour, three times. I’ve read all the stuff about dopamine hits from clicking and I get it. It’s an addiction. Plus, like I said, the news is bad so the clicking and the ugly just feeds on itself. I’ve known I’ve needed to get out of the cycle for a while, and lo and behold, I think I found a way over Thanksgiving break. I was visiting my parents, who live in St. Louis, and they have something we don’t have in Texas or when I lived in California either: a basement. And the great thing about basements is that things accumulate there in the way they just don’t seem to as much in attics. Maybe it’s because you don’t have to […]

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On Protocooperation

I’ve been getting Google alerts on the word “jellyfish” since 2010. For eight years a daily roundup of jellyfish news from across the web has been rolling across my inbox in the mid-afternoon. I’ve seen most of the stories several times. I’ve seen giant jellyfish drifting near video cameras on oilrig platforms that are mistaken for whale placentas. They turn out to be really strange and stunning jellyfish called Deepstaria. I’ve seen Michiganders and Missourians surprised August after August when the freshwater jellyfish Craspedacuspa pops into medusa form in nearby lakes. But back in July, I saw something I’d never seen before. In a video taken off the Italian island of Pantelleria half way between Sicily and Tunisia, the camera pans in on a vertical field of dandelion yellow cup corals on a rocky green wall. The corals have long, eyelashes of tentacles that sway gracefully […]

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Jellyfish Art, a Polyp Finder, The New York Times & Helen Macdonald!

I’ve had the most extraordinary response from SPINELESS. Beyond anything I could imagine. I thought I might share some more of that goodness here.  It’s been amazing visiting book clubs around Austin and talking with readers, from groups of lawyers and doctors, to groups of women who have been reading together for decades, to philosophers and teachers and writers who have all made me feel welcome in their homes or the restaurants where they meet. I was completely delighted to receive this incredible jellyfish art from Sachi Nelson, which is made from pieces of glass, mirrors, beads, and–most delightfully –fossils called Devil’s Toenails that you can find in the creeks around Austin. Sachi had no idea that I actually have owned the url DevilsToenails.com for years, waiting the day that I start a girl band called Devil’s Toenails. (Despite the fact that I have a […]

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Jellyfish Farther and Wider

The media that has found something to showcase in SPINELESS has really exceeded anything I could imagine. So here’s the latest, with all my gratitude! Over the weekend, SPINELESS received an amazing review in the Wall Street Journal. I loved all the science packed into this piece, and the placement–above the fold–was beyond my wildest dreams! National Geographic is out today with awide-ranging interview in their Book Talk feature written by Simon Worral. They headed up the piece with an illustration of a fierce box jellyfish that’s snagged a fish. Click and read to find out what I really think about jellyfish and world domination! I’m really thrilled that Read it Forward includes SPINELESS in their list of favorite November reads. I had a rollicking conversation about jellyfish on WHYY’s Radio Times with Mary Cummings-Jordan last week. And a terrific conversation with WMUW Wichita’s Beth […]

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A Jellyfish Anatomy Primer: By Popular Demand

Since SPINELESS has been out in the world, I’ve discovered one very simple jellyfish thing I never did: draw a jellyfish. Sure, I doodled jellyfish in the edges of my notes and I sketched Picasso-esque outlines of jellyfish on nametags and business cards so people would remember that I was that person writing about jellyfish. But I never really drew a jellyfish. (When it came to my book, I farmed the drawing out to the incredible Rachel Ivanyi) who beautifully illustrated the section openers.) But recently, readers have contacted me suggesting that a labeled drawing of a jellyfish would be helpful. It’s not like jellies have any of the familiar parts we recognize on other creatures, things like arms and legs, or even faces. A visual to keep, say, tentacles straight from oral arms makes good sense. So, I’ve attempted to draw my first admittedly-amateur jellyfish. […]

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Where You Can Find Spineless & Me

Spineless’s birthday is a week from today! And I’m thrilled that I’ll be able to talk about jellyfish in a bunch of wonderful venues. Here’s a rundown: November 4, 2017 at 1 pm. Texas Book Festival! I’ll be talking with polar scientist Peter Wadhams and geneticist Spencer Wells in the CSPAN/Book TV Tent about climate change, ice, jellyfish, and what the future holds. (Austin, TX) November 9, 2017 at 7 pm. Book People Book Launch! Come for the Electric Jellyfish IPA and stay for the jellyfish trivia – there will be prizes! (Austin, TX) November 14, 2017 at 7 pm. Interabang Books. Help Keith and me celebrate our wedding anniversary (really!) with some jellyfish stories in Cowtown. (Dallas, TX) November 18th, 2017 at 2 pm. Science Mill. I’m so excited to talk jellyfish in the hill country where they used to swim 50-odd million years […]

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