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Kieran Mulvaney's blog

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Big Listening: Tracking Online Ocean Social Mentions

on August 17, 2012 - 2:41pm

If you've been reading our Tide Reports or our blog posts, the you've almost certainly seen graphs like this:

And this:

And even some pie charts like this:

These are the results of taking a lot of data from the wonderful world of the Interwebs, feed it into a Machine That Goes Ping AKA Radian6, and watching what it spits out. In fact, we think that the way in which we constantly monitor online social conversations about ocean issues, and then crunch the numbers and distil them into a few lines on a graph or slices in a pie chart, is one of the more important things we do at Upwell. So we thought we'd take a few minutes to explain our 'big listening' methodology.

First, Make Some Tea ...

Each morning as the tea is brewing, we fire up a program called Radian6, which we use to search for all online mentions of a number of different topic profiles. (Think of Radian6 as Google on steroids. A lot of steroids. But without the occasional eruptions of rage.) Radian6 users create their own topic profiles to monitor, and the ones that we have established so far are:

  • MPAs
  • Overfishing / Sustainable Seafood
  • Cetaceans
  • Tuna
  • Gulf of Mexico
  • Ocean Acidification
  • Sharks

and a more general catch-all category which we dub, with starling originality,

  • Ocean

Additionally, we can and do create more narrowly-focused search areas to focus on specific issues or breaking news - for example, the International Coral Reef Symposium, or the International Whaling Commission. 

Start Broad ...

Within those topic profiles, we create keyword groups, and for most of the topics we cover, those keywords are relatively straightforward and predictable. When it comes to sharks, however, we have had to be more creative, because a) of all the ocean-themed topics we monitor online, sharks are by some distance the most popular; and b) because the shark 'brand' is spread throughout culture: there are shark-named products, shark-named sports teams, and shark idioms.

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Who's Influencing the Shark Conversation Online?

on August 6, 2012 - 4:28pm

We're just days away from Shark Week - the annual catalyst of by far the single biggest surge in cartilaginous conversation online. In recognition thereof, and in to complement our Sharkinars, we compiled a list of some of the most effective and influential drivers of social media shark discussions. Read on to learn more about our picks.

Subscribe to Upwell's "Shark Influencers" list on Twitter to keep tabs on these influencers from the comfort of your own Twitter feed.

Alisa Schwartz

Followers: 3,991
Klout Score: 66
Twitter Bio: Scuba diver & outspoken marine conservationist w/focus on sharks. No Blue = No Green. Total Ocean Devotion here! Follow @sharkangels too! #savesharks

Alisa is one of the most engaged individuals posting online about shark conservation, tweeting many times daily, including mutiple article and news links.

David Shiffman

Followers: 6,722
Klout Score: 54
Twitter Bio: I am a shark conservation biologist and blogger. I support science-based management, sustainable fishing, and do not support direct action.

David is one of the most active of shark experts in social media, frequently engaging his followers in conversations on science and policy and compiling some of those discussions in Storify form. he is also a frequent blogger at Southern Fried Science.

Dr. Alistair Dove

Followers: 1,368
Klout Score: 51
Twitter Bio: Director of Research/Conservation at Georgia Aquarium. Blogger at DeepSeaNews. In love with the diversity of life in the oceans. Views my own.
Website: ·

A marine biologist and parasitologist who has studied many aspects of aquatic animal health, Alistair now specializes in the biology of whale sharks.

Chuck Bangley

Followers: 366
Klout Score: 48
Twitter Bio: Grad student and wanna-be shark expert.

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See the Sea. See the Sea Level. See the Sea Level Rise.

on June 25, 2012 - 5:57pm


Graph showing sea level rise along North Carolina coast, adapted from Kemp et al, via Skeptical Science

"From Cape Hatteras, N.C. to just north of Boston, sea levels are rising much faster than they are around the globe," reports Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press:

Along the region, the Atlantic Ocean is rising at an annual rate three times to four times faster than the global average since 1990 ... It's not just a faster rate, but at a faster pace, like a car on a highway "jamming on the accelerator," said the study's lead author, Asbury Sallenger Jr., an oceanographer at the [United States Geological Survey] ... By 2100, scientists and computer models estimate that sea levels globally could rise as much as 3.3 feet. The accelerated rate along the East Coast could add about 8 inches to 11 inches more, Sallenger said. "Where that kind of thing becomes important is during a storm," Sallenger said. That's when it can damage buildings and erode coastlines."

Any pragmatic, concerned local authorities along the eastern seaboard would be looking to prepare for the worst-case-scenario, surely? Wellll, not so much, especially in North Carolina.

The ongoing discussion in the Tar Heel State to legislate away sea-level rise has been well documented over the past couple of weeks (Cliff Notes version: Some state lawmakers want to ban coastal planners from using scientific models that show accelerated rises in sea level), and has even been the target of primetime televised mirth:

At least the state House last week rejected a bill passed by the Senate, which would have forbidden the use of accelerated sea-level rise predictions in coastal planning. Not that the story is necessarily over: some lawmakers countered that they might instead float the idea of a five-year moratorium, rather than an outright ban, pending a review of the available science. 

It is to the misfortune of the wish-it-all-away members of the North Carolina legislature that

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Saving Cabo Pulmo. Again.

on June 25, 2012 - 8:43am

Looking for something upbeat to share? 

This is a story about environmental heroism and conservation success. Plus, there's pictures of jumping devil rays. Can't beat that. 

Aerial view of devil rays in Cabo Pulmo. Photos by Octavio Aburto-Oropeza/iLCS

There's nowhere quite like Cabo Pulmo. Measuring just 14 km by 5 km, this small patch of coast in the Gulf of California has been dubbed 'the 'most successful marine reserve in the world.' Established in 1995 largely at the behest of the 100 or so residents of a nearby village, it nearly became a victim of its own success, until the villagers once again interceded on its behalf.

For the first ten years of its existence, the reserve's existence made no measurable impact on the wildlife within its boundaries; after a decade or so, however, that all changed. Overall fish biomass in the reserve increased by 400 percent. Check out, for example, the aerial photograph above of devil rays. "You can't even really see from this photograph, but the rays are four or five deep in places," Grant Galland of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, co-author of a paper about the reserve, told me last year. "You couldn't possibly get an accurate count from underwater."

The rays are four or five deep in places.

Exactly why Cabo Pulmo has been so successful is not entirely clear. However, two factors of success, are quite clear. It was established, and is enforced, by local residents; and the few commercial activities that are permitted - tourism, fishing on the reserve's fringes - are small-scale. However, the lure of potential pesos soon proved too much for the commercial tourism industry, and specifically the Spanish company Hansa Urbana, which sought to built a mega-resort called 'Cabo Cortes.' The resort would have comprised a 3,655-room hotel, two golf courses, a marina, shopping centers, and a private airport, and would have consumed water equivalent to that used by 183,000 people daily for 30 years. 

Cabo Pulmo: Where