Summer Sun and Beach Fun Come With Some Risks… And It Isn’t All About the Sharks!

It’s Shark Week and if the anniversary release of Jaws and the recent spate of shark attacks has you afraid to go back in the water, consider this – it isn’t the sharks you should worry about, it’s the bacteria – and opting to build sandcastles instead of swimming isn’t without its own risk of exposure. Indeed, the odds of being attacked by a shark are less than 1 in 3 million, but on average, 1 in 28 beach-goers will suffer the effects of E. coli-related illness.

Swimming in contaminated water or digging in wet, contaminated sand may allow pathogens to enter your body through cuts or your nose, mouth and ears. Typically this will cause mild to moderate stomach disorders or minor infections to the exposed areas, but it is also possible in heavily polluted water or sand to contract more serious illnesses such as typhoid fever, hepatitis or dysentery.

We’re all familiar with news updates alerting the public of beach advisories and even closings resulting from various types of pollution. They are disconcerting and no one likes to be turned away from a day at the beach, but it is of some comfort knowing federal and state laws require mandatory monitoring of many of our beaches and waterways to protect the public. We should never ignore or minimize these warnings.

Beach and water contamination continues to be an issue in the U.S. and comes from a variety of causes such as polluted runoff and untreated sewage containing harmful microorganisms (pathogens) released directly into the water. This type of contamination is often nearby or even onsite of a particular beach or waterway and is fairly easy to monitor and measure. Another source of contamination, referred to as non-point pollution, happens when water from rain and melting snow runs off roofs and roads, picking up harmful chemicals, dirt and disease-carrying organisms that eventually make their way to beaches and other public swimming areas. This type of contamination is not only more difficult to prevent, but also to predict or measure and beach managers struggle with the accuracy and time limitations of current technology that requires direct water sampling and extra lab time when making the important decision to close a beach that may pose a risk to the public.

Technology is improving, however, and researchers at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science have recently developed a new, more accurate method to identify harmful bacteria levels at recreational beaches using information about solar radiation, rainfall, tides and waves to predict harmful bacteria concentration and its movement along the shore. This method will improve detection accuracy and most importantly will reduce the time it takes to determine likely contamination by allowing beach managers access to a computer model that provides data-rich predictions of contamination well ahead of time, thus potentially cutting down incidents of exposure as well as clean-up time.

In addition to standard safety precautions regarding sun exposure, riptides and basic swimming safety, there are simple things we can do to minimize [...]

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‘Jaws’ 40th Anniversary: Here Are 11 Shark Facts to Think About When You’re Watching the Film

‘Twas a cruel summer 40 years ago. Unsuspecting moviegoers were scared out of their wits – and clean out of the ocean – by a movie about a 25-foot man-eating shark that could destroy fishing boats, tear down docks and completely disembowel the summer economy of a small, fictional New York island. The year was 1975 and the movie, of course, was Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.

It was such a massive hit that it jammed the shark into American’s brains and changed the way we thought about the creature, probably forever. It infected pop culture for years. It also negatively affected shark populations.

But what have we learned about one of Earth’s oldest creatures and perhaps the most effective predator ever? Lots, actually. The movie, despite its highly exaggerated story, stirred a fascination with sharks that lead to excessive and often brutal hunting, but also scientific research that has given us far more knowledge and respect for, and even laws protecting them.

As the movie gets talked about again, here are a few things to think about:

1. The first sharks were the biggest and most ferocious. The C. megalodon was estimated to be, on average, between about 50 feet to 60 feet in length and came into existence about 15.9 million years ago and went extinct about 2.6 million years ago (or during the Cenozoic Era). It looked like a cross between a great white and mako shark and swam in virtually every part of Earth’s prehistoric oceans. While the megalodon is long gone, there are 465 shark species today.

2. Though we might think of them as fierce predators, sharks have a very slow reproduction rate and that makes them extremely vulnerable. They only reach reproductive age at 12 to 15 years old and mothers can only have one or two pups at a time, meaning it can take many years for populations to recover from various threats.

3. As the ocean’s top predator, sharks serve the same purpose in the ocean that tigers, bears, raptors, snakes and other predators serve on land: They keep populations healthy. Since sharks usually get the slowest, oldest or sickest fish, it maintains a healthier gene pool for future populations.

4. Sharks even help clean the ocean by eating dead fish, whale and dolphin.

5. Sharks groom the ecosystems they feed off of and hold things in balance. Their absence in places like coral reefs can quickly alter the populations of other species and do serious damage to those ecosystems. Even the simple presence of a shark can generate an intimidation factor that keeps grazers from destroying things like sea grass beds.

6. Recent research has found tagged sharks and marine animals gravitate toward warmer ocean water – namely 79 degrees and above – which also happens to be the temperatures where hurricanes develop. Following the sharks and other animals will give scientists a picture of what ocean temperatures are like and where to anticipate possible hurricane activity.

7. Dogfish sharks contain a chemical called squalamine, which research has found kills bacterial microbes [...]

‘Jaws’ 40th Anniversary: Here Are 11 Shark Facts to Think About When You’re Watching the Film is a post from: designed and built by Colorado Local SEO marketing company 21st Century Technologies, Inc.

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