Latest talk in Malibu Library Speakers Series features ocean science expert

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The 2023 Malibu Library Speaker Series featured Dr. Douglas McCauley on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at the Malibu Library discussing the future of wildlife in our oceans. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Dr. Douglas McCauley, a professor at UC Santa Barbara, provided a brief history of human use of our seas and shared what the future may bring for our oceans at The Malibu Library’s Speakers Series on Jan. 31.

The discussion included the explosion of new activity in the blue economy and the effects of wildlife and extinction in our oceans. McCauley addressed how we can leverage the power of exciting developments in ocean data and technology to shape what the future of this new Marine Industrial Revolution becomes.

Councilmember Marianne Riggins introduced McCauley, who began by thanking the Malibu Library for hosting informative and educational events like the Speaker Series.

Although we may use Google and artificial intelligence to answer most of our questions we may have, McCauley said nothing compares with what the library provides.

“I was that kid asking all kinds of questions on how to find books on whales, on sharks, artichokes, whatever — that was me,” McCauley said. “The library is not going out of business at all. Being here, searching for answers, trying to learn and feeling important made me as a little kid feel important and set me for a trajectory to do what I love in science.”

McCauley shared his research on endangered species, extinction, and how it affects our ocean.

“What does the future hold? What if you tally up all the endangered species? How bad would that be?” McCauley asked. 

McCauley shared images of the exponential growth in the ocean with farming, oil and “traffic at sea.” 

“You have invasive species that are moved around as a result of all this traffic that’s happening locally and internationally across our oceans,” McCauley said. 

He also said there has been an increase in demand for fish and said fishing is easily accessible in areas such as Santa Monica. 

“We’re seeing a really important shift right now in the oceans with exponential growth in all kinds of agricultural,” he said.

Audience members asked a few questions regarding pollution and plastic usage.

“Sea birds are the most endangered groups of animals closest to extinction,” McCauley said. “Styrofoam for example, for sea birds, looks a lot like fish eggs, so they eat that, they fill their bodies with this plastic which is not nutritious, makes them feel full, makes them go back to their chicks so it is accelerating extinction.” 

McCauley stood after the presentation to speak to guests and answer any questions. McCauley said he enjoyed the conversations he had with members of the audience. 

“The part I liked the most was the questions and the dialogue at the end and so many smart questions about their future and oceans close to home and oceans far away,” McCauley said. “The conversations really help me keep on my toes by learning and listening to what people care [about].”

McCauley said ways someone can help with keeping our oceans clean is: reject single use plastic, using reusable water bottles, and even buying sustainable seafood.

“Even a place like Malibu, [which] has really good waste management, there’s always a little bit of leakage that’ll go into the ocean,” McCauley said. “Buying sustainable seafood, so when you go into the seafood section of your supermarket, there’s actually sometimes endangered species and then there are perfectly healthy population in species that are OK to eat.” 

McCauley provided advice on climate change and ways to reduce one’s carbon footprint. 

“The last thing, the major issue is climate change,” McCauley said. “So think about how to reduce ignitions in your own life; can you ride a bike or take the bus, and when you vote, think how serious the folks you are electing into office are taking climate change seriously.” 

McCauley’s work has been featured in the New York Times, National Public Radio, and Time. He has researched topics ranging from manta rays, to bumphead parrotfish, to shark spotting drones, to AI for whales. He is a Sloan Research Fellow in the Ocean Sciences and a member of the World Economic Forum’s ocean team.

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(From left) Malibu City Councilmembers Paul Grisanti and Doug Stewart, UCSB Professor Dr. Douglas McCauley and City Councilmember Marianne Riggins talk after the Malibu Library Speakers Series that featured McCauley on Tuesday, Jan. 31. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.