Growing up, my family had a series of illustrated pocket nature guides on our bookshelf.
I loved these tiny books and consulted them often, especially the saltwater-based ones like Sea Shells of the World, Seashores, and Fishes. These subjects seemed like alien worlds, and how could you not think otherworldly when eyeing the ocean sunfish, a big flattened blob of a creature that grows up to 6 feet long and weighs more than 2,000 pounds.
The ocean is a creature unto itself: immense, powerful, romantic, and inspiring, with mysteries left to reveal. In the magazine team's editorial meetings, oceans-related Johns Hopkins research had come up quite often of late, and it was not long before a tapestry of potential storytelling—from exo-oceans to the state of seafood sales—presented itself. "Hey, let's do an oceans-themed summer issue!" We realized there's a lot to dive into, and not all of it good news.
The global ocean is already experiencing the significant impact of climate change. We're seeing seasonal shifts in species migration, sea level rise, coastal erosion, dead zones, and fishery declines, just to name a few. In the coming years, we can expect more extreme weather events—storms, droughts, and floods—owing in large part to how human-created greenhouse gases are changing ocean temperatures and circulation patterns. Johns Hopkins faculty and alumni are looking into how this will all play out.
I, of course, hope that the planet's oceans will continue to flourish well into the future. That if we act now, their fate is not decided. I wish I still had those pocket guides, but I'm OK as long as those fascinating sea creatures will still be around to photograph and write about. We hope you enjoy this special issue.
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