MIT underwater camera is battery-free
Adam Glanzman

Engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have built a battery-free, wireless underwater camera that can travel up to 130 feet below the surface, a groundbreaking device that may one day be capable of collecting never-before-seen images of the deep sea.

We know more about the surface of Mars than Earth’s ocean floors. To date, only 5% of the ocean has been explored by humans, despite the fact that it is the biggest ecosystem on the planet. That’s because the deepest ocean floors — called “the hadal zone” after Hades, the ancient Greek god of the underworld — can be an unforgiving place for technology

MIT researchers recognized that the high cost of powering an underwater camera is a major roadblock in wide-scale ocean exploration. Their solution is a battery-free, wireless underwater camera that is said to be 100,000 times more energy-efficient than other underwater cameras developed previously — it is completely unmanned by explorer or ship, and could survive for weeks on end.

Adam Glanzman

Using soundscape as its energy source, the camera can take color photographs, even in dark areas, and transmit that data to researchers wirelessly. Per a press release, “It converts mechanical energy from sound waves traveling through water into electrical energy that powers its imaging and communications equipment,” noting that sound waves can come from any source, such as a ship or marine life.  

To capture color images, red, green, and blue LEDs are utilized. “Even though the image looks black and white, the red, green, and blue colored light is reflected in the white part of each photo,” the press release explains. “When the image data are combined in post-processing, the color image can be reconstructed.” 

Furthermore, the camera can operate for weeks before it loses power, allowing researchers to study little-known species — and perhaps even discover new ones. 

Fadel Adib, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and director of the Signal Kinetics group in the MIT Media Lab, noted that climate monitoring is an additional and equally groundbreaking prospective way to use this advanced technology.

“We are building climate models, but we are missing data from over 95% of the ocean. This technology could help us build more accurate climate models and better understand how climate change impacts the underwater world,” Adib said in a statement.  

Researchers tested the camera in several environments and on different subjects, including plastic bottles floating in a pond, an African starfish, and the underwater plant Aponogeton ulvaceus

The scientists, who published their results in Nature Communications, want to improve on this prototype by increasing the camera’s memory and range. The device has successfully transmitted data from depths of 130 feet, a mere fraction of the miles upon miles that have yet to be explored. But once the technology is perfected, Adib told CBC, it will have serious implications for ocean exploration and climate change research.

“​​We want to be able to use them to monitor, for example, underwater currents, because these are highly related to what impacts the climate,” he said. “Or even underwater corals, seeing how they are being impacted by climate change and how potentially intervention to mitigate climate change is helping them recover.”

a person lies on their stomach on the ice to take a picture of a group of penguins in Antarctica
KeithSzafranski / iStock

Antarctica is the continent least visited by world travelers, and its frigid temperatures — with a daily interior average of minus 71 degrees Fahrenheit — make it uninhabitable for people long-term. Although the terrain isn’t suitable for humans, a delicate and complex ecosystem exists amid the ice, and now tourists who do make it to the South Pole can help preserve and study it by becoming citizen scientists during their stays. 

Despite being less frequented than other areas on Earth, Antarctica has seen its tourism rate more than double over the last decade, from 33,000 visitors per year to more than 74,000. Though still relatively few people in comparison to some of the world’s biggest cities — New York City alone welcomed 33 million last year — they can make a significant impact on the snow-covered environment. In addition to increasing pollution, tourists carry an average of 9.5 non-indigenous seeds across Antarctica per person, according to a 2012 study. Caution must be taken any time a foreign species is introduced to minimize any damage to endemic plant and animal species.

Andrew Peacock / iStock

And while the remote territory offers plenty of ecological research opportunities in theory, tourists far outnumber scientists on the continent, and sending fully-funded expeditions to hard-to-reach areas can be cost-prohibitive. 

The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operations (IAATO) has a creative solution: it’s inviting visitors to help protect and study the South Pole by becoming “Antarctic Ambassadors.” In collaboration with local companies and partners, IAATO encourages visitors to partake in polar expeditions that are led by experienced naturalist guides. Some of the expeditions give tourists the opportunity to observe marine life, record data about plants and flowers, track animal behavior, and learn about local cultures. And recently, the organization introduced “Beach Clean-Up Bingo.” 

RELATED: New Study Uncovers How Penguins Became Oceanic Birds

“Instead of passively telling visitors about the research that goes on in Antarctica, we can get them to participate through citizen science programs,” Allison Cusick, a doctoral student studying biological oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, explained to Mental Floss. “It’s an immersive experience.” Since 2015, she and her colleagues have recruited 4,000 visiting volunteers to help investigate how melting glaciers are affecting the phytoplankton population. 

redtea / iStock

Another project, called “Happywhale,” was spearheaded by the The Polar Citizen Science Collective, and asks visitors to help assist in tracking individual whales. Participants are encouraged to set their phones or cameras to local time while whale watching and snap photos of the cetaceans, then upload them to a website. Researchers can then identify the animals by their markings.  

If you’re eager to assist but don’t have an excursion to the South Pole on the horizon, you can still help scientists preserve Antarctica’s ecosystem. Aid researchers and enjoy some adorable viewing in the process by counting penguins right from your couch.  

Willem de Kooning stands in front of a workbench in his studio in 1982. He wears glasses and a blue shirt. He has white hair. The room is brightly lit.
Luiz Alberto / Images Press / Archive Photos via Getty Images

Willem de Kooning’s famed painting “Woman-Ochre,” estimated to be worth around $160 million, has had quite the journey over the years. On the morning after Thanksgiving Day in 1985, the artwork was ripped from its frame at the University of Arizona Museum of Art (UAMA). It remained missing for three decades — finally resurfacing in New Mexico in 2017. Now, after a complex and arduous restoration process in Los Angeles, the beloved abstract-expressionist piece is finally returning home. 

The painting is thought to have been stolen by a retired married couple, a theory that emerged when it popped up at an antique shop that had acquired items from the pair’s estate after their deaths. It was badly damaged, but not enough to evade the eye of an astute customer who suspected its real worth and offered to buy it for $200,000, CNBC reports. 

Startled by the sum, and unaware that he was in possession of a world-renowned masterpiece, shop owner David Van Auker decided to investigate. After discovering details of the decades-old theft on the internet, he knew he had to contact UAMA. Curator Olivia Miller remembers overhearing the details of his initial call. “My coworker and I just stopped our conversation and looked at each other,” she shared in a Getty podcast interview. “She said, ‘are we going to remember this moment for the rest of our lives?’” 

Not wanting to get her hopes up too quickly, Miller asked Van Auker to provide pictures so she could confirm the identity of the piece. “Every time he sent a photo, we were getting more and more excited,” she recalled, adding, “he said that the painting had lines across it as if it had been rolled up.”

Once confirmed to be the real deal, “Woman-Ochre” was on its way back to the museum. But it wasn’t ready for display just yet — the next step was finding the right experts to restore the damaged painting. In what Miller referred to as “the absolute best scenario,” the Getty Conservation Institute (CGI) accepted the challenge, and the painting was sent to be rehabilitated in California.

Conservators began by analyzing de Kooning’s original materials, mapping the pigments through the use of Macro X-Ray Fluorescence technology, CNN reported. “Every single little paint flake that had lifted up when it was pulled from that canvas during the theft had to be set down under the microscope, in a very painstaking and time-consuming process,” Ulrich Birkmaier, a senior conservator at the Getty Museum, told the outlet.  

After years of detailed work, the restoration was complete. “Woman-Ochre” was exhibited at the Getty Center over the summer in a show entitled “Conserving de Kooning: Theft and Recovery.” Now, the painting is being prepared to take up residency in Arizona once again. Eager art lovers will be able to view the piece during a special exhibition at UAMA beginning October 8. 

“I’m just overwhelmed by the honesty and the goodness of the people who found the painting and who did the right thing, right away,” Miller told CNBC. “And that feeling is just as wonderful as having the painting actually back in the museum.”

An exterior view of the hammer museum, a small white building with green trim. In front, a huge hammer stands tall on the lawn. In the back, Alaska's rolling hills.
Jimmy Emerson, DVM via Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you had a hammer, you could hammer in the morning, as the old song goes. But what would you do if you had 10,000 hammers? You’d open a hammer museum, of course. At least, that’s what collector Dave Pahl did in his tiny town of Haines, Alaska. 

Small and unassuming — aside from the giant 19-foot-tall hammer standing in front of it — the Hammer Museum sits on a green lawn and features a backdrop of Alaskan mountains. Not to be confused with Los Angeles’ Hammer Museum, which exhibits art and is named after its founder, this one has a simple mission: to preserve the history of hammers.  

Jimmy Emerson, DVM via Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“There’s something for everybody here at the Hammer Museum,” Pahl told Smithsonian Magazine, emphasizing the ubiquitousness and necessity of the household tool. “Everybody uses a hammer, but a lot of us don’t even realize how often, or where we’d be without it.”

More than 2,000 hammers are currently displayed, representing the long and storied journey the instrument has taken to your toolbox. Rock hammers believed to have helped build the Pyramid of Menkaure in Egypt, Native American mallets, a meat tenderizer from the 1940s, hammers bank tellers once used to cancel checks in the 1880s, and more line the walls of the four-room museum. Another 8,000 are kept in storage. 

After moving to Alaska in 1980 to become a homesteader, Pahl began collecting tools he needed to “live off the land.” Eventually, though, he found himself with far more hammers than any one man requires. “Family vacations were hammer hunting,” he said, adding that he “​​was getting a lot of pressure from [my wife] Carol to get some of these hammers out of the house. She was getting tired of dusting.” But Carol eventually got into collecting too, according to the museum’s website. Her personal collection of glass hammers is currently on display. 

Jimmy Emerson, DVM via Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Considered the world’s first hammer museum when it opened in 2002, the shrine has since sparked similar iterations — one in Kentucky, another in Lithuania. In 2004, it became a nonprofit organization, even developing its own summer internship program, and Dahl has firmly established himself as an expert. A curator for the National Museum of American History once sought Pahl’s help in identifying hammers in the Smithsonian’s collections, Smithsonian reports, and the History Channel has reached out to inquire about the proper hammers to use in reenactments.

Pahl’s latest endeavor is the 200-page hammer “bible” he self-published in August, but he has blueprints for another idea that he’s constructing. Last month, he shared with Haines’ own Chilkat Valley News that he’s hoping to release a hammer day planner for 2023. “There’s a hammer for every day of the year,” he said.

world's oldest living tree
Yiyo Zamorano via Wikimedia Commons

About 5,400 years ago, a Patagonian cypress seedling sprouted in a valley in present-day Chile. Over the millennia, the colossus grew to 100 feet tall, with a trunk 13 feet in diameter, making it one of the largest in Alerce Costero National Park. Now, research reported by Science indicates the tree may also be the oldest living non-clonal tree — one that doesn’t share a common root system — in the world.  

Jonathan Barichivich, the Chilean environmental scientist who estimated the tree’s age, grew up on indigenous land in the park. “It was like a waterfall of green, a great presence before me,” he told The Guardian, recalling the first time he saw the Alerce Milenario, or Gran Abuelo (which means “great-grandfather” in Spanish), tree as a child.

If Barichivich’s estimate is correct, the Alerce Milenario’s age surpasses that of Methuselah — a 4,853-year-old Great Basin bristlecone pine in California currently thought to be the oldest non-clonal tree — by centuries. According to the publication, non-clonal trees tend to not live as long as clonal trees. At an estimated 9,558 years old, the world’s longest-living clonal tree is thought to be Old Tjikko, a Norway spruce in Sweden.  

Barichivich, who works at the Climate and Environmental Sciences Laboratory in Paris, and colleague Antonio Lara first took a core sample of the Alerce Milenario’s trunk in 2020. Typically, Smithsonian Magazine reports, researchers calculate a living tree’s age by taking a core sample and counting the rings in the trunk. They can also take a root sample and use carbon-dating.

Gran Abuelo PatagoniaArgentina via Wikimedia Commons

But Alerce Milenario’s massive width meant a standard borer could not reach its center. Plus, Newsweek reports, due to its advanced age, much of the tree is dead, and its center likely rotten, making an accurate core sample impossible. Most of the tree’s life remains in its vulnerable root system, with any disturbance posing a threat to its vitality.   

To protect the tree, Barichivich had to devise a different way to estimate its age.

“It’s not the point to make a big hole in the tree just to know that it’s the oldest,” Barichivich told Newsweek. “The scientific challenge is to estimate the age without being too invasive.”

The 2020 core sample — which reached about 40% into the tree’s trunk, according to The Guardian — showed 2,400 rings. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Barichivich and Lara examined complete core samples from other Patagonian cypress trees and studied the species’ growth rate, as well as how environmental changes affect tree development. They also used statistical modeling to estimate its age. Based on their results, they determined there is an 80% chance the tree is older than 5,000 years, likely 5,484.

Alerce Costero National Park Sietecolores via Wikimedia Commons

The researchers, who plan to publish their results in 2023, say they’re less concerned with breaking records and more interested in securing federal protection for Gran Abuelo, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Although there’s a platform intended to protect its roots from treading visitors, it is still endangered by this and other threats. Preserving it, they say, is important for multiple reasons.

“The Gran Abuelo isn’t just old, it’s a time capsule with a message about the future,” Barichivich told The Guardian. “We have a 5,000-year record of life in this tree alone, and we can see the response of an ancient being to the changes we have made to the planet.”

Heritage Foundation of Pakistan

For nearly two decades, Yasmeen Lari — Pakistan’s first female architect — has directed her considerable talents toward building sustainable shelters and infrastructure for people experiencing homelessness due to natural disasters. A co-founder of the nonprofit Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, 81-year-old Lari had initially retired from her storied career in architecture in 2000. However, she was mobilized back into action by a devastating earthquake that hit Pakistan in 2005, and has remained on her current path ever since.

The bamboo shelters she designs nowadays are highly portable, easily disassembled and reassembled, and are made with materials that can be repurposed to build more permanent housing as warranted.  “The beauty of it is that it’s low-tech,” Lari explained in an interview with Fast Company — made so by utilizing a simple design and affordable materials, with zero carbon footprint. 

The use of sustainable materials, such as bamboo, is an altruistic consideration, albeit one born from a practical need that arose in the aftermath of the 2005 quake. “You could not find other materials,” Lari said. “Everything was taking too much time [to source], like bricks … You could find bamboo. And I said, ‘OK, let’s give it a try.’” 

Heritage Foundation of Pakistan

Lari now runs a training center called Zero-Carbon Campus, where artisans construct these disaster-relief shelters for people displaced by flooding and landslides. It’s here where designs of the original bamboo hut evolved to incorporate prefabricated bamboo panels that can be quickly and easily pulled together with rope. At the campus, the artisans build eight shelters per day, on average. 

Earlier this summer, six of the artisans on campus started building a small village that will eventually include 100 bamboo homes — all of which reportedly survived the current flooding. And, in true pay-it-forward fashion, the artisans are training others on how to build these structures. “My artisans, who are my best entrepreneurs, will now teach other artisans from surrounding villages to be able to go back and build your own unit,” Lari said. “If I can disperse it all over the country, we can make hundreds of these a day.” 

The Heritage Foundation also makes assembly instructions for the temporary shelters available on YouTube, for emergency situations when the need is more urgent.

Lari’s current focus on disaster relief projects is something of an unexpected detour from an illustrious career that once encompassed building opulent, high-profile corporate and government structures in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. The city’s finance and trade centre and the Pakistan State Oil House are two of her most celebrated designs. 

In 2020, Lari was awarded the prestigious Jane Drew Prize, an award granted to a select few female architects who have made extraordinary contributions to architecture in the traditionally male-dominated industry. 

In an interview with The Guardian, not long after receiving the award, Lari reflected upon her change in direction, stating, “I feel like I am atoning for some of what I did. I was a ‘starchitect’ for 36 years, but then my egotistical journey had to come to an end. It’s not only the right of the elite to have good design.”

Lari’s change of heart, and its ripple effects via the new generation of artisans she trains at the Zero-Carbon Campus, seem to be delivering on that vow, exponentially. 

She elaborated on her philosophy in a Q&A session with Dwell magazine: “I often tell my colleagues: Let us not treat the disaster-affected households as destitute needing handouts; let us give them due respect, and treat them as we would a corporate sector client. If we can encourage that elusive element of pride among traumatized, shelterless families, half the battle would be won, for they would soon be on the road to self reliance.”

Air Company Creating Jet Fuel From Carbon Dioxide
AIR COMPANY

Sustainable jet fuel alternatives will soon be taking flight in the commercial airlines industry. New York-based startup Air Company recently announced the launch of its Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), made from captured carbon dioxide.

Major airlines like JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic, and even the United States Air Force, among others, have collectively committed to purchasing over 1 billion gallons of the sustainable fuel alternative. The company is optimistic that the innovation can transform aviation into an environmentally-sustainable form of transportation, according to CEO and co-founder Gregory Constantine. 

“We have been quietly working on this innovation, and we’re proud to debut this SAF technology and commercialization in partnership with some of the most impactful and innovative companies in the world,” Constantine said in a recent press release. 

AIR COMPANY

This climate-friendly fuel — distributed under the trademarked name AIRMADE™ SAF — utilizes excess carbon dioxide to create industrial carbon-negative alcohols and fuels that can be used to power jets. Air Company hopes the SAF will serve as a blueprint for global decarbonization

“The aviation industry, for us, is really interesting, because it’s one of the toughest industries to decarbonize,” Constantine told Fast Company. Sustainable fuel alternatives and electrification have resulted in climate-friendly gains in the automobile industry in recent years, but significant infrastructural and technological challenges have slowed progress for other transportation modes. Aviation and other forms of transportation account for approximately 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions collectively, according to a study published by the American Chemical Society earlier this year.

“Traditional jet fuel, or kerosene, is a mix of hydrocarbons made from a series of chemical reactions,” Popular Science explains. Engineers must integrate more renewable starting materials in lieu of fossil fuels to make air travel more sustainable.

SAF instead utilizes carbon dioxide, a practically unlimited resource, without the need to blend fossil fuels.  

“The benefit to what we’ve been able to do is create a 100% ‘drop-in’ fuel,” Constantine told Fast Company. “So no change needs to be made to existing engines.”

AIR COMPANY

Results of a recent successful test flight conducted by the Air Force have stoked optimism within the industry, and now Air Company is eyeing the commercial flight industry in its efforts to phase out environmentally-destructive fuels. 

SAF “has the potential to achieve commercial viability at scale—a game-changer for our industry to significantly and quickly drive down our emissions,” Sara Bodgan, the sustainability director at JetBlue, told Fast Company. The airline has committed to purchasing 25 million gallons of Air Company’s new fuel within the next five years.

“With [the launch of SAF], we and our partners aim to create a direct pathway towards a seismic shift away from legacy fossil-fuel-based production in a cost-effective manner,” Constantine said in a statement. “We’re excited about the future and anticipate seeing more partners commit to phasing out fossil fuel use and decarbonizing aviation altogether.”

ONEPIECE by Ilan Manouach, world's longest book
JBE Books

The world’s longest book is enthralling but impossible to read — and that’s the point. At 21,540 pages and 37 1/2 pounds, artist Ilan Manouach’s conceptual work “ONEPIECE” is a single volume containing every edition of the world’s most highly circulated comic in the Japanese style known as manga, One Piece. Manouach says his sculpture is a commentary on the commodification of comic books. 

To make the colossal creation, Manouach printed out the entire digital catalog of One Piece and bound it together. The manga, written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda, has been serialized in Shōnen Jump magazine every week since 1997, selling more than half a billion copies to date. The story follows protagonist Monkey D. Luffy, a boy whose body has the properties of rubber, on his swashbuckling adventures to find the world’s most valuable treasure, a “One Piece,” and become king of the pirates.  

Despite its literary contents, “ONEPIECE” isn’t meant to be read. In fact, opening it could damage the spine. Instead, it is an “unreadable sculpture that takes the shape of a book — the largest one to date in page numbers and spine width — that materializes the ecosystem of online dissemination of comics,” a spokesperson for publisher JBE Books told The Guardian

Manouach teamed up with JBE Books and his nonprofit, Echo Chamber, to create 50 signed and numbered copies of the artwork, priced at around $1,840 each. The books, featuring 31 1/2-inch spines with vivid illustrations, all sold within days of the September 7 release, Smithsonian Magazine reports.

According to JBE, “ONEPIECE” was inspired by the prevalence of online content and “rampant digitization” of comics, which “challenges the state-of-the-art comics craftsmanship.” It is also a commentary on the fact that comics are traded similarly to trading cards.

ONEPIECE by Ilan Manouach, world's longest book
JBE Books
ONEPIECE by Ilan Manouach, world's longest book
JBE Books
ONEPIECE by Ilan Manouach, world's longest book
JBE Books
ONEPIECE by Ilan Manouach, world's longest book
JBE Books
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“Comics are dual objects. They have a use value — for readers — and an exchange value for collectors. Although these two functions are not operating along a clear-cut divide, they sometimes run opposite to each other,” reads the JBE Books press release. “‘ONEPIECE’ intensifies this duality as it can only be contemplated as a material instantiation of digital comics’ very own media-saturated digital ecosystem. ‘ONEPIECE’ exists only as an object of pure speculation.”

When asked if Oda had been consulted or involved in the creation process of the world’s longest book, a JBE spokesperson told The Guardian: “This piece is about Manouach’s work around ecosystems of comics, here as a sculptor who uses online dissemination as source material, not reading copyrighted content.” The spokesperson added that they do not believe there is any copyright infringement because the book is unreadable. Although Oda might not receive royalties, he is still the richest manga creator of all time, the publication reports, with an estimated net worth of $200 million. 

“ONEPIECE” is the latest iteration of Manouach’s practice of repurposing comics. He is well known for creating “Shapereader,” a tactile storytelling system initially designed for people with visual impairments.

Teemill

“Dear Mr. Bin Man,” a little boy scrawled on a piece of paper, “I am very worried about lots of rubbish. Will there be enough room in the world for me when I’m a grandad?” Mart Drake-Knight was 5 years old when he sent this heartfelt letter to his local sanitation department in Britain’s Isle of Wight. He had just been told by his mother about landfills, and the newfound knowledge wasn’t sitting well with him, he explained decades later from the TEDx stage

Today, the award-winning entrepreneur is still concerned about “lots of rubbish,” but rather than writing letters, he and his brother Rob are using their passion for the environment to bring sustainability to the fashion world. “What changed is that we realized, as adults, we have the means to build the answer ourselves,” Drake-Knight told Nice News. Together they founded Teemill, and their mission was simple: reduce waste. 

The certified carbon neutral clothing company produces T-shirts from 100% plastic-free organic materials, using renewable energy. The tees are printed to order to avoid warehouse overstock, and each one comes with a special QR code on its tag that customers can scan to send the shirt back once they’re is ready to part with it. Teemill then reuses the material to produce new products and provides a discount on a future purchase The end result is a sustainable, circular economy — meaning what goes out, comes right back in.

“Everyone in the world has a connection with clothing — it reflects our identity, protects us, it’s a huge part of the global economy, yet the way it operates today is extremely wasteful,” Drake-Knight said about his motivation to enter the fashion industry. “Most things in the world are made the same way: take a material, turn it into a product, use it for a bit and then throw it away: take, make, waste. It’s a design issue — so we set out to design the solution.”  

Teemill

And the innovative company isn’t keeping their T-shirt tech close to the vest. “For a solution to work,” Drake-Knight said, “it must be at least as big as the problem. So when it comes to ending waste, we need as many brands, businesses, and entrepreneurs on board with our mission.” 

To that end, Teemill developed a free, open-access platform, which means anyone with an eye for fashion can use the brand’s services, including graphic design and e-commerce, to build their own sustainable brand. Today, Teemill has a community of over 10,000 people, including big names like Tesla and BBC Earth, as well as digital content creators and independent sellers. 

“We’ve developed the tech to make a circular economy accessible for all,” said Drake-Knight. “Now, it’s time to share that with the world and scale it so that we can truly fix the waste problem.”

sea turtle
EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER / iStock

Sea turtles are swimming safer in the world’s oceans. According to a 2022 Arizona State University study presented by marine conservation scientist Jesse Senko, poaching has become less threatening to endangered species in recent years. 

Poachers have long been hunting and harming the global population of the reptiles: During the 30-year time span between 1990 and 2020, over 1 million sea turtles were illegally harvested, per the study. Though the number is alarming, researchers have now concluded that the illegal catch of sea turtles has decreased in the past decade by almost 30% — a win for the animals and their ecosystems.

“Contrary to popular belief, most sea-turtle populations worldwide are doing quite well,” Senko told Nature. “The number of turtles being exploited is a shocker, but the ocean is big, and there are a lot of turtles out there.” An estimated 6.5 million sea turtles continue to roam the sea, though the exact number is difficult to definitively determine. 

Sea turtles have an impressive lifespan, though no two are exactly alike. A loggerhead can live up to 80 years or more, while Kemp’s ridleys — the smallest sea turtle in the world — have a lifespan around 30 years. A green turtle is the largest hard-shelled turtle, whereas a leatherback is the biggest on the planet. 

naturepics_li / iStock

There are several hotspots throughout the world that are popular for breeding and hatching. Many of these places are close to the warmth of the equator, like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Gili Islands in Indonesia. Additionally, there are islands in the Philippines and Malaysia that are dedicated to maintaining and protecting sea turtles: ​​Selingan, Little Bakkungan, and Pulau Gulisaan, which are only able to be explored with a guide in order to protect the turtles and guests.

The recent study indicates that conservation efforts to protect turtles are largely working, with a particularly “notable” drop in the poaching of green turtles, the most frequently exploited species. 

“The silver lining is that, despite the seemingly large illegal take, exploitation is not having a negative impact on sea-turtle populations on a global scale. This is really good news,” Senko said. 
They do remain endangered, but efforts to preserve the population are on track to increase and protect the future of the ocean swimmers.