A UCSB researcher recently completed one of the most amusing scientific textbooks to come out of this campus in a long time.
UCSB research biologist Milton Love of the Marine Sciences Institute has continued his streak of funny but factual books with his latest, The Rockfishes of the Northeast Pacific. A 416-page book filled with amusing additions such as a flipbook rockfish at the bottom of each page and a picture of Love’s tattoo – combined with a plethora of knowledge of the rockfish Love loves.
The Rockfishes of the Northeast Pacific was co-authored by Love, Mary Yoklavich of the National Marine Fisheries Service and Lyman Thorsteinson of the U.S. Geological Survey. In the introduction, the authors explain, “We wrote this book because rockfishes are cool.”
The style of Love’s new book deviates slightly from his last publication, Probably More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast, which touts itself as a “humorous guide to Pacific fishes.” It focused on the amusing nature of fish, while the content of the new book is more scientific. The Rockfishes of the Northeast Pacific is unlikely to make it onto a UCSB course reading list, however, because it is “a little too specific to be assigned to a class,” Love said.
Love’s goal in this latest publication – which was released in September and is available at the UCSB bookstore and Amazon.com – is to educate the general public about rockfish and their interaction with oil rig platforms.
Love is well known for his controversial research on oil rig habitats.
What most people do not realize, Love said, is that rockfish, specifically their habitat, are controversial topics. Many rockfish make homes of the pilings from abandoned oil platforms. People often do not realize exactly what types of fish live on and around the platforms nor do they know how the platforms affect the fish, Love said. Some environmental groups believe oil companies should be required to remove all traces of former oil platforms, which they consider trash.
Love has been researching whether platforms attract migratory schools or actually produce communities of rockfish and has found that rockfish are attracted to the pilings when they are juveniles and remain throughout their lives. When rockfish are young they float with the currents until they find a reef to shelter them and because most natural reefs are only as high as 12 feet off the ocean floor, it is hard for the larval fish to find shelter.
“Rigs are very tall and it’s easier for larval fishes to find [an oil rig] because the rig will cover the entire water column [from sea bed to surface],” Love said. “In the middle there aren’t any big fish; the middle is like a nursery because the bigger fish that would eat the babies are down on the ocean bottom.”
Love is also widely known for his entertaining magazine articles and satirical website www.id.ucsb.edu/lovelab/index.html. Love posts articles on his website ranging from a satirical diatribe on sea otters to the “history” of the Love Lab and a quiz to test your knowledge on his favorite fish. Love said he enjoys writing and is a “humorist trapped in the body of a biologist.”
“I have to do things in an offbeat way; the [articles on my website] come from things that irritate me,” Love said. “I just like for the reader to be brought up short, to give them a little goose.”