When Dr. Greg Barord isn’t teaching Marine Biology to Des Moines students fascinated by our world’s vast oceans, he’s diving in the deep, looking for answers to mysteries surrounding the nautilus.
Dr. Barord and his team Save the Nautilus spend summers in the Philippines, Australia, Samoa, American Samoa, Fiji, Palau, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands (to name several), living in locations that often have little if any running water, all for the possibility of sighting the endangered mollusks. They’ve been at it for 11 years.
“On all of our expeditions, we deploy baited traps and baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS),” Dr. Barord said. “The BRUVS provide video data of nautiluses and other organisms attracted to the bait overnight. The video also records behaviors that may not have ever been seen before!”
Millions of years ago, nautiluses were large in size. Scientists have recorded fossils as large as two meters in diameter. Today, most nautiluses are between 15-20 cm. You’d be able to hold one in your hand (although if you have small hands, you might need both!) They propel themselves through the ocean using water they push through the unoccupied compartments of their shells. Their shells are hard, protecting their soft inner bodies from harm.
“On some expeditions, we also attach transmitters to the shell of nautiluses that helps us track their movements. The transmitters record depth and temperature that the nautilus is at every couple seconds.”
Nautiluses have been on earth for 500 million years but because they are hunted by humans for their shells, their future is uncertain. There are estimates that at the current rate of harvest, the nautilus will be extinct in about 50 years. Dr. Barord and his team hope they can educate local communities about the nautilus and encourage conservation efforts.
Their work has attracted the attention of documentarians working with the Ocean Media Institute. The non-profit works to educate the public about the world’s oceans. A camera crew followed Dr. Barord’s team in Fiji over the summer as they pursued what the institute is calling, “one of the most mysterious creatures on earth.”
The public will be able to view the film at no cost. The premiere screening of Expedition Nautilus: Fiji is scheduled for Wednesday, January 13 at 5 p.m. CST. Click here to watch the trailer. After the screening, Dr. Barord, will be on a live panel answering questions from the audience.
If you’re curious to see a nautilus up close, you won’t have to wait much longer. Dr. Barord says he’s working on setting up a 1,000 gallon system at Central Campus that will hopefully become home to some of his favorite ocean creatures.