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Ocean Change and the Extinction of Life on Earth

We have long lorded over the ocean. But only recently have we become aware of the myriad life-forms beneath its waves. We now know that this delicate ecosystem is our life-support system; it regulates the earth’s temperatures and climate and comprises 99 percent of living space on earth. So when we change the chemistry of the whole ocean system, as we are now, life as we know it is threatened.

In Seasick, veteran science journalist Alanna Mitchell dives beneath the surface of the world’s oceans to give readers a sense of how this watery realm can be managed and preserved, and with it life on earth. Each chapter features a different group of researchers who introduce readers to the importance of ocean currents, the building of coral structures, or the effects of acidification. With Mitchell at the helm, readers submerge 3,000 feet to gather sea sponges that may contribute to cancer care, see firsthand the lava lamp–like dead zone covering 17,000 square kilometers in the Gulf of Mexico, and witness the simultaneous spawning of corals under a full moon in Panama.

The first book to look at the planetary environmental crisis through the lens of the global ocean, Seasick takes the reader on an emotional journey through a hidden realm of the planet and urges conservation and reverence for the fount from which all life on earth sprang.

176 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2009

Biological Sciences: Conservation, Natural History

Earth Sciences: Environment, Oceanography and Hydrology


"Mitchell trawls the oxygen-depleted oceanic dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, counts the days after the full moon in Panama to figure out when to search for signs of coral spawn, questions what a souring ocean chemistry holds for the future of marine plankton communities, and recounts the actions that have depleted global fisheries, documenting the toll that one frightening assault after another has taken on our ocean....Faced with the myriad ways humans are changing the ocean, Mitchell admits that giving in to despair would be easy. Instead, she chooses a personal voyage of discovery in an effort to get to the bottom of things—in some instances literally....I found the argument for hope and change that she presents compelling."—Rick MacPherson, American Scientist

Rick MacPherson | American Scientist

"Mitchell is a writer at ease explaining scientific fact and research, and at the same time writing lush evocations of great beauty on her travels around the world, as well as describing fear, insecurity and tragedy."

James Murray-White | Green Prophet

Table of Contents


1       The last best place on earth 
         Great Barrier Reef

2       Reading the vital signs: Oxygen   

         Gulf of Mexico

3       Reading the vital signs: pH 

         Puerto Rico

4       Reading the vital signs: Metabolism 

         Plymouth, England

5       Reading the vital signs: Fecundity     


6       Reading the vital signs: Life force      

         Halifax, Canada

7       Reading the vital signs: Medical history  


8       Reading the vital sign that is China     

         Haikou City

9       Reading the vital signs: Adaptability  


10     Finding hope 

         The Dry Tortugas

         Epilogue: A call for wisdom  


         Selected bibliography



Metcalf Institute: Grantham Prize

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