This blog is part of a series that highlights new research and the innovative educators behind these stories. Here are some of the exciting ideas that came across Top Hat’s radar—from baby sharks to the power of community.

Shark season

Shark sightings are on the rise off the coast of California—last month, a group of paddleboarders were warned by helicopter to make for shore by the Orange County sheriff as they were surrounded by 15 great whites. But Chris Lowe insists this is all good news.

Lowe is a professor in marine biology and director of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach. This surge in sightings means that, after years of decline due to overfishing and bycatch, shark populations are recovering and water quality is improving.

“It has taken decades, but the reason we know these efforts are working is because these animals are coming back,” he told CSU News. “If the coastal ocean is getting healthier with five times more people living in coastal California, this is because we have done a great job at regulating water quality.”

Lowe explains that most of the sharks spotted were juvenile sharks who had returned to the beach to hatch their eggs. This signals that sharks see the waters as safe.

Lowe is concerned, however, that sharks have been arriving earlier. Climate change is causing fluctuations in water temperatures and weather patterns that drastically affect the ocean ecosystem and its inhabitants. Sharks that would normally migrate to warmer waters are also staying longer as the temperature drops less.

Dry ink

Tattoos not only change how your body looks, but also how it sweats, according to new research.

A study by Alma University professor Maurie Luetkemeier found that tattooed skin generated less sweat than non-tattooed skin. This sweat was also more concentrated with sodium. This is the first study to show changes in sweating related to tattoos.

The experiment focused on 10 men with tattoos on one side of their upper body but not the other. Researchers induced sweating and measured the results from both areas. While the study was small, Luetkemeier says it shows an important “proof of concept.” It could also help understand potential health risks to heavily-tattooed people.

Detroit’s resilient neighborhoods

In 2013, Detroit became the largest American city in history to file for bankruptcy. From 2005 to 2014, a third of homes were foreclosed in neighborhoods with previously strong housing markets. The city’s abandoned buildings and shuttered houses became emblematic of the mortgage crisis.

Now, as Detroit’s housing market recovers, stories of resilience are emerging. University of Michigan professors of urban and regional planning found that neighborhoods with a strong community were able to protect themselves from some of the negative effects of economic decline.

Margaret Dewar and Lan Deng’s research showed that these neighborhoods had strong community associations and tapped into city resources and foundation grants. Dewar’s previous research in Detroit notes that in middle-class areas, residents and community organizations tried to restore faith in the quality of their area so that others would want to live there. Low-income areas with high vacancy rates saw residents assume control of empty homes to restore the neighborhood and its housing market value.

“This is evidence of what works,” Dewar told Michigan News. “With volunteers, you can affect the strength of the real estate.” 


Juanita Bawagan

Juanita Bawagan

Juanita Bawagan is a Toronto-based science writer.