Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mike deGruy: Hooked by an octopus

By Stephen M.

DeGruy introduces his subject with a summary of how he came to be an undersea filmmaker. He successfully keeps the audience engaged while describing the many
wonders of octopi and the deep. The talk can be broken into several different aspects. They are: to protect our oceans, the creatures below, and how marine ecosystems live and die. In the following paragraphs I will summarize each of these aspects and provide my own opinion on his presentation.

Despite having a slide show and video to enhance his presentation he doesn't appear to use them to their full potential. This does not seem to matter though as his enthusiasm and vivid description more than make up for the misuse of technology. Comments on the talk are almost entirely positive and the most used words when describing it are "inspirational", "beautiful" and "passionate". He speaks extremely well and uses many gesticulations to assist in the explanation of his topics. By adding some humorous moments to the talk he keeps the audience's attention centered on his topics. I think that he is an excellent public speaker but could use more technology as it would improve his presentation even more. Here is a general background on deGruy's connection to octopi: His first encounter with octopi left him with a keen interest in marine biology: "And I knew, right then at age six that that was an animal that I wanted to learn more about!". After attending college and a graduate school in Hawaii he was asked to film marine life in the South Pacific. After having a great time filming deGruy decided to do it for a living. His education made working with marine life easier.

Due to his fascination with octopi he spends much time studying and filming them. He recalls one of his adventures to One Tree Island in Australia and how they saw different strategies used by the octopi to capture food. One instance of this is when the octopi would leap off the reef onto a coral containing crabs and trap them. He also developed a way to see the elusive beak of the octopus in action. At this part of the presentation he plays footage of both instances. To get this close he and his team gradually became part of the reef "After the first week, they ignored us." He studied their eating habits, mating, fighting and many other aspects of octopus life. After this topic he speaks of "The deep".

Octopi aren't the only thing Mike loves. He is a huge fan of deep sea diving and describes in detail his diving experiences. He states, "as you go deeper, that lovely blue water gives way to a darker blue, and finally a rich lavender and after a couple of thousand feet it's ink black." He is amazed at the outlandish appearance and function of "mid water" community variants. He isn't finished yet though, as he arrives at his next destination, the mid ocean ridge. Thousands of undersea volcanoes erupt to produce the heat needed to live here and the temperatures range from six to seven hundred degrees Fahrenheit to only a few degrees above freezing here. Chimneys of precipitated minerals form and spew a black "smoke" of minerals into the superheated water. On these chimneys lie many different species from giant worms to shrimp and lobsters. DeGruy states "This thirty-three year old discovery made scientists rethink life on earth. Here there is no photosynthesis.". This is amazing because all life was thought to have originated from the sun's energy. Though it is teaming with life at that moment he describes how in eight years the same chimney can be devoid of heat and therefore life. Even though this happens, further along the ridge more life is blooming due to a new chimney!

His final topic is about protecting our marine environments. In particular deGruy supports grassroots organizations and people getting involved in their community. He talks about seeing a beautiful bay and several years later returning to film there only to find it destroyed by urban development and golf course maintenance. Then he describes a similar situation but reversed "But encouragingly I've seen just the opposite, I've been to a pretty trashed bay and I just go yuck! and film on the other side of the island. five years later I come back and that same bay is now gorgeous!" He compliments the people who help nature in their communities and assist the environment. Mike then describes how the mid ocean areas are damaged by people. He says "The term "Deep Six" comes to mind. "Too big" or "too toxic" for a landfill? Deep Six it!". DeGruy would like to see preservation areas in the neglected mid ocean areas. Mike wants us to change the state of nature in our communities and is an inspirational speaker. Anyone like myself who is interested in biology should watch this talk. Also, people who want to help the environment or simply be entertained would like it. No matter your interest, Mike deGruy's enthusiasm and public speaking skills will keep you entranced throughout the talk.

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