Everything is simpler in the comic books. Consider dominion of the world’s oceans. In both Marvel and DC comics, the sunken city of Atlantis (a public domain concept, after all) serves as a capital city for the seven seas. Namor typically sits on the Marvel Atlantean throne (in the upcoming Black Panther film, Namor will hail from TlÄlÅcÄn instead), vigorously defending the interests of the oceans and meeting all surface-dwelling challengers with a hearty “Imperius Rex!” His opposite number at the Distinguished Competition, Aquaman, is less aggressive and less inclined to assert any royal prerogative, but there’s still no question who oversees the seas. Here in the real world, however, most of the ocean belongs to no one. And so we face an open question: who owns the information contained in millions of aquatic genomes?
The Fourth of July in Pittsburgh is a big time for boating, what with the three rivers and all that. So this story about citizen scientists contributing their time at sea to science caught my eye. As Aquaman loves to remind us, the surface of the Earth is over 70% water. Yet nearly all of science is conducted on land, making it challenging to know even basic facts of what is happening out in the ocean. The solution here is to recruit volunteers (no press-ganging for this navy) who already spend significant time on the waves and have them collect samples, take measurements, and test equipment. It’s not a perfect solution; folks probably don’t choose their routes randomly, for example, which may introduce biases to the sampling. Still, it’s much better than the alternative of not having any of that data.
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