Search Results for: naturalist

A naturalist’s must-see destination: Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

I have it on my bucket list to explore at least ten more National Parks in the next decade, but I am going to have to rely on family and friends to share their adventures since I just spent some time in Maine visiting Acadia National Park. My brother, wife, and their sons (8 and 6 years old) just spent a week at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and have kindly taken the time to share their adventures from the boys perspective. Take a look at this 60-second  movie on what sort of wildlife awaits you at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Also, here are 5 little known facts about Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge to hopefully entice you to visit. (The interminable forests should become graceful parks, for use and delight. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844)

  1. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge was purchased with Duck Stamp revenues.
  2. Most historians believe that the famous Chincoteague ponies are remnants from that settlers who used the island for grazing livestock in the 1600’s in an effort to avoid difficult fencing regulation. Descendants of those ponies are still living there today.
  3. In a CNN Special from June 2012, Assateague Island National Seashore was named as one of the 7 prime spots to view wildlife. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is at the Virginia end of the National Seashore.
  4. The endangered sea beach amaranth is well adapted to survive the harsh seashore conditions of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
  5. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge has 14 ‘pools’ that total over 2,600 acres that are carefully manipulated to control moisture levels.

A naturalist’s must-see destination: Cape May County (and, the rest of south Jersey)

Earlier this year I was happy to see that the federal government had awarded New Jersey a $1 million grant to protect the ecologically sensitive wetlands in Cape May County (“Where Nature Smiles for 30 Miles” and where my hometown is located). The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will use the money to purchase 140 acres to add to the existing 17,000-acre Cape May Wetlands Wildlife Management Area. These wetlands are not only where I fell in love with the natural world, but are also home to many species of migratory birds and act as a nursery for many commercially important species of fish that spawn in the estuaries.

So with a combination of my pride in the DEP’s award and my feelings that an ‘ode to home’ in the Where We Live series is long overdue, I decided to take the time to compile a list of “10 unique and interesting natural history or maritime features of south Jersey”. I am sure there are plenty more out there, so please feel free to comment below or send me an email at info@beachchairscientist.com if you have any additional comments or questions.

1. South Jersey sits to the east of the Delaware Bay. The Delaware Bay boasts the second-highest concentration of shorebirds in North America (second to Quivira, Kansas which is mid-point in the United States). The Bay is mid-point in travel for many birds that travel from the warm weather of South America up to the Arctic. The Bay is also a perfect wintering habitat for many species of songbirds and waterfowl.

2. The world’s largest population of Atlantic horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) spawn in Delaware Bay.

3. At the entrance of the Delaware Bay is the Cape May Lighthouse, built in 1859, which documents the beginning of Cape May County’s nautical history. There is also the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, built in 1874, on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Cape May County peninsula in North Wildwood. Speaking of Cape May, the famous Cape May diamonds people have been looking for since the 1880’s are actually quartz crystals that wash up as smooth rock.

4. At 3800 Boardwalk Mall in Wildwood you can see the 43rd Wyland Whaling Wall, “Humpbacks off the Jersey Coast” (pictured right). Wyland is known as “one of America’s most unique creative influences, and a leading advocate for marine resource conservation”.

5. The A.J. Meerwald, New Jersey’s official Tall Ship, began life as a sailing schooner built for oystering,  but was commandeered during World War II to serve as a fireboat on the Delaware Bay.

6. The Stone Harbor Point is one of the few parcels of New Jersey’s coast that has not been stabilized (86% of the shoreline has been stabilized) leaving a remarkable wide open space that has been shaped (and reshaped) by waves and tides for centuries. It also has one of the last thickets of bayberry left on New Jersey’s coast.

7. The Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine has the impressive achievement of responding to over 3,900 strandings of whales, dolphins, seals, and sea turtles (all, of course, done with a permit and authorization from the state and federal governments).

8. In south Jersey you’ll also find the Pine Barrens, a distinctive natural area spanning over  1 million acres of the Outer Coastal Plain (pictured left) in southern and central New Jersey. Dr. Witmer Stone, an early New Jersey natural scientist described the area as “always sandy and thickly covered with more or less scrubby vegetation, interspersed with swamps and infested by hordes of mosquitoes”. This area is particularly prone to fires and some species, such as the rare pygmy Pitch Pine, have become adapted to the fires and count on the fires to reproduce. The sandy soil of the Pine Barrens is sometimes referred to as sugar sand.

9. Blueberries were officially named the state fruit in 2004. New Jersey produces the second most blueberries in the world (Maine is first). Hammonton is considered the “Blueberry Capital of the World”.

10. After the federal government designated the Outer Coastal Plain as an American Vinticultureal Area, south Jersey started up on the wine trend! Now south Jersey has more than 20 fully functioning wineries and vineyards.

As Jacques Cousteau said, “People protect what they love“. I am sure you can tell from this blog that I do love the ocean. This love no doubt came from growing up in south Jersey and spending time everyday at the beach or the nearby Bay.  Here’s a poem I wrote (almost 12 years ago) about the area. I hope you’re inspired to learn about the natural history of your own area – especially on this upcoming Earth Day weekend.

Cheers!

A naturalist’s must-see destination: Acadia National Park

I’ve researched some significant reasons why Acadia National Park is a popular place to go.

  • The center of Acadia National Park is the core wintering area for purple sandpipers.
  • Recently, a fungus lethal to bats – but harmless to humans, was found in Acadia National Park. The animals infected are said to come down with white-nose syndrome. It’s particularly detrimental because bats are crucial to stabilizing the mosquito population.
  • The word ‘Acadia’ is said to be a derivative of the word ‘Arcadia’. Italian explored Giananni de Verazzano used the word ‘Arcadia’ to describe the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. The word ‘Acadia’ was used to designate the current area of Canada’s maritime Providences.
  • The park was established as Acadia National Park on January 19, 1929 and is the fifth smallest national park.
  •  In 2010, the Huffington Post named it one of the top 6 national parks to visit.
  • Acadia National Park lies on Mount Desert Island, which is the sixth largest island in the continental United States.
  •  There is a famous rock formation, known as Thunder Hole (pictured), that when hit by waves creates a thunderous roar as air and water shoot out!
  • The movie, Cider House Rules, featured two spots on Mount Desert Island: Sand Beach and Thurston’s Lobster Pound.
  •  The peak of the highest mountain, Cadillac Mountain, in Acadia National Park is the first place to witness the rays of the sun shining on the United States.
  • When writing letters in support of the park, President Woodrow Wilson stated, “It is a true park area in the highest sense, totally different from any other that we have”, “It is rich in historic association, in scientific interest, and in landscape beauty”, “There is no other place along the Atlantic coast where so wide a range of geologic facts are shown or where such valuable material is offered for research”, “It will give a healthy playground to multitudes of hard-working men and women”, and “With its adjacent inlets and headlands, it stands out as offering the greatest natural diversity.”
  • The state motto, Dirigo, is Latin for “I direct” or “I guide”.

In case you cannot tell, I am very excited for the Maine coast vacation next week. Pictures will surely follow!

A naturalist’s must-see destination: Chesapeake Bay

Map of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Image via Wikipedia

This is a continuation on the “Where we live” series. The Chesapeake Bay has undergone similar changes to the San Francisco Bay as the population increased along its shores. As the largest estuary in North America (not the longest, which is the Indian River Lagoon in Florida), it is not surprising that the watershed of the Chesapeake Bay flows through six states and covers an area of 64,000 square miles. Flowing from the watershed and into the Bay are over 124,000 miles of rivers and streams!

Due to the relatively shallow average depth of the Bay (at nearly 21 feet) the sun can reach the bottom easily and makes for a productive ecosystem. Just about 40% of the nation’s blue crab commercial blue crab harvest comes from the Chesapeake Bay. Nearly, 300 hundred species call the Bay their home during some part of their life cycle. Birds have come to rely on the diverse community for sustenance while making their way along the Atlantic Flyway.

As I mentioned above, the Bay has undergone changes in recent history. These changes have been rather unfavorable as more and more people flock to the the shores of the Bay, disturbing the natural balance.  The Chesapeake Bay Program is an organization leading the way it the restoration efforts and is often seen as the model on how to mitigate the effects of man and maintain a healthy existence of man and nature.

A naturalist’s must-see destination: San Francisco Bay

San Francisco Bay © 2004 Matthew Trump

Image via Wikipedia

I thought it might be interesting to take some time each week over the next few months to get to know a particular body of water in different regions of the world. For today I am starting off with the San Francisco Bay.

The San Francisco Bay is an extraordinary place that has undergone changes just as big as the state of California itself. The Bay is rather shallow at an average of 18 feet deep. Surprisingly, the watershed for the Bay is just about 40% of the state of California!

San Francisco Bay, Suisan Bay, San Pablo Bay and the Sacramento-Joaquin Delta are the connected inlets that we call the San Francisco Bay waterway, a true urban estuary, with the freshwater coming from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. I think this Bay is particularly interesting since it is a tectonic estuary and has been formed by the movement of the San Andreas fault.

Over recent years (since the time of the Gold Rush when humans really began to alter the landscape of the Bay), the Bay has seen a reduction in over 85% of its marshland. With the diversion of freshwater from north of the Bay (where most of the state’s freshwater is located) to below the Bay (where most of the state’s people are located) the Bay has seen a balance shift affecting many of its natural systems. For more information about how to Save the Bay visit the Save the Bay San Francisco. They have been working to restore the balance of humans and nature in the Bay since 1961.

Action Project Ideas: Around the Community (5 of 5)

One idea I had when I started this website almost ten years ago was that I wanted to make science simple and accessible. I hope I have created a place where questions on anything from barnacles to whales can be answered in a knowledgeable no-nonsense or overly jargon tone. My secondary goal has also been to create awareness about ocean-related issues which would lead into actions. Maybe you like watching movies and visiting the shore and understand that there is concern for the ecosystem.

What I have now for the month of November is a series of posts on quick and useful actions you can take in the kitchen, bath, laundry, garage, during the holidays, and around your community to change behaviors and lessen your impact. Each one features products that are tried, true, and tested but I am not being paid. Please read, share, and feel free to comment if you have other strategies.

  1. Shed the straw: Join the movements (#sheddthestraw #stopsucking) to just say no to a straw. Reach out to local restaurants and ask if they would consider only handing them out upon request. There’s a handy card you can print out. Also, maybe request your local library have a showing of Straws a film by Linda Booker or any other movie about marine debris.
  2. Ban the bottle: If your town facilities (i.e., recreation centers, libraries, school) don’t already have them look into installing water refill stations. This will reduce single-use plastic bottles.
  3. Start a school or community garden: This is a sustainable way to provide food and illustrate to the next generation how to build community. Gardens reduce waste and can beautify otherwise dismal areas of the town.
  4. Have a contest: Have students and community groups create art to illustrate an awareness about a particular subject and teach others at the same time. Try to use the materials you used during a debris scavenger hunt (i.e., a fancy word for “litter clean-up”) to create art as well. Check out these amazing creations from the Washed Ashore exhibit currently on display at the Shedd Aquarium. Writing and video contests are also fun! If you’re in need of some help to you get started check out the Chicago-based One Earth Film Fest for fantastic resources.
  5. Write a letter to a member of the community: Let your collective opinions be heard! Include your issue (e.g., marine debris, climate change) as well as why it matters to you and what could be done. It’s very important to be as specific as possible. Don’t forget to ask for a response and say “thank you.” Here’s a template to get you started. This template is focused on writing to Congress but it’s just as important to write to community or state official.

All of the Action Project Ideas:

If you’re already a regular subscriber – thank you! If not, please take the time to add your email address to the subscribe option at the top of the right hand column. Don’t forget to follow on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Action Project Ideas: During the Holidays (4 of 5)

One idea I had when I started this website almost ten years ago was that I wanted to make science simple and accessible. I hope I have created a place where questions on anything from barnacles to whales can be answered in a knowledgeable no-nonsense or overly jargon tone. My secondary goal has also been to create awareness about ocean-related issues which would lead into actions. Maybe you like watching movies and visiting the shore and understand that there is concern for the ecosystem.

What I have now for the month of November is a series of posts on quick and useful actions you can take in the kitchen, bath, laundry, garage, during the holidays, and around your community to change behaviors and lessen your impact. Each one features products that are tried, true, and tested but I am not being paid. Please read, share, and feel free to comment if you have other strategies.

Next week is Black Friday! I am excited to value the extra time with family by opting outside. Maybe we’ll take a day trip to Wisconsin (please share ideas!). I do always like to do my shopping local at Small Business Saturday. It helps to reduce marine debris by cutting down on packaging from online shipping, etc. However, it’s tough because that means I need to plan ahead. I decided this year to settle in and think ahead of ways that I could lessen my impact on Mother Earth so I can just focus on my guilt of indulgence for my aunt’s fudge (… it’s insane).

  1. Be creative in your wrapping and consider using funny pages, old calendars, or magazines (good for smaller items). If you feel like getting fancy here’s the most beautiful paper in the world for any scientist, naturalist, or teacher. Reusable bags are also a great option. Forget the ribbon all together.
  2. Make your own gifts. Books of tickets are great. Check out this amazingly helpful Etsy shop – Schnickle Tickets – for an easy, easy, easy way to get a cute custom book of up to 14 tickets with a sweet cover with your child’s photo. They’ve got enough toys! There are lots of other options besides Etsy for unique gifts (iCraft has a lot of options for ocean lover gifts!). Memberships to zoos, nature centers, and aquariums are also worth it!
  3. Put the money aside for a family trip together. There are even places that will give you a discount if you help out and clean up the shoreline.Has anyone ever been to check out Little St. Simon’s Island?
  4. Decorate with items that you find at second-hand shops.
  5. Think about the tree. Tree farms are fairly toxic and use at least forty different types of pesticides. A live tree can’t be cared for past a week of being indoors so make sure you probably dispose/donate it. If you go with a plastic tree you’ll only tap the petroleum supply once. There is no good answer here. What are your thoughts? Comment below!

All of the Action Project Ideas:

If you’re already a regular subscriber – thank you! If not, please take the time to add your email address to the subscribe option at the top of the right hand column. Don’t forget to follow on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Action Project Ideas: Bath & Laundry (3 of 5)

One idea I had when I started this website almost ten years ago was that I wanted to make science simple and accessible. I hope I have created a place where questions on anything from barnacles to whales can be answered in a knowledgeable no-nonsense or overly jargon tone. My secondary goal has also been to create awareness about ocean-related issues which would lead into actions. Maybe you like watching movies and visiting the shore and understand that there is concern for the ecosystem.

What I have now for the month of November is a series of posts on quick and useful actions you can take in the kitchen, bath, laundry, garage, during the holidays, and around your community to change behaviors and lessen your impact. Each one features products that are tried, true, and tested but I am not being paid. Please read, share, and feel free to comment if you have other strategies.

  1. I am a big fan of Preserve triple razors and toothbrushes but upcycling should not be the reason for litter reduction. We can also consider new options instead of plastic. I am getting used to the idea of bamboo everything. Bamboo while being quite renewable can also be an invasive species. You want to look into each company to see how it’s harvested and where it comes from. One bamboo options for toothbrushes is made by natboo. Not only are they 100% biodegradable but they are also a good conversation starter too because the bristles are CHARCOAL black. It’s cool and you should definitely check them out. GIVEAWAY: I have two (one pink and one white with two holders) ready to send to a winner of a giveaway. Just subscribe to the mailing list by the end of the month. If you’ve already subscribed you are still a part of the drawing. It’ll be like an early Christmas present for you mouth. 
  2. Install a dual-flush conversion kit. Install of low-flow shower head.
  3. Watch the products you use. Many of them may contain micro beads.DIY
  4. DIY laundry detergent not only cuts down on plastic but reduces chemicals into the waterways.
  5. Wash a full load of clothes in the washing machine. Don’t just do a small load. Also, make sure to use a liquid detergent. They’re phosphate-free. Settle for not washing your clothes so often, too. Fibers from synthetic materials are making their way into the water.
  6. If you dry clean make sure to do it in bulk to save on the plastic wrap cover. You can probably hand back the wire hangers as well.

All of the Action Project Ideas:

If you’re already a regular subscriber – thank you! If not, please take the time to add your email address to the subscribe option at the top of the right hand column. Don’t forget to follow on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Action Project Ideas: Garden & Garage (2 of 5)

One idea I had when I started this website almost ten years ago was that I wanted to make science simple and accessible. I hope I have created a place where questions on anything from barnacles to whales can be answered in a knowledgeable no-nonsense or overly jargon tone. My secondary goal has also been to create awareness about ocean-related issues which would lead into actions. Maybe you like watching movies and visiting the shore and understand that there is concern for the ecosystem.

What I have now for the month of November is a series of posts on quick and useful actions you can take in the kitchen, bath, laundry, garage, during the holidays, and around your community to change behaviors and lessen your impact. Each one features products that are tried, true, and tested but I am not being paid. Please read, share, and feel free to comment if you have other strategies.

  1. Xeriscape (native plants reduce the need to water): Find the local USDA extension agent and see what would work best in your area. Maybe no plants and just do rocks!
  2. Use a rain barrel in the garden. You can convert any giant tub-like container into a decent water barrel with a conversion kit.
  3. Consider alternatives to pressure-treated wood on the patio.
  4. Pull weeds or use natural herbicides: Commercial fertilizers are unregulated and may contain toxic wastes.
  5. Do not dump hazardous materials (e.g., oil, grease, antifreeze, pesticides, fertilizers, paints).
  6. When it’s dirty take the car to a professional car washer (doing it yourself wastes about 150 gallons of water).

All of the Action Project Ideas:

If you’re already a regular subscriber – thank you! If not, please take the time to add your email address to the subscribe option at the top of the right hand column. Don’t forget to follow on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Action Project Ideas: In the Kitchen (1 of 5)

One idea I had when I started this website almost ten years ago was that I wanted to make science simple and accessible. I hope I have created a place where questions on anything from barnacles to whales can be answered in a knowledgeable no-nonsense or overly jargon tone. My secondary goal has also been to create awareness about ocean-related issues which would lead into actions. Maybe you like watching movies and visiting the shore and understand that there is concern for the ecosystem.

What I have now for the month of November is a series of posts on quick and useful actions you can take in the kitchen, bath, laundry, garage, during the holidays, and around your community to change behaviors and lessen your impact. Each one features products that are tried, true, and tested but I am not being paid. Please read, share, and feel free to comment if you have other strategies.

  1. Better Life moppingMy mom is coming next week so it’s time to get serious with the floors. This stuff is magic on hardwoods and even helped get rid of some scuffs from the move (when I switched furniture six or seven times) and my dog’s paw prints. The company is based in Missouri and founded by some folks that realized floors should be clean once they had kids. They’re so right. Even though my kids aren’t crawling I’m less miserable playing on the floor with them. Join their mailing list for good deals. It’s so worth it.
  2. Use glass instead of plastic: Food storage and drinks can easily be switched out to glass. Spend some time scoring second-hand stores and lot’s of glass containers are cheap. Honestly, it’s bloody difficult to be #plasticfree or #zerowaste. I like the approach by Kathryn Kellogg in that she’s Going Zero Waste since it’s virtually impossible to be waste free. Limiting plastic isn’t just a good idea to reduce marine debris in the ocean but it potentially cause a correlation with your endocrine system.
  3. Buy bulk: Along the same lines as the using glass it’s an easy transition to quite using the plastic bags for produce and buy bulk. I have not used the plastic bags for produce in years and usually have a kid or two in tow at the store so the stuff is all over the belt. The people are pretty used to it and I have never once heard a cashier say, “what’s wrong with you? Why didn’t you use the bags for these?” It’s one of those crazy things that we accept but we’d be fine without. Packaging makes up 30% of our waste.
  4. Make your own cleaning supplies.
  5. Switch to fair trade coffee. Start with one fair trade product and work through others by checking out these helpful resources.
  6. Skip the paper towel and try the cellulose clothes. Just try them if you see them. Lots of places sell them and you won’t be out of paper towels again. Cause … you’ll never need them. This is what we are currently moving on from in our house.
  7. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. You’ll save money and it’s a huge reduction in energy use.
  8. Make sure your wood stove is up to date and clean. Did you know you can install a wood stove inside a fireplace?

All of the Action Project Ideas:

If you’re already a regular subscriber – thank you! If not, please take the time to add your email address to the subscribe option at the top of the right hand column. Don’t forget to follow on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.