5 must-see movies on marine debris

I am so excited to be in a town that is committed to reducing the use of plastic. Oak Park, IL will be implementing a 10-cent tax starting January 1, 2018. As trustee of Bob Tucker noted in August 2017, “What we’re really trying to do is change habits.”   Change for the good lawmakers … my favorite. Why should we care about changing the way we use plastic?

  1. In the ocean there are approximately 5.25 trillion plastic particles.
  2. For every foot of coastline there is approximately five grocery bags filled with plastic, according to estimates in 2010.
  3. Six continents have microfiber washing up on their shores.
  4. Each year, 8.8 million tons of plastic goes into the oceans.
  5. On average, Americans use 220 pounds of plastic per year.

If you want something MUCH more entertaining, and probably up-to-date, than my list of quick stats above here are some must-see films that are worth downloading for the treadmill or even showing in the classroom or your next community event.

A Plastic Ocean (2016/1h 40m/Netflix): Documents the newest science, proving how plastics, once they enter the oceans, break up into small particulates that enter the food chain where they attract toxins like a magnet. These toxins are stored in seafood’s fatty tissues, and eventually consumed by us.

The Plastic Age: A Documentary feat. Pharrell Williams (2014/17m/YouTube): We all talk about the Stone Age, the Iron Age and the Bronze Age, but what era are we living in right now? People are starting to refer to us as the – far less romantic – Plastic Age.

From the Waste Up – Life Without Plastic (2013/1h 16m/Vimeo for $4 rental or $8 purchase to download): Follows the lives of 19 people as they attempt to live without plastic. It explores the concepts of consumerism, waste, and convenience as well as the great abundance in going without. Live vicariously plastic-free as you watch these families navigate through this disposable world. 

Plastic Paradise – The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (2014/1h 25m/for purchase but also available on YouTube): Thousands of miles away from civilization, Midway Atoll is in one of the most remote places on earth. And yet its become ground zero for The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, siphoning plastics from three distant continents. In this independent documentary film, journalist/filmmaker Angela Sun travels on a personal journey of discovery to uncover this mysterious phenomenon.

Bag It (2010/78m; educational version 45 and 65m): What starts as a film about plastic bags evolves into a wholesale investigation into plastic’s effects on our oceans, environment, and bodies. We see how our crazy-for-plastic world has finally caught up to us…and what we can do about it.

UPDATED:

Also, an important addition to the list I forgot about is Smog of the Sea. You can get a free download link for the film, released in 2017, here. The music and cinematography (in part) are by the musician Jack Johnson and as the film overview summarizes, “The Smog of the Sea chronicles a 1-week journey through the remote waters of the Sargasso Sea. Marine scientist Marcus Eriksen invited onboard an unusual crew to help him study the sea: renowned surfers Keith & Dan Malloy, musician Jack Johnson, spearfisher woman Kimi Werner, and bodysurfer Mark Cunningham become citizen scientists on a mission to assess the fate of plastics in the world’s oceans.”


Oh, one more here. I am hoping to catch Straws SOON … maybe I can bring it to my new town and more change will come:

Straws (2017/1h 10m): “I highly recommend STRAWS as an educational and entertaining film about plastic pollution. Its brisk and engaging storytelling uses humor, fairness and heart to inspire plastic use changes we all can do…especially no plastic straws!” – Actor and Environmentalist Ed Begley Jr.

UPDATED: I actually just requested a free download for preview purposes so I’ll post on that later this week. Thank you #strawsthemovie.

I am really hoping that since folks finally are able to let go of plastic bags and soon straws that balloons will be around the corner. Anything that’s more harm than good is not worth it … kids don’t know if they just don’t see them. Check out some alternatives to balloons at your next celebration here.

Wednesday Wisdom: Susan Rockefeller

Susan Rockefeller is the CEO and Founder of Protect What Is Precious and Editor-In-Chief of Musings Magazine.

Find more great ocean and conservation quotes here and please feel free to share with your friends and family!

Also, ask away! If you have a question about something you found on the beach or just something you’re curious about just send an email to info@beachchairscientist.com or tweet us!

July is Plastic Free Month: A dozen quick & easy ways to ditch the single use

Every year I get so frustrated with myself for not making the commitment to the challenge for Plastic Free July. This year is different since I have no tests or classes (I write this as I sit in a training for AP Environmental Science!). 

My craziness is going to be lots of travel and that I’ll have two kids in tow. But, it’s going to be a commitment for just ME this July and I’ll see what I can “challenge” them with along the way. These are the dedicated twelve ways that will help me stay focused.

  1. Choose glass over plastic (think milk containers and on-the-go drinks)
  2. Use my homemade dish detergent (borax, castille soap, essential oil)
  3. Use my homemade laundry detergent (borax, washing soda, castille soap, baking soda)
  4. Use the Preserve triple razor and toothbrushes (they’re made from old yogurt cups and they come in pretty colors)
  5. Use my favorite shampoo bar (that I didn’t make)
  6. Not purchase coffee/tea using a cup with a lid
  7. Refuse the straw
  8. Bring bags (and bags!) to the grocer
  9. No online deliveries (that bubble wrap!)
  10. Carry my own plasticware (get a carry case for a spork so you can take it home and wash it; if I have a party maybe I’ll switch to these disposable bamboos)
  11. Carry a water bottle (there are so many places that have water refill stations)
  12. Eat local and fresh and no frozen foods containers or take out (this is my least favorite!)

Just a quick FYI, you don’t need a whole lot to get started when making your own soaps and detergents but definitely get a small food processor. What’s your quick way to reduce your use?

 

World Oceans Day is June 8th, but then what? 10 ways to show the ocean love throughout the year

Acknowledging all of the movements and days of awareness can seem like a lot to keep up. Just yesterday was World Environment Day and in two days it will be World Oceans Day. Of course, I want to celebrate, support, and demonstrate a commitment to making a difference every day and especially on these special days. The first step has to be “being prepared”! So here is a guide I created for all the important days to look out for the next year. Mark those calendars, add a reminder on your phone, get ready to throw down for some serious high key awareness!

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July is Marine Debris/Plastic Free Month when you can take the challenge and urge people to refuse single use plastic. Why does reducing our plastic use matter? Here are two alarming facts from Scientific American:

  • Chemicals added to plastics are absorbed by human bodies. Some of these compounds have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.
  • Plastic debris, laced with chemicals and often ingested by marine animals, can injure or poison wildlife.

August 5th is National Oyster Day! Did you know oysters spawn during the summer months and therefore tend not to be as tasty. This is the epitome of the old wives’ tale on why “you shouldn’t eat oysters in months that don’t end in ‘R’.” Find an oyster festival near you here.

This September hosts the 15th Annual Sea Otter Awareness Week during September 24th-28th in 2017. Did you know that the sea otter has a fur that is not as dense as river otters?

October is National Seafood Month. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries takes this month to highlight sustainable fisheries as the smart seafood choice. Learn about sustainable choices as well as lots of recipes (someone please make the flounder stuffed with crabmeat for me, please!) from FishWatch.gov.

The 15th of November is designated as America Recycles Day. It’s a national initiative from Keep America Beautiful to learn what can be recycled in your community, recognize what can be reduced, and identify products made with recycled content. Learn more here.

December into January each year is one of the largest citizen science projects: Christmas Bird Count. Each year since the early 1900s the Audubon Society has been at the forefront of organizing this event. Get the app and see what a remarkable value you can be especially in providing data for reports such as the 2014 Climate Report.

International Polar Bear Day is February 27th. Let’s not pretend it just because they’re cute and cuddly. After all, they’re ferocious and male polar bears might eat their young if they can’t find food. This day is all about calling attention to their habitat loss (i.e., they’re in need of some serious sea ice) due to climate change.

The last Wednesday in March is Manatee Appreciation Day. These slow-moving creatures are slightly adorable and slightly gnarly. Regardless of your feelings they’re populations are going down and it’s primarily caused by human interactions.

Many people reading may know that April hosts is Earth Day but did you know that April 25th is World Penguin Day? This is the time of the year when the penguins travel north from Antarctica as winter moves in on the southern hemisphere.

May finishes the annual list with World Turtle Day on the 23rd! Did you know that if you see a tortoise, turtle, o terrapin is crossing a street, you can pick it up and send it in the same direction it was going – if you try to make it go back, it will turn right around again! Also, drive slow.

Now, when can we fit in a celebration for horseshoe crabs?

Do water molecules “surf” the waves?

It seems like water molecules might follow the path of a wave given what we know from the water cycle.

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But, if you watch a floating object like a toy boat on a wave in the open sea it won’t travel with the wave but rather bob up and down. The water molecules are actually swirling under the waves helping to move energy to the wave. This swirling motion is known to oceanographers as the “circular orbital motion”.

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Waves are mostly moved by wind. The water molecules in waves of the open ocean are not traveling along with the waves but rather under the waves in a circular motion.

When you get closer to the shore the orbital motion is non-existent because the waves touch the bottom. That phenomenon helps when you lose your boogie board in the surf zone.

My awesome, overprotective mom and horseshoe crabs

limuluslove_beachchairscientistwebNo joke. I like horseshoe crabs, but not more than my family. Especially my mom. Let me tell you a story about how incredible she was one particular evening in early June. It was probably about 2002 and I was a seasonal employee for the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife. The job was awesome in every sense. Except the hours … either really early for tagging stripers along the Delaware Bay or really late to survey HORSESHOE CRABS!

In case you haven’t heard watching the horseshoe crabs come up to the wrackline to spawn is an incredible experience (check out my post on the short and sweet of horseshoe crab spawning here). You might see some Limulus polyphemus the nights near a full moon or new moon right as the sun is going down. But, it’s not until the tide is at its highest point that the ancient fossils really come out of their hiding spots. 2.IMGP1651-Photograph-James-Bulley-1024x680My co-workers and I went about as normal for this event and used the  quadrat to estimate the amount of females and males every six steps (the females are much bigger!). We’d log the numbers on a clipboard. After the length of the beach that was our responsibility we’d head home. It was about 2am one particular morning when we finally made it back to the van. I also worked as a waitress in the summer so it had been a long day. The data sheet was my responsibility. It blew away. It’s really windy by the sea usually!

We didn’t fudge any numbers. I went back the next night … but, not alone. My amazing, overprotective mom came with me. After all, I had to drive about an hour to a small town along the Delaware Bay in the middle of the night. It was going above and beyond. I mean, she’s not a nature-type so this was in pure mama bear mode that she made the trek with me. It was incredible … my mom was totally amazed by the phenomenon too. One minute there were about fifteen horseshoe crabs and the next hour as soon as high tide occurred they were covering the beach! That night I was able to share my love of teaching and horseshoe crabs with someone I loved. She exuded such enthusiasm that I have no doubt it’s one reason I keep this blog and it’s focus of all things horseshoe crabs going. She might have been pulling my arm and thought the whole experience was really gross and icky, but parents know how to let their kids shine and that’s just fine with me.

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NOAA’S Ocean Today provides a great view of the field experience, too. Yes, I did wear a headlamp like those citizen scientists.

What citizen science projects have you participated in lately? Check out what’s going one here.

How to say “I love you” with friends from the sea

Happy Valentine's Day!

Top to bottom: Octopus; Whale; Cuttlefish; Otters

Millions of smiles for miles at the #womensmarch

49b02a578bdcc86ebe96ffad6711045aI am proud of the way the Women’s March in D.C. was planned and executed. It was thrilling and invigorating to be with the droves of people who wanted their voice to be heard. I chatted with folks from North Carolina, Maine, and even Nevada. It was peaceful, fun, and loud at times. It made my feet hurt but I didn’t notice. I was joyful to be a part of it. I was there vibrant and strong with a chanting voice for equal rights for all those in this great country.

And, as a marine science enthusiast/ocean conservationist I was VERY hyped to many signs reminding the new administration of the reality of science and climate change. There will be more to come in posts this year urging for action for climate change. Maybe not a shout out to the federal government but for more grassroots changes. If there is one lesson learned from 2016 it’s that everyone should make more conscious choices in our daily actions – what we believe, read, share on social media to what we eat matters! For now here is a short film on some highlights from the day. Please share your favorite march moments below!

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Seven silly sea science words

Somewhere along the line people got the idea that science is scary and intimidating. But, like so much of this world … science is much more than what we first think. Science can be silly. Science can be fun. Science can be collecting and analyzing data. But, science is creating questions. And, science is sharing results.

Science can even make you smile. To prove it – here are some silly sounding words that make me laugh every time I say them. I actually had to have my daughter narrate this short film because “caudle peduncle” is just too much sometimes. Hopefully this clip will make you curious to explore new words and realms within science. It’s bound to make you smile at least! By the way, do you have a favorite sounding sea science word?

What's your faorite sea science word?

Seven silly sea science words Music by Colin Miller/Narrated by Winnie Miller

 

Christmas critter countdown: Snowflake eel

Eels have the ability to genuinely give me the creeps. It’s probably because of the scene from Princess Bride. But, actually it might have something to do with the fact that some have the ability to tie their bodies in knots and use this to gain leverage when tearing food. Find out some more uplifting facts of eels here. … … … read on as you wish!

Christmas critter countdown