5 not-so-ordinary ways to get energized for Earth Day

We can go outside again! We can go outside again! Halleluiah! It’s a miracle! And, just in time for National Environmental Education Week (April 13-19), Earth Day (April 22), and Arbor Day (April 25). But, are you ready to throw your hands up in the air at the annual celebration to take care of the planet since you know “Earth Day is Every Day”? More than likely you’re already signed up to participate in a beach or stream clean-up, you have your favorite John Muir lesson plans ready for your students, and you constantly read or watch the Lorax to your own children, right? Well, if you’re looking for hilarious, fun, awe-inspiring ways to get yourself and those around you reinvigorated about Earth Day here are five ways to kick start the granola in you again.

dandel08-l

Have you ever feasted on dandelions?

1) Forage: While on maternity leave this past winter I became obsessed with a show on TLC called “Extreme Cheapskates“. Some things I can totally get behind, others made me a little squeamish. I loved the couple on one episode that implemented a “no spending month”. They refused to buy anything during this month and would focus on using every little last bit of scrap that was in the freezer and wouldn’t spend unless it was after finding pennies that were hiding under the sofa or returning recycled containers. Also, an overwhelming amount of those featured on the show would go other to forage their own salad fixings. Apparently, dandelions have some great health benefits and are a welcome addition to salads!

2) Challenge yourself: If you’re anything like me, you try your darnedest to live like “Earth Day is Every Day“, but sometime you fall short. And, honestly … don’t feel bad. We all try and we all fall short … even the best of them use plastic from time to time. It’s inevitable. I find the changes where I really succeed are the consequence of a challenge to myself. After some pondering and evaluation I might decide, “I really don’t need this” or “I’ll just make my own from now on” and I commit. I try to make it something that will work in my current life (i.e., there is no way I’d ever be one to make my own clothes, but I can make clothes detergent). I pick one new idea every six months and experiment. It’s fun and I never feel bad if it doesn’t work out – I tried and I can try again!

3) Start a movement: Do you have that one irritating issue that no one in your community seems to be doing anything about? Well, why not capitalize on this time of year and mobilize your friends and family to focus them on a solution? You can be like Dave Rauschkolb who started the “Hands Across the Sand” movement to bring attention to clean energy, Danielle Richardet who started a movement to outlaw cigarettes on the beaches of Wilmington, NC, or Tim Silverwood who started the Take 3 Initiative. They had a small measurable objective and encouraged those around them to participate! What’s bothering you!? Are you ready to take it on?

4) Earth Day dance: What’s not to love with this music from Michal Franti? Get your body moving and heart rate running so much so that you’ll be volunteering for every clean-up from sea to shining sea. Or, make a playlist of your own and keep it on your device for when you’re in the not-so-inspired slump. Some songs that I might choose would be Redemption Song (Bob Marley), Forever Young (Bob Dylan), The 3 R’s (Jack Johnson), How Come (Ray LaMontagne), What’s Goin’ On? (Marvin Gaye), Waiting On The World To Change (John Mayer), and Man In The Mirror (Michael Jackson). Anyone have other suggestions? I’d love to hear them!

From @spabettie

via @spabettie

5) Have a party: Celebrate your love of the Earth with a party and inspire others with your use of local ingredients and reusable materials. To take it up a notch you can serve fun cocktails with only terrestrial or aquatic names, like the mudslide or the blue sea martini! Or you could just bring in a special sweet treat to the office, like these Earth Day chocolate peanut butter cups!?!?

Bonus three for teachers:

1) Sing a little Earth Day diddy: You can get 11 songs adapted from familiar tunes from this open marketplace for educators. For instance, check out this “Recycling Song” (to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat):

Save, save, save the cans*, throw them in the bin. We can help save the Earth, if we all pitch in. (*Repeat with plastics, paper, bottles)

2) Make your own dye: This fun, interdisciplinary lesson “Using Spatial Intelligence to Make Earth-Friendly Art” for middle schoolers is from Earth Day Network and strengthens students’ artistic skills and their knowledge about history and the environment. It also throws in a little bit of every other intelligence just for a most well rounded approach … a must-must if you ask me!

EEWebinar

via @EEWeek

3) Watch a webinar: National Environmental Education Week’s online webinar archive offers talks and presentations with some of the leading minds in environmental education. My favorites are the “Teaching Ocean Connections: Watersheds to Reefs”, “Biomimicry: Designing by Nature” and all of the ones related to how to use technology to investigate the outdoors.

Confession: I may or may not have written this entire post just so I could share the preschool song!

From USFWS “Miracle Migration: The Long Distance Flyer, Rufa Red Knot”

Thank you to the Northeast Office of the US Fish and Wildlife Service for posting this graphic on their Twitter feed! With the mention of horseshoe crabs, how could I not repost this!?!

  • Did you know that shorebird hunting in the Caribbean and South America may contribute to the red knot’s decline along the Atlantic coast? (OK, how can we get this practice to stop trending? Those poor little birds!)
  • With scientific management measures now in place, horseshoe crab harvest is no longer consider a threat to the red knot?
  • Habitat loss due to sea level rise, shoreline development, and human development are still consider threats to the red knot?
  • One banded red knot, B95, was nicknamed “Moonbird” because researchers discovered this bird had flown enough miles to get to the moon and back!
via @USFWSNortheast

via @USFWSNortheast

 

12 bite-sized shark posts (holding the hokey here)

Ok, maybe not so much in the title. Did you know sharks have roamed the earth for 400 million years and have been instrumental in maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems?  They’re amazing creatures and in case you’re actually interested in learning about sharks (instead of becoming frightened by them while watching Shark Week), here are 12 of the most popular posts about sharks on BCS from the past five years.

  1. What I know about whale sharks (March 2013)
  2. CITES recognizes marine species (March 2013)
  3. Myth debunked: Delaware Bay not an annual pit stop for all shark species (September 2012)
  4. Sink your teeth into this: 20 facts about shark teeth (August 2012)
  5. 10 fish you don’t see during Shark Week (August 2012)
  6. What is shark finning? (February 2012)
  7. 5 most dangerous shark species (June 2010)
  8. The sixth sense (August 2009)
  9. What do sand sharks eat? (February 2009)
  10. What are the rarest shark species? (February 2009)
  11. Do sharks have bones? (January 2009)
  12. What is the biggest fish in the sea? (November 2008)

Also, feel free to email any questions to info@beachchairscientist.com if you have additional questions!

A Ray of Hope in a Sea of Chum

Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives
Discovery brings SHARK WEEK viewers on a search for a massive killer Great White shark responsible for a rash of fatalities off the coast of South Africa. One controversial scientist believes that the shark responsible could be Megalodon, a 60-foot relative of the Great White that is one of the largest and most powerful predators in history. Our oceans remain 95% unexplored, and this massive prehistoric predator has always been shrouded in secrecy, but after a rash of newly discovered evidence, authorities are forced to investigate and hunt for the predator long thought to be extinct. A crew of scientists and shark experts examine evidence and fearlessly seek answers to the many questions surrounding one of the last great mysteries of the deep ocean while creating the largest chum slick in history. (http://bit.ly/SharkWeek2013-programming) 

That’s the way Shark Week feels to me these days, like a big, multi-platform chum slick…a greasy, fetid soup of fear and fascination that titillates more that it educates. Is that over the top? Yeah, probably, but then it will fit right into a line-up that includes titles like: I Escaped Jaws, Great White Serial Killer, and Sharkpocalypse. In all honesty, most of these shows will not be nearly as bad as their titles suggest. My primary beef is (and continues to be) the lack of shark diversity during Shark Week.

But hark, what’s that? A bioluminescent beacon of light from the deep? On Thursday, August 8, Discovery’s feature program is Alien Sharks of the Deep. Reading that title out loud makes it sound worse than the rest…like an early draft of the robo-monster blockbuster Pacific Rim. But no, this program appears to explore the weird, wonderful, and diverse sharks of the oceanic abyss. Could this restore my faith in the potential that is Shark Week? Think of some of the possibilities:

 Goblin sharks: Goblins have been known as tenguzame, after tengu, a fantastical creature of Japanese mythology often depicted with an elongated nose or beak. Goblins are fantastical in their own right, with long, blade-like rostrums and slingshot protrusible jaws that have to be seen to be believed.

070209-goblin-shark_big

Goblin shark

 Taillight and lantern sharks: Many deepsea sharks are bioluminescent, creating light with specialized organs called photophores. Many of these sharks use their photophores to hide in the downwelling light by erasing their shadows through counterillumination. Tailight sharks also secrete a blue luminescent fluid from their, um, ‘tail end.’ Since the species is known from only two specimens and has never been seen alive, no one knows exactly what this fluid is for.

 Megamouth: Not to be confused with Megalodon. In fact, the two couldn’t be less alike. Large Megalodon teeth may be 5-7 inches long (about the size of your hand), megamouth teeth 5-7 millimeters (half the size of your pinkie fingernail). Whereas Megalodon likely fed on whales and other large marine mammals and turtles, megamouth is a plankton specialist. There have been only 55 confirmed sightings of megamouth sharks since 1976, and only a handful of these have been examined by scientists.   

Megamouth-shark

Megamouth shark

 Frilled sharks: Frilled sharks are a freak show. They hardly look like sharks at all. Well, they do, just more like sharks from hundreds of millions of years ago. The long, eel-like body, terminal mouth, unusual teeth, fins, and other anatomical features are all distinctly ancient. 

Frilled-shark-showing-specially-adapted-teeth

Frilled shark

 Rough sharks: Rough sharks are another group that breaks the stereotypical shark mold—small and hunchbacked, with large spiny dorsal fins. They may be fairly common in the deep waters where they’re found, but still, we know very little.

Rough shark. Photo Joanna Franke

Rough shark. Photo Joanna Franke

 Six- and sevengills: Cow sharks are another group with distinctly ancient features. Many have seen sevengills in public aquariums, but the larger sixgill sharks don’t do as well on display. Sixgills are broad, ponderous creatures, with large specimens more than 16 feet long and as big around as a Volkswagen (as one diver describes them). These normally deepwater denizens have been occasionally spotted right under pier at the Seattle Aquarium. Puget Sound’s deep, glacier-etched profile provides a unique opportunity to observe and study these sharks without the need for research vessels or submersibles. 

Bluntnose six-gill shark

Bluntnose six-gill shark

 Cookiecutters: Interested in learning about a glowing foot-long shark that feeds on whales, tunas, swordfish, and squid? So are scientists, as they don’t seem to agree on how this small, slow-swimming shark seems to manage it. While they might not have the physique for the feat, they have the oral equipment. Fleshy lips and a strong tongue create a suction grip that buys time for the cookiecutter’s large, triangular lower teeth to cut a plug from its unsuspecting victim. 

Photograph by Reuters/Tokyo Sea Life Park/Handout

Cookie cutter shark. Photograph by Reuters/Tokyo Sea Life Park/Handout

 Cats and dogs: The deepsea is really the realm of dogfish and catsharks…dozens of species, some with names alone that inspire curiosity. Don’t you want to know more about lollipop catsharks, mosaic gulper sharks, birdbeak dogfish, spatulasnout catsharks, velvet bellies, demon catsharks, frog sharks, pajama sharks, pocket sharks, and pygmy ribbontail catsharks? Me too.

 I’m excited for Alien Sharks in a way I haven’t been for Shark Week programming in a very long time. Wednesday night I’ll have trouble sleeping with visions of lanternsharks dancing in my head. There is soooo much more to sharks than white sharks and tigers and bulls (oh my). How can we encourage more programming that highlights this fascinating diversity? We can watch.

 That’s my call to action. Watch Alien Sharks of the Deep on August 8, 10:00/9:00 central. Ask your friends to watch. Throw an Alien Sharks party. Dress up like an Alien Shark for work. Live tweet #AlienSharks like the second coming of Sharknado (you can follow and tweet at me @jimwharton). Show Discovery your love for Alien Sharks and beg them for more. Be as pathetic as you like. Let’s send a message that it’s a big wide world of sharks out there and we want to see more of it…and we’ll be happy to swim through an ocean of chum to get there.

5 photography contests for nature lovers

If you’re anything like me, you love to snap pictures when you’re outside. It’s a great way to relive the tranquility you get from being outdoors once placed back into reality. It’s also a powerful way to share how you see the world and what matters to you with those near and far!

In an effort to evoke that everlasting sense of appreciation for nature, many environmental organizations engage the public with photo contests – usually with epic prizes.  Here are 5 photography contests that might spark you’re inner Ansel Adams:

Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Photo Contest: CBF is are seeking photographs (from professional or amateur photographers) that illustrate the positive aspects of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.
Deadline: April 12, 2013
Prize(s): First Prize: $500; Second Prize: $250; Third Prize: $150; Viewers’ Choice: $100. In addition, the first-prize photograph will appear in CBF’s 2014 calendar. And that’s not all: All winners will also receive a one-year membership to CBF and will have their photos displayed on CBF’s website, in a CBF e-newsletter, and in CBF’s Save the Bay magazine.

Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) Earth Day Photo & Essay Contest: From April 22-29, students in grades 5-8 should take a photograph of something that is changing in their local environment, then submit the photo and explanation.
Deadline: May 10, 2013
Prize(s): In addition to having their photos featured on the IGES website, the top three winners will receive a digital camera, digital photo frame, and a digital photo keychain. Also, the top 10 winners will receive a photo book featuring the top 10 photos, with his or her photo on the front cover.

National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Wildlife Photo Contest: Photographers of all skill levels ages 13 and up are invited to enter the 43rd annual National Wildlife® Photo Contest.
Deadline: July 15, 2013
Prize(s): Winners could be featured in an upcoming issue of National Wildlife® magazine, alongside images taken by the world’s top nature photographers and could win a once-in-a-lifetime expense-paid trip for two to photograph polar bears, cash prizes and more!

Nature’s Best Photography (NBP) Windland Smith Rice International Awards: The editors of Nature’s Best Photography magazine invite all photographers (professionals, amateurs, and youth) to celebrate the beauty and diversity of nature through the art of photography, and to use this far-reaching medium as a creative tool for encouraging greater public interest in outdoor enjoyment and conservation stewardship.
Deadline: May 15, 2013 (Note that there may be an entry fee for submission)
Prize(s): Winners in each category and a selection of the Highly Honored photos will be displayed as large-format prints in the annual exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., one of the most widely respected and highly visited museums in the world. In addition, all of the winning images will be published in the Fall/Winter 2013 Collectors’ Edition of NBP.

Picture Our Planet Photo Contest: The Rainforest Alliance is pleased to announce the launch of the 2013 Picture Our Planet photo contest. This year’s contest celebrates sustainable tourism and the power of images to capture the world’s most beautiful places.
Deadline: June 30, 2013
Prize(s): One grand prize winner will receive an eight-day, seven-night trip for two to Costa Rica. Also, one winner will be selected from each of the six categories and will Polaroid high-definition pocket digital video camcorder and an honorary one-year membership at the $100-level to the Rainforest Alliance.

Have fun and good luck! If you’re in need on some inspiration, feel free to check out the pictures I’ve taken while out and about on my Flickr account (below is my attempt at being artsy with driftwood).

http://www.flickr.com/photos/beachchairscientist/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/beachchairscientist/

 

And that concludes my “We affect what goes in our watershed” week

This week I shared insight on the theme what we do in our daily lives affects our waterways. It’s particularly surprising to come to the realization that even though we might not live anywhere near a river, lake, or stream our daily actions have massive consequences on the waterways – and ultimately the ocean. It’s all interconnected. Remember “gas from our cars – not tankers or pipelines – is responsible for 92% of the petroleum spilled into the water”? The products we buy affect marine mammals. Plastic (i.e., marine debris) accumulates not just in the Pacific Ocean, but in the North Atlantic and possibly every sea on the planet. Fish are affected by the medication we take (not just that we dump down the drain!). Lastly, what we use on our lawns and gardens causes eutrophication – depleting waterways of oxygen and leading to the fish kills.

This weekend I am very grateful that my husband and neighbors will be helping me to label the storm drains in our neighborhood as a project for the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District. I have a picture of a stack of 50 below. They look pretty sophisticated. Does your neighborhood have labeled storm drains? Share with me how effective you think they are and if they’re as interesting as these in Baltimore, MD.

photo2

The complete list of the “We affect what goes in our watershed” week

Here are pictures of the storm drain labeling event.

Did you know what we add to our garden affects the ocean?

It’s officially day 4 of the “We affect what goes in our watershed” week (see posts on marine debris, oil, and pharmaceuticals). This time it’s all about fertilizers. Researchers whom published in the February 2011 edition of the journal Environmental Research Letters pointed out the human use of phosphorous, primarily in the industrialized world, is causing the widespread eutrophication of fresh surface water. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never noticed that I dump phosphorus down any drains or waterways. But, did you know that phosphorous and other harmful nutrients are in the fertilizers we use to keep lawns fresh and sprightly each spring (right around the corner!)? While these nutrients may nourish our gardens they also cause the fast growth of algae (i.e., algal blooms). The algae then feed bacteria, which deplete the waterways of oxygen ensuring that many animals and plants do not survive. Also, the fast growth of the algae will block out essential light needed for photosynthesis. This epidemic of eutrophication can be a very costly and damaging to our rivers, streams, lakes, and even ocean. Below is an image from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (a division of NOAA) comparing places that have a high (right) and low (left) frequency of eutrophication.
healthy-eutro-diagram_coastalscience.noaa.gov
Want a way to ensure you don’t add to the eutrophication? I like the green manure method from Down to Earth for my garden, but McGreary Organics has a good one for lawns as well. I think I’ll be depressing just one more day and ask once again, besides fertilizers, marine debris, petroleum, and pharmaceuticals, what are some other ways fish or aquatic life are affected by what we put in our waterways?

70 Degrees West project

I’m continuing the theme of “We affect what goes in our watershed” this week (see posts on pharmaceuticals and oil) and introducing you to an adventurous and creative couple, Justin Lewis and Michelle Stauffer, working together on the 70 Degrees West project. They launched this project almost a year ago in April of 2012 and have completed Phase I – an expedition to Greenland. They have 8 expeditions planned along the 70 degree line of longitude. According to their blog, they’re currently  traveling, taking pictures, and shooting video in  Penobscot Watershed in Maine.

But, what really brought them to my attention was this Kickstarter project for Phase III. They’re headed to the Sargasso Sea to provide an “informative, eye-opening account about what’s going on in the oceans”. You may have heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch, but there is also one that exists in the Atlantic Ocean. During the expedition they’ll merge science and art to  “demonstrate how human actions on land impact our oceans”, especially with the accumulation of marine debris in the sea. The Sargasso Sea lies in the center of a huge oval of still waters bounded by ocean currents – the only sea not bordered by land. Dr. Sylvia Earle has called the Sargasso Sea “the golden rainforest of the ocean” because of the extensive amounts of Sargassum that floats in mats on the surface of the ocean. The Sargasso Sea is also the epic place that eels mysteriously mate.

The project has just 25 days to go. Check out this video and learn more about them today!

PlasticAccumulation_Wired

Computer model output of where plastic accumulates worldwide from Wired

What is marine debris? It is any type of garbage that can get into the ocean (e.g., glass, aluminum cans, plastic bags). It’s important to remember that even though you might not drop trash at the shoreline, if you’re dropping trash ANYWHERE it will lead to the ocean by waterways such as streams, rivers, and lakes. Did you know that the vast majority of marine debris is plastic? Learn more about how plastic can be harmful to marine life here.

Besides marine debris, petroleum, and pharmaceuticals, what are some other ways fish or aquatic life are affected by what we put in our waterways?

You can read about 5 incredible marine debris warriors here.

Lastly, best of luck to Justin Lewis and Michelle Stauffer as you continue your 70 Degrees West project!

Can’t blame just Big Oil

Yesterday I wrote a post about pharmaceuticals affecting aquatic life our waterways and finished it up with a question, “Have you heard of any other ways fish or aquatic life are affected by what we put in our waterways?” Well, I’m too excited to share another culprit. We all know how oil spills affect wildlife because we’ve seen the commercials and very powerful images after a big spill. However, it happens all the time! According to a 2002 report by the National Academies of Science National Research Council petroleum that enters North American waters comes from human activities  (e.g., runoff, emissions), not from the ships that transport it. Here’s an image explaining the surprising fact that gas from our cars – not tankers or pipelines – is responsible for 92% of the petroleum spilled into the water. This image is taken from the infographic “The Unfiltered Truth About Water” created by Evergreen AES.

water still

Follow these five tips from the American Boating Association to minimize your impact of petroleum entering the waterways:

  1. Operate only well maintained boats
  2. Limit full throttle operation
  3. Eliminate unnecessary idling
  4. Follow recommended maintenance schedules
  5. Eliminate spillage when refueling
  6. And, I’ll add, carpool or take public transportation when possible

So now, besides petroleum and pharmaceuticals, what are some other ways fish or aquatic life are affected by what we put in our waterways?

Do you love infographics as much as I do? Check out this page with some of my favorites.

The world’s horseshoe crab research finally finds a home

This month the Ecological Research & Development Group (ERDG) released a one-stop-shop for research, conservation, and education initiatives on the world’s four species of horseshoe crabs. This was a result of the discussions from the 2011 International Workshop of the Science and Conservation of the Asian Horseshoe Crabs held in Hong Kong.

Be sure to check it out today. There’s lesson plans, peer-reviewed articles, posters, PowerPoint presentations, and more. It’s the intention of the database to serve as a tool to benefit everyone who is in Limulus Love!

I was surprised to learn that the new database includes over 2,000 citations and ERDG is still looking for more materials from people like you and me (Maybe, I’ll submit my cheesy infographic).

Horseshoe Crab Research Database http://horseshoecrab.org/research/

Horseshoe Crab Research Database created by the Ecological Research & Development Group