Wednesday Wisdom: Gertrude Ederle

neverfeelalonesea_beachchairscientist

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!

Maryland moves closer to banning microbeads

Plastic microbeads on a penny. Photo credit: 5Gyres

Plastic microbeads on a penny. Photo credit: 5Gyres

Reported on the Baltimore Sun’s B’More Green  blog, “Consumer products such as toothpaste and cosmetic scrubs containing tiny plastic “microbeads” could be banned from store shelves in Maryland after 2018 under a bill unanimously approved Thursday by the state Senate”. These means that if the bill passes the House, “Maryland will be the second state after Illinois to order a phase-out of the manufacture or sale of consumer products containing the beads”.

What is a microbead? It’s a tiny particle of plastic that never break down. What’s incredibly harmful is that they are being drained into local streams, creeks, rivers, lakes, and ocean and affecting our waterways. There are over 50 products on the shelves in the US that contain harmful microbeads! Find a list of products sold in the United States that contain microbeads (i.e., polythene) here.

Here is some alarming information on the microbeads, marine debris, and our ocean trash in general.

  1. A single tube of facial cleanser can contain over 3000,000 microbeads.
  2. More than 450,000 microbeads per square kilometer were found in some parts of Lake Erie.
  3. In the ocean there are approximately 5.25 trillion plastic particles.
  4. For every foot of coastline there is approximately five grocery bags filled with plastic, according to estimates in 2010.
  5. Six continents have microfibers washing up on their shores.
  6. Shores near sewage treatment plants have the highest concentration of microfibers washing up.
  7. Nearly 275 million tons of plastic waste was generated by coastal countries in 2010 — and that 4.8 to 12.7 million tons of that plastic made its way to the oceans.
  8. Each year, 8.8 million tons of plastic goes into the oceans.
  9. The estimate for 2015 is 9.1 million metric tons.
  10. On average, Americans use 220 pounds of plastic per year.
  11. 17% of all marine animals impacted by manmade debris are threatened or near threatened.
  12. Trash will likely increase tenfold over the next decade.

One Big Wave, and Millions of Lost Legos

Lego dragons Bigbury

Photos courtesy of Tracey Williams

On Feb. 13, 1997, about 20 miles off the coast of England, a massive wave hit the freighter Tokio Express, toppling 62 giant containers into the rough north Atlantic seas.

Trapped inside one of them: nearly 5 million Legos. Many floated to the surface. Carried by currents, they’re still being found on beaches around the world nearly two decades later. Others remain on the ocean floor. It’s not unusual for fishermen trawling the Atlantic to haul up tiny Legos.

The fact that so many of the pieces were nautical themed – sea dragons, pirate swords, sea grass and scuba gear, among others – has turned the Lego spill into one of the most famous and unusual marine debris incidents in recent maritime history.

In Newquay, a seaside town in England, writer and longtime beachcomber Tracey Williams started a Facebook page a few years ago – Legos Lost at Sea – that tracks the whereabouts of the lost Legos as they wash up onto beaches.

Williams recently spoke to the Beach Chair Scientist blog about her work, and you can hear more of what she has to say below. But she hopes to turn the public fascination, much of it generated from a recent BBC story on the spill, into a teaching moment about the harmful environmental impact of marine debris.

Lego octopus Terena

“Clearly, 5 million pieces of Legos spilling into the ocean isn’t good for the environment,” Williams said in a recent phone interview. After the BBC interviewed her about her site a while back, the publicity resulted in people contacting her with stories about beach-bound Legos around the world.

“It has connected beachcombers all around the world, which is fascinating,” Williams said.

She received one report of a Lego flipper found on an Australian beach. She’s also heard from the family of a woman who had scoured the beaches for Lego dragons as a hobby in her 80s, passing her finds along t0 younger generations.

“Obviously, marine debris is a big problem. But I think many children have been captivated by this whole Lego story … I think it reminds people of their childhood. It’s the whole issue of marine debris. Oceanographers are interested in how far it’s spread.”

Meanwhile, she also hears from fishermen who come across Lego pieces in their nets.

“Half of it sinks and half of it floats,” Williams said, referring to the sorts of Legos that fell off the Tokio Express. “So clearly, while we’re finding certain items washed up on our shores like the spear guns and the flippers, fishermen are actually finding other pieces like window frames and car chassis.”

While the lost Legos have made for fun beach combing and treasure hunts, there are bigger questions beneath the surface. If the contents of just one toppled shipping container can spread around the world for decades, what about far bigger and more dangerous spills that go unnoticed because they don’t happen to have Legos in them?

“There were 62 containers that fell off the Tokio Express back in 1997 and we only know about what  was in three of them,” Williams said.

“What’s in all of the others and when will that all wash ashore?”

You can listen to more of Williams and the story of the lost Legos here:

What you need to know about World Shorebirds Day: Saturday, September 6th

world-shorebirds-day1000My husband isn’t happy about this … But, recently, I have found a new love of birds. It’s because we live in the woods and not near the ocean, so those flighted friends have stolen my heart just like fish did back some many years ago. My husband thinks it is hysterical since we grew up in Cape May County, NJ and birders are synonymous with “tourists”, a group to which locals have a love/hate relationship. But, I don’t care … I can hardly contain my excitement for this Saturday – during World Shorebirds Day!

The celebration was proposed and organized by György Szimuly, a well-known bird conservationist based in Milton Keynes, England. Szimuly set out to promote and celebrate shorebirds.

Find out the differences between a seabirds, shorebirds, wading birds here.

“The idea to hold a World Shorebirds Day was inspired by the ongoing conservation issues we have been facing,” Szimuly said. “I think that setting a commemorative day for shorebirds will give conservation bodies and individuals another chance to educate.” He continues that “This is not particularly a citizen science program, but rather an effort to raise awareness for the importance of regular bird monitoring as the core element of bird protection and habitat conservation.”

“I think the global shorebird counts are a good get-together event,” Szimuly said. “I asked birdwatchers to book their site now, where they can go counting shorebirds on the 6th and 7th of September.” There are hundreds of sites and counters already registered for the World Shorebirds Day. The ‘booked’ sites can be seen on the event’s Google Map. https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=z3yRwAVo2mAw.k42bDqIRe7a4.

Follow the activities and learn how to submit data of World Shorebirds Day on the website blog and Facebook page.

Animal dating profiles from Sun and Moon

Check out this “What would an animal online dating site look like?” cartoon from the fabulous Rosemary Mosco of Sun and Moon (science and nature cartoons). Love the status of the sawfish.

animaldatingprofilesUsername for a horseshoe crab on a dating site? Limulus love, of course!

Saltwater vs. Freshwater: Why droughts are a real problem

Earth’s surface is about 70% water. But, only 1% of that is accessible freshwater (i.e., found in lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds). McGraw Hill pulled together this beautiful infographic illustrating the amount of water on the surface of the Earth that humans can actually use (‘Just a drop in the bucket’, so to speak). Consider this reality when thinking about the serious situations in California this summer with “its third-worst drought in 106 year“.

MCGRAW-SALTWATER-23AUG-2012CS5

http://www.pinterest.com/mcgrawhilled/make-learning-fun-inspiration-for-teachers-student/

 

Beyond the beach: What else is there to see this summer at the shore?

Taking a trip this summer to the beaches along New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, or North Carolina? Don’t forget there is a lot to see beyond the sea. Late last month my family and I were back home briefly and decided to check out the Nature Center of Cape May. It was the perfect venue to brush up on some local natural history, view wildlife over the Harbor (with a pair of their lender binoculars), get an up close look at some terrapins and snakes, check out the colors in one of the multiple butterfly gardens, and even had time to get creative at the arts & crafts table. What is your favorite nature center spot at home or on vacation to the shore?

The view from the Observation deck and tower.

The view from the Observation deck and tower.

ColoringTable

Two of her favorites: Drawing and animals!

GiftShop

The Nature Center of Cape May is free admission, but they bring in funds through fundraising events, summer camp, and the gift store.

InvestigatingTerrapin

We had fun looking at the terrapins. To learn more on them check out this post from last summer: http://beachchairscientist.com/2013/06/25/12-truths-about-diamondback-terrapins-please-see-8/

SlowDownRecycleCrafts

A mural, made by the summer campers, reminds everyone it’s important to go slow on the causeways this time of year.

NatureNook

I fell in love with this sign!

The mission of the Nature Center of Cape May focuses in providing quality environmental education experiences, encouraging stewardship of the harbor area and other natural areas, and promoting volunteerism as a rewarding means of community involvement and service.

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!