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!
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.
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!
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.
Follow these five tips from the American Boating Association to minimize your impact of petroleum entering the waterways:
- Operate only well maintained boats
- Limit full throttle operation
- Eliminate unnecessary idling
- Follow recommended maintenance schedules
- Eliminate spillage when refueling
- 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.
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).
This isn’t the typical list of the most popular Beach Chair Scientist posts throughout the year. Those posts typically include questions typed into a search bar such as ‘Do sharks have bones?’ or ‘How much salt is in the ocean?’. Not surprisingly, my favorite posts aren’t focused on straight up interpretation, but rather have more stewardship and conservation as their subject matter. Here is a list of my favorite posts from 2012 and why I enjoyed writing them.
- How did ‘Take A Child Outside’ week get started?: This post was particularly special, not only because I was able to catch up with an old graduate school buddy, but the concept of this week is a very important part of my daily life (not just one week!).
- From Sandy, coastal towns learn ‘dune’ diligence lesson. Is it enough?: Even if I wasn’t there I hope everyone at home knows how much I was thinking of them during Superstorm Sandy.
- Dear Online Science Writing Community: A reminder for ‘call to actions’ because your perspective is priceless and Playing well with others: Dissecting the tension between the scientist-educator community: Writing both of these posts was completely therapeutic. It was such a great feeling as it’s something I encounter on a daily basis. Boy, was it empowering walking into the office the next day!
- 10 tips for a successful beachcombing trip and 10 Beachcombing adventures: I am sometimes a forgetful person. Lists are my friends. Writing these posts (and actual document) helped to focus me on how to make the most from my precious beachcombing days.
- 5 on-the-ground marine debris warriors and the “What Marine Conservationists Are Into …” series: It’s simple – these people are inspiring! Thank you to each and everyone that participated, too!
- Where we go: Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge: How can you not love listening to this video of a beach adventure from a kid’s perspective?
- Atlantic horseshoe crab ‘infographic’: Pulling all the information about my favorite animal and presenting it in a graphic was definitely on my 2012 to-do list. It may not be perfect … but, it’s all mine!
And here is one of my favorite images posted from this year:
With less than two weeks before the big ‘gift-o-rama’ day, it’s time to hunker down and get those gifts in time for wrapping and shipping (after all, shipping ground is a lot less harmful for the environment than air). Here’s a list of gift ideas that will inspire anyone on your list to follow your lead to take an active role in loving and learning about the ocean.
1. Beach Amazonite necklace from Peace of Mind on Etsy: It’s a piece to be treasured with a sweet little charm that hangs on an 18″ sterling silver ball chain with a lobster style clasp. Also, $10 from the sale of each necklace will be donated to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
2. Cutting board from Waypoint (pictured): This sturdy piece features the coordinates of ‘where you want to be’ and is made of solid maple and mahogany. It makes an interesting decoration or is perfect for serving appetizers. The double cleat board features two stainless steel 5” Herrschoff nautical cleats and measures approximately 8″ x 20″. This classic piece was a big hit as a recent gift for my father-in-law who has a cottage in Falmouth, UK. Made in the USA.
3. Driftwood hat or coat rack from nestibles on Etsy: Check out this sturdy, repurposed, shabby chic hook set for your entryway. The wood was collected from Long Island Sound and was sanded with a yellow paint wash.
4. Horseshoe crab pillow from Outer Banks Trading Group: It’s a hand sewn 14″ x 24″ pillow printed with environmentally friendly pigment ink on an organic cotton/hemp blend with a knife edge. Made in the USA.
5. Marine rope doormat from Gaiam: This durable doormat, made from reclaimed lobster trap float ropes, is resistant to mildew and indestructible. It’s 33” x 20½” and is available with the options of black/teal and blue/green, although they vary because the availability is based upon the float ropes traded in by the Maine lobstermen.
6. Messenger bag from United By Blue: This bag is perfect for any beach adventure. It’s made of 100% organic cotton and United By Blue removes 1 pound of trash from our oceans and waterways around the world for every item sold.
7. Salts of the world from Uncommon Goods: Six varieties of exotic salts for presentation or cooking. It’s set in a groovy and stylish rack made of reclaimed cedar. The salts are from around the world but the tubes are made in the USA.
8. Tumblers from Tervis: These sturdy insulated cups keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold by harnessing air and sport all sorts of designs from the Maryland blue crab to your alma mater. Made in the USA.
Check out these fun finds for the kids:
These are just some ideas if you’re sitting at your desk shopping. But, why not get out there are check out the gift shop at your local nature center?
With the holidays right around the corner there will no doubt be plenty of indulgences. It is important to keep in mind that seafood can also be considered an extravagance if you’re choosing an unsustainable option to serve or taste. Did you know that the global fishing fleet can catch up to two and a half times what the ocean produces? 80% of fish stocks are harvested at or above maximum sustainable yield? Check out this infographic by One World One Ocean that was released last month for National Seafood Month for those facts and a whole lot more, including 1) fish on the red list (not good) and green list (good), 2) reasons why these fish are on these lists, 3) chefs and grocers to support, and 4) important guides to download.
If I had to nail down three themes for this blog I would say marine science, ocean conservation, and environmental education would encompass all 406 posts. This one is dedicated to environmental education and more specifically a new initiative that I am a strong advocate for – not only one week out of the year – but, everyday! This is the first year of the program ‘Take a Child Outside‘ Week (September 24 – 30 annually), an initiative of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCMNS) and is held in cooperation with partner organizations across the U.S. and Canada. I’ll certainly be participating in the movement as a parent (as I do most days because we’re lucky enough to live off a beautiful county park in Northern Virginia – as a matter of fact, my daughter’s pudgy little hand is above!), but wanted to do a little more about spreading the word before the last weekend of ‘Take a Child Outside’ so I am blogging about it.
‘Take a Child Outside’ Week is set up to dissolve barriers that inhibit children from exploring the natural world. Ultimately, the goal is to share resources and ideas with parents, teachers, and other adults to help children across the country develop a better understanding and appreciation of the environment, as well as foster enthusiasm for exploring outside.
My angle for this one was easy. Since its in the first year I was curious how ‘Take a Child Outside’ Week was conceived. I brought in a former Florida Atlantic University graduate school classmate and one of the smartest and hardest working individuals I am lucky enough to know, Beth Cranford, who also happens to be an educator at NCMNS. She tracked down how the program got started from Liz Baird, Director of Education for NCMNS.
Question: Who came up with this idea of ‘Take a Child Outside’ Week?
Liz Baird: I came up with the idea one night in the spring after meeting Richard (Louv) during his book tour. He had spent the morning with several Museum staff at our field station. We shared stories of being outside as children, and it made me think about what we could do to connect kids with the outdoors. The Museum staff members are extraordinarily skilled at getting people excited about nature, and being outside, and I knew there must be a way to share that enthusiasm. As I was walking my dog one beautiful spring evening I saw the glow of the television screens behind closed doors, but no children outside. I thought to myself “There is a national “Turn off the TV week” – what if there was a national “Take A Child Outside” week?”
I ran the idea by Richard Louv and he was so excited he wrote about it in his column in the San Diego Sun Times. At that point we did not have a website, or even a date set! There is nothing like getting calls from across the U.S. from folks that want to join you in a project to make the project happen! We received some funds from the non-profit support group of the Museum, hired a GIS savvy web firm and began promoting ‘Take a Child Outside’. We really thought this would be a small, North Carolina based pilot year, but the concept has caught on and we have partners across the U.S.
I also wanted to share Beth’s thought on the importance of ‘Take a Child Outside’ Week. She says, “It seems that children today are spending less time outside exploring nature than they have in past generations. And I know how important it was for me to play outside as a kid. Added on top of that, research shows that spending time outside as a child helps form adults who make environmentally responsible decisions”.
I’d like to send an enormous wealth of appreciation and gratitude to Beth for coordinating this information – Thank you!
Want to get involved? Here is a link of fantastic ideas to spark your imagination as you ‘Take a Child Outside’.
A fan of Beach Chair Scientist on Facebook recently asked me to demystify a rumor she had heard. This is what she wanted to know: “I was told that over the course of a year, at least one of every species of shark can be found in the Delaware Bay. Do you know if this is true?” I asked Jim Wharton, frequent BCS guest blogger and shark expert, to tackle this one. This is his response.
Sadly, it is not true. There are at least 500 species of sharks in the ocean. They range in size from six inches to sixty feet. They can be found in water ankle deep to the abyssal depths … from the tropics to polar ice caps. To find a nexus point like this anywhere in the ocean would miraculous. Sharks are just too diverse.
Still, there are sharks in Delaware Bay. Anglers might encounter sand tigers, sandbar (brown) sharks, smooth dogfish, and spiny dogfish with other occasional visitors (including at least one record of a juvenile white shark). In fact, the National Marine Fisheries Service has identified the Bay as ‘Essential Fish Habitat’ for several species of Federally protected ‘Highly Migratory Species’ including sandbar sharks, sand tigers, and smooth dogfish. This designation recognizes the critical foraging and nursery habitat the Bay provides for these important species.
Dr Dewayne Fox’s lab at Delaware State University is working to create a conservation plan for the sand tiger sharks in the Bay. These distinctive, snaggletoothed sharks are very popular in public aquariums. Despite their fearsome appearance, they rarely interact with people. Sand tigers are top predators and represent a critical keystone species in the ecology of Delaware Bay. Dr. Fox and his students are implanting passive acoustic transmitters inside sharks to better understand their movement patterns. The transmitters emit an identifiable ‘ping’ that is collected by strategically located listening stations to help researchers track the animals in the Bay. Understanding how the sharks use the Delaware Bay is essential to identifying critical habitat for protection. You can learn more about Dr. Fox’s work here.
Sand tigers, by way, are freakish and fantastic creatures that are well-worth saving. No sharks have swim bladders, but sand tigers gulp air at the surface to make themselves neutrally buoyant. Sand tigers are one of many species that explode the myth of the shark in constant motion, frequently found lying near-motionless on the sandy bottom. Sand tigers are fish-specialists, with more-than-a-mouthful of narrow, prong-shaped teeth for grabbing slippery prey. They like to hang-out in large aggregations and may actively cooperate to herd schools of fish. Most fantastic of all…baby sand tigers are “embryonic cannibals.” Sand tiger embryos quickly exhaust their meager yolk sacs and start in on the undeveloped eggs…but they don’t stop there. The largest embryo in each uterus (yes, sharks have two) attacks and consumes its brothers and sisters in the ultimate form of sibling rivalry.
Good references for more on sand tigers:
- Castro, J. I. (2011). The sharks of North America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Compagno, L. J. V., Dando, M., & Fowler, S. L. (2005). Sharks of the world. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Thanks for sharing you knowledge, Jim! Check out his other BCS posts on sharks here.
Well, would you look at that … it’s the 10th anniversary of Sea Otter Awareness Week (Always the last week in September, this year from September 23 – 29)! These adorable creatures that have won the world over with their talent for holding hands while sleeping in the water, play a vital role in the coastal ecosystem. In California, sea otters are important for maintaining the sea urchin population among the kelp forest communities. However, I’ll be honest – I had to sit back and ask myself what makes a ‘sea otter’ a sea otter and a ‘river otter’ a river otter (besides, of course, where they might reside). Below is a quick synopsis of what I discovered (HINT: If you see one near a den = river otter). Find some more fascinating facts about sea otters here.