What is your favorite ocean-themed children’s book?

Summer is unofficially here and with that comes trips to the beach! To keep the theme going at home I am on a mission to discover new ocean-themed books to share with my little one. I compiled this list after some research and from your feedback on Facebook and Twitter. Please share by commenting below if you have a new book to add to the list. Also, scroll down and fill out the survey to share which one(s) are your favorite.

‘The Serpent Came to Gloucester’ by M.T. Anderson: (Ages 6 and up) Drawing on a true story, an award-winning author and illustrator present a picture-book tribute to the beauty and mystery of the ocean, and to the mesmerizing creatures that may frolic there.

‘Commotion in the Ocean’ by Gil Andreae: (Ages 3 and up)  The sequel to the best-selling “Rumble in the Jungle”, this delightful new collection of poems includes fun rhymes about the creatures who live in and around the ocean. Children will delight in the snappy poems and colorful illustrations about whales, walruses, penguins, polar bears, stingrays and sharks.

‘Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef’ by Marianne Berkes: (Ages 3 and up) This coral reef is a marine nursery, teeming with parents and babies! In the age-old way of kids and fish, children will count and sing to the rhythm of “Over in the Meadow” while pufferfish “puff,” gruntfish “grunt” and seahorses “flutter.”

A House for Hermit Crab‘ by Eric Carle: (Ages 5 and up) His modern-day fable is both wise and simple; based on the true habits of the hermit crab, it not only introduces young readers to the wonder and beauty of the marine environment but also contains an encouraging message for small children facing the inevitable challenges of growing up.

‘Mister Seahorse’ by Eric Carle: (Ages 2 and up) When Mrs. Seahorse lays her eggs, she does it on Mr. Seahorse’s belly! She knows he will take good care of them. While he swims waiting for the eggs to hatch, he meets some other underwater fathers caring for their babies: Mr. Tilapia, who carries his babies in his mouth; Mr. Kurtus, who keeps his on his head; and Mr. Catfish, who is baby-sitting his young hatchlings.

‘The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor’ by Joanna Cole: (Ages 4 and up) When Ms. Frizzle drives the Magic School Bus full speed ahead into the ocean, the class takes a submarine expedition that’s anything but ordinary. With a well-meaning lifeguard in tow, the class takes a deep breath and learns about hot water vents, coral reefs, plant and animal life on the ocean floor, and more!

‘Abby’s Aquarium Adventure Series’ by Heidi de Maine: (Ages 5-10) Stories that teach about different types of fish and how to remember their names easily, it also shows the kids what an aquarist does in his/her job at the aquarium.

‘The Disappearing Island‘ by Corinne Demas: (Ages 6-10) Carrie wonders about the mysterious island that her grandmother plans to take her to on her ninth birthday, a place that is visible only at low tide and the rest of the time remains a secret beneath the waves.

Crab Moon‘ by Ruth Horowitz: (Ages 6-10) June’s full moon casts an atmospheric glow over Kiesler’s (Old Elm Speaks, 1998) soft-focus shore scenes in this brief consciousness raiser.

‘A Day in the Salt Marsh’ by Kevin Kurtz: (Ages 5 and up) Enjoy A Day in the Salt Marsh, one of the most dynamic habitats on earth. Fun-to-read, rhyming verse introduces readers to hourly changes in the marsh as the tide comes and goes.

Carry on Mr. Bowditch‘ by Jean Lee Latham: (Grades 2 – 6) The story of a boy who had the persistence to master navigation in the days when men sailed by “log, lead, and lookout,” and who authored The American Practical Navigator, “the sailor’s Bible.”

‘Swimmy’ by Leo Lionni: (Ages 4 and up) Deep in the sea there lives a happy school of little fish. Their watery world is full of wonders, but there is also danger, and the little fish are afraid to come out of hiding . . . until Swimmy comes along. Swimmy shows his friends how—with ingenuity and team work—they can overcome any danger.

The Coast Mappers‘ by Taylor Morrison: (Grades 2 – 6) In the mid-nineteenth century, little was known of the west coast and waterways. The ships that sailed those waters did so at a considerable risk, sometimes depending on only a school atlas to navigate and all too often crashing into the rocks.

‘The Young Man and the Sea‘ by W. R. Philbrick: (Ages 9 and up) Award winner Rodman Philbrick’s powerful middle-grade novel is a story of determination and survival–of a boy’s exhilirating encounter with a fish that first nearly kills him but then saves his life.

‘Beach Day’ by Karen Roosa: (Ages 4 and up) In this charming picture book, a cheerful family tumbles out of the car and onto the beach, ready for a perfect day.

‘Hello Ocean‘ by Pam Munoz Ryan: (Ages 4-7) This rhyming picture book about the pleasures of a day at the beach goes through the day while using the sense.

‘I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean’ by Kevin Sherry: (Ages 4-7) When a giant squid takes inventory of all of the creatures in the ocean, he realizes that he?s way bigger than most of them! Of course, there are bigger things lurking around . . . but maybe this giant squid with a giant touch of hubris doesn’t really care?

‘The Suzanne Tate Nature Series‘ by Suzanne Tate: (Preschool – 4th grade) Suzanne Tate’s Nature Series is a unique series of 34 books about marine life. Teaching guides are available for books 1 through 28. In each colorfully illustrated book for early childhood (Pre-K-4), biologically accurate information is combined with an exciting story line. The books also promote self-esteem and environmental awareness.

The Boathouse Buddies Series’ by Karen Thomason and Ilene Baskette: (Grade 2 – 6) The Boat House Buddies deals with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in a series of ten books.

‘Far From Shore: Chronicles of an Open Ocean Voyage‘ by Sophie Webb: (Ages 9 and up) In extremely deep waters (two miles deep), the vast sea appears empty. But as naturalist and artist Sophie Webb shows us, it is full of fascinating—yet difficult to study—life. Together with her shipmates, Sophie counts and collects samples of life in the deep ocean, from seabirds to dolphins, from winged fish to whales.

‘Flotsam’ by David Wiesner: (Ages 4 and up) A bright, science-minded boy goes to the beach equipped to collect and examine flotsam–anything floating that has been washed ashore.

‘The Seashore Book‘ by Charlotte Zolotow: (Ages 3 and up) A young boy, who has never seen the sea, asks his mother to describe it. From there, Zolotow carefully chooses her words to create a poem full of the colors, sounds, and sights of a day at the beach.

The summaries and book covers can be attributed to the link associated with the title of the book.

Which book(s) are your favorite?

A quick lesson in wetland ecology

May is National Wetlands Month, so what better time to get creative in sharing how much I appreciate wetlands? Here is a new graphic with an overview of 1) four main types of wetlands and 2) why wetlands are important.

Wetlands are important because they:

… reduce damage from floods.
… protect land from storm surges.
… improve the quality of our water.
… can sustain a wide variety of plants and animals.
… can slow shoreline erosion.
… can provide vital food for many commercial & recreational fisheries.
… may provide a sustainable source of valuable timber.
… many rare and endangered species call them home.
… provide animals important shelter from encroaching humans.
… moderate stream flow.
… recharge groundwater supply.

Different types of wetlands:

Marshes are fed by groundwater or surface water. Marshes are dominated by soft-stemmed vegetation. Marshes are pH neutral and, therefore are abundant with plants and animals. Marshes can be freshwater or saltwater, tidal or inland. Other common names for marshes may include: prairie potholes, wet meadows, vernal ponds.

Swamps are dominated by woody-plants that can tolerate a rich, organic soil covered in standing water. This may include trees such as the cypress, cedar, or mangrove. Swamps may also be dominated by shrubs such as the buttonbush. Swamps are fed by groundwater or surface water.

Bogs are fed by precipitation and do not receive water from nearby runoff, such as streams or rivers. Bogs are dominated by a spongy peat deposit and the floor is usually covered in sphagnum moss. Bogs have acidic water and are low in nutrients making them a difficult place for plants to thrive.

Fens are peat-forming wetlands and are fed by nearby drainage such as streams or rivers. Fens are high in nutrients with low acidic water. Fens are characterized by grasses, wildflowers, and sedges. Often parallel fens adjacent to one another will eventually create a bog.

For more information about anything in this post or in general about wetlands please check out this overview by the EPA or email info@beachchairscientist.com.

Why we need Alternative B adopted for NPR-A

Almost 30 years ago, Congress stated that the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (NPR-A) was an, “exceptional natural, fish, wildlife, scenic, cultural and historical values that warrant protection”. Situated not far from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the NPR-A is now under a lot of scrutiny. As the largest federal land management unit in the nation (23 million acres, almost the size of Indiana!) the Bureau of Land Management has proposed 4 alternatives for its future.

The only one suitable for the habitat Congress hailed as exceptional 30 years ago, would be Alternative B.  Dr. Steve Zack, conservation scientist, for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) – North America Program:

WCS is very encouraged to see in the planning process for western Arctic Alaska an alternative that will mean significant wildlife conservation through protection of key areas. The Bureau of Land Management`s plan for the largest public landscape in the United States, the National-Petroleum Reserve – Alaska, includes four alternatives, one of which is Alternative B. Alternative B sets aside from development the most important part of the world`s largest Arctic wetland, located around Teshekpuk Lake, and provides protection of the large landscapes across which hundreds of thousands of caribou migrate, including the Utukok Uplands region. We strongly feel that Alternative B, which categorizes areas critical for wildlife as unavailable for oil and gas leasing, balances energy development and wildlife protection in a landscape rich in both resources.

Polar bears, walruses, belugas, caribou, wolves, grizzly bears, and waterbirds all rely on the diverse habitat of the NPR-A to survive. Furthermore, for thousands of years there have been native communities living along the reserve. Please request to Secretary Salazar that these communities not be developed in order to maintain this sustainable lifestyle.

For some amazing images of the Utukok River Uplands (an area within the NPR-A) spend some time on this website. I think I’m ready to move after looking at these!

Dear Online Science Writing Community: A reminder for ‘call to actions’ because your perspective is priceless

Journalists and colleagues are not the only ones reading your blog posts. The internet is home to where our nation’s kids are uncovering the answers to homework. But, they are also using the internet to learn more on what sparked their curiosity whilst investigating the world beyond-the-monitor. As an unanticipated consequence your amazing fact-filled posts, peppered with personal experience, are inspiring a new generation into fields in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). It does not seem as though this is news to anyone since the response to the contributions of ‘This is What a Scientist Looks Like’ is amazing! More to my point – I ask you – the estimable Online Science Writing Community – to take advantage of the influence you have on the impressionable youths of this wonderful planet while sharing your knowledge online. Like it or not – they’re reading, but the good news is that they’re remembering and sharing what they read.

Sure your research is sent off to decisions makers to be reviewed. What if we also cut out the middle man and used your own voice to affect change? You’ve exposed surprising evidence that things we could do or don’t do day-to-day would vastly improve our lives and give our planet a more sustainable future. I’d be so much more apt to listen to a blogger than someone who was telling me that I had to do something because it’s now a law or a mandate. Even if this is something that you already do from time-to-time – keep doing it because your perspective is priceless. And if you don’t – why not?

Much of the advice that Nancy Baron proposed to scientists interested in sharing their knowledge in her book, A Guide to Making Your Science Matter: Escape from the Ivory Tower, would translate well when communicating to, not only journalists and policy makers, but also teenagers, young adults, and the curious non-STEM professional public. For instance, “start thinking about what the journalist and his or her audience needs from you: clear, concise, conversational answers“, “Stepping outside your comfort zone to reach can have tremendous payoffs“, and “While dealing with backlash is no fun, many scientists agree that the end result is often worthwhile“.

Yes, this might mean you have to come up with a pseudonym because a grant would be pulled if you were contradicting a sponsor. But, often times having an opinion can be harmless.  Take the opportunity to not only feed the public’s thirst for education with with your own personal style, but also make gentle suggestions to mold the young audience into becoming environmentally-responsible citizen. My hidden agenda might not be much of a surprise here, but I am asking you – the Online Science Writing Community – to be an influential part the environmental education (EE) movement.

What is environmental education? To me, environmental education is a holistic approach of science in practicality. But, here are some more comprehensive definitions that encompass the concept.

  • Colorado Association of Environmental Education: Environmental education is a life-long learning process that increases awareness about the environment and its systems while developing critical-thinking skills that enable responsible decision-making.
  • Program, Classroom Earth: Environmental education is the process, activities and experiences—across disciplines—that lead students to have a greater understanding of how the earth’s resources and natural systems work and interact with each other and with human-made systems.
  • Program, Common Circle: Environmental education teaches people about the natural world and how their actions may affect it. This learning may take place in a formal classroom setting or the term may be used more broadly to describe efforts to inform the public about ecosystems and sustainable living.

Given also that the 5 principles of EE are awareness, knowledge, attitudes, skills, and participation (Tbilisi Declaration, 1997), it would seem as though any blogger with a bio that integrates 1) why you are passionate about your STEM field, 2) what led you to that field, and 3) how you’ve made an impact on the field would therefore be the perfect person to continue to share important outcomes to readers for the all-inclusive EE approach. I understand that often research cannot be shared until published, but I can say that I would be much more apt to make personal decisions about my day-to-day life from the responsible people that conducted the research rather from those that regurgitated it.

Thank you to all of the hard working scientists that share your lab and field adventures online. I will continue to be amazed by your dedication and conviction. You have a unique voice and a head full of ideas worth sharing. You have the ability to affect change and I remind you to take advantage of it.

“The ideal scientist thinks like a poet, works like a clerk, and writes like a journalist.” – E.O. Wilson

It’s not what vision is, it’s what vision does.” Peter Senge, The Necessary Revolution

100 ways to live (and die) green

Conservation and marine science education are two primary themes on BCS. And, since I’ve been dedicating a lot of time to marine science education the past few months I indulged myself with this list 100 of ways to live (and die) green. It’s a list of fun suggestions – beyond recycling day-to-day – and is appropriate since this weekend is Earth Day and this week is National Environmental Education Week! Please don’t hesitate to email info@beachchairscientist.com with any questions or comments. Feel free to comment and add to the list. I love new ideas.

  1. Install a dual-flush conversion kit.
  2. Use  water bottle (they even come with filters!).
  3. Make sure your faucets do not leak.
  4. Plug the sink to collect water for rinsing dishes.
  5. If you do have a leak, why not make it count and use the water wisely for something else.
  6. Pre-rinse your dishes for the dishwasher with a squeegee instead of rinsing in the sink.
  7. Why not install a low-flow showerhead?
  8. Filter your water from the tap.
  9. Turn off the water when you brush. (It will save about 8 gallons of water a day!)
  10. Take shorter showers.
  11. Only do full loads of laundry.
  12. Do not dump hazardous materials (e.g., oil, grease, antifreeze, pesticides, fertilizers, paints).
  13. When it’s dirty, take the car to a professional car washer. (Doing it yourself in the driveway wastes about 150 gallons of water.)
  14. Use pet-safe deicers when it snows.
  15. When your feisty pet chews the squeaker from his toy, why not put it back in and sow it up for another round of tug-o-war?
  16. Consider natural pet products for your furry little buddy.
  17. Give the wire hangers back to the dry cleaner.
  18. If you dry clean do it less often so they can bulk up more and skip on more plastic wrap.
  19. Xeriscape (i.e., plant natives to reduce the need to water).
  20. Use a rain barrel in the garden.
  21. Consider using alternatives to pressure-treated wood in your garden.
  22. Use some elbow grease to pull weeds or use a natural herbicide to get rid of weeds.
  23. Use a library. (Here I could also suggest switch to an ebook reader, but since my mom is a librarian and I know she loves her job I’ll promote a little community citizen interaction.)
  24. Buy local produce for your dinner.
  25. Switch to fairtrade coffee or tea for the morning beverage.
  26. Use a reusable bag when shopping. (You might remember the ‘Majestic Plastic Bag‘ series from last year.)
  27. Skip the meat in the dinner for a night each week.
  28. Jazz up the garden with some illuminating beautiful solar lighting.
  29. Make sure your exfoliating facial scrub doesn’t have harmful plastic beads that do not dissolve when they go down the drain.
  30. Know what ingredients are in your beauty products.
  31. Ask your workplace to consider carbon offsetting.
  32. Go ahead and send the electronic birthday card. After all, it’s the thought that counts, right?
  33. Pack your shorty’s lunch in a reusable bag.
  34. Pack their lunch items in reusable containers, too.
  35. When you use plastic cutlery, try a biodegradable option.
  36. Choose an organic version of the fabric of our lives.
  37. Try a DEET free bug repellant.
  38. Compost!
  39. Make your own cleaning products or use some natural ones that won’t harm the local watershed.
  40. Skip the paper towel and try cellulose cloths.
  41. Make certain to maximize the way you wash dishes.
  42. Wash your clothes is cold water.
  43. Get a home energy audit.
  44. Use a non toxic paint.
  45. Install Energy Star appliances.
  46. Hang dry clothes.
  47. Wear a sweater.
  48. Generate your own energy and install a DIY solar panel kit.
  49. Generate your own energy and install a DIY wind power kit.
  50. Install ceiling fans.
  51. When you’re going to leave a room for more than 15 minutes – switch the lights off.
  52. Install efficient lighting throughout your home.
  53. Donate your electronics  properly.
  54. Pay your bills online (and, ask your boss to direct deposit that obscene paycheck you don’t really need).
  55. Ask your neighborhood association to install solar lamp post lights.
  56. Go natural with your products when you’re about to have a little one.
  57. … And, after you have a little one.
  58. Decorate with plants to increase the air quality in your home.
  59. Be a little unconventional with your online shopping.
  60. Be creative in your gift wrapping and use some newspaper or magazines!
  61. Keep your car in tip-top shape to save on gas mileage (and/or go hybrid).
  62. Try to use public transportation or carpool when possible. (Or slug, DCers!)
  63. Consider rechargeable batteries.
  64. Be conservative in what you decide to print off the computer and when you do need to print do it double-sided.
  65. Find the people to call to cancel your phone book delivery.
  66. Skip the ATM receipt.
  67. Turn off the computer monitor at night.
  68. If you’re looking to buy a new computer, purchase a laptop instead of a desktop.
  69. Use recycled paper for your creative needs.
  70. Check out your neighborhood to see if there are proper bike or walk lanes and bike or walk when possible. (Check it out – May is National Bike Month!)
  71. Stop junk mail! (Did you know that the average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year?)
  72. Choose a green hotel when traveling (or, my favorite – VHBO).
  73. Buy bulk. (It’s nuts – packaging makes up more than 30% of our waste!)
  74. Rock a green hosting company for your next website.
  75. Rent, borrow, or Freecycle!
  76. Save the take out container and use it as tupperware or to hand out cupcakes at your shorty’s birthday party.
  77. Bring your own mug to the local coffee shop so you don’t have to use one of theirs.
  78. Telecommute.
  79. Skip the CD or DVD purchase and download online.
  80. Stray away from imposing balloon releases unless you know they’re latex.
  81. Stray from using 6-pack rings (or cut them).
  82. From time to time use one less napkin.
  83. When fishing always be an ethical angler.
  84. Eat sustainable seafood.
  85. Skip the produce in additional plastic wrap.
  86. Participate in local clean-ups.
  87. Rock a new TV as they’re a little more efficient.
  88. Keep the freezer at least 3/4 full.
  89. Once a month bake a loaf of your own bread.
  90. Once a month why not roast your own chicken and stock up some homemade chicken broth afterward.
  91. In winter, keep the shades drawn when you’re away.
  92. When purchasing furniture find products that are earth-friendly and organic (e.g., cotton, wool, hemp, natural rubber latex).
  93. Plant a tree.
  94. Rock some vintage jewelry.
  95. Clothe diaper.
  96. Make your own play-dough with the kids.
  97. Blow your nose green. (Ewwwww … what did she say?)
  98. Recycle toner.
  99. Stay informed and educated.
  100. Be buried green.

Blue Sway – Paul McCartney

Surfrider Foundation recently released a new PSA by filmmaker Jack McCoy with a previously unreleased song, Blue Sway, by Paul McCartney. The song has been released on his McCartney II which was distributed by MPL and Concord Music Group on June 14. If you like this song you should also check out McCartney’s (aka The Fireman) Electric Arguments album (Sing the Changes and Lifelong Passions are my favorite!).

The footage from the PSA was taken from a Deeper Shade of Blue. Director Jack McCoy used a high-powered underwater jet ski to travel behind waves to create mystical and majestic images.

I appreciated that it was not a PSA with an overtly in-your-face message. I think it will speak to each and everyone in a unique way and I look forward to your thoughts! Enjoy!

What inspired you to become an environmental educator?

Some form of this question is probably the question I get the most often on BCS. It is usually a bit more blunt, “Why do you do your Beach Chair Scientist?” or “What made you come up with the idea?” It is simple. I was sitting in a web design class at the Bethesda Writer’s Center and the term Beach Chair Scientist popped into my brain.

It was the summer and I had just returned from a trip home where I went to the beach and some of my family from Philly (Go, Phils!) continually tried to stump me with interesting beach questions. They know I have a B.S. degree (insert joke) in marine sciences so I really was the best person to ask. But, what I discovered was that I love to make the answers entertaining and somehow less intimidating (This type of environmental education somehow coined ‘edu-tainment’). I thought if I started the blog they would be able to shoot me the questions all year round, even when I am not at the beach with them. I used to teach outdoors to people about the environment for a salary (and housing). Now, I just teach people about fisheries data from an office. The blog was my outlet.

I do want to pay homage to all those who do work tirelessly teaching people about the environment. It is often a thankless, over-worked and under-paid bunch of people. People with more enthusiasm than one could ever imagine. Environmental education has many various facets and is often difficult to define. But, the one constant of anyone in the field is heart and dedication. I love you all!

I decided to ask a few of these wonderful environmental educators the same question people ask me “What inspired you to become an environmental educator?” Here are their answers. Thanks to everyone that contributed.

  • “I always wanted to make a difference. Environmental education allows me to make a difference by combining my love of nature and my ability to communicate with people.” Kate Anderson, ___ @ ___ in somwhere, MA.
  • “EE is a way for me to share one of my passions (the environment) with people and make a positive difference towards the future at the same time.” Beth Jones Cranford, Summer Camp Coordinator @ Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill, NC
  • “I have always loved nature and sharing it with others.” Travis Davis, Education Director @ Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, N.J.
  • “I LOVE sharing my passion for science with others!” Laura Diederick, Marine Education Specialist @ Smithsonian Marine Station, Fort Pierce, FL
  • “I wanted to help conserve all of Mother Nature’s bounty and you cannot obtain conservation without education and vice versa.” Kristi Martin Moyer, Facilities and Land Manager @ Pine Jog Environmental Education Center in West Palm Beach, FL
  • “Ranger program at Rocky Mountain National Park in 4th Grade.” Katie Navin, Program Coordinator with the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education in Golden, CO
  • “I want to humans to have less of an impact on the Earth!” Leslie Sprague, Director of Education @ the San Antonio Children’s Museum in San Antonio, TX
  • “I think my inspiration came from my love of teaching and working with kids which I discovered in college combined with my love of being outdoors as a kid. The two came together when I “found” EE at Pine Jog. Oh, and hope I have made a difference (if only a small one!).” Susan Toth, Education Director @ Pine Jog Environmental Education Center in West Palm Beach, FL

To me it seems that one answer is clear: What inspires us to keep doing what we are doing is because we love it.

Image (c) agreenerindiana.com