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.

99 reasons I’m in ‘Limulus Love’

It’s no secret that I love those horseshoe crabs. Well someone on Twitter this week asked me why I am so crazy over them so I thought I’d take the time to outline 99 reasons I think Limulus polyphemus are a fascinating species.

  1. Three Nobel Prizes were awarded to scientists who did some or all of their research using horseshoe crab physiology.
  2. As far as the horseshoe crab’s Latin name translation, Limulus mean ‘askew’ and polyphemus is taken from a one-eyed giant in Greek mythology.
  3. The very intriguing name of Xiphosura (Greek ‘Xiphos’ meaning sword and ‘ura’ meaning tail) was given to the order of the Atlantic horseshoe crab and its three closest living related species.anatomyhsc
  4. There are 4 living species of horseshoe crabs and only one of those inhabits the western Atlantic waters – the Atlantic horseshoe crab. The other three are found in the Pacific Ocean.
  5. Samurai warrior helmets were modeled after the prosoma of a horseshoe crab.
  6. The body of a horseshoe crab (top picture) is divided into three parts – the prosoma, opisthosoma and telson (tail).
  7. Horseshoe crabs tend to be no more than 7-14” across.
  8. There once was a 50 foot long, 113,000 pound artificial reef horseshoe crab off the coast of NJ.
  9. Takeshi Yamada (pictured 3rd down) is a world-renowned artist often creating masterpieces using horseshoe crab molts.
  10. Horseshoe crabs have remained fairly unchanged over the past 300 million years (that’s 100 million years before there were dinosaurs on earth!).
  11. Horseshoe crabs are the perfect representative for Darwin’s theory that ‘the most adaptable species will prevail’.
  12. Horseshoe crabs are one of the world’s oldest animals.
  13. Before the last ice age, horseshoe crabs didn’t live much farther north than Florida.
  14. Scientists believe that horseshoe crabs (even perhaps many different species of them) were among the most dominant of animals 300 million years ago.
  15. Horseshoe crabs used to be called ‘horsefoot crabs‘ because their shell was thought to resemble a horse hoof.bcs_limuluslove
  16. Horseshoe crabs are sometimes referred to as a ‘living fossil’.
  17. Adult horseshoe crabs are often referred to as ‘walking museums’.
  18. While horseshoe crabs are opportunistic feeders, they are not aggressive animals!
  19. Most people do not understand the value of horseshoe crabs.
  20. People have organized workshops to understand bait alternatives for using horseshoe crabs to catch eels and conch.
  21. Horseshoe crabs are “the single most-studied invertebrate animal in the world”.
  22. While a horseshoe crab’s telson (tail) helps to create the appearance for an intimidating animal, they are not dangerous animals!
  23. Horseshoe crabs are so misleading – they’re actually more closely related to scorpions and spiders than crabs!
  24. Horseshoe crabs do not have mandibles, antennae, or pincers like true crabs.
  25. Native Americans ate horseshoe crab meat, used the shell to bail water, and used the tail as a spear tip.
  26. A juvenile horseshoe crab is easily identifiable because they look just like adults (see 4th picture down).
  27. Horseshoe crabs molt, or as naturalist Samuel Lockwood stated, “it is spewing itself from its own mouth”.
  28. Horseshoe crab molts are excellent shelter for mud crabs, sand shrimp, and spider crabs.
  29. A female’s lucky number is 17. That’s how many times they’ve molted before they’re ready to mate.
  30. As a horseshoe crab gets older and molts more often, they venture into deeper waters.
  31. Each time a horseshoe crab molts they grow an average on 25%.
  32. A horseshoe crab exoskeleton is made up of chitin – a material with wound healing properties.
  33. Horseshoe crabs spend most of their lives hidden.
  34. At the turn of the 19th century, horseshoe crabs were valued as a fertilizer, particularly for poultry, corn, and tomatoes.
  35. Today fishermen use horseshoe crabs as bait to catch eels and whelk.
  36. The threatened loggerhead sea turtle feasts on adult horseshoe crabs.
  37. American eel, killifish, silversides, summer flounder, and winter flounder rely on horseshoe crabs eggs and larvae for food.
  38. Horseshoe crab eggs are green.
  39. Horseshoe crab eggs are rich in fat and protein.
  40. Horseshoe crabs are big midnight snackers and love to feast on worms and mollusks.Horseshoe-crab-eggs-larvae-visible
  41. The mouth of the horseshoe crab will tickle your fingers if you’re lucky enough to have a job where you get to show people how they eat.
  42. Horseshoe crabs use their legs to chew up food and guide food into their mouths right in between their legs.
  43. Horseshoe crab legs are so strong they can crush a clam.
  44. Horseshoe crabs are expert javelinists – using their telson (tail) to act as a rudder and right itself when it tips over.
  45. The 13 pairs of horseshoe crab appendages are very multipurpose – using them for locomotion. burrowing, food gathering, and/or water flow.
  46. Horseshoe crabs use their dozen legs to swim upside down in the open ocean.
  47. Horseshoe crabs (predictably) participate in an annual orgy each May and June when thousands descend on the eastern Atlantic coastline to spawn (see fourth image down).
  48. Horseshoe crabs have a ritual of spawning during high tides of the new and full moons in May and June.
  49. Horseshoe crabs reach sexual maturity around the ages of 9-12.
  50. Horseshoe crabs tend to live a long time, usually 10 years or so after they’ve sexually matured.
  51. If horseshoe crabs can keep their gills moderately damp their survive to the next high tide in case they were to get hsc_orgystranded.
  52. Horseshoe crabs are great vessels for other animals.
  53. The highest concentration of horseshoe crab spawning on the Atlantic coast takes places along the Delaware Bay.
  54. Approximately 10 horseshoe crabs will survive to adulthood from each of the 90,000 eggs a female lays during her spawning cycle.
  55. A female horseshoe crab will lay almost 20 clutches of eggs each season.
  56. It’s a community effort making certain the eggs get fertilized. Often times many males with aggregate to a female (the males not attached are known as ‘satellite’ males.
  57. In adult males, the second pair of claws (having a distinguishable “boxing-glove” appearance) are used to grasp females during spawning.
  58. If it wasn’t for horseshoe crab eggs, many migratory shorebirds wouldn’t be able to survive.
  59. Many think there is a link between the decline in shorebird populations and horseshoe crab over-harvesting.
  60. The four most abundant species of shorebirds (relying on horseshoe crab eggs) along the Delaware Bay shore are the red knot, ruddy turnstone, semipalmated sandpipers, and sanderlings.
  61. Almost 50% of the red knot population uses Delaware Bay as mid-point stopover to consume thousands of horseshoe crab eggs. These robin-sized birds impressively travel from southern Argentina to the Canadian high Arctic to breed.
  62. The horseshoe crab-shorebird phenomenon helps to generate a large portion of the $522 million  annual ecotourism industry in Cape May County, NJ.satmenhsc
  63. The world’s leading authority of horseshoe crabs is Dr. Carl N. Shuster, Jr.
  64. In March of 2001, NOAA Fisheries Service established the Dr. Carl N. Shuster, Jr. Horseshoe Crab Sanctuary in federal waters off of the  Delaware Bay.
  65. Horseshoe crab blood is blue (see 7th picture down).
  66. Horseshoe crab blood is blue because it contains copper-based hemocyanin to distribute oxygen throughout their bodies (We use an iron-based hemoglobin to move oxygen around).
  67. Horseshoe crabs are essential to biotechnology.
  68. Horseshoe crabs are one of the pioneers in using marine organisms to save human lives.
  69. Horseshoe crabs are what we have to thank for our flu shots.
  70. Horseshoe crabs are sometimes referred to as ‘man’s best friend’.
  71. Horseshoe crabs are often captured to have their blood drained, all in the name of science.
  72. Horseshoe crabs can be released after they have their blood drained.
  73. Horseshoe crab blood cells (amoebocytes) congeal and attach to harmful toxins produced by some types of gram negative bacterias.
  74. Limulus Amoebocyte Lysate (LAL) is the name of the clotting agent made using their blood to detect microbial pathogens in medical intravenous fluids, injectable drugs, and supplies.
  75. The global market for LAL is approximately $50 million per year.
  76. The adaptation for the ability of the horseshoe crab’s blood to congeal in the presence of either living or dead gram negative bacteria has never been able to be reproduced.
  77. Horseshoe crabs have used in the development of wound dressings and surgical sutures.
  78. Horseshoe crabs have a body shape that poses difficulty for predators.wireddotcom_drainblueblood
  79. Horseshoe crabs have ten eyes.
  80. The vision of a horseshoe crab is equally as impressive at night as it is during the day with the use of their lateral eyes.
  81. With a pair of compound eyes, each with 1,000 black disks, horseshoe crabs can see to each side, ahead, behind, and above.
  82. Scientists have learned quite a bit about how human eyes function from research with cells found in horseshoe crab eyes.
  83. Horseshoe crabs have a lateral inhibition mechanism using their eyes which allows them to distinguish mates in murky water.
  84. Horseshoe crabs need a book to breathe, that is – ‘book gills‘ to be more specific.
  85. Horseshoe crab gills have small flaps resembling the pages of a book.
  86. Horseshoe crabs tell time with their tail.
  87. Horseshoe crabs have a heart that cannot beat on its own.
  88. Horseshoe crabs eat through their brain.
  89. Horseshoe crabs chase females that run away!
  90. The black disks, also known as ‘ommatidia‘, found in the compound eyes of the horseshoe crab are the largest known retinal receptors in the animal kingdom.
  91. Horseshoe crabs are able to adapt to vast changes in salinity (i.e., they’re euryhaline).
  92. Horseshoe crabs are able to adapt to vast changes in oxygen availability (i.e., they’re euryoxic).
  93. Tracking juvenile horseshoe crabs with your eyes can be a great way to spend time at the beach.hsceyecloseup
  94. You can also track horseshoe crabs and other wildlife with your iPhone while at the beach.
  95. You can get involved in helping stranded horseshoe crabs and ‘Just flip ’em’ (see last picture).
  96. If you are a classroom teacher in Maryland you can raise horseshoe crabs as a way to increase student’s ocean literacy.
  97. Monitoring programs, like this one in Long Island Sound, are helping to advance the understanding of horseshoe crabs and their impact on humans.
  98. Development, pollution, water quality, and over harvesting have impaired the horseshoe crab’s habitat.
  99. Today and in the future we have the chance to protect horseshoe crab populations at a sustainable level for ecological and commercial uses.smilowitz

Strike a pose with Shark Stanley for shark conservation

Surely you’ve taken pictures with Flat Stanley, a tool used to advance children’s literacy – But, did you know that you can now take a shark on your adventures? Grab a Shark Stanley printout and show your support for shark conservation by participating in this initiative of the Shark Defenders. Help them reach their goal of collecting at least 5,000 photos! It’s important to gather these photos in time for the upcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meeting in March. Check out all the places Shark Stanley has been on the Instagram and Facebook pages!

Why is shark conservation important?

Sharks are in peril and overexploited due in major part to a voracious demand for shark fins, especially in Asian markets. Shark finning is the removal and retention of shark fins and  discarding the body at sea (The animal is often alive when tossed back into the water!). The Pew Environment Group estimates that “Up to 73 million sharks are killed every year to primarily support the global shark fin industry”. The underlying problem is that sharks grow slow, mature late, and produce few young over their long lifetime – meaning their populations recover slowly once depleted. Depleted populations affect the health of the entire ocean ecosystem. Here are some examples on how it’s all connected:

  • Sharks help maintain healthy fish stocks because they prey on vulnerable sick, diseased, or old animals – thereby, preventing disease or sickness from spreading.
  • Sharks have the ability to ensure we always have vital seagrass beds by controlling their prey, dugongs and green sea turtles – which forage in these beds. Healthy seagrass beds are essential for maintaining good water quality in our estuaries.
  • Sharks are the #1 draw for many divers providing a booming tourism industry to remote places that might not otherwise have a good economy.
Print Shark Stanley and take a picture with him showing your support. Don't forget to tag @SharkDefenders, #SharkStanley, and the country you live (i.e., #USA).

Print Shark Stanley and take a picture with him showing your support. Don’t forget to tag @SharkDefenders, #SharkStanley, and the country you live (i.e., #USA).

 

My favorite posts from 2012

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.

And here is one of my favorite images posted from this year:

taco_bcsberry

Share your love of the ocean with these unique and inspiring gifts

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): Avalon_CB-250x250This 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:

1. 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle
2. Lionfish puzzle from Fat Brain Toys
3. Sea life bath puzzle from Abe’s Market
4. Sea plane from Green Toys

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?

It’s a happy holidays giveaway

Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms by Richard Fortey

Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms by Richard Fortey

Let your heart be light … It’s officially the holiday season! I am seeing twinkling lights throughout the neighborhood, trees trimmed in the window, and I seem to be baking up a storm.

It’s also my favorite time of year to tell those around me how much I appreciate them. If you read this blog, ‘like’ Beach Chair Scientist on Facebook, or ‘follow’ Beach Chair Scientist on Twitter you’re certainly keeping me going and I am very grateful for your support. It’s been a fantastic adventure answering your questions and creating entertaining and educational answers. Also, it’s such a pleasure each time I (virtually) meet new people that continually inspire me.

From now until the end of Wednesday, December 12th I’ll throw your name into another giveaway to win a copy of the New York Times best seller, Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms by Richard Fortey, if you 1) comment on any post here or 2) comment on any post on Facebook or 3) retweet any content on Twitter (@bcsanswers). Each time you comment or retweet will be another chance to win. The book is an incredible gift for the natural history buff on your list or even for yourself!

Update (12/13/2012): Thanks to Random Picker for helping make the raffle so efficient! The winner of Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms is a Twitter follower! Thank you to everyone that participated your support means the world!

seal-en1

Monday Inspiration: Persian Ceiling by Dale Chihuly

This past weekend I took a road trip to Richmond, VA and was thrilled to be introduced to the ethereal artistry of the glassworks created by Dale Chihuly at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. In particular from this exhibit, the piece ‘Persian Ceiling‘ is an experience I wanted to share. As I gazed up into the illuminated glass ceiling with the gleaming and luminescent art densely piled up (practically to the sky!),  I was certain I had been transformed to another point in time.

It was as if I was witness to the Great Barrier Reef at its apex in species diversity and brilliance of color. I wondered how he created such movement in still objects – spectacular! No doubt I was head-over-heels impressed due to the beautiful daylight that was paired with the exhibit space. I also found it incredibly playful how Chiluly interspersed echinoderms, mollusks, and cephalopods to give the illusion that you’re indeed walking under the sea (see if you can spot them in the images below). If you have the opportunity, you cannot go wrong with investigating the work of Chihuly. If you’re lucky enough to see his work first hand, it will surely brighten your day and have your feeling inspired.

008

009

Images (c) Beach Chair Scientist

5 ocean-themed kid costumes from Etsy

It’s not too late to find a costume for your little one to show-off a growing love of the ocean for this Halloween! Here are five adorable costumes I found on Etsy that are worth some serious consideration. (The only reason I was looking was because I keep checking to see if anyone has made a horseshoe crab costume yet, no luck.)

Anglerfish from Pip and Bean

Fish from Laurie’s Gift

Orca from Pip and Bean

Tiger shark from Laurie’s Gift

Shark from Cute and Comfy Costumes

… and 2 bonus costumes for the canine family member.

Dog seahorse from hatzforbratz

Dog shark from Sew Dog Gone Creative

You otter know: It’s Sea Otter Awareness Week!

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.

Sea otter image (c) tomstick.com, river otter image (c) local.brookings.k12.sd.us

Sea otter image (c) tomstick.com, river otter image (c) local.brookings.k12.sd.us