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.

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/

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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.

Why you should never walk on dunes

It might seem nonsensical since the dunes look calm and peaceful, but it’s not a good idea to explore dunes. In addition to being illegal in many coastal towns, here are six other reasons why you should stay off the dunes:

1) Dunes store sand that help diminish potential shoreline erosion.
2) Dunes absorb the impact of storm surge and high waves.
3) Dunes prevent water from flooding coastal towns.
4) Dunes provide habitat and crucial nesting area for threatened and endangered species.
5) Dunes create a relaxing backdrop to any beach.
6) Dunes buffer the full force of the ocean and protect property.

BCS_Dunes

For more on dunes, their importance and role in beach ecology, check out the post “From Sandy, coastal towns learn ‘dune’ diligence. Is it enough?” written immediately after Hurricane Sandy.

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.

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

Here are pictures of the storm drain labeling event.

Have you visited the Sant Ocean Hall?

I’m lucky enough to live and work in the DC metro area, one of the biggest reasons I love this city (besides being able to feel the thrill and excitement of the Inauguration this past weekend) is the access to free museums. If you’re an ocean lover you might be surprised to know that there are some great spots to visit in DC in between all of the historical monuments you’re checking out. One of my favorite spots to check out on a rainy afternoon in the extension of the National Aquarium on 14th Street. Another fantastic spot would be the Sant Ocean Hall in the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History. It is the largest and one of the newest exhibits in the museum and contains over 674 specimens, including a replica of a 45-foot-long North Atlantic Right Whale (pictured below), fish x-rays, a scalloped hammerhead (below),  and a giant squid! I cannot wait to visit next month when there’s an exhibit of underwater pictures by Brian Skerry (check out his National Geographic Ocean Soul book here). The next time you’re in DC you have to make a point to visit, as they say “like the real ocean, the deeper visitors explore – the more they will discover”. My two-year old loved all of the interactive exhibits and the space was buzzing with enthusiastic school children. I was particularly happy that the exhibit hall was large enough that we were never on top of anyone and could always escape the ‘enthusiastic school children’. Here are some pictures from my visit on Friday.

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What they’re into … with Jessica Servis (Reach Program for US Sailing)

 

And so it concludes, this is the last installment of the “What Marine Conservationists Are Into …” series. This is a series I featured this summer to get a special sneak peek at the many different personalities behind the scientists, activists, and educators (including bloggers) who play an integral role in the marine science conservation field. It’s essentially an extension of the overwhelmingly popular and well done Tumblr blog, This Is What A Scientist Looks Like, (BCS was featured in April of 2012!) which sets out to illustrate that scientists are not just crazy haired nerds in lab coats. I sent a list of 15 random questions and asked that each person share at least their answers to 5 of them.

Rounding out the esteemed group is Jessica Servis, a fellow Cape May County comrade. I love her quote at the end of the biography – It’s all about the little things. Thank you to everyone that participated in this series. It’s been an honor getting to know you all!

Jessica Servis run the Reach Program at US Sailing, educating youth in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) and Environmental Stewardship while utilizing sailing as the platform. The Reach Program is currently piloting the program at Community Boating Center in Providence, Rhode Island, the Edison Sailing Center in Fort Myers Florida, New England Science and Sailing in Stonington, Connecticut, Clearwater Community Sailing in Clearwater, Florida, and Sail Sand Point in Seattle, Washington.

Jessica has a Masters in Special Education from Rowan University, an undergraduate degree in Marketing and Public Relations. She has waitressed, bartended, worked in public relations in Atlantic City, taught kids with special needs in grades 1-8 at Oceanside Charter School in Atlantic City, started a non-profit and sailed competitively in college at Salisbury University. Jessica home schooled her oldest son for 2 years and loved every moment of traveling and learning together. She couldn’t be happier to work from home for US Sailing on the Reach program part time creating programs for youth nationwide. She loves to travel and learn new things. Jessica is mom to three wonderful little boys; Tristan 11, Caleb 5, and Nolan 3. One of her favorite things to do is spend time with them. They are all inspired by the sea and its creatures.

Jessica states, “As a special education teacher I have a passion for education, but what I love the most is teaching children to appreciate the little things. It is amazing what kids can learn from a walk on the beach, or day on the water. They hold those moments dear to their heart for ever.”

What is the last thing you bought that you shouldn’t have?
New black T-strap high heels, I am a flip flops kind of girl, I should embrace it.

What is your favorite fruit flavor?
Blueberry. I love Jersey Fresh homemade jersey blueberry jam.

What is your favorite Sunday breakfast?
My favorite Sunday breakfast is a cup of coffee and a walk on the beach.

What’s your favorite midnight snack?
Popcorn.

Are you a night owl or a morning person?
I am a morning person. I love to see the sunrise. There is something about the smell of daybreak by the water, it cleanses your soul.

What is your favorite room in your home?
The kitchen, I love to cook, especially with my little helpers.

Which sitcom character do you relate to?
I don’t watch television very much, but I would say Elaine from Seinfeld.

What is your favorite scent?
New England in the morning

What is your favorite sundae topping?
Rainbow jimmies (not Sprinkles)

What is your favorite pastime?
Sailing with kids and adults with special needs. I was the former Executive Director of Just-Sailing and we focused on accessible sailing. I wish I could start another program that focused on teaching people with special needs how to sail. The feeling of freedom and independence on the water is contagious.

What three things would you take with you to an island?
A fishing pole, a seine net, and a bucket. You never know what you might find.

How superstitious are you?
Not at all

What is your favorite day of the week?
Sunday, it’s family day. In the summer we spend Sunday’s at the beach with all of my cousins and their children. We order pizza, swim, fish, surf, build sand castles, collect shells, and laugh a lot.

Are you a cat person, dog person, or neither?
I am a dog person. Our dog Blue, (yes, like Blue’s Clues) is a black lab, she loves the boat and beach as much as I do.

If you were a geometric shape, what would you like to be?
I would be a pyramid; I have a strong foundation, with many different areas of interest. I work hard to achieve new heights never changing my foundation, always adding to it.

What’s some other random favorite information about you?
I learn something from every person that I meet. People are very interesting creatures especially the Beach Chair Scientist.

10 tips for a successful beachcombing trip

It’s my favorite time of year. This is the best time to explore the beach. It’s still sunny and warm, there are frequent storms (you’ll see why that matters later), and there are few people on the beach. For another six weeks along the mid-Atlantic (before it gets too cold), I encourage you to spend some time getting to know your local shoreline. Here are 10 tips for a successful beachcombing trip.

10. What to bring. Here is a list of some items you may want to remember so you’re prepared for any situation.

  • Often the beach is considerably cooler than inland so bring layers. You may want to wear hiking pants and bring a zippered sweatshirt so you’re equipped with lots of pockets for some other items that might be essential.
  • Make sure to have some appropriate soles. Sure it’s our instinct to be barefoot, however if you want to venture out along the jetties or rocks make sure you have some old sneakers or those water shoes with some decent grip (After all, you don’t want to ruin your adventure with a puncture to some sharp object). Also, the water might be a little cooler than you’d prefer and some good foot cover will allow you to wade into a tide pool.
  • Make sure to have a watch.
  • Even during the off-season the sun is shining and is strong enough to give you a burn. Make sure to bring along a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
  • It’s always a good idea to bring a shovel, grabber sick, or even a metal detector so you can gently investigate inside crevices and below the sand.
  • You are going to want to cherish the moments so find that camera and try to make a neck strap so it’s always handy. You can take pictures of items you find and want to learn about later. You’ll also want to catalog those smiles in the sun.
  • Take along a small (i.e., not heavy) identification book so you can learn more about what you find while on your outing.

9. Be hands free. One more item that you’re going to love me for suggesting is a backpack. This way you can investigate a little bit further from your base and your items are quickly at your disposal.

8. Leave important items behind. Don’t ruin the day by losing a credit card or your phone. If you’re active and in the moment you might lose something and it’s going to be difficult to retrace your steps. I won’t say “I told you so”. On the same note it’s important to leave animals, plants, rocks, and seashells where you find them. If you want to have a little bit of the beach in your home check out these great books by Josie Iselin.

7. When to go. To get the optimum experience for beachcombing you’ll want to check on when low tide is at your beach spot. The best time to go beachcombing is 2-3 hours prior to low tide or an hour or so after (This is why a watch is important, you don’t want to get stuck on  shoal during high tide). Many intertidal animals live under the water in the sand during high tide, but come out to play (and seek out food) during low tide. If you can time it so you get to check out the beach after a big storm you’ll be in for a real treat. The strong wind and wave action of storms will wash up a fossils, bones, seaweed, and lot of other interesting treasures from the ocean floor. Also, keep in mind that dawn and dusk are difficult times to identify beach treasures. Although this is a great time to spot birds as many fish tend to come up to the surface at these times.

6. Where to go. My favorite spot to beachcomb is the Stone Harbor Point in NJ, but it’s not always easy for me to get there these days. I like to remind myself from time to time that I don’t need an ocean to beachcomb. There is a lake and creek in my neighborhood and these spots are a great place to spend the afternoon. After all, these waterways eventually lead to the ocean.  No matter where I decide to spend some time beachcombing I always make sure to note the general water quality.

5. Be careful. This is just a reminder to not tamper with obviously dangerous items. Fish hooks, metal canisters, and needles often wash up on the beach. While I am going to also suggest doing your part and picking up marine debris it’s also a good idea to err on the side of caution and when poking around. Also, some rocks look very steady but it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. If you are feeling like having an adventurous day it’s might be a good idea to make sure you have someone else with you. One last thing about being careful,even though the dunes might look like an interesting place to check out – it’s important to know that those grasses are incredibly brittle and can crack easily. It’s also against the law to walk on the dunes. The dunes are an important part of the beach ecosystem as they protect our homes from storm surge.

4. Leave it be. Each rock that you turn over is part of an ecosystem. A rock might be an essential part of an animal’s home as it helps pool water during high tide. Rocks also protect them from predator as well as the sun. It’s important to always remember to not take animals out of their natural setting – especially if you see them in a tide pool. Many animals are naturally attached to rocks for survival and you could be risking their survival.

3. Play. You might not want to go home, but you also might be in the company of some people that just don’t have a very long attention span. Even more frustrating is repeating the phrase, “No, you cannot go in the water today” over and over again. Build a sandcastle. Look to the horizon for dolphins or porpoises. Make a sand angel. Look up to the sky for cloud animals. Check out my ebook for other beachcombing adventures.

Image (c) Marine Debris Tracker

2. Bag it and track it. It’s always nice to be prepared to be able to do your part. I prefer to take along a hefty canvas bag that can fit in a backpack so I can tote marine debris back to a garbage can. You might even try to acquire one of these nifty bags with holes for sand to percolate through from the Green Bag Lady. When you head back to the car you can even do some citizen science and log your marine debris on the Marine Debris Tracker.

1. Don’t expect too much. It’s important to remember to relax and respect the area you are exploring. All of the ideas above are simply suggestions and ideas to ensure you get the most out of  a beachcombing adventure. Please don’t hesitate to share your favorite stories, spots, and other ideas for a great day. You can comment below of email me at info@beachchairscientist.com.

5 on-the-ground warriors for marine debris

I’ll be incredibly frank and honest and say that I do not do as much on-the-ground ocean activism as I’d like to do these days. I do participate the occasion stream clean-up and rally from time to time, but with a full-time job and a family including an active toddler, time is scarce and I’m lucky if I can pull it together to write a post or two or marine debris. Since this upcoming weekend is the annual International Coastal Cleanup I wanting to take the time to send a shout out and a huge virtual dose of gratitude for 5 very active on-the-ground marine debris and ocean activists. If you have the chance, check out what they’re doing as I know every time I read up on what they’re accomplishing I am continually inspired. As a matter of fact, you’ll have the chance to get to know one of them a little bit more in-depth tomorrow as a part of the “What Marine Conservationists Are Into …” series. (On a side note, all of my Virginia friends and family should be on the lookout because I am gearing up to gather a crowd to participate in the Virginia Waterways Cleanups!)

Sarah Bayles of The Daily Ocean
Sarah is steadfastly collecting trash from the same beach for 20 minutes at a time for 365 non-consecutive days to “raise awareness for how much trash is on our beaches and getting into the ocean, that the solutions start with us right here on land, and that everyday we can make choices in what we consume and buy that can add up to make a difference”. Her work ethic is inspiring and she’s diligent in posting the weight of the trash she collects. At the point I write this post she collected 1,234.3 pounds in 325 days.

Danielle Richardet of It Starts With Me
Just like Sarah of Our Daily Ocean, Danielle spends 20 minutes a day cleaning a beach but in Wrightsville Beach, NC and she’s focused on finding cigarette butts. Here incredibly positive message is that “It’s simple…everything we do (or don’t do) has an impact on the world we live in. It starts with me and ripples to you…”. I wish Danielle the best as she continues her quest to “create a smoke-free beach and have proper cigarette butt disposal receptacles installed on Wrightsville Beach”. Can you believe she’s collected 50,129 cigarette butts in 156 days?

Harold Johnson of The Flotsam Diaries
Harold Johnson has been researching and collecting marine debris weekly at two very different sites (one active by beachgoers and one non-active) in Maine since June of 2010. As he puts it, “I’m hoping to learn something about the debris that arrives at the beach both by regular beachgoers, and by actions of wave & wind”. You can read his findings weekly on his blog or get some more detailed reviews of his research at Scientific American.

Cheryl ‘Sandy’ King of Sharkastics
Cheryl is interested in everything ocean-related, but has found a niche spreading the word all about sharkastics. Sharkastics are what she has termed “plastics that have obvious bite marks (e.g., jagged serrations and/or punctures). She posts many images of the debris she finds and is more than happy to share them for educational purposes (although she requests you share with her how you use them).

Tim Silverwood of Take 3: A Clean Beach Initiative
Tim is a surfer and plastic pollution spokesperson based in Australia. In 2009, he and his compadres began thinking about proactive ways the public could reduce the amount of waste entering the oceans. The Take-3 initiative was born. As the website states, “The ‘Take 3’ message is simple: take 3 pieces of rubbish when you leave the beach, waterway or…anywhere and you have made a difference”.

Here is a powerful and beautifully done depiction on why everyone is responsible for marine debris. Thanks to designer and illustrator Jenny Wang for reminding us that it is not just those that live near an ocean who contribute to ocean pollution.

What they’re into … with Greg and Jody (Beach Treasures and Treasure Beaches)

Happy Tuesday! I am sure you know by now, but this is a series I have been featuring each Tuesday this summer to get a special sneak peek at the different personalities behind the scientists, activists, and educators (including bloggers) who play an integral role in the marine science conservation field. It’s essentially an extension of the overwhelmingly popular and well done Tumblr blog, This Is What A Scientist Looks Like, (BCS was featured in April!) which sets out to illustrate that scientists are not just crazy haired nerds in lab coats. I’ve sent a list of 15 random questions to some folks I know and asked that each person share at least their answers to 5 of them. Today It’s a two for one deal with Greg and Jody Diehl, from Beach Treasures and Treasure Beaches.

Greg and Jody of Beach Treasures and Treasure Beaches, in Venice, CA

Greg has lived around water all of his entire life … that is until he moved to New Mexico to start a business. Growing up in Wisconsin lakes, rivers, and beaches were never far away. And, after joining the Navy he basically lived on the water!  From the Red Sea to the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, and through the major canals, he’s literally been around the world.  He and his wife, Jody, have always enjoyed beaches, boats,  and vacations by the sea!

Jody is a beachcomber to the core. She says, “any beach, any time”. She collects seashells, beach glass, beach rocks, travel books, photos, and very happy memories. Family and friends make the best day at the beach even better for her. She grew up in Chicago with 26 miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline. Having traveled to 49 states (Alaska, she’s on her way!) and many foreign countries, she always find myself gravitating to the shorelines and beaches.

Greg and Jody have been married for 35 years.  They have three wonderful daughters, one super son-in-law, and two beautiful grandchildren. Their middle and youngest daughters are “Treasure Hunters” on the site and their oldest daughter is a frequent contributor. The family (including adorable grandchildren) is often pictured on the blog’s posts. Beach Treasures and Treasure Beaches has become quite a family affair!

What is your favorite Sunday breakfast?
We both agree: Greg’s delicious homemade cinnamon rolls.

Which sitcom character do you relate to?
Tim, The Tool Man, Taylor and his lovely wife, Jill. (Home Improvement)

What is your favorite pastime?
Besides beachcombing, tide pooling, and anything beach related? Pretty much anything that includes our two grandchildren is a winner. We love to get out and hike, make it to UNM Lobo baseball games, and attend any concert or event in which our kids are performing!

What three things would you take with you to an island?
A yacht and our two grandchildren.

Are you a night owl or a morning person?
We’re both morning people.  That means that we are up to watch the sunrise on the beach when we are on vacation.  At home Jody’s motto is: If it’s not on my desk by 10:00 AM, I’ll get to it tomorrow!

What is your favorite room in your home?
Our favorite room in the house is our entry/sunroom. But we especially enjoy the backyard patio.  Living in Albuquerque, we can enjoy the outdoors year round.  Our family loves to eat our meals outside in the fresh, New Mexico air.

What is your favorite sundae topping?
Carmel for Greg, marshmallow cream for Jody.

Don’t forget to read the rest of the “What they’re into …” series.

What are the world’s largest oceans and seas?

Great question! Here is a quick break down of the world’s largest oceans and seas using the size information found in the descriptions from The World’s Biggest Oceans & Seas by Our Amazing Planet.

If you have another question please don’t hesitate to find me on Twitter using @bcsanswers or just email info@beachchairscientist.com. Have a great beachcombing weekend!

Also, here is a map to reference each body of water listed above.