5 must-see movies on marine debris

I am so excited to be in a town that is committed to reducing the use of plastic. Oak Park, IL will be implementing a 10-cent tax starting January 1, 2018. As trustee of Bob Tucker noted in August 2017, “What we’re really trying to do is change habits.”   Change for the good lawmakers … my favorite. Why should we care about changing the way we use plastic?

  1. In the ocean there are approximately 5.25 trillion plastic particles.
  2. For every foot of coastline there is approximately five grocery bags filled with plastic, according to estimates in 2010.
  3. Six continents have microfiber washing up on their shores.
  4. Each year, 8.8 million tons of plastic goes into the oceans.
  5. On average, Americans use 220 pounds of plastic per year.

If you want something MUCH more entertaining, and probably up-to-date, than my list of quick stats above here are some must-see films that are worth downloading for the treadmill or even showing in the classroom or your next community event.

A Plastic Ocean (2016/1h 40m/Netflix): Documents the newest science, proving how plastics, once they enter the oceans, break up into small particulates that enter the food chain where they attract toxins like a magnet. These toxins are stored in seafood’s fatty tissues, and eventually consumed by us.

The Plastic Age: A Documentary feat. Pharrell Williams (2014/17m/YouTube): We all talk about the Stone Age, the Iron Age and the Bronze Age, but what era are we living in right now? People are starting to refer to us as the – far less romantic – Plastic Age.

From the Waste Up – Life Without Plastic (2013/1h 16m/Vimeo for $4 rental or $8 purchase to download): Follows the lives of 19 people as they attempt to live without plastic. It explores the concepts of consumerism, waste, and convenience as well as the great abundance in going without. Live vicariously plastic-free as you watch these families navigate through this disposable world. 

Plastic Paradise – The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (2014/1h 25m/for purchase but also available on YouTube): Thousands of miles away from civilization, Midway Atoll is in one of the most remote places on earth. And yet its become ground zero for The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, siphoning plastics from three distant continents. In this independent documentary film, journalist/filmmaker Angela Sun travels on a personal journey of discovery to uncover this mysterious phenomenon.

Bag It (2010/78m; educational version 45 and 65m): What starts as a film about plastic bags evolves into a wholesale investigation into plastic’s effects on our oceans, environment, and bodies. We see how our crazy-for-plastic world has finally caught up to us…and what we can do about it.

UPDATED:

Also, an important addition to the list I forgot about is Smog of the Sea. You can get a free download link for the film, released in 2017, here. The music and cinematography (in part) are by the musician Jack Johnson and as the film overview summarizes, “The Smog of the Sea chronicles a 1-week journey through the remote waters of the Sargasso Sea. Marine scientist Marcus Eriksen invited onboard an unusual crew to help him study the sea: renowned surfers Keith & Dan Malloy, musician Jack Johnson, spearfisher woman Kimi Werner, and bodysurfer Mark Cunningham become citizen scientists on a mission to assess the fate of plastics in the world’s oceans.”


Oh, one more here. I am hoping to catch Straws SOON … maybe I can bring it to my new town and more change will come:

Straws (2017/1h 10m): “I highly recommend STRAWS as an educational and entertaining film about plastic pollution. Its brisk and engaging storytelling uses humor, fairness and heart to inspire plastic use changes we all can do…especially no plastic straws!” – Actor and Environmentalist Ed Begley Jr.

UPDATED: I actually just requested a free download for preview purposes so I’ll post on that later this week. Thank you #strawsthemovie.

I am really hoping that since folks finally are able to let go of plastic bags and soon straws that balloons will be around the corner. Anything that’s more harm than good is not worth it … kids don’t know if they just don’t see them. Check out some alternatives to balloons at your next celebration here.

Wednesday Wisdom: Susan Rockefeller

Susan Rockefeller is the CEO and Founder of Protect What Is Precious and Editor-In-Chief of Musings Magazine.

Find more great ocean and conservation quotes here and please feel free to share with your friends and family!

Also, ask away! If you have a question about something you found on the beach or just something you’re curious about just send an email to info@beachchairscientist.com or tweet us!

My awesome, overprotective mom and horseshoe crabs

limuluslove_beachchairscientistwebNo joke. I like horseshoe crabs, but not more than my family. Especially my mom. Let me tell you a story about how incredible she was one particular evening in early June. It was probably about 2002 and I was a seasonal employee for the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife. The job was awesome in every sense. Except the hours … either really early for tagging stripers along the Delaware Bay or really late to survey HORSESHOE CRABS!

In case you haven’t heard watching the horseshoe crabs come up to the wrackline to spawn is an incredible experience (check out my post on the short and sweet of horseshoe crab spawning here). You might see some Limulus polyphemus the nights near a full moon or new moon right as the sun is going down. But, it’s not until the tide is at its highest point that the ancient fossils really come out of their hiding spots. 2.IMGP1651-Photograph-James-Bulley-1024x680My co-workers and I went about as normal for this event and used the  quadrat to estimate the amount of females and males every six steps (the females are much bigger!). We’d log the numbers on a clipboard. After the length of the beach that was our responsibility we’d head home. It was about 2am one particular morning when we finally made it back to the van. I also worked as a waitress in the summer so it had been a long day. The data sheet was my responsibility. It blew away. It’s really windy by the sea usually!

We didn’t fudge any numbers. I went back the next night … but, not alone. My amazing, overprotective mom came with me. After all, I had to drive about an hour to a small town along the Delaware Bay in the middle of the night. It was going above and beyond. I mean, she’s not a nature-type so this was in pure mama bear mode that she made the trek with me. It was incredible … my mom was totally amazed by the phenomenon too. One minute there were about fifteen horseshoe crabs and the next hour as soon as high tide occurred they were covering the beach! That night I was able to share my love of teaching and horseshoe crabs with someone I loved. She exuded such enthusiasm that I have no doubt it’s one reason I keep this blog and it’s focus of all things horseshoe crabs going. She might have been pulling my arm and thought the whole experience was really gross and icky, but parents know how to let their kids shine and that’s just fine with me.

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NOAA’S Ocean Today provides a great view of the field experience, too. Yes, I did wear a headlamp like those citizen scientists.

What citizen science projects have you participated in lately? Check out what’s going one here.

Wednesday Wisdom: Albert Einstein

lookintonature_beachchairscientist

Find more great ocean and conservation quotes here and please feel free to share with your friends and family!

Also, ask away! If you have a question about something you found on the beach or just something you’re curious about just send an email to info@beachchairscientist.com or tweet us!

Are we breaking up with Mother Nature?

Has it gotten to the point that when you do connect with Mother Nature it seems like an awkward hug? It’s been said time and time again that we’re better off taking a step away from technology to reconnect with Mother Nature as a regular part of our daily lives.

The benefits of establishing a relationship with Mother Nature are tremendous. Kids will grow more confident and be better critical thinkers when they are  trusted to play outside and explore, their vocabulary will increase exponentially once they’re not staring at a television set for more than two hours a day, Americans of all ages will not be as obese or depressed if we get off the couch and get outside. But, as we know from the countless authors that have documented the benefits to getting outside and into nature (Louv, Ratey, Sampson) there are also significant challenges. Isn’t that always the case when one is reconnecting with a long-lost family member?

There are so many reasons not to bother. I hear quite often that, actually no – strike that … I find myself saying these things all too often … “The modern suburbs are designed with cars in mind.” “It’s a different world than when I was a kid and there is increased risks with having your children wander off.” “I live somewhere that is quite different ecologically than where I grew up and I am scared of the unknown.” “I work full-time outside of the house and the weekends are fairly structured.” National Wildlife Federation has even been posting recently how “we are a nation of people who are afraid of the outdoors.” But, the authors I mentioned above aren’t pulling this out of thin air and aren’t specifically talking about the importance of nature’s impacts on children.

Who am I kidding though? Like any relationship … reconnecting cannot be forced. However, it is going to take initiative on our part as parents. I plan to do it with lots of baby steps.  If you, the reader of this post, are inspired to get outside and let go more there is a high likelihood that curious little minds will follow. And, in an effort to spark some motivation here is a listing of some fun ways to wander through a favorite secluded spot.

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What are some of your challenges in getting outside and wandering aimlessly? Where are your favorite spots to wander?

 

Marine Mammal Monday: The Marine Mammals of Virginia

From Robert A. Blaylock of Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) (thirty years ago!) is a pretty fun guide to look through if you’re into historical documents. Yes, that would be me. It is not very up to date on endangered species listing, but was does a fantastic job setting out on its intention “To aid citizens in identification, this guide describes the natural history of marine mammals. This guide is organized by taxonomic orders and families; within a subfamily, species are listed by their frequency of appearance in Virginia waters. Space limits descriptions of the species’ habitats and distributions to the western North Atlantic.”

Find more Marine Mammal Monday here!

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Eight citizen science projects for your day at the beach (one for every day of your beach week + a bonus)

Do you have one (or several!) of those kids just itching to be future marine scientists? It’s time to take the beach day up one more notch. Here are some citizen science projects that will definitely be lots of fun for the whole family. Trust me … they’re free and easy!

Field Photo: The Field Photo App allows you take photos during your trips to the beach (or even field trips) and geotag them and add metadata and field notes to the photos. The field photos are then uploaded where people share, visualize and archive field photos that document land use and land cover change, flood, drought, fire, and so on.

Image (c) The Shark Trust

Image (c) The Shark Trust

Great Eggcase Hunt Project: The Great Eggcase Hunt aims to get as many people as possible hunting for eggcases that have either been washed ashore (or are found by divers and snorkelers underwater). The empty eggcases (or mermaid’s purses) are an easily accessible source of information on the whereabouts of potential nursery grounds and will provide the Trust with a better understanding of species abundance and distribution. While it originated in the UK over a decade ago, The Shark Trust has been collecting data in the US since 2003.

Jellywatch: Have you seen a jellyfish, red tide, a squid, or other unusual marine life recently? If so, tell them about it! Marine biologists need your help to develop a better understanding of the ocean. You can help us even more by submitting a picture of what you saw!

Marine Debris Tracker: The simple tool allows users to report the type of debris and its location through GPS features pre-installed on a cell phone. (Check out this list of apps for the beach, too!)

Osprey Watch: OspreyWatch is a global community of observers focused on documenting breeding osprey. There is no charge to participate and we welcome new volunteers to the program.

Image (c) Andrew Baksh

Image (c) Andrew Baksh

Ringed-Billed Gulls: In 2013, researchers from MIT and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation started using the same scheme as the project originators in Canada using blue or red plastic bands and 3 codes to band ring-billed sea gulls. Nearly 700 birds have been marked.

If you observed one of these banded gulls, you can report your sighting using an online form.

Secchi Dip-In: The Secchi Dip-In is a demonstration of the potential of volunteers to monitor and gather environmentally important information on our lakes, rivers and estuaries. The concept of the Dip-In is simple: individuals in volunteer monitoring programs take a transparency measurement on one day during the month of July (but, they accept data after the deadline as well).

Wildlife Health Event Reporter: The Wildlife Health Event Reporter allows you to observe and record events that may identify important changes in the environment. It’s an experimental tool that hopes to harness the power of the many eyes of the public to better detect these changes.

Wednesday Wisdom: Sarah Kay

Becausebeautiful_BCS

Find more great ocean and conservation quotes here and please feel free to share with your friends and family!

Also, ask away! If you have a question about something you found on the beach or just something you’re curious about just send an email to info@beachchairscientist.com or tweet us!

Five fun ways for the kids (and, you!) to share a love of nature this summer

  1. Antarctic Art  Contest: Students and professionals alike are invited to submit written or visual pieces about the WAIS Divide. Specifically, it’s suggested that pieces focus on water isotopes, CO2 and methane gases, radar imagery, or imagery of ice samples. Deadline is October 1st.
  2. Children’s Art Mangrove Calender: Elementary-aged school children invited to create art expressing “Why mangroves are important to my community and me”. Deadline is July 31st.
  3. National Marine Sanctuary “Classic”: This photography contest runs from July 4th-September 7th. Each week one winner is selected and at the end thirteen winners receive scholarships. Photos are based on all or a combination of: Kids Fishing, Kids and Family Values, Kids in the Outdoors, Kids in the Sanctuaries and Kids’ Conservation within each individual National Marine Sanctuary.
  4. “Nature Investigators” Contest: There is one photography contest specific for environmental educators and then a writing and art contest for the kids. Deadline for both is August 14th.
  5. Ranger Rick’s Photo Contest: This is an ongoing photography contest for kids 13 years old and under.
The earth without "art" is just "eh" {unknown}

The earth without “art” is just “eh” {unknown}

 

Nine signs of summer you’re still a kid at heart

I just got back from a little family vacation where we went to the luxurious place I called home for many years (i.e., “the Jersey shore”). Don’t get me wrong, being with the kids any day takes my breath away (from both ends of the spectrum, let’s be honest). But, spending time along the Atlantic coast on the barrier island where I grew up (as a local, not just “for the summers”) is such a different experience with the kids (four and one) is a remarkable opportunity to really settle and enjoy each moment through their eyes. Here are some fun ways that not only I, but the older family members around me, came to enjoy living like a kid again. Please feel free to comment and share what makes you feel like a kid again too.

9SignsEndlessSummer