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

Heeeeeeeere’s Carson (Rachel)!

Spring time is right around the corner (or so I hope) and with the change comes migrating birds of course!

One of my favorite sites is a female osprey tending her nest on an uplifted platform.

Each time I see one I am so grateful for Rachel Carson who had the courage and gumption to write Silent Spring. The book was published in 1962 as the launching pad for the environmental movement. The subject matter was the basis to ban the pesticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT, in 1972. Ms. Carson was able to link DDT to a decrease in the thickness of the eggs of large birds of prey, such as the bald eagle and osprey. This led to very few bald eagles and ospreys being born.

Although, sometimes I feel a lot of distress being an environmentalist one major success is the increase in numbers of mating pairs of ospreys since the ban on DDT. I am proud to say that prior the the ban there was fewer than 8,000 pairs and almost thirty years there are approximately 16,000 pairs. This is yet, another reason to say “Go Ospreys!” other than the fact that they are my college mascot.

Image (c) Fish and Wildlife Service.

Do you have another great question for the Beach Chair Scientist? E-mail info@beachchairscientist.com or just let us know at http://www.beachchairscientist.com.

What is marine spatial planning?

I will get into more detail quickly, but, want to mention that marine spatial planning is gaining a lot of momentum these days because it is part of creating the National Ocean Policy.

A National Ocean Policy was recommended by the Pew Oceans Commission (in 2003) and the US Commission on the Oceans (in 2004) after these organizations observed that the ocean is “ruled” by over 140 different laws and 20 different organizations to implement these laws. Currently, there is an Ocean Policy Task Force working diligently to streamline the governance of the ocean. Last month, the Task Force released a framework for creating the National Ocean Policy (open for comment until mid-February 2010).

This framework for creating the National Ocean Policy has some core themes that may already be clear to you. For instance, for the planning of the policy the Task Force wants to create an atmosphere of transparency and make certain that all stakeholders have the opportunity to voice their opinions and ask questions about the changes that may occur. Also, the Task Force wants to plan and implement the policy with (not for) state, tribal, regional and local authorities.

The framework for creating a National Ocean Policy also has some core themes that are rather new to traditional ocean governance.

First, the framework mentions that the Task Force will use scientific data (coupled with traditional knowledge) when making decisions.

Secondly, and this brings it full circle, the Task Force will take an approach called Marine Spatial Planning when creating the new laws that will eventually come to be known as the National Ocean Policy.

Marine spatial planning is a unique way to look at the ocean and who uses it. For instance, when we look at the Gulf coast of Florida it is a patchwork of various authorities. There are fishery management plans, marine protected areas, and oil and gas leases that mandate permissions to that coastal area. Marine spatial planning will consolidate and bring these patches together for a better understanding of what and who is using our oceans. Imperative to the concept of marine spatial planning are good maps (see below for example). These maps will help create less conflict and more comprehensive approaches to how we use our oceans. Rhode Island and Massachusetts already have marine spatial planning as a tool for making decisions.

image (c) Ocean Conservancy.

Want to tell President Obama

you support the creation of

a National Ocean Policy? Write him a letter.

Do you have another great question for the Beach Chair Scientist? E-mail info@beachchairscientist.com or enter it at http://www.beachchairscientist.com.

What is a Marine Protected Area (MPA)?

“A marine protected area (MPA) in the ocean is similar in concept to what a national park is on the terrestrial environment.” Shifting Baselines

There are many terms that mean ‘MPA’, including: sanctuaries, parks, preserves, or natural areas. All of these areas have some boundary in the oceans and are protected by either the Department of the Interior (National Park Service) or the Department of Commerce (National Ocean Atmospheric Administration).

Not all MPAs are completely closed off for human use. Each MPA has various characteristics delineated to it based upon the best circumstances for various stakeholders.

The characteristics are 1) conservation (natural, cultural and/or sustainable), 2) protection level (zoned, zoned with no-take areas, uniformed, no take, no impact, or no access), 3) permanence of protection (permanent, conditional, or temporary), 4) constancy of protection (year-round, seasonal, or rotating), 5) ecological scale of protection (ecosystem or focal resource).

Cape Hatteras, N.C. was the first marine protected area established in 1975.

MPAs are not new management tools but are gaining new momentum as a conservation tool. Watch this PSA with folks from Scrubs, January Jones, and Pierce Brosnan about supporting MPAs off California.

If you have another great question go ahead and e-mail info@beachchairscientist.com or just enter it at http://www.beachchairscientist.com.

National Wear Blue for Oceans Day – January 13, 2010

BCSwearblueforoceans

What: Wear Blue for Oceans Day

Who: You and thousands of other that want to protect, maintain and restore the oceans, coasts, estuaries and Great Lakes

Where: Lafayette Park, across from the White House

When: January 13, 2010 at noon – Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow!

Why: To let the Obama Administration know you support a national oceans policy

Don’t forget … if you have any questions e-mail info@beachchairscientist.com.

Image (c) me.

A plea of the manatee

In early 2009 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) reported that there was a significant increase in the population of the West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus), a marine mammal. Almost a year later it was reported that there was a record number of deaths of manatees.

Even though the FWCC pointed out that there may have been more manatees reported in the 2009 populations since the count was done after several cold fronts had clustered the manatees together, was there too much confidence in the public after hearing the news that the public didn’t think they had to participate in best practices to save the manatee? Just an idea.

What are those best practices? Follow no wake signs and do not enter prohibited wildlife sanctuaries, do not feed or touch manatees from a boat, and use snorkel gear (it is not as loud and intrusive to the manatees). Call 1-888-404-FWCC if you were to see an injured, dead, tagged or orphaned manatee.

Do you have a question for the Beach Chair Scientist? E-mail info@beachchairscientist.com.

Image (c) USGS.

Swiped bass

The striped bass (Morone saxatilis) is the state fish of Maryland, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and the state saltwater fish of New York and New Hampshire. The fish is commonly referred to as the rockfish. The fish supports a $6.5 billion per year industry with 60,000 jobs as a recreational game species. Read more about this in the November 22, 2009 article in the Washington Times, “Anglers serve time for black-market rockfish trade” by Jim McElhatton.

Image (c) Fish and Wildlife Service via wikimedia

If you have any questions please e-mail beachchairscientist@gmail.com or let us know at http://www.beachchairscientist.com.

Her name is (Sylvia) Earle

Sylvia_EarleI was watching the October 13, 2009 episode of the Colbert Report on Comedy Central and was pleasantly surprised to when Stephen interviewed Sylvia Earle. Ms. Earle is a very accomplished ocean explorer.

She just put out (yet another – yeah!) book, The World Is Blue: How Our Fate And The Oceans Are One.

So, who is Sylvia Earle? She is just a girl, originally born in New Jersey, and when she was still young moved with her parents  to the Gulf of Mexico. There she gravitated to the mystical, open ocean and never looked back. She has more than 125 publication about her ocean explorations, including: Exploring the Deep Frontier, Sea Change (1995), Wild Ocean: America’s Parks Under the Sea (1999) and The Atlas of the Ocean (2001).

Here are some other mighty impressive accomplishments for this 74 year old woman:

  • She has been a National Geographic Explorer in Residence since 1998.
  • She founded Deep Ocean Exploration and Research (DOER), now DOER Marine Operations, to design, operate, support and consult on manned and robotic sub sea systems.
  • She has led more than 50 expeditions worldwide involving in excess of 6,000 hours underwater in connection with her research.
  • She led the first team of women aquanauts during the Tektite Project in 1970 and holds a depth record for solo diving.

And, I think this is a very appropriate mantra for the Beach Chair Scientists out there:

I can still feel that leap of enthusiasm, and real joy, at the prospect of finally getting out to the beach, and running around. But probably the most important thing, to me, aside from just the freedom of it and the power of it, was the kind of creatures that you could see along the beach, that you can’t find anywhere else. —Sylvia Earle

If you have any questions please e-mail beachchairscientist@gmail.com or let us know at http://www.beachchairscientist.com.

photo (c) Library of Congress.

6 reasons why Jacques is cooler than punk rock

It may not come as a surprise, but a lot of my friends and family consider George Costanza as the most famous marine biologist they know. Long before Seinfeld, Jacques  Cousteau, the world’s most well known deep sea explorer, made studying marine science seem fun JacquesCousteauand not as intimidating as people once thought.

So here are some reasons why Jacques  Cousteau continues to be an inspiration and a legend in the field:

Cousteau co-developed the aqua lung in 1943.

Cousteau co-created the Cousteau Society, dedicated to protecting ocean life, in 1973.

Cousteau’s television show, “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau,” was narrated by Cousteau himself and Rod  Sterling.

Cousteau received the Presidential Medal of Honor from Ronald Regan in 1985.

Cousteau received the United  Nations International Environmental Prize, with Peter Scott, in 1975.

Cousteau was honored by John Denver in the 1975 song titled, Calypso. Calypso was his boat’s name.

image (c) yarnela.com

Who are the top celebrity ocean advocates?

Actor Ted Danson (cropped from original)
Image via Wikipedia

Wow! What a fun question to research, thank you! (You’ll surely notice I was picky because there are many environmental activists in Hollywood but  and tried to keep the list to those that focus on primarily oceans.)

I am such a fan of giving back no matter how much I believe we all make a difference. I find myself giving my time to local clean-ups, making contributions to Surfrider Foundation, National American Association of Environmental Education, or Mid-Atlantic Marine Educators Associations, and just in general pitching in where I can.

Here is a list of some celebrity ocean advocates.

Ted Danson, recently appeared before the House Committee on Natural Resources to testify again off-shore drilling. Board member of Oceana.

Sam Waterston board member of Oceana.

Pierce Brosnan donates his time and energy to Oceana, Waterkeeper Alliance, Ocean Futures Society, California Coastal Protection Network, among many others.

Cousin Jennifer did some lobbying and convinced me to put Hayden Panettiere on the list. She is an outspoken advocate for marine mammals (including I think a brief brush with the law for some protesting with Greenpeace). One of her main organizations for this platform is Save the Whales Again.

I know also that musician Jack Jackson has done quite a bit on behalf of the oceans.

For all the people listed above I’d like to say ‘thank you’ for giving a prominent voice to the oceans.

Added 5/9: By default I think that Ewan McGregor can be added to the list since he is rumored to play Paul Watson, founder of Greenpeace, in ‘Ocean Warrior‘.

Please feel free to let me know if you think of others. Just e-mail info@beachchairscientist.com!