Ocean Leaders Recognized

On June 8 in Washington D.C. Honorable Lois Capp (CA), Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL) and Julie Packard were recognized for their roles as leaders in the ocean community.

According to the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF), the organization that distributes the awards, these women were recognized for the following reasons:

“Rep. Capps received the Award for her dedication to protecting the natural resources of California and its waters and the broader environmental health of the U.S. Among that work, she was involved in legislation to protect coastal and estuarine habitat, reform U.S. fisheries and aquaculture management, and develop an integrated coastal and ocean observation system. Through her leadership, education initiatives such as the California Bay-Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) and the Multicultural Education for Resource Issues Threatening Oceans (MERITO) programs will help create new generations of environmental stewards
and ocean champions.”

“Rep. Ros-Lehtinen received the Award for her dedication to protecting the natural resources of Florida and its waters and the broader environmental health of the U.S. Among that work, she was involved in legislation providing funding for national marine sanctuaries, coastal restoration projects, and coral reef protection. Her concern for Florida’s coral reefs led her to champion the Coral Reef Conservation Act.”

“Ms. Packard was presented with a whale tail sculpture created by Santa Barbara artist James “Bud” Bottoms of the Dolphin Family Studio. Her career and dedication was recalled through a video that features the extensive achievements of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and a testimonial by her friend and colleague, Rep. Sam Farr (CA-17). It details how she helped found the popular institution, the nation’s first major public aquarium focused on a single region, and has served as its Executive Director since it opened in 1984. NMSF also recognized her commitment to ocean conservation and her work shaping the nation’s ocean policies through other channels, including her work with the Pew Oceans Commissions and Joint Ocean Commission Initiative.”

M.C. Lars “Ahab”

This is too much fun not to share! Have a nice Sunday Funday.

Connecting to my watershed – Part I

I rarely preach on this blog. But, I just watched a documentary called “No Impact Man” where the writer, Colin, and his family decide to reduce their impact on the environment. He wanted to reduce to nothing. They even went for 6 months without any electricity in their 5th Avenue apartment. I was skeptical. He did a good job of reducing to none. He even mentioned the affective connection that happens when contributing to nature. Therefore, he was contributing to the black. Not just trying to reduce the red.

Needless to say, I was inspired. There is no way I could live without air conditioning or a stove. But, there are changes I could make to try and reduce the impact of pollution on my local watershed. Now, we already recycle, compost, take public transportation, joined a CSA to eat local, carry around water bottles, carry cloth bags to the grocery store and re-use the random accumulated plastic bags.

So, how can we take it one step farther? Well, the No Impact Man inspired us to … get this … make our own cleaning products! It seems simple. And we can reuse some materials from being recycled.

This website, Earth Easy, is the best one I found to learn on how tackle this new challenge. I will keep you updated on how everything works.

Why do I think this is important? Well, as the Beach Chair Scientist I am extremely concerned with anything that goes down the sink drain, runs through the shower drain, goes through the washing machine or is put on the lawn and then runs off to the nearest drain. All of these materials will end up in the ocean. It is true. That is how a watershed works.

Do you have another great question? Check out www.beachchairscientist.com and enter your request or e-mail info@beachchairscientist.com.

Explore the Ocean with Google

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


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.