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 they’re into … with Braddock Spear (Sustainable Fisheries Partnership)

It’s Tuesday and so 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. Here you find the weird preferred smells among other things of Braddock Spear from the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership.

Braddock Spear is Deputy Director of the Improvements Division at the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and has worked there for the last 18 months trying to improve fisheries around the globe. For 8 years before SFP, he worked at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission ending his tenure as Senior Coordinator for Policy and having coordinated fisheries management of horseshoe crabs, northern shrimp, and Atlantic menhaden. Also before joining SFP, Braddock blogged on the sustainable seafood movement at Sustainable Ocean Project. The site is no longer updated with new content, but all past posts are still there for the reading. Braddock received a BS in Marine Biology from the University of Maryland and a MA in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island.

What is the last thing you bought that you shouldn’t have?
A ticket to Vegas. I’ll be saving my pennies til I go.

What is your favorite fruit flavor?
Mango! I was spoiled in Belize when I got fresh mango from my host family’s tree every morning.

What is your favorite Sunday breakfast?
A coffee and a scone at the Baltimore farmers market.

What is your favorite scent?
Gasoline and cigar smoke are two of my favorites. Though not too much of either and definitely not together.

How superstitious are you?
Not at all. I’ve walked under lots of ladders, broken a few mirrors, and had a black cat. Despite all that, I’d say my luck has been pretty good (hoping that continues in Vegas).

Bonus random fact:
I’ve recently become a big fan of street art. If you’re interested, check out: http://www.streetartnews.net/

Thank you for participating, Braddock! It was great to hear from you (Braddock is an old co-worker on mine). Have a great time in Vegas!

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

Don’t hide your head in the sand

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure meet up with Jen Miller, a freelance reporter, to discuss some of the little known and finer attributes that the often pesky ‘sand’ brings to our beaches. For instance, did you know that all beach sand contains quartz? The odd thing is that the land surrounding some beaches doesn’t contain any quartz. Read her article from NewsWorksNJ to find out how the quartz arrives on some shorelines, as well as why sand is an integral part of the dune ecosystem that we rely on to protect our homes from big storms and waves.

Please feel free to email info@beachchairscientist.com with any questions, comments, or suggestions for posts.

A little dose of ocean conservation inspiration

This is a whimsical – yet still direct and profound – image I wanted to share from from my Ocean Conservation Inspiration Pinterest board. Do you have a particular phrase or image that drives you?

More on marine debris …

I suppose this post is inspired by my frequent visits to populated beaches and the marine debris I’ve been collecting with the help of anyone that asks what I am doing. I hate scare tactics, but pictures make a big impact when it comes to what happens with what we leave behind on the beach. The effects are long lasting and unfortunately out of sight. This is just a little reminder that I hope you share.

When I cannot escape seaside, I am grateful for Josie Iselin’s unique eye

“Brilliant and captivating images of raw, earthen materials collected from the beach coupled with phrases of a scientific or contemplative nature always reinvigorate my psyche when the beach is near or far.”

It’s no secret that it’s tough to get to the beach sometimes. When life affords me the extravagance of a weekend of nothing to do and some extra comp time I can usually make it up to south Jersey where my husband and I grew up and we still have family. However, since DC is my home base these days, I sometimes find my beach meditation and inspiration in the form of books. I grew up an avid reader and find the tangible qualities of a book incredibly relaxing. Piles of books can be found in each of the rooms throughout our house and when looking for our first home I was unyielding that we be no more than a short bike ride from the nearest library. What this introduction has to do is express how much I value books and, in particular books that inspire me about the sea. With that I would like to share with you the collection of books that I find so dear to me from the artist and author Josie Iselin.

Josie Iselin is the photographer, author, and designer of six books (Beach Stones (2006), Leaves & Pods (2006), Seashells (2007), Heart Stones (2008), Beach: A Book of Treasure (2010), and Sea Glass Hearts (2012)) that focus on the breathtaking forms found in nature, concentrating on those treasures found seaside. Josie’s mission is to “produce enticing, original, and well-designed books that combine art and science, leaving the reader with new information and an appreciation for the world around them”. You can tell why I am so enamored with her work as sharing information in a unique and approachable manner is a big part of my mission on this blog.

Understanding the process that Josie takes to create such beautiful and classic images is fascinating. For almost twenty years she has used a flatbed scanner and computer to generate her images of the treasures she collected along the coast. She has noted that, “She is still captivated by the fluidity with which this technique allows her to render and design with three-dimensional objects”.

The most comprehensive of Josie Iselin’s ethereal catalog of maritime wonders is Beach: A book of Treasure. The over 100-page book published by Chronicle Books has images of seaside plants, oyster, clam, and scallop shells, igneous rock, fossilized seashells, crab exoskeletons, and sea glass displayed with such care that you cannot help but be in pure amazement with the design of Mother Nature. Nowhere else have I been able to view the skull of a seagull in a manner that suits me (often times I get intimidated by text found in captions of extensive ornithology books and that ultimately suppresses my examination). The text is remarkable in that it interweaves first-hand experiences of tossing a Frisbee with the explanation that the beach we play on is also known by scientists as “the first extension of the benthic zone”.

This book also revels in the colors that are the ocean ecosystem. Upon Josie’s placement of light with the scanner, sea urchin tests and multicellular algae are given the proper stage to display brilliant, bright colors and patterns. I also, appreciate the fact that the author took the time to recognize that often times not everything found on the beach is a treasure. As she noted, “We know that its (a pictured object of marine debris) production used a great deal of heat both in its formation and in making the materials it is composed of. This represents a net loss of resources for our environment. In contrast, the self assembly of the oyster shell, a durable and hard thing, occurs with no energy expended and without detriment to the maker’s environment”.

I optimistically encourage you to take the time to review Josie Iselin’s collection of beautiful books and, just like the author, I hope you will enjoy “celebrating the ordinary wonders we find at the beach and will bring thoughtfulness and stewardship to this extraordinary place of discovery”.

No balloons at the celebration for the Beach Chair Scientist …

Today is the fourth birthday of the Beach Chair Scientist blog. Despite the fact that some companies label latex balloons as ‘biodegradable’ and therefore, ‘safe’ for the environment, I will not be decorating any birthday celebration with balloons. Balloons blow! What has been widely spread is that latex balloons breakdown at ‘the same rate as an oak leaf from a tree‘. First, let me explain ‘latex’. Latex is a white tree sap of rubber particles from the plant, Hevae brasiliensis. After it is processed it becomes rubber. Rubber, as we know, is used in a variety of products because of its strong resilience and tear resistance. Balloons are made from latex (essentially, liquid rubber) once colors are added.

It just would not feel like a celebration for Beach Chair Scientist because I have been to countless beach clean-ups and see those latex and mylar balloons, as well as the strings that are tied to them, along the shoreline. Balloons are just not following the path that balloon manufacturers want us to believe. It may be true that research done in a controlled setting proves that when latex balloons rises to almost 30,000 feet they will freeze and bust into tiny slivers that fall back to earth. However, there are just too many natural factors (e.g., trees, wind) that impede balloons from rising to that height prior to losing their helium and flaying to the earth whole. Not to mention that even if latex balloons do break apart into tiny shards the tiny shard are still detrimental to the ocean. According to Sea Turtle Foundation, “Most balloons are made from ‘biodegradable’ latex, which degrades on exposure to air. However degradation can take up to six months and balloons floating in seawater can take up to twelve months to degrade”. In many areas it is illegal for mass balloon releases. Please check out your area for the local laws on balloons.

Here are ten examples of balloons affecting the ocean ecosystem:  

  1. On a New Jersey beach a sperm whale was found dying because it had a balloon in its stomach halting the passage of food.
  2. At a clean-up was on an island 5 miles out to sea – the distance cleaned at the 4 sites we targeted was about 1/2 mile of shoreline – in southern Maine this past June over 550 pounds of marine debris were found, including 232 pieces of debris (9 of which were balloons and one was found right next to a gull’s nest).
  3. Birds will collect plastic debris for their nests, and unknowingly construct death traps for their young.
  4. Balloons, plastic straws, plastic bottles, plastic bags, and metal beverage cans were found to be the most abundant type of marine debris litter as a 10-year national survey completed in 2008.
  5. Most of the trash found along the California coast during a 2003-2010 survey was 82% land-based plastics, including plastic bags, plastic bottles, balloons and straws.
  6. Fishing gear fragments, packaging materials, balloons, bottle caps, and straws were found to be the most common items found during a Cape Cod survey that collected 5,829 items along one-kilometer.
  7. A leatherback turtle starved to death because a latex balloon was stuck in its stomach. After the turtle necropsy, the only thing found in its intestines was three feet of nylon string attached to a balloon.
  8. Animals can become entangled in balloon ribbons and string, restricting their movement and their ability to feed.
  9. Bottlenose dolphins in California, loggerhead turtles in Texas, and a green turtle in Florida were all found dead after ingesting latex balloons.
  10. In the UK, Risso’s dolphins in French waters and fulmars in the North Sea are known to ingest balloons.

If you’re still keen on celebrating with balloons try to do activities where you can control them and not have them released into the atmosphere. You can put prizes inside them or decorate them or play games. Below are are alternatives for decorating and commemorating without balloons. Check out the background image from Orlando Sentinel with the juvenile loggerhead turtle swimming close to the floating balloons.

One last thing, if you’re in the DC area Saturday, July 21st and would like to join me during a stream clean-up with United By Blue please feel free to come along! It’s a great event co-sponsored by Subaru and fun for the whole family. Read this article about my first experience volunteering with them. Please feel free to drop me a line at info@beachchairscientist.com or leave a comment below if you have anything else you like to add to this post or just a question in general.

A naturalist’s must-see destination: Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

I have it on my bucket list to explore at least ten more National Parks in the next decade, but I am going to have to rely on family and friends to share their adventures since I just spent some time in Maine visiting Acadia National Park. My brother, wife, and their sons (8 and 6 years old) just spent a week at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and have kindly taken the time to share their adventures from the boys perspective. Take a look at this 60-second  movie on what sort of wildlife awaits you at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Also, here are 5 little known facts about Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge to hopefully entice you to visit. (The interminable forests should become graceful parks, for use and delight. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844)

  1. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge was purchased with Duck Stamp revenues.
  2. Most historians believe that the famous Chincoteague ponies are remnants from that settlers who used the island for grazing livestock in the 1600’s in an effort to avoid difficult fencing regulation. Descendants of those ponies are still living there today.
  3. In a CNN Special from June 2012, Assateague Island National Seashore was named as one of the 7 prime spots to view wildlife. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is at the Virginia end of the National Seashore.
  4. The endangered sea beach amaranth is well adapted to survive the harsh seashore conditions of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
  5. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge has 14 ‘pools’ that total over 2,600 acres that are carefully manipulated to control moisture levels.

Jim Gaffigan on whales

For a little humor over the weekend. I hope you enjoy the list of their top predators!

Oh, Christmas tree (worm)! Oh, Christmas tree (worm)!

What are Christmas tree worms and where did they get their name? I’m more than happy to let you know that it would not be a good idea to decorate your house with Spirobranchus giganteus.

The Christmas tree worm got its name because the spiral plumes that radiate from its main body resemble that of our fir and spruce trees that adorn our living rooms in December. These spiral plumes (also viewed as tentacles) are used for feeding and breathing. The Christmas tree worm prefer to feast on phytoplankton floating in the water nearby.

They do not move once they find a spot and nestle into burrows below the coral reefs they call home.

The tentacles sway in the water surrounding the burrow, but if a predator is lurking … the Christmas tree worm will hide completely.

Christmas tree worms live worldwide among warm, tropical reefs and can be orange, yellow, blue, or white. They typically do not exceed  1 1/2 inches in length.

Image (c) marine-bio.org.