10 best in the past nine years

Sometimes it’s nice to look at the past and see what’s worked. From the past nine years of posts on Beach Chair Scientist, it seems that one post has been the “most valuable player”. 100 ocean quotes is a surefire “make you stop by BCS for the first time and join the mailing list” kinda post. It’s the Wayne Gretzky, Babe Ruth, or Micheal Jordan in terms of stats. All other posts just fall short. But in the ethos of sportsmanship, here are ten posts that also bring some well deserved worth to this little blog. Which one are you rooting for?

MVPMarineMammals

Christmas critter countdown: Decorator crab

The decorator crab will hold a piece of decoration against it shell until it begins to grow there! Find out what’s used as a decoration here.

Christmas critter countdown

What’s it like to be a Maine lobsterman?

Are your kids interested in a career on the water? Sounds like a great time to check out this video and go out lobster fishing with the award winning Aqua Kids! They’ll learn from teen lobster fishermen in Maine some of the challenges of the job (e.g., timing how long their nets are in the water, regulating the size of “catchable” lobsters). But, most impressively what is on the young lobstermen’s mind is how to make sure their practices are sustainable.

Aqua Kids motivates today’s youth to take an active role in protecting and preserving our marine environments.

 

What are the names of juvenile coastal and marine animals?

Well, it’s been quite some time since I’ve posted and it’s all due to an adorable little distraction – my son was born in early January. The addition has been wonderful and fairly stress free (keep your fingers crossed!). In fact, I have to say this time around my biggest stress was picking out a name. We had a boy name chosen, but not a girl name, so the decision was easy. However, it got me thinking about what juvenile marine animals are called. Here is a list of ‘baby’ names of over 25 well-known ocean animals. After all, you don’t accidentally want to refer to a juvenile shark as a calf or a juvenile eel as a spet, do you? If you can expand or elaborate on the list feel free to share in the comments box.

Birds
Flamingo, gull, heron, penguin: Chick
Crane:  Chick or craneling
Pelican: Nestling

Fish
Barracuda: Spet
Cod: Codling, hake, sprag, or sprat
Eel: Elver
Most fish: Fry or fingerling
Salmon: Smelt

Invertebrates
Blue crab: Larva
Clam: Larva, chiton, or littleneck
Horseshoe crab: Larva
Jellyfish: Ephyrae
Oyster: Spat
Sand dollar, sea urchin, sea star: Larva or pluteus (free-swimming stage)

Marine mammals
Dolphin, manatee, porpoise, whale: Calf
Otter: Whelp or pup
Shark, seal, sea lion: Pup
Walrus: Cub or pup

Reptile
Turtle: Hatchling

What this short video for some cute pictures of featured juvenile coastal and marine animals. Which one is your favorite?

Juvenile Animal Names from Beach Chair Scientist on Vimeo.

For more information:
http://www.pawnation.com/2013/11/19/baby-animal-names/7
http://www.defenders.org/sites/default/files/publications/sea_otter_faqs.pdf
http://www.zooborns.com/zooborns/baby-animal-names.html
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/animals/Animalbabies.shtml
http://www.english-for-students.com/Names-of-Baby-Animals.html
http://www.pawnation.com/2013/11/19/baby-animal-names/7
http://dictionary.reference.com/writing/styleguide/animal.html
http://www.horseshoecrab.org/info/lifecycle.html
http://www.bluecrab.info/lifecycle.html
http://www.jellywatch.org/blooms/facts

Guest post: Cherilyn Jose of Ocean of Hope (where “Marine Animals Voice Their Wishes”)

I was honored she Cherilyn Jose asked if I could do a guest post for her, but not too shy that I didn’t ask her to reciprocate (I love the information she puts out there on her blog so I thought it was worth a chance!). She kindly did so, and am I ever thrilled! Here’s a bit of background on her and some prose on a favorite West coast species of her’s – the Dungeness crab.

Cherilyn Jose blogs at Ocean of Hope: Marine Animals Voice Their Wishes. She is a marine biologist, writer, and nature and underwater photographer. She is also an avid SCUBA diver and home aquarist. She asked me to do a post for her, but I told her … “only if you reciprocate”, and she kindly did so!dungenesscrab

Help! It’s Dungeness crab (pictured right) season here off of California, Oregon, and Washington. California’s crab season runs from November to June. Unlike many other ocean species that are in decline due to overfishing, Dungeness crabs are not in short supply. It may be due to females producing up to two million eggs at a time. I passed through 6 larval stages before becoming an adult and settling on the sandy or muddy seafloor.

The abundance of Dungeness crabs may also be due to my food preference, or lack thereof. I am a scavenger and I will eat, well, anything edible I come across. There is an increasing amount of plastic in the ocean, and I unfortunately can’t tell the difference between that and my real food sometimes. Plastic can be large like plastic grocery bags, or small like the microplastics that start at the bottom of the food chain and insidiously work themselves up into the bodies of top-level predators. Did you know that you carry several pounds of plastic in your body?

It is so tempting to get the “free” food from the crab traps and hoop nets, but I wouldn’t be alive today if I didn’t pass them up on a regular basis. It doesn’t help me that SCUBA divers are allowed to take us by hand while diving too.

Fortunately females are not allowed to be taken, as well as any crabs that are too small. Those crabs that are tossed back ensure another generation of crabs ends up on some human’s dinner plate. In the meantime, I’ll play the odds that I will survive another day past June-after all my lifespan can be up to 8 years!

 

What’s in your medicine cabinet affects aquatic life

Yup, that’s right – what is in your medicine cabinet (e.g., anxiety medication, birth control) affects not only us, but animals in streams, lakes, and even the ocean. As the President’s Cancer Panel noted in a 2010 report, “Pharmaceuticals have become a considerable source of environmental contamination. Drugs of all types enter the water supply when they are excreted or improperly disposed of; the health impact of long-term exposure to varying mixtures of these compounds is unknown”. It might not seem like the most obvious connection. However, as the National Capital Poison Center points out there are many different ways our medications mutate. Here are just a few of the ways drugs enter the water supply:

  1. Drugs that are applied to the skin are washed down the drain.
  2. Drugs can be eliminated through our waste and are then flushed down the toilet (even more direct when it’s from a pet and it’s left on the side of the road).
  3. Healthcare facilities (e.g., mental, dental) that are not legally required to discard drugs as hazardous materials.
  4. There may be ‘straight-piping’ (direct release of untreated sewage into waterways) or overflow of stormwater that bypasses treatment facilities.

Why this matters is incredibly frightening and here are some examples of why:

  1. Anxious Perch: Researchers at the Umeå University in Sweden found that perch exposed to an anxiety medication, Oxazepam, departed from their normal behaviors of hunting in schools by becoming loners and more brave by hunting on their own. They also noticed that the fish seemed to eat more, therefore disturbing the balance of their habitat. (February 2013)
  2. Suicidal Shrimp: Researchers are the University of Portmouth in the U.K. found that through pharmaceutical waste runoff shrimp had been exposed to antidepressants and it was causing an unusual amount of them to die off. (February 2012)
  3. Autistic Fathead Minnows: Researchers from the Idaho State University discovered “psychoactive medications in water affect the gene expression profiles of fathead minnows in a way that mimics the gene expression patterns associated with autism“. (June 2012)
  4. Fish Tissue Fiasco: Researchers from Baylor University studied fish tissue for human drugs and found drugs used to treat high cholesterol, allergies, high blood pressure, bipolar disorder, and depression.  (May 2009)
  5. Infertile and Hermaphroditic Fish: Mother Nature News wrote how birth control pills caused male fish to be less fertile and increased the number of hermaphroditic fish. (September 2009)
  6. and, finally – Did you know, according to the Associated Press, that drinking water of at least 51 million Americans carries low concentrations of many familiar drugs? (2008)
Don’t worry too much though. You’d have to eat tons of the fish affected by the drugs for it to amount to even one pill. But, if you are concerned about how to keep your waterway clean from pharmaceuticals it’s a good idea to never buy the giant bottle of pills (they’ll surely expire before you’ll use them and then you’ll have to toss it), return old drugs to your pharmacy because many often have take-back programs (i.e., don’t flush them down the toilet), ask your doctor for samples before you commit to a prescription that might not work, and clean up pet waste.
From National Geographic Magazine

From National Geographic Magazine

Have you heard of any other ways fish or aquatic life are affected by what we put in our waterways?

10 tips for a successful beachcombing trip

Pick up that clump! You never know what you'll find.

Pick up that clump! You never know what you’ll find.

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.

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.

Getting to know three … Malacostracan edition

Ever know instinctively that some animals are ‘related’ and just can’t pinpoint their similarities? On the third day of every month I explain three features that are common among three animals of a certain group. Of course, generally each group has more than three representatives and even  many more similarities and then even more differences, but I am going to choose three similarities that link threes to keep it simplified. This month is focused on the shrimp, the lobster, and the crab – all crustaceans, but more specifically all are members of the largest of the six classes of crustaceans known as the Malacostraca class. (Need a refresher on the trusty mnemonic device for classification? Click here.)

Check out ‘Getting to know three … Echinoderm edition’.

Holy, mole(y) crab!

Mole crabs are recognizable decapods with their barrel-shaped bodies and a grey colored exoskeleton and known to many of us as ‘sand fleas’. We often only see them for a wee bit when a wave (or curious hand playing in the sand) dislodges them and they quickly scurry back under the sand. These clawless crabs are not biting fleas and are fairly harmless member of the crustacean group.

Let me tell you what makes the mole crab a critter I can get excited chatting up during a day  at the beach. First, is that as the tideline goes in and out during the day, so do the mole crabs. Their preferred home is to be buried under the sand right at the tideline. Also, rather fascinatingly, mole crabs only move backward! They use their back legs to bury themselves under the sand as their head goes later.

They depend on the action of the ocean to filter them loose plankton and organic debris. They grab the particles by keeping their antennae at the sand surface (which is why their head goes in last as they bury themselves). They also use gills to take oxygen out of the water to breather, just like other crustaceans. During the summer you may see a female carrying one with eggs on her underside or near the legs. The orange eggs have just been fertilized while the darker grey eggs are ready to hatch. Male mole crabs are smaller than females, only reaching about half an inch in length, while females are typically an inch long.

Mole crabs are also a very popular form of bait for surf fishermen.  There are ten species recognized throughout the world, but two are most common on the eastern Atlantic and Gulf coasts, Emerita talpoida or Emerita benedicti.

Image (c) NJ SeaGrant

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”.