Test your knowledge: Marine mammals

SeasideNaturalistCoverIt’s time for another “Test your knowledge” quiz. This time it’s brought to you by page 211 of one of my favorite books, Seaside Naturalist (written and illustrated by Deborah Coulombe). Here’s a true/false quiz all about those marine mammals we all know and love … well, take the quiz and see how well you know them. First 3 people to submit all correct answers below as comments (before I post the correct answers in a week) will get a free DVD of Ocean Frontiers.

1. Whales sweat profusely while diving.
2. The blue whale is the largest animal ever known on Earth.
3. Whales can drown.
4. Whales can be told apart by the way they spout.
5. Whales never sleep.
6. Baby whales are born tail first.
7. When whales breach, they jump completely out of the water.
8. Whales spout by blowing water out of their blowhole.
9. In Japan, dogs eat whales meat.
10. Manatee are the only vegetarian marine mammals.

Know anyone that might want to share a passion a marine science, environmental education, or ocean conservation by writing for Beach Chair Scientist? Guest posting is always welcome!

5 photography contests for nature lovers

If you’re anything like me, you love to snap pictures when you’re outside. It’s a great way to relive the tranquility you get from being outdoors once placed back into reality. It’s also a powerful way to share how you see the world and what matters to you with those near and far!

In an effort to evoke that everlasting sense of appreciation for nature, many environmental organizations engage the public with photo contests – usually with epic prizes.  Here are 5 photography contests that might spark you’re inner Ansel Adams:

Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Photo Contest: CBF is are seeking photographs (from professional or amateur photographers) that illustrate the positive aspects of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.
Deadline: April 12, 2013
Prize(s): First Prize: $500; Second Prize: $250; Third Prize: $150; Viewers’ Choice: $100. In addition, the first-prize photograph will appear in CBF’s 2014 calendar. And that’s not all: All winners will also receive a one-year membership to CBF and will have their photos displayed on CBF’s website, in a CBF e-newsletter, and in CBF’s Save the Bay magazine.

Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) Earth Day Photo & Essay Contest: From April 22-29, students in grades 5-8 should take a photograph of something that is changing in their local environment, then submit the photo and explanation.
Deadline: May 10, 2013
Prize(s): In addition to having their photos featured on the IGES website, the top three winners will receive a digital camera, digital photo frame, and a digital photo keychain. Also, the top 10 winners will receive a photo book featuring the top 10 photos, with his or her photo on the front cover.

National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Wildlife Photo Contest: Photographers of all skill levels ages 13 and up are invited to enter the 43rd annual National Wildlife® Photo Contest.
Deadline: July 15, 2013
Prize(s): Winners could be featured in an upcoming issue of National Wildlife® magazine, alongside images taken by the world’s top nature photographers and could win a once-in-a-lifetime expense-paid trip for two to photograph polar bears, cash prizes and more!

Nature’s Best Photography (NBP) Windland Smith Rice International Awards: The editors of Nature’s Best Photography magazine invite all photographers (professionals, amateurs, and youth) to celebrate the beauty and diversity of nature through the art of photography, and to use this far-reaching medium as a creative tool for encouraging greater public interest in outdoor enjoyment and conservation stewardship.
Deadline: May 15, 2013 (Note that there may be an entry fee for submission)
Prize(s): Winners in each category and a selection of the Highly Honored photos will be displayed as large-format prints in the annual exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., one of the most widely respected and highly visited museums in the world. In addition, all of the winning images will be published in the Fall/Winter 2013 Collectors’ Edition of NBP.

Picture Our Planet Photo Contest: The Rainforest Alliance is pleased to announce the launch of the 2013 Picture Our Planet photo contest. This year’s contest celebrates sustainable tourism and the power of images to capture the world’s most beautiful places.
Deadline: June 30, 2013
Prize(s): One grand prize winner will receive an eight-day, seven-night trip for two to Costa Rica. Also, one winner will be selected from each of the six categories and will Polaroid high-definition pocket digital video camcorder and an honorary one-year membership at the $100-level to the Rainforest Alliance.

Have fun and good luck! If you’re in need on some inspiration, feel free to check out the pictures I’ve taken while out and about on my Flickr account (below is my attempt at being artsy with driftwood).




Merry Christmas!

I just want to extend a simple wish for a safe holiday! Here is an image of a driftwood ‘tree’ that my daughter and nephews decorated with clam shells.

Image (c) Jim McElhatton

Image (c) Jim McElhatton

“A song, a song, high above the trees,
With a voice as big as the sea,
With a voice as big as the sea,
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
do you know what I know,
In your palace warm, mighty king,
do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold,
Let us bring Him silver and gold,
Let us bring Him silver and gold,
Said the king to the people everywhere,
listen to what I say,
Pray for peace, people everywhere!

Lyrics from one of my favorite holidays tunes “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

It’s a happy holidays giveaway

Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms by Richard Fortey

Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms by Richard Fortey

Let your heart be light … It’s officially the holiday season! I am seeing twinkling lights throughout the neighborhood, trees trimmed in the window, and I seem to be baking up a storm.

It’s also my favorite time of year to tell those around me how much I appreciate them. If you read this blog, ‘like’ Beach Chair Scientist on Facebook, or ‘follow’ Beach Chair Scientist on Twitter you’re certainly keeping me going and I am very grateful for your support. It’s been a fantastic adventure answering your questions and creating entertaining and educational answers. Also, it’s such a pleasure each time I (virtually) meet new people that continually inspire me.

From now until the end of Wednesday, December 12th I’ll throw your name into another giveaway to win a copy of the New York Times best seller, Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms by Richard Fortey, if you 1) comment on any post here or 2) comment on any post on Facebook or 3) retweet any content on Twitter (@bcsanswers). Each time you comment or retweet will be another chance to win. The book is an incredible gift for the natural history buff on your list or even for yourself!

Update (12/13/2012): Thanks to Random Picker for helping make the raffle so efficient! The winner of Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms is a Twitter follower! Thank you to everyone that participated your support means the world!


Monday Inspiration: Persian Ceiling by Dale Chihuly

This past weekend I took a road trip to Richmond, VA and was thrilled to be introduced to the ethereal artistry of the glassworks created by Dale Chihuly at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. In particular from this exhibit, the piece ‘Persian Ceiling‘ is an experience I wanted to share. As I gazed up into the illuminated glass ceiling with the gleaming and luminescent art densely piled up (practically to the sky!),  I was certain I had been transformed to another point in time.

It was as if I was witness to the Great Barrier Reef at its apex in species diversity and brilliance of color. I wondered how he created such movement in still objects – spectacular! No doubt I was head-over-heels impressed due to the beautiful daylight that was paired with the exhibit space. I also found it incredibly playful how Chiluly interspersed echinoderms, mollusks, and cephalopods to give the illusion that you’re indeed walking under the sea (see if you can spot them in the images below). If you have the opportunity, you cannot go wrong with investigating the work of Chihuly. If you’re lucky enough to see his work first hand, it will surely brighten your day and have your feeling inspired.



Images (c) Beach Chair Scientist

5 ocean-themed kid costumes from Etsy

It’s not too late to find a costume for your little one to show-off a growing love of the ocean for this Halloween! Here are five adorable costumes I found on Etsy that are worth some serious consideration. (The only reason I was looking was because I keep checking to see if anyone has made a horseshoe crab costume yet, no luck.)

Anglerfish from Pip and Bean

Fish from Laurie’s Gift

Orca from Pip and Bean

Tiger shark from Laurie’s Gift

Shark from Cute and Comfy Costumes

… and 2 bonus costumes for the canine family member.

Dog seahorse from hatzforbratz

Dog shark from Sew Dog Gone Creative

What they’re into … with Jessica Servis (Reach Program for US Sailing)


And so it concludes, this is the last installment of the “What Marine Conservationists Are Into …” series. This is a series I featured this summer to get a special sneak peek at the many 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 of 2012!) which sets out to illustrate that scientists are not just crazy haired nerds in lab coats. I sent a list of 15 random questions and asked that each person share at least their answers to 5 of them.

Rounding out the esteemed group is Jessica Servis, a fellow Cape May County comrade. I love her quote at the end of the biography – It’s all about the little things. Thank you to everyone that participated in this series. It’s been an honor getting to know you all!

Jessica Servis run the Reach Program at US Sailing, educating youth in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) and Environmental Stewardship while utilizing sailing as the platform. The Reach Program is currently piloting the program at Community Boating Center in Providence, Rhode Island, the Edison Sailing Center in Fort Myers Florida, New England Science and Sailing in Stonington, Connecticut, Clearwater Community Sailing in Clearwater, Florida, and Sail Sand Point in Seattle, Washington.

Jessica has a Masters in Special Education from Rowan University, an undergraduate degree in Marketing and Public Relations. She has waitressed, bartended, worked in public relations in Atlantic City, taught kids with special needs in grades 1-8 at Oceanside Charter School in Atlantic City, started a non-profit and sailed competitively in college at Salisbury University. Jessica home schooled her oldest son for 2 years and loved every moment of traveling and learning together. She couldn’t be happier to work from home for US Sailing on the Reach program part time creating programs for youth nationwide. She loves to travel and learn new things. Jessica is mom to three wonderful little boys; Tristan 11, Caleb 5, and Nolan 3. One of her favorite things to do is spend time with them. They are all inspired by the sea and its creatures.

Jessica states, “As a special education teacher I have a passion for education, but what I love the most is teaching children to appreciate the little things. It is amazing what kids can learn from a walk on the beach, or day on the water. They hold those moments dear to their heart for ever.”

What is the last thing you bought that you shouldn’t have?
New black T-strap high heels, I am a flip flops kind of girl, I should embrace it.

What is your favorite fruit flavor?
Blueberry. I love Jersey Fresh homemade jersey blueberry jam.

What is your favorite Sunday breakfast?
My favorite Sunday breakfast is a cup of coffee and a walk on the beach.

What’s your favorite midnight snack?

Are you a night owl or a morning person?
I am a morning person. I love to see the sunrise. There is something about the smell of daybreak by the water, it cleanses your soul.

What is your favorite room in your home?
The kitchen, I love to cook, especially with my little helpers.

Which sitcom character do you relate to?
I don’t watch television very much, but I would say Elaine from Seinfeld.

What is your favorite scent?
New England in the morning

What is your favorite sundae topping?
Rainbow jimmies (not Sprinkles)

What is your favorite pastime?
Sailing with kids and adults with special needs. I was the former Executive Director of Just-Sailing and we focused on accessible sailing. I wish I could start another program that focused on teaching people with special needs how to sail. The feeling of freedom and independence on the water is contagious.

What three things would you take with you to an island?
A fishing pole, a seine net, and a bucket. You never know what you might find.

How superstitious are you?
Not at all

What is your favorite day of the week?
Sunday, it’s family day. In the summer we spend Sunday’s at the beach with all of my cousins and their children. We order pizza, swim, fish, surf, build sand castles, collect shells, and laugh a lot.

Are you a cat person, dog person, or neither?
I am a dog person. Our dog Blue, (yes, like Blue’s Clues) is a black lab, she loves the boat and beach as much as I do.

If you were a geometric shape, what would you like to be?
I would be a pyramid; I have a strong foundation, with many different areas of interest. I work hard to achieve new heights never changing my foundation, always adding to it.

What’s some other random favorite information about you?
I learn something from every person that I meet. People are very interesting creatures especially the Beach Chair Scientist.

Have you watched Ocean Frontiers yet?

Ocean Frontiers is a movie you cannot miss the opportunity to watch. If not because you are genuinely interested in a film that outlines the transition of thought from the “the outlook is grim for the future of the ocean” to “there is a light at the end of the tunnel for our ocean“, then watch it because it’s always a pleasure to view any work of art that is clearly a labor of love as this obviously was for producers Ralf and Karen Meyer.

The movie takes you across the country (Washington State, New England, the Gulf of Mexico) and shares stories of the movement of scientists, farmers, fishermen, government agencies, and businesses as they come together for long-term solutions with the understanding that there is prosperity through preservation. Now that “jellyfish are often the catch of the day”, “many of the largest fish have been caught”, and “most of the world’s coral reefs are bleached and dying” there is recognition that the “sea is not boundless”.

Below is a clip from the movie illustrating how the Florida Keys were transformed and revitalized through this attitude of cooperation and that the mentality that the long-term outlook is best for all. How I loved watched this part as it reminded me of my days in Florida for graduate school!

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.

What they’re into … with Harold Johnson (The Flotsam Diaries)

Yesterday I promised more insight into one of the featured marine debris heroes as part of the “What Marine Conservationists Are Into …” series are here you have it – The Flotsam Diaries own Harold Johnson! In case you didn’t know this is a series I have been presenting each Tuesday this summer to get a special sneak peek at the many 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 of 2012!) which sets out to illustrate that scientists are not just crazy haired nerds in lab coats. I sent a list of 15 random questions and asked that each person share at least their answers to 5 of them.

Harold Johnson, copyeditor and writer by trade, spends at least one day a week sifting beaches for other people’s litter. For fun. In March 2010, he stumbled onto a sickening scene of storm-washed debris at his local beach in southern Maine. Since then, he’s been writing as “The Flotsam Diaries,” (http://www.theflotsamdiaries.org) trying to learn about the nature of the garbage that washes into the ocean, how it got there, and what can be done about it. And then he works daily to share what he’s learned. In addition to his blog and social media, he’s got a growing body of guest posts at Scientific American online (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2012/08/16/plastics-in-the-ocean-how-dense-are-we/). His motto is “See – Learn – Change,” and he encourages everyone who visits The Flotsam Diaries to stop for a moment, look down at the ground around them, and really see what’s there.

What is the last thing you bought that you shouldn’t have?
A new app called “Catapult King.” I really don’t need another distraction or excuse to “take 5”!

What is your favorite fruit flavor?
Blueberries. I know this because for 40 years I thought that yogurt was a curse from the yawning mouths of Hell. Yet recently I’ve fallen in love with blueberry yogurt. If blueberries can do that, they can do anything. Plus there’s nothing like discovering a secret wild blueberry barren in August, picking them to your heart’s content.

What is your favorite Sunday breakfast?
Home-made pancakes from scratch (I’ve got a recipe that comes out just like Bisquick, which is the height of good pancakes). A couple eggs over-medium. And much bacon. Crispy, smoked, delicious bacon.

Are you a night owl or a morning person?
Before fatherhood, most definitely a night-owl. But now I barely sleep past 7AM even when I can. And if I’m out past 10PM it’s a big evening.

Which sitcom character do you relate to?
Abed from “Community,” hands-down. Though friends will say, lovingly no doubt, Cliff from “Cheers.”

What is your favorite scent?
Dew-y pastureland in the Tynedale region of Northumberland, UK as the sun peeks over the Pennines and the mists hang in the valleys. There is no smell like that air.

What is your favorite pastime?
Learning. It’s such a remarkable world, my biggest thrill is discovering some new connection that I’d never made before. I love reading, but usually nonfiction. If it’s fiction I usually lose interest half-way through. Only Tolkien really holds my interest. But then again, everyone knows Hobbits are real, right? Other than that, I love exploring coasts & trails, and playing frisbee with our daughter, who has a mean wrist-flick for a 5-year-old. And she and I also play a lot of Minecraft these days. Curse those Creepers!

How superstitious are you?
I own a black cat and have broken many mirrors, so I guess not very. But I do think there is much, much more to “reality” than our senses are aware of. And I have a Zombie talisman in my car to protect me from the Zombie Apocalypse.

Are you a cat person, dog person, or neither?
Cat. I get them, and they get me. One of my secret powers is befriending truculent cats. I’m pretty sure I was a well-loved housecat once, and will be again.

What’s some other random favorite information about you?
I’ve done archaeology at 3 sites in the UK, most recently & most often at Vindolanda, a Roman fort just behind Hadrian’s Wall. I’ve taken the entire front off of a 1967 Cougar down to the engine block and successfully put it back together. I used the Internet when there were less than 1000 people on it and it was still all text. And I can bend the tips of my fingers downward without bending the other joints/knuckles.