10 tips for a successful beachcombing trip

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.

Image (c) Marine Debris Tracker

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.

What they’re into … with Wallace J. Nichols

It’s Tuesday and you know what that means by now if you’ve been following BCS this summer. Time for another installment of “What Marine Conservationists Are Into …”! This is a series I featured in the summer of 2012 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. For the tenth edition, I am delighted to introduce California conservationist extraordinaire, Dr. Wallace ‘J” Nichols.

Dr. Wallace “J.” Nichols is a scientist, activist, community organizer, author, and dad. He works to inspire a deeper, more active, connection with nature, sometimes simply by walking and talking, other times through writing or images. Science and knowledge can also stoke our fires. But he knows that what really moves people is feeling part of and touching something bigger than ourselves.

J. is a Research Associate at California Academy of Sciences and founder of several conservation initiatives including Ocean Revolution, an international network of young ocean advocates, SEE the WILD, an international conservation travel portal and LiVBLUE, a campaign to reconnect people with our water planet. He earned his Bachelors in Biology and Spanish from DePauw University, an MEM in Environmental Policy and Economics from Duke University’s Nicholas School, and his PhD in Wildlife Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from University of Arizona.

He advises a motivated group of international graduate students and serves as an advisor to numerous non-profit boards and committees as part of his commitment to building a stronger, more progressive, and connected environmental community.

Lately he is working on BlueMarbles.org and BLUEMiND: The Mind + Ocean Initiative. He blogs at wallacejnichols.org and lives on California’s SLOWCOAST.

What is the last thing you bought that you shouldn’t have?
I’ve been off coffee for almost a month. But I bought a “dirty chai tea” which has a shot of espresso hidden down in the glass of tea.

What is your favorite fruit flavor?
Organic local you-pick olallieberry, the season is so short and sweet. Always worth the wait.

What is your favorite Sunday breakfast?
Poached eggs from our chickens, fresh pesto, on sourdough bread. And a dirty chai ; )

What’s your favorite midnight snack?
Ice cream w/ olallieberries!

Are you a night owl or a morning person?
A massive night owl who loves early mornings.

What is your favorite room in your home?
My daughters’ room, because we read stories at night and snuggle. It’s the best part of the day and the house.

Which sitcom character do you relate to?
None. I put some thought into this. And, well, none. That probably explains why we don’t have a TV. Or vice versa.

What is your favorite scent?
So, so many. Can I say olallieberry again? Just kidding. Late on a cool night in the redwoods. Just after a rain in the Sonoran Desert. Any kind of pie.

What is your favorite sundae topping?
Guess.

What is your favorite pastime?
Anything with our kids. They really make anything we do so much fun.

What three things would you take with you to an island?
Shakepeare’s Complete Works. A good machete. Olallieberry seeds.

How superstitious are you?
Not a bit.

What is your favorite day of the week?
Thursday, or Thor’s Day. Named after the Norse god of thunder, lightning storms and oak trees. That’s just cool. I think about that every Thursday.

Are you a cat person, dog person, or neither?
Both. Their names are Fisher (Newfoundland), Jack Wilder (Cairn terrier), Penelope (Maine Coon) and Trout (strange but cute black cat)

If you were a geometric shape, what would you like to be?
I rather like the rhombus. I wouldn’t really want to be one, though.

What’s some other random favorite information about you?
My fascination with neuroscience began in college, when I was 19. I gave weekly guitar lessons to a woman who had lost her memory in an accident as therapy for restoring her memories, and it worked. I’ve been interested in the wonders of the human brain ever since.

Almost ten years ago my partner Dana and daughter Grayce (who was just 1 y.o., her sister Julia wasn’t born yet) walked 1,800 km from Oregon to Mexico along the coast. I highly recommend that everyone take a very long walk (months) through a place that is important to them. It’s a deeply human and transformative thing to do.

Image (c) Jeff Lipsky

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’.

Longfin inshore squid pulses to Cypress Hill

No one can deny that cephalopods are smart and elusive creatures, and here is yet another example that proves the point. Scientists at Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA did experiments on the axons of the longfin inshore squid and were excited to see a vibrant color-changing spectrum of the squid’s brown, red, and yellow chromatophores. The chromatophores each have muscles that contract when stimulated revealing the pigment below. Check out this video from Backyard Brains to see the results {Fair warning: wear headphones if you’re in the office!}.

Also, you can check out this video to learn more about the cockroach leg stimulus protocol they used for the experiment.

What they’re into … with John Bruno (SeaMonster)

It’s time for another installment of the What Marine Conservationists Are Into series and appropriately we’re heading into fall with a professor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In case you didn’t know 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.

John Bruno is a marine ecologist and Professor at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  His research is focused on marine biodiversity, coral reef ecology and conservation and the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems.  John earned his Ph.D. from Brown University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and was a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University in disease ecology.  He is currently working primarily in Belize, the Bahamas, Cuba and the Galapagos Islands.

John is an avid blogger and co-developer of the oceans website SeaMonster (www.theseamonster.net).  For fun, he reads, bikes, surfs and kitesurfs and in his spare time he is developing a blue carbon offsetting company (The BlueCarbon Project) that is restoring mangroves in northern coastal Ecuador. More info: www.johnfbruno.com

Are you a night owl or a morning person?
When I was younger, I’d get up at 5 to work (write papers, lectures, etc).  That rarely happens anymore and I am staying up later and later these days.  We have a screened porch attached to our bedroom that is 15ft off the ground and we spend a lot of time out there at night, listening to owls and coyotes, reading and watching movies late in the night.  I’ve also got a hammock out there, where I do a lot of my writing.  The porch is definitely my favorite room.

Which sitcom character do you relate to?
I don’t even own a TV and don’t know many sitcom characters, but I am reading the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson and can very much relate to both Salander and Blomkvist in their intense focus on and need for justice – although in my case, I want justice for the oceans.  Like Salander, I am also quite introverted although I am not a computer hacker and don’t have a photographic memory.

What is your favorite sundae topping?
Fruit and grape nuts!

What is your favorite pastime?
If I am not working or hanging out with my wife and three daughters, then I am surely either biking, surfing, kitesurfing, swimming or reading.  I basically never sit still and do nothing.  I’m usually in motion, doing something risky.  And I loathe board games and television.

What three things would you take with you to an island?
Funny you should ask, since most of my travel for work is to islands, usually in the Caribbean.  I always pack a knife, a hat and mask. That is all you need in life.

And, with that I hope everyone is off to a great start to the academic year. I have a few more profiles, but if you ‘re interested in sharing or know someone else that should participate please do not hesitate to contact me at info@beachchairscientist.com. Check out everyone that has participated so far this summer. It’s quite the eclectic group of personalities keeping the ocean conservation movement so lively and full of momentum! I love it!

It’s a SodaStream sweepstakes!

Time for another giveaway … Would you believe me if I told you there was a smallish kitchen appliance you could use daily to enjoy a refreshing beverage that would reduce the amount of plastic bottles that would potentially enter the atmosphere as marine debris and it was free? While you’re contemplating how this miracle could ever occur, here are some facts on plastic bottles and the impact they have on the environment.

  1. Plastic bottles can take over 1,000 years to decompose.
  2. Enough plastic bottles are thrown away each year in the United States to circle the earth four times.
  3. Over 80% of empty water bottles end up in the nation’s landfills.
  4. Only 8% of the total plastic waste generated in 2010 was recovered for recycling.
  5. 1.5 million tons of plastic waste are created by plastic bottles alone.
  6. 47 million gallons of oil is consumed to produce the bottles that Americans drink out of each year (This is enough oil to take 100,000 cars off the road and 1-billion pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere).
  7. 24 million gallons of oil are needed to produce a billion plastic bottles.
  8. Bottled water costs about 1000 times more than tap water and 90% of the cost of bottled water is due to the bottle itself.
  9. Bottling and shipping water is the least energy efficient method ever used to supply water.
  10. In a study conducted by the National Resources Defense Council one third of bottled water tested contained significant contamination.

Now, how can you reduce the amount of plastic bottles you may potentially contribute to the environment? My suggestion isn’t going to be too surprising if you’ve been following me on Twitter as I’ve become a genuine fan of the SodaStream machine. The SodaStream isn’t a new product by any means. In fact, this home soda maker machine is connected with 1970/1980’s childhood nostalgia in the United Kingdom. The soda maker machine comes with a few durable bottles that you keep filled up in the refrigerator and use the carbonator to turn the cold tap water into delicious bubbly water. There are about 30 flavors to add to the bubbly water to create your own fun drinks (Target carries the flavors to add)! My husband likens the cola flavor to Coke rather than Pepsi. I thoroughly enjoy the plain club soda, but have indulged in the occasional diet Dr. flavor and cannot tell any difference from the Pipp or Pepper original. There are even Crystal Light and energy drink options. I’ve come to appreciate it, not only because it reduces marine debris, but also because there is no dragging bottles from the store to the house and the recycling bin doesn’t need to be emptied as much which I know is also making an impact on the environment.

Of course, the SodaStream carbonator does need to be replaced and that comes with a cost (but, I think it’s worth it!). The carbonator needs to be replaced depending on how often you use it. We’ve had ours for 3 months and will probably make it another 3 before we need to replace it. The carbonators can be exchanged for free to any participating local retailer or through the SodaStream company directly via UPS (yes, you’re essentially hostage to a single overpriced gas supplier).

How can you get your hands on a SodaStream for free? If you share any of my posts on Facebook or retweet any of my posts on Twitter in the next week I’ll enter you into a raffle for a free SodaStream (they were kind of enough to send me one)! You can share as many posts or retweet as many tweets as you’d prefer to saturate your friends, family, and colleagues until noon next Friday. Each time you share or retweet it will be an additional chance to win. I’ll only count the shares from the direct page or the retweets from the original tweet and not the folks that share a share or retweet a retweet. Also, it can be any post or tweet, new or old. Be sure to tag Beach Chair Scientist in anything you share! I will announce the winner next Friday (what a great way to start Labor Day weekend for someone!).

Update (8/31/2012): Thanks to Random Picker for helping make the raffle so efficient! Our winner for the SodaStream is a Beach Chair Scientist Facebook friend! Thank you to everyone that participated your support means the world!

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.

Playing well with others? Dissecting the tension between the scientist-educator community

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge”.
Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) German-Swiss-U.S. scientist

 ”The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he’s one who asks the right questions”.
Claude Levi-Strauss (1908 – 2009) French anthropologist and ethnologist

“Those that can’t do, teach”.

It’s unfortunate, but the last phrase above affected my psyche as a child and young adult. I felt that I should go into science and prove that I could ‘do’. I am glad that I did because I’ve spent a decade doing various levels of field and laboratory work (or more recently overseeing grants of those doing field work and then I get to promote their work). It wasn’t until recently that I’ve began to embrace my desire to teach marine science to the masses. If you’ve been following my blog, Beach Chair Scientist, this can be illustrated – hopefully – in the increased quality of content that I’ve become committed to presenting in the past few months. All the while, I kept coming back to why I didn’t go in this direction in the beginning of my career and remembered that it was because I wanted to be seen as someone who could ‘do’. Boy, is that a regret! I have come to realize that non-formal education and all forms of teaching are ‘doing’ and we should all embrace the significant role of teachers, environmental educators, and science communicators play in our society.

Teachers are often our first connection to the big, expansive, beautiful world. Rejecting teachers, environmental educators, and science communicators because it seems as though they ‘play with kids all day’ or ‘invent games and just make PowerPoint presentations’ is irreverent. We become teachers, environmental educators, and science communicators because there is an inexplicable piece within all of us, not to find the answers or pose a question, but rather see “understanding wash over a child” or adult. Our moment of ‘eureka’ and validation is not when we’ve been published, but is centered on sharing the natural world and illuminating connections that may not have been obvious to others.

It seems as though there is a tension when teachers, environmental educators, and science communicators try to gain access to the science department for new knowledge. I can understand that no one wants to part with their work and have someone treat it as their own. But, I don’t think anyone believes that is the case. The relationship between the scientist and those promoting the data (teachers, environmental educators, and science communicators) should be constantly cultivated and sharing findings should be part of the process. I am glad that there is a new generation of scientists learning to engage the public with the use of social media to share findings and learn from other.

But, dare I say that it seems like pulling teeth when anyone that is trained to deal with the public tries to promote findings and interpret and translate scientific information? There are many wonderful organizations (e.g., COMPASS) dedicated to teaching scientists how to connect their science to the wider world, but connecting with nearby neighbors (i.e., coworkers) is vital and builds upon respect for one another. Teachers, environmental educators, and science communicators should be seen as an extension of the news media. Often we get creative with our translations of scientific findings and the news media will cover the interpretation rather than read an abstract. Teachers, environmental educators, and science communicators are highly trained with working with all different audiences. Furthermore, we’re well versed in techniques to filter, spin, coordinate, and share data appropriately (i.e., infographics or demonstrations in classrooms).

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on the topic. Recently, I posed the question “Is the scientist-educator/communicator relationship one of a) love-hate tension, b) complete mutual respect, c) neither, or d) both a and b?” on Twitter and Facebook. Comments we’re few and far between most leaning towards b and d.

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