Book Review: The Great Snail Race by Don Jordan

Kids ages 3-7 and parents looking for fun, original read-aloud picture books will relish The Great Snail Race, an engaging story about a little snail who could.

The little snail leads a comfortable sea life on Latimer Bay right in front of boy Luca’s house; but his kind are known as some of the slowest creatures in the Bay. Snappy is not happy about this label, because in fact he’s one of the fastest snails in the world. How to emphasize this fact? By organizing a race! 

But just because he’s the swiftest doesn’t mean he’s a shoe-in for the lead: when an impossible obstacle seems to prevent his success, Snappy must become fastest at problem-solving, as well. 

Gorgeous color drawings by Juliana Haubrich capture the zippy little snail and the sea life around him.

Adult read-aloud parents will find this an engaging story holding some 41 pages of detail on the snail’s sea world and his determination to live up to his reputation.

(Thanks to Diane Donovan for contributing this guest post. I always love to hear from people in other parts of the world.)

Action Project Ideas: Around the Community (5 of 5)

One idea I had when I started this website almost ten years ago was that I wanted to make science simple and accessible. I hope I have created a place where questions on anything from barnacles to whales can be answered in a knowledgeable no-nonsense or overly jargon tone. My secondary goal has also been to create awareness about ocean-related issues which would lead into actions. Maybe you like watching movies and visiting the shore and understand that there is concern for the ecosystem.

What I have now for the month of November is a series of posts on quick and useful actions you can take in the kitchen, bath, laundry, garage, during the holidays, and around your community to change behaviors and lessen your impact. Each one features products that are tried, true, and tested but I am not being paid. Please read, share, and feel free to comment if you have other strategies.

  1. Shed the straw: Join the movements (#sheddthestraw #stopsucking) to just say no to a straw. Reach out to local restaurants and ask if they would consider only handing them out upon request. There’s a handy card you can print out. Also, maybe request your local library have a showing of Straws a film by Linda Booker or any other movie about marine debris.
  2. Ban the bottle: If your town facilities (i.e., recreation centers, libraries, school) don’t already have them look into installing water refill stations. This will reduce single-use plastic bottles.
  3. Start a school or community garden: This is a sustainable way to provide food and illustrate to the next generation how to build community. Gardens reduce waste and can beautify otherwise dismal areas of the town.
  4. Have a contest: Have students and community groups create art to illustrate an awareness about a particular subject and teach others at the same time. Try to use the materials you used during a debris scavenger hunt (i.e., a fancy word for “litter clean-up”) to create art as well. Check out these amazing creations from the Washed Ashore exhibit currently on display at the Shedd Aquarium. Writing and video contests are also fun! If you’re in need of some help to you get started check out the Chicago-based One Earth Film Fest for fantastic resources.
  5. Write a letter to a member of the community: Let your collective opinions be heard! Include your issue (e.g., marine debris, climate change) as well as why it matters to you and what could be done. It’s very important to be as specific as possible. Don’t forget to ask for a response and say “thank you.” Here’s a template to get you started. This template is focused on writing to Congress but it’s just as important to write to community or state official.

All of the Action Project Ideas:

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Turtle Day: May 23rd

Twenty three facts all about the ocean’s ambassador from the turtle community. Happy Turtle Day!

seaturtlesbcs

Additional resources:

  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/18/sea-turtle-facts_n_5505508.html
  • http://www.livescience.com/55507-sea-turtles.html
  • http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/
  • https://conserveturtles.org

Wednesday Wisdom: Anonymous

Whether it’s playing in the sea or just taking each day at a time, waves eventually bring happiness.

HappinessWaves_BCS

Find more great ocean and conservation quotes here and please feel free to share with your friends and family!

Also, ask away! If you have a question about something you found on the beach or just something you’re curious about just send an email to info@beachchairscientist.com or tweet us!

One Big Wave, and Millions of Lost Legos

Lego dragons Bigbury

Photos courtesy of Tracey Williams

On Feb. 13, 1997, about 20 miles off the coast of England, a massive wave hit the freighter Tokio Express, toppling 62 giant containers into the rough north Atlantic seas.

Trapped inside one of them: nearly 5 million Legos. Many floated to the surface. Carried by currents, they’re still being found on beaches around the world nearly two decades later. Others remain on the ocean floor. It’s not unusual for fishermen trawling the Atlantic to haul up tiny Legos.

The fact that so many of the pieces were nautical themed – sea dragons, pirate swords, sea grass and scuba gear, among others – has turned the Lego spill into one of the most famous and unusual marine debris incidents in recent maritime history.

In Newquay, a seaside town in England, writer and longtime beachcomber Tracey Williams started a Facebook page a few years ago – Legos Lost at Sea – that tracks the whereabouts of the lost Legos as they wash up onto beaches.

Williams recently spoke to the Beach Chair Scientist blog about her work, and you can hear more of what she has to say below. But she hopes to turn the public fascination, much of it generated from a recent BBC story on the spill, into a teaching moment about the harmful environmental impact of marine debris.

Lego octopus Terena

“Clearly, 5 million pieces of Legos spilling into the ocean isn’t good for the environment,” Williams said in a recent phone interview. After the BBC interviewed her about her site a while back, the publicity resulted in people contacting her with stories about beach-bound Legos around the world.

“It has connected beachcombers all around the world, which is fascinating,” Williams said.

She received one report of a Lego flipper found on an Australian beach. She’s also heard from the family of a woman who had scoured the beaches for Lego dragons as a hobby in her 80s, passing her finds along t0 younger generations.

“Obviously, marine debris is a big problem. But I think many children have been captivated by this whole Lego story … I think it reminds people of their childhood. It’s the whole issue of marine debris. Oceanographers are interested in how far it’s spread.”

Meanwhile, she also hears from fishermen who come across Lego pieces in their nets.

“Half of it sinks and half of it floats,” Williams said, referring to the sorts of Legos that fell off the Tokio Express. “So clearly, while we’re finding certain items washed up on our shores like the spear guns and the flippers, fishermen are actually finding other pieces like window frames and car chassis.”

While the lost Legos have made for fun beach combing and treasure hunts, there are bigger questions beneath the surface. If the contents of just one toppled shipping container can spread around the world for decades, what about far bigger and more dangerous spills that go unnoticed because they don’t happen to have Legos in them?

“There were 62 containers that fell off the Tokio Express back in 1997 and we only know about what  was in three of them,” Williams said.

“What’s in all of the others and when will that all wash ashore?”

You can listen to more of Williams and the story of the lost Legos here:

Which “holiday” crustacean am I?

Here are five facts to help you identify the featured “holiday” crustacean from the BCS “Christmas/winter-themed marine organisms” Pinterest board.

1. This crustacean belongs to a group (including species from five different families) which prefer the habitat of caves, pools, crevices, or wells in limestone or lava rock that is flooded by seawater.
2. This crustacean has poor eyesight (i.e., tiny eyes) and are brightly colored.
3. This crustacean prefers temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius.
4. This crustacean is quite jolly, enjoying it’s time cleaning parasites and other debris off of fish (HINT: I wonder if this leaves a minty flavor?).
5. Some species of this shrimp have bright green eggs.

Have fun guessing by leaving a comment below.

Earth Day, Every Day

I tend to be a little quiet and not post often in April. With Earth Day as a central theme for so many organizations this month, what more can I offer? Well, I can share 50 simple ways to make Earth Day, Every Day! These small actions will have you thinking more about how we’re affecting our oceans and local waterways and get you thinking about the animals and plants that live in marine ecosystems. Feel free to comment below with any questions you may have so I can be the Beach Chair Scientist and “bring a simplified perspective to your beachcombing inquiries”. Have a lovely weekend!

EarthDayEveryDay_BCS

For more ways to live (and die) “green” check out http://beachchairscientist.com/2012/04/15/100-ways-to-live-and-die-green/

PBTs leach from our junk, build up in blubber of marine mammals

bioaccumulation_ecokids.caIt’s a harsh reality, but even our choice of phone case or mattress may not be an easy one if we’re concerned with how we affect our environment. In this 5th installment of “We affect what goes in our watershed” (see posts on fertilizers, marine debris, petroleum, and pharmaceuticals), it’s all about PBTs (persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic) chemicals and how they are a silent threat to many marine mammals, and other top predators in the sea. These toxic threats get processed into their blubber and vital organs by way of bioaccumulation (see image). Susan Shaw, Director of Marine Environmental Research Institute, recently published that the bioaccumluation of North Atlantic harbor seals and noted that “at very high exposures PBTs can impair a mammal’s immune system, making it less capable of fighting off deadly diseases”.

What are the sources of these toxins?

  • Mattresses, upholstery foam, and the plastic casings for electronics
  • From the air or washed down the drain from foam, plastic, or fabric slough off our beds, couches, curtains, and televisions
  • Leaked from manufacturing plants, runoff from cropland, or leach out of landfills.

Positive news is that manufacturers and importers agreed in 2010 to a phase-out of materials using these substances in 2010, declaring that sales will completely be irradiated at the end of 2013. In the meantime, here’s a list from the Environmental Working Group on how to reduce the exposure of the chemicals in your home, also I found a list of PBTfree products for home construction and cars from INFORM  that .

I guess the question is now, what are some things that we can do to remind our family, friends, and  neighbors that what we put in our drains and local waterway matters to the entire ocean ecosystem?