What do you call a person that collects sea shells?

In the most amateur sense you would call yourself a shell collector…However, considering the fact that you are not just collecting for the sake of collecting (although you may be), but to study the specimens (even if it may be in the most primitive sense), therefore, you can call yourself a conchologist.

A person that studies sea shells is called a conchologist.

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How can you tell if that fin bobbing up and down in the distance belongs to a dolphin or a porpoise?

From far away you can probably only see the fin, right? The Atlantic bottlenose dolphin will have a dorsal fin that is hooked while the Atlantic Harbor Porpoise will have a triangular dorsal fin. If you are closer you will see other differences. For instance, the dolphin is about 7-12 feet as an adult while the porpoise gets to be about six feet. Also, the porpoise has a rather blunt nose while the dolphin has a much more pronounced, almost bottle-shaped, nose. Lastly, the porpoise is usually darker in color than the dolphin. Do you have another great question? Check out www.beachchairscientist.com and let us know what you always ponder while digging your toes in the sand!

What makes up the ‘salt’ in salt water?

I am writing this as a very long overdue expansion to a post that I wrote November 25, 2008,  “What happens if I swallow salt water?“. The pertinent information lacking was the composition of the salt in salt water (my sincerest apologies).

The salt in salt water is:

  • 77.6% table salt;
  • 10.88% magnesium chloride;
  • 4.74% epson salts;
  • 3.60% calcium sulfates;
  • 2.47% potassium sulfates;
  • 0.34% lime; and
  • 0.51% trace minerals.

(Did you know that a lot of cities are now using a form of magnesium chloride on roadways instead of rock salt during icy conditions? It is not as toxic to nearby plants and waters.)

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What do you do if you see a marine mammal stranded?

Keep calm. Also, remain at least 100 feet back so as not to scare the animal back into the ocean. If the animal is injured you want to be sure to get experts there immediately to investigate. If you are on the Atlantic coast call one of the following members of the Northeast Stranding Center.

Maine:
College of the Atlantic (207) 288-5015
University of New England-Hot Line (207) 580-0447

Massachusetts, New Hampshire & Maine:
New England Aquarium (617) 973-5247

Connecticut & Rhode Island:
Mystic Marinelife Aquarium (860) 572-5955

New York:
Riverhead Foundation (631) 369-9829

New Jersey:
Marine Mammal Stranding Center (609) 266-0538

Delaware:
Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Inst.(302) 228-5029

Maryland:
Cooperative Oxford Laboratory (800) 628-9944
National Aquarium in Baltimore (410) 408-6633

Washington, DC:
Smithsonian Institute (202) 357-1923

Virginia:
Virginia Institute of Marine Science (866) 493-1085
Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center (757) 437-6159

Typically you can volunteer at a stranding center. This would involve being available for crowd control and keeping the animal damp with towels during the interim time when an animal is spotted until experts can show up to diagnosis the animal. You must be properly trained before you become a proper marine mammal stranding volunteer.

For more information check out the place I volunteered during my old undergraduate days: http://www.marinemammalstrandingcenter.org/main.htm

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What is the state with the longest coastline?

I have lived in New Jersey, North Carolina and Florida – someone in each state has claimed that their state has the longest coastline along the Atlantic. Seriously – even,  New Jersey! Usually, the phrase, “Well, we have a lot of coves and bays that jig jag in and out of the coast” is always part of the conversation when I start to look skeptical.

I did some research and here is the low down on the general coastline bragging rights (not including tidal coastlines):

10. Massachusetts – 192 miles

9. Maine -228 miles

8. Oregon -296 miles

7. North Carolina -301 miles

6. Texas -367 miles

5. Louisiana -397 miles

4. Hawaii -750 miles

3. California – 840 miles

2. Florida – 1,350 miles

1. Alaska – 6,640 miles

(according to Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, “figures are lengths of general outline of seacoast. This does not include freshwater coastlines. Measurements are made with a unit measure of 30 minutes of latitude on charts as near scale of 1:1,200.000 as possible. Coastline of bays and sounds is included where they narrow to width of unit measure, and distance across at such point is included.“)

Do you have another great question? Check out www.beachchairscientist.com and let us know what you always ponder while digging your toes in the sand!

What is sea foam?

Sea foam can be thought of as the air bubbles in seawater that bounce off one another. When they bounce off one another it also releases sea spray.

Air bubbles in freshwater basically just unite and don’t bounce off one another. If there is foaminess in freshwater it is pollutant related. Makes you think where your water comes from, huh?

Do you have another great question? Check out www.beachchairscientist.com and let us know what you always ponder while digging your toes in the sand!

How can I be a responsible fisherman?

 

A lot of folks these days are interested in making certain their favorite past time jackandsawyer1of fishing is going to be around for future generations to enjoy.

Here is a short list of tactics to remain ethical, while still keeping fishing that ever intense sport of glory.

Best practices:

– Respect the space of one another while out there on the water to make it enjoyable for everyone.
– Be informed of the catch and size limits of the waters that you are fishing.
– Practice “catch” and “release” fishing techniques (see below).

The “catch” part:

– Use barbless hooks, because they reduce damage and handling time of the fish. Remove the hook gently.
– Keep the fish in the water or wet your hands if you handle the fish to unhook it.
– Don’t put your fingers in the gill covers or hold the fish by its eye sockets (!) or squeeze it too hard.
– When you do make contact with the fish make sure your hands are continuously wet. It will help to keep the animal’s natural mucus intact. The mucus protects the fish from getting infections.

The “release” part:

– Hold the fish in their normal swimming position and move them back and forth slowly to have water run across their gills.
– Revive exhausted fish by moving water through its gills. Fish that were caught kicking and screaming like a teenager going off to Sunday school use an increased rate of oxygen.

Lastly, I am a big fan of saving the best for last – the most important rule – have fun!

Photo (c) of my older brother.

 

Where do fish sleep?

Well, most fish are just like us and simply want to find a place away from all the chaos of the day to day rat race to take a nap and rest – slowing down their busy lives – gaining energy for the next day.

These places could be under logs, coral crevices, or other sorts of reefs spots – basically out of the way of predators.

Here is an interesting adaptation – the parrotfish uses its spit to create a translucent “sleeping bag bubble” around its body while it sleeps. The bubble helps to hide the parrotfish’s scent so other fish will not find it. If another animal bumps into it – the parrotfish will be warned of the other animal nearby and make a quick get away. Parrotfish are found on the coral reef.

But we’ve only scratched the surface here. Check back often at http://www.beachchairscientist.com for more insight about your favorite beach discoveries.

How long do seastars live?

Seastars can live up to 35 years in the wild! It really depends on the species. Their wild habitat includes coral reefs, rocky coasts, sandy bottom, or even the deep sea of all the world’s oceans. There are approximately 1,800 different types of sea stars.

They have been known to live up to 10 years in aquariums.

More links on seastars:

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/starfish.html

http://users.bigpond.net.au/je.st/starfish/index.html

But we’ve only scratched the surface here. Check back often at http://www.beachchairscientist.com for more insight about your favorite beach discoveries.

Do all jellies sting?

Yes, they do. All jellies have specialized structures called cnidoblasts. Inside the cnidoblasts are capsules called nematocysts. Inside each nematocyst is a coiled, hollow thread. Nematocysts are triggered by mechanical (touch) or chemical stimuli. When they fire, the thread turns inside out, pierces its prey and delivers its venom. A jelly’s tentacles and oral arms are covered with thousands of these spring-loaded little death traps.

But not all nematocysts are created equal. The sting of a sea wasp can be deadly inside of five minutes. The famous “stingless” jellies of Jellyfish Lake in Palau however, have a venom so weak; you’d have to give them a good lick to have any effect at all.

But we’ve only scratched the surface here. Check back often at http://www.beachchairscientist.com for more insight about your favorite beach discoveries.

Jim Wharton
Vice President, Education Division, Director, Center for School and Public Programs, Mote Marine Laboratory