A little dose of ocean conservation inspiration

This is a whimsical – yet still direct and profound – image I wanted to share from from my Ocean Conservation Inspiration Pinterest board. Do you have a particular phrase or image that drives you?

Why are our seas collapsing?

ReUseThisBag.com and oBizMedia.com have come together to produce a powerful infographic outlining 8 threats to the ocean (overfishing, whaling, factory fishing, global warming, pollution, factory fishing, bycatch, and pirate fishing). Creator Samantha Sanders did a phenomenal job designing the infographic with rich and vivid images detailing supporting evidence such as the destruction of coral reefs and the global decline of the tuna population. For instance, “There are 109 countries with coral reefs. Reefs in 90 of them are damaged by cruise ships anchors and sewage, by tourists breaking off chucks of coral, and by commercial sales to tourists.” Please share and feel free to comment your thoughts on the ‘Collapsing Seas’ infographic.

A quick lesson in wetland ecology

May is National Wetlands Month, so what better time to get creative in sharing how much I appreciate wetlands? Here is a new graphic with an overview of 1) four main types of wetlands and 2) why wetlands are important.

Wetlands are important because they:

… reduce damage from floods.
… protect land from storm surges.
… improve the quality of our water.
… can sustain a wide variety of plants and animals.
… can slow shoreline erosion.
… can provide vital food for many commercial & recreational fisheries.
… may provide a sustainable source of valuable timber.
… many rare and endangered species call them home.
… provide animals important shelter from encroaching humans.
… moderate stream flow.
… recharge groundwater supply.

Different types of wetlands:

Marshes are fed by groundwater or surface water. Marshes are dominated by soft-stemmed vegetation. Marshes are pH neutral and, therefore are abundant with plants and animals. Marshes can be freshwater or saltwater, tidal or inland. Other common names for marshes may include: prairie potholes, wet meadows, vernal ponds.

Swamps are dominated by woody-plants that can tolerate a rich, organic soil covered in standing water. This may include trees such as the cypress, cedar, or mangrove. Swamps may also be dominated by shrubs such as the buttonbush. Swamps are fed by groundwater or surface water.

Bogs are fed by precipitation and do not receive water from nearby runoff, such as streams or rivers. Bogs are dominated by a spongy peat deposit and the floor is usually covered in sphagnum moss. Bogs have acidic water and are low in nutrients making them a difficult place for plants to thrive.

Fens are peat-forming wetlands and are fed by nearby drainage such as streams or rivers. Fens are high in nutrients with low acidic water. Fens are characterized by grasses, wildflowers, and sedges. Often parallel fens adjacent to one another will eventually create a bog.

For more information about anything in this post or in general about wetlands please check out this overview by the EPA or email info@beachchairscientist.com.

Dear Online Science Writing Community: A reminder for ‘call to actions’ because your perspective is priceless

Journalists and colleagues are not the only ones reading your blog posts. The internet is home to where our nation’s kids are uncovering the answers to homework. But, they are also using the internet to learn more on what sparked their curiosity whilst investigating the world beyond-the-monitor. As an unanticipated consequence your amazing fact-filled posts, peppered with personal experience, are inspiring a new generation into fields in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). It does not seem as though this is news to anyone since the response to the contributions of ‘This is What a Scientist Looks Like’ is amazing! More to my point – I ask you – the estimable Online Science Writing Community – to take advantage of the influence you have on the impressionable youths of this wonderful planet while sharing your knowledge online. Like it or not – they’re reading, but the good news is that they’re remembering and sharing what they read.

Sure your research is sent off to decisions makers to be reviewed. What if we also cut out the middle man and used your own voice to affect change? You’ve exposed surprising evidence that things we could do or don’t do day-to-day would vastly improve our lives and give our planet a more sustainable future. I’d be so much more apt to listen to a blogger than someone who was telling me that I had to do something because it’s now a law or a mandate. Even if this is something that you already do from time-to-time – keep doing it because your perspective is priceless. And if you don’t – why not?

Much of the advice that Nancy Baron proposed to scientists interested in sharing their knowledge in her book, A Guide to Making Your Science Matter: Escape from the Ivory Tower, would translate well when communicating to, not only journalists and policy makers, but also teenagers, young adults, and the curious non-STEM professional public. For instance, “start thinking about what the journalist and his or her audience needs from you: clear, concise, conversational answers“, “Stepping outside your comfort zone to reach can have tremendous payoffs“, and “While dealing with backlash is no fun, many scientists agree that the end result is often worthwhile“.

Yes, this might mean you have to come up with a pseudonym because a grant would be pulled if you were contradicting a sponsor. But, often times having an opinion can be harmless.  Take the opportunity to not only feed the public’s thirst for education with with your own personal style, but also make gentle suggestions to mold the young audience into becoming environmentally-responsible citizen. My hidden agenda might not be much of a surprise here, but I am asking you – the Online Science Writing Community – to be an influential part the environmental education (EE) movement.

What is environmental education? To me, environmental education is a holistic approach of science in practicality. But, here are some more comprehensive definitions that encompass the concept.

  • Colorado Association of Environmental Education: Environmental education is a life-long learning process that increases awareness about the environment and its systems while developing critical-thinking skills that enable responsible decision-making.
  • Program, Classroom Earth: Environmental education is the process, activities and experiences—across disciplines—that lead students to have a greater understanding of how the earth’s resources and natural systems work and interact with each other and with human-made systems.
  • Program, Common Circle: Environmental education teaches people about the natural world and how their actions may affect it. This learning may take place in a formal classroom setting or the term may be used more broadly to describe efforts to inform the public about ecosystems and sustainable living.

Given also that the 5 principles of EE are awareness, knowledge, attitudes, skills, and participation (Tbilisi Declaration, 1997), it would seem as though any blogger with a bio that integrates 1) why you are passionate about your STEM field, 2) what led you to that field, and 3) how you’ve made an impact on the field would therefore be the perfect person to continue to share important outcomes to readers for the all-inclusive EE approach. I understand that often research cannot be shared until published, but I can say that I would be much more apt to make personal decisions about my day-to-day life from the responsible people that conducted the research rather from those that regurgitated it.

Thank you to all of the hard working scientists that share your lab and field adventures online. I will continue to be amazed by your dedication and conviction. You have a unique voice and a head full of ideas worth sharing. You have the ability to affect change and I remind you to take advantage of it.

“The ideal scientist thinks like a poet, works like a clerk, and writes like a journalist.” – E.O. Wilson

It’s not what vision is, it’s what vision does.” Peter Senge, The Necessary Revolution

Hands Across the Sand

So if you do not have any weekend plans as of yet, what could be better than rallying some friends and family to participate in your nearest Hands Across the Sand event (June 25, 2011). It’s really quite simple. Once you find your nearest participating beach follow these three steps:

STEP 1 – Go to the beach at 11 AM in your time zone for one hour, rain or shine.

STEP 2 – Join hands for 15 minutes at noon in your time zone forming lines in the sand against oil drilling in your coastal waters. Yes to clean energy.

STEP 3 –Leave only your footprints.
This is the poster for the event organized by Oceana I will be attending this weekend.
Also, if you want some great background into the origin of the event read this press release.