5 not-so-ordinary ways to get energized for Earth Day

We can go outside again! We can go outside again! Halleluiah! It’s a miracle! And, just in time for National Environmental Education Week (April 13-19), Earth Day (April 22), and Arbor Day (April 25). But, are you ready to throw your hands up in the air at the annual celebration to take care of the planet since you know “Earth Day is Every Day”? More than likely you’re already signed up to participate in a beach or stream clean-up, you have your favorite John Muir lesson plans ready for your students, and you constantly read or watch the Lorax to your own children, right? Well, if you’re looking for hilarious, fun, awe-inspiring ways to get yourself and those around you reinvigorated about Earth Day here are five ways to kick start the granola in you again.

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Have you ever feasted on dandelions?

1) Forage: While on maternity leave this past winter I became obsessed with a show on TLC called “Extreme Cheapskates“. Some things I can totally get behind, others made me a little squeamish. I loved the couple on one episode that implemented a “no spending month”. They refused to buy anything during this month and would focus on using every little last bit of scrap that was in the freezer and wouldn’t spend unless it was after finding pennies that were hiding under the sofa or returning recycled containers. Also, an overwhelming amount of those featured on the show would go other to forage their own salad fixings. Apparently, dandelions have some great health benefits and are a welcome addition to salads!

2) Challenge yourself: If you’re anything like me, you try your darnedest to live like “Earth Day is Every Day“, but sometime you fall short. And, honestly … don’t feel bad. We all try and we all fall short … even the best of them use plastic from time to time. It’s inevitable. I find the changes where I really succeed are the consequence of a challenge to myself. After some pondering and evaluation I might decide, “I really don’t need this” or “I’ll just make my own from now on” and I commit. I try to make it something that will work in my current life (i.e., there is no way I’d ever be one to make my own clothes, but I can make clothes detergent). I pick one new idea every six months and experiment. It’s fun and I never feel bad if it doesn’t work out – I tried and I can try again!

3) Start a movement: Do you have that one irritating issue that no one in your community seems to be doing anything about? Well, why not capitalize on this time of year and mobilize your friends and family to focus them on a solution? You can be like Dave Rauschkolb who started the “Hands Across the Sand” movement to bring attention to clean energy, Danielle Richardet who started a movement to outlaw cigarettes on the beaches of Wilmington, NC, or Tim Silverwood who started the Take 3 Initiative. They had a small measurable objective and encouraged those around them to participate! What’s bothering you!? Are you ready to take it on?

4) Earth Day dance: What’s not to love with this music from Michal Franti? Get your body moving and heart rate running so much so that you’ll be volunteering for every clean-up from sea to shining sea. Or, make a playlist of your own and keep it on your device for when you’re in the not-so-inspired slump. Some songs that I might choose would be Redemption Song (Bob Marley), Forever Young (Bob Dylan), The 3 R’s (Jack Johnson), How Come (Ray LaMontagne), What’s Goin’ On? (Marvin Gaye), Waiting On The World To Change (John Mayer), and Man In The Mirror (Michael Jackson). Anyone have other suggestions? I’d love to hear them!

From @spabettie

via @spabettie

5) Have a party: Celebrate your love of the Earth with a party and inspire others with your use of local ingredients and reusable materials. To take it up a notch you can serve fun cocktails with only terrestrial or aquatic names, like the mudslide or the blue sea martini! Or you could just bring in a special sweet treat to the office, like these Earth Day chocolate peanut butter cups!?!?

Bonus three for teachers:

1) Sing a little Earth Day diddy: You can get 11 songs adapted from familiar tunes from this open marketplace for educators. For instance, check out this “Recycling Song” (to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat):

Save, save, save the cans*, throw them in the bin. We can help save the Earth, if we all pitch in. (*Repeat with plastics, paper, bottles)

2) Make your own dye: This fun, interdisciplinary lesson “Using Spatial Intelligence to Make Earth-Friendly Art” for middle schoolers is from Earth Day Network and strengthens students’ artistic skills and their knowledge about history and the environment. It also throws in a little bit of every other intelligence just for a most well rounded approach … a must-must if you ask me!

EEWebinar

via @EEWeek

3) Watch a webinar: National Environmental Education Week’s online webinar archive offers talks and presentations with some of the leading minds in environmental education. My favorites are the “Teaching Ocean Connections: Watersheds to Reefs”, “Biomimicry: Designing by Nature” and all of the ones related to how to use technology to investigate the outdoors.

Confession: I may or may not have written this entire post just so I could share the preschool song!

From USFWS “Miracle Migration: The Long Distance Flyer, Rufa Red Knot”

Thank you to the Northeast Office of the US Fish and Wildlife Service for posting this graphic on their Twitter feed! With the mention of horseshoe crabs, how could I not repost this!?!

  • Did you know that shorebird hunting in the Caribbean and South America may contribute to the red knot’s decline along the Atlantic coast? (OK, how can we get this practice to stop trending? Those poor little birds!)
  • With scientific management measures now in place, horseshoe crab harvest is no longer consider a threat to the red knot?
  • Habitat loss due to sea level rise, shoreline development, and human development are still consider threats to the red knot?
  • One banded red knot, B95, was nicknamed “Moonbird” because researchers discovered this bird had flown enough miles to get to the moon and back!
via @USFWSNortheast

via @USFWSNortheast

 

Why you should never walk on dunes

It might seem nonsensical since the dunes look calm and peaceful, but it’s not a good idea to explore dunes. In addition to being illegal in many coastal towns, here are six other reasons why you should stay off the dunes:

1) Dunes store sand that help diminish potential shoreline erosion.
2) Dunes absorb the impact of storm surge and high waves.
3) Dunes prevent water from flooding coastal towns.
4) Dunes provide habitat and crucial nesting area for threatened and endangered species.
5) Dunes create a relaxing backdrop to any beach.
6) Dunes buffer the full force of the ocean and protect property.

BCS_Dunes

For more on dunes, their importance and role in beach ecology, check out the post “From Sandy, coastal towns learn ‘dune’ diligence. Is it enough?” written immediately after Hurricane Sandy.

5 quick & simple DIY natural household products

DIYLast March I spent some time focusing on what we do in our communities that affect watersheds. Forgive me, but I’m just now getting around to sharing some quick and simple (repeat: simple, simple, simple!) household practices that are not only better for my local watershed, but also the growing family and I. Each of these products reduces our plastic impact and uses ingredients that are significantly less toxic than their commercial counterpart.

In addition to water, you only need at most three ingredients for each of these – all of which you can purchase from Amazon, Target, or Trader Joe’s.

Laundry detergent from Wellness Mama: All you need is pure castile soap, borax, and washing soda
Liquid hand soap from Thank Your Body: All you need is pure castile soap
Simple Homemade 3-in-1 Cleaner from Frugal Granola: All you need is white vinegar and lemon (or essential oils)
Vanilla Coconut Brown Sugar Scrub from Treehugger: All you need is coconut oil, brown sugar, and vanilla
Wipes (great for cleaning tile, counters, leather, and flooring) from Wellness Mama: All you need is liquid castile soap, 100% pure aloe vera, and witch hazel

Since castile soap shows up frequently on the ingredients lists, check out this post from Live Renewed on the many uses of castile soap. You’ll be amazed and smitten with Dr. Bronner!

For more ways to reduce your plastic impact, please make sure to check out and reference often (bookmark now!) anything from Beth Terry. I love her book and her blog, My Plastic Free Life.

In an effort to keep my life a little less crazy, I do try to find homemade household product recipes that use only a few common ingredients (read: three or less). Do you have any other great ideas worth sharing?

 

What are the names of juvenile coastal and marine animals?

Well, it’s been quite some time since I’ve posted and it’s all due to an adorable little distraction – my son was born in early January. The addition has been wonderful and fairly stress free (keep your fingers crossed!). In fact, I have to say this time around my biggest stress was picking out a name. We had a boy name chosen, but not a girl name, so the decision was easy. However, it got me thinking about what juvenile marine animals are called. Here is a list of ‘baby’ names of over 25 well-known ocean animals. After all, you don’t accidentally want to refer to a juvenile shark as a calf or a juvenile eel as a spet, do you? If you can expand or elaborate on the list feel free to share in the comments box.

Birds
Flamingo, gull, heron, penguin: Chick
Crane:  Chick or craneling
Pelican: Nestling

Fish
Barracuda: Spet
Cod: Codling, hake, sprag, or sprat
Eel: Elver
Most fish: Fry or fingerling
Salmon: Smelt

Invertebrates
Blue crab: Larva
Clam: Larva, chiton, or littleneck
Horseshoe crab: Larva
Jellyfish: Ephyrae
Oyster: Spat
Sand dollar, sea urchin, sea star: Larva or pluteus (free-swimming stage)

Marine mammals
Dolphin, manatee, porpoise, whale: Calf
Otter: Whelp or pup
Shark, seal, sea lion: Pup
Walrus: Cub or pup

Reptile
Turtle: Hatchling

What this short video for some cute pictures of featured juvenile coastal and marine animals. Which one is your favorite?

Juvenile Animal Names from Beach Chair Scientist on Vimeo.

For more information:
http://www.pawnation.com/2013/11/19/baby-animal-names/7
http://www.defenders.org/sites/default/files/publications/sea_otter_faqs.pdf
http://www.zooborns.com/zooborns/baby-animal-names.html
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/animals/Animalbabies.shtml
http://www.english-for-students.com/Names-of-Baby-Animals.html
http://www.pawnation.com/2013/11/19/baby-animal-names/7
http://dictionary.reference.com/writing/styleguide/animal.html
http://www.horseshoecrab.org/info/lifecycle.html
http://www.bluecrab.info/lifecycle.html
http://www.jellywatch.org/blooms/facts

My favorite posts from 2013

One of the highlights of 2013 for me was gathering the family and neighbors to put in storm drains signs. Learn more on why it's important to know what's going down the drain here: http://beachchairscientist.com/2013/03/01/and-that-concludes-my-we-affect-what-goes-in-our-watershed-week/

One of the highlights of 2013 for me was gathering the family and neighbors to put in storm drains signs. Learn more on why it’s important to know what’s going down the drain here: http://beachchairscientist.com/2013/03/01/and-that-concludes-my-we-affect-what-goes-in-our-watershed-week/

This isn’t the typical list of the most popular Beach Chair Scientist posts throughout the year (you can find those on the right sidebar under “Top Posts & Pages from BCS” any day of the year). Those posts typically include questions typed into a search bar such as ‘Are manatees and elephants really related?‘, ‘Do sharks have bones?’ or ‘How much salt is in the ocean?’.  This list is a review of my favorite posts from the past year and why I enjoyed them:

  • 99 reasons I’m in Limulus Love: Before the horseshoe crabs started mating in May and June I sat down and cataloged a list of 99 reasons Limulus polyphemus are a creature worth respecting.
  • All five posts from the “What we do affects our watershed week: This series was a great reminder that even though you might not live anywhere near a river, lake, or stream our daily actions have massive consequences on the waterways – and ultimately the ocean.
  • Mother Nature vs. Santa Claus: 13 reasons why Mother Nature should always win: This post was a response to the Toys ‘R’ Us commercial that pitted nature against toys. It’s important to remember what Mary Catherine O’Connor with Outside Magazine stated as the “tremendous value to childhood development (as well as to self-awareness, health and confidence) that is spending time in the natural world and trying to understand how it works”.
  • A seal on the shore isn’t always stranded: This post is a nice reminder to stay back and let nature takes its course, also you never know what you’ll come across during a wintry beach walk.
  • 3 truths on the fables about dolphin-safe labels: It was an eye-opening post to write and discover that just because it’s labeled as dolphin-safe it isn’t safe for all marine life.
  • A Scientist’s Inspiration (by Jim McElhatton): This interview with Dr. Penny Chisholm, recipient of the National Medal of Science, should be a must read for anyone in school with even a slight interest in science as she explains how “My interest in science grew slowly as I went through school”. She also explains the merits of writing for children in that it helps to boil down the subject matter.
  • Beach Chair Birding, A Ray of Hope in a Sea of Chum, A Visit from Dungeness Crab: These posts are three of my favorites because they were all contributed by guest bloggers. Ernie Wilson, Jim Wharton, and Cherilyn Jose each brought a perspective as unique as they are … I can’t wait to see what they’ll share next year! If you’re interested in guest blogging please feel free to share your ideas anytime!

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.

Hark! The herald angel (shark) strikes?

Angel Shark

Just one of the 25 Christmas/winter marine themed organisms on the Pinterest board. Check out the others here: http://www.pinterest.com/beachcscientist/christmaswinter-themed-marine-organisms/

Not often. But, the angel shark has been known to strike – if provoked. These strikes are similar to those made by its cartilaginous relatives, rays and skates, coming from the surface of the ocean floor (they’re pretty good with the camouflage as you might notice from the picture on the right). However, unlike rays and skates, the nocturnal angel shark doesn’t have a mouth on the underside of its body, but rather in front. This location is best suited for a diet of crustaceans, mollusks, and flatfish. With their enormous mouth they’ll suck the prey in and swallow it whole.

But, one of the most significant “Did you know?s” about the angel shark are that their lower lobe is longer than the upper lobe, whereas most shark caudal fins are top-heavy.

Also, pretty fun to learn is that angel sharks are ovoviviparous, just like frilled sharks, seahorses, and scorpionfish. This means “The young sharks tend to develop inside the female mothers.”

Mother Nature vs. Santa Claus? 13 reasons Mother Nature should always win

Say it isn’t so! Unfortunately, it’s the truth: Toys ‘R’ Us has pitted Mother Nature against Father Christmas.

In case you missed the buzz in late October and early November about the Trees vs. Toys commercial I’ll share some of the outrage (that I share, but haven’t expressed until now) from Twitter.

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So how exactly did Toys ‘R’ Us miss the mark? Well, they portrayed nature as a drab, boring place and toys as much more exciting. However, here is a list (in no particular order) of compelling reasons from doctors and other experts in the environmental education field on why kids need nature, not just toys, in their lives.

1. “Children who climb trees, make mud pies, explore streams, stare at clouds, collect leaves, make swords of sticks, wish on dandelions, build forts and fairy houses—these children are exercising their bodies as they exercise their imaginations, with no batteries required, and are immeasurably the richer for it.” Todd Christopher, Senior Director of Online Communications with National Parks Conservation Association and author of The Green Hour

2. “Time outdoors reduces obesity, improves academic learning and behavior, and helps gets kids excited about learning.” Amanda Paulson, Staff Writer with Christian Science Monitor

3. “Because our health is intimately linked to the health of our environment, we can’t have one without the other.  In order to protect and conserve the environment, we must first value it.  In order to value it, we must know it, and in order to know it we must touch, smell, breathe, and experience Nature.  By getting people outside in Nature, I find that much more happens than weight reduction, lower heart rate, and a sense of focus and well-being.” Dr. Robert Zarr, Founder of Parks Rx

4. “Of tremendous value to childhood development (as well as to self-awareness, health and confidence) is spending time in the natural world and trying to understand how it works.” Mary Catherine O’Connor with Outside Magazine

5. “If you get outdoors, you’re more likely to be active.” Dr. Pooja Tandon, author of study published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine

6. “While playtime is important, spending some moments outdoors is especially good because it helps with the physical, mental and cognitive development of a child.” Dr. Tandon

7. “Children come alive when they step out into nature.  It may not be loaded with bright and shiny electronic toys that whir and buzz, but the forest has its own sparkling magic and children feel it instantly.” Barbara Tulipane, President and CEO with National Recreation and Park Association

8. “Kids in the woods get other benefits too.  They breathe in fresh, clean air and get more oxygen. They can run and play and burn more calories while getting stronger bones and improved muscle tone.  Their internal sleep clocks are reset by the bright daylight and they can count on a better night’s rest.” Barbara Tulipane

9. “Problems associated with alienation from nature include familiar maladies: depression, obesity, and attention deficit disorder.” Richard Louv during an interview with the editors of Scholastic’s Parent & Child

10. “Scientists have discovered that bacteria on the surface of the skin play an important role in combating inflammation when we get hurt … Parenting groups welcomed the findings as ‘a vindication of common sense’ and urged parents to allow their children greater freedom to play outdoors.”  The Telegraph

11. “We are negligently risking the health of our students — and by extension posing a health threat to the Earth — by not ensuring them adequate time to play outdoors in beautiful “wild” spaces.” GreenHeart Education

12. “Time in nature enhances children’s creativity, and the complex thinking, experimentation and problem-solving that nature affords carries over into their academic and interpersonal lives.” Susan Sachs Lipman, Director of Social Media Promotion and Partnerships for the Children & Nature Network

13. “Nature (Vitamin N) can have a profound positive effect on children’s mental and physical health,” Dr. Mary Brown, past member of the board of directors for the American Academy of Pediatrics

Also, worthy of sharing is this video from the National Wildlife Federation “Warning: Taking kids outside may result in smiles and laughter” (h/t @).

Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences being a kid in nature or taking kids in nature. Comment below!

Jellyfish protein help create glow-in-the-dark ice cream

Looks like seaweed isn’t the only ocean organism used to make ice cream a special treat these days, particularly if its glow-in-the-dark ice cream. Charlie Francis, British ice cream creator, partnered with a Chinese scientist interested in understanding the nuances of jellyfish proteins, to synthesize the fluorescent jellyfish protein specifically for use as part of an ice cream flavor. Francis and his partner recreated the luminescent protein to construct a specialized calcium-activated protein that only glows in the dark once you lick it. And, the more you lick it the more it glows. No jellyfish were harmed in the making of this ice cream flavor. Is it safe to taste? Francis tasted it and said “I tried some and I don’t seem to be glowing anywhere” How much is a scoop? $220. Would you try it?

la-dd-glow-in-the-dark-jellyfish-ice-cream-201-002

Check out the ‘Lick Me, I’m Delicious’ Facebook page to learn more about all of Francis’ creations here: https://www.facebook.com/lickmeimdelicious

Under normal, non-dairy related circumstances, jellyfish protein glow when the photoprotein aequorin interacts with seawater to produce a light (i.e., green florescent protein or GFP). Why do animals and plants glow in the dark? Find out here.

gfp2_conncolldotedu

GFP was first described in 1955.