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Posted on 08/24//17

Seagrass in Yarmouth Maine at low tide

If you launched a boat at the New England coast this summer, chances are you navigated through brilliant green strands of grass that hug the shoreline. Our local seagrass, Zostera marina, also called eelgrass, and there is something soothing about the sway of these grasses right below the surface of the water. At low tide, the grasses stand up tall, starkly green against the dark mudflats. We acknowledge them, (or maybe pay them no real notice at all), but these strands that are seemingly in our way are very important to the success of our shoreline and ocean. According to the Smithsonian, seagrass, “one of the most productive ecosystems in the world,” evolved around 100 million years ago. But like so many ocean assets, we are losing seagrass daily. Pollution from fertilizer, sewage, urban runoff, sedimentation, storms, and rising ocean temperatures pose threats to seagrasses. When we loose seagrass, habitat for the creatures that depend on it such as crab, quahog, and scallop is also threatened.

Seagrass, a primary producer of oxygen with its leaves, stem, and root system, works its magic by becoming an underwater meadow, feeding and harboring sea creatures, filtering toxins by absorbing nutrients and all the while protecting our coastline from erosion. New studies suggest that the amazing seagrass may also play an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change. By grabbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to use in photosynthesis, carbon is transferred to the soil as plants die and decompose. In this recent study from MIT’s Sea Grant, Massachusetts eel grass was found to store carbon from outside sources, confirming that we need healthy seagrass for a healthy ocean and healthy planet.

 

W2O member, artist Nadret Andre reflects on her use of seagrass as a subject for her work: “My paintings are about color and the sensations of light that is essential for seagrass survival. The interconnectedness of a vast number of species sheltered, fed and protected by seagrass habitats is an inspiration for my paintings. Reaching is inspired by the amazing phenomenon of aerenchyma, the spongy tissue that forms spaces or air channels in the leaves of seagrass. These air channels keep the seagrass leaves reaching up towards the light and allow for photosynthesis.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on 05/19//17

“There’s no life without water-we all live in ocean country,” said Liz Cunningham at the Women Working for Oceans’ Heart of Hope: A Quest to Save Our Seas event last week. Liz delivered an inspiring message of hope to a full Imax Theatre at the New England Aquarium and challenged us to think about how we might use what she calls our “passion for rescue” in the effort to save our ocean.

“Active hope is something we do rather than have,” Liz remembers learning from the philosopher Joanna Macy. But how can we have hope when there is so much concern and worry about our blue planet? The answer from Liz is that you can never quit. Even when the math doesn’t hold up and it looks like the odds are against us, each and every one of us can choose a role, make a decision or maybe introduce a new way of thinking and act with our ocean in mind.

Liz presenting at the Imax Theatre at the New England Aquarium

Coming out from underneath a kayak in a near death accident, Liz had the will to live, but it was that passion for rescue that gave her the strength to defeat her despair.  “The passion for rescue,” she declares, “is a lived, breathing hope.” During that terrible accident, in the middle of the ocean, Liz had found her calling, in a way. It was at that moment of desperation, trapped and unable to escape, that the “audacious force” she called the “thing-thing”  inside of her gave her the strength to take a breath, break free and find the hope. During her recovery from the accident, her renewed passion for rescue set her on the course for writing Ocean Country about her search for the people who, despite impossible odds stacked against them, make the important choice of protecting our ocean.

Liz has taken this notion of active hope and simply states that “hope is something we do.”  At the Heart of Hope event, she shared those stories reinforcing to us that we all have a role to play and that each of us can make a difference when it comes to protecting our living ocean. What is your role? How can you champion for our ocean and have that passion for rescue? Connect with us at W2O and find out how you can be part of the movement to save our ocean. Join today and let us help you discover your passion for rescue.

“In the end, it’s really about inviting others to be a part of the hope on which our future hinges. Each and every one of us is needed. There’s a role for each of us to play,” says Liz.

Posted on 05/16//17

Sharks! Why do these amazing creatures matter to the health of our ocean?

Sharks capture our attention. Have you seen the reports on the news about the “multiple sightings” of sharks near the beaches of New England and California?  It might seem that sharks are in abundance, that they are everywhere and that each year there are more of them. Not true. We are seeing more sharks because of increased seal populations and thanks to new techniques and technology (planes and sometimes drones) to track where they are and capture their image. But the reality is that over 100 million sharks, majestic ocean apex predators, are killed each year and most species are in decline.

Fishing, accidental bycatch and the demand for shark fins and other parts for sale are the major contributors to the shark’s decline.  Every year, up to 73 million shark fins end up on the global market, according to Oceana, “Sharks are caught and killed faster than they can reproduce. 70 % of the most common shark species involved in the fin trade are at a high or very high risk of extinction.”  The concept of protecting sharks to some might seem counterintuitive. Don’t they eat everything and contribute to the decline of other species in the ocean?  In truth, without a healthy shark population, we would be in real danger of losing the living ocean that we rely on for food, our economy and even the air we breathe.

The fact is, sharks matter more than you think.

Photo: Brian Skerry

Photo: Brian Skerry

The loss of sharks would set off a chain reaction in our ocean. According to Oceana, “The loss of sharks as top predators in the ecosystem allows the number of grouper, which eat other fish species, to increase. The groupers, in turn, reduce the number of herbivores such as parrotfish, blennies and gobies, in the echo system. Without these herbivores to eat algae off the coral, algae will take over the reef system.” In Oceana’s report Predators as Prey: Why Healthy Oceans Need Sharks, even shark’s proximity to some animals will cause them to behave when choosing feeding sites in ways that are healthier for oceans.

So move over and make way-sharks ultimately will keep us healthy if we protect them.

Take Action HERE!  Please support the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act. This bill prohibits the possession, purchase or sale of shark fins in the United States. Congressman Edward R. Royce (R-CA-39) and Congressman Gregorio Kalili Camacho Sablan (D-MP-At Large) the co-sponsors of the bill, urge you to support this bill because “As a nation, we have a responsibility to protect species that are being exploited to the point of extinction. We must set an example for the rest of the world by eliminating the shark fin trade in our country and no longer facilitating this illicit activity.”

 

Posted on 03/30//17

We need you. We need your voice and your ocean optimism! Mark your calendar and make a date with W2O to speak up for our ocean. Here are the upcoming events that demand your presence and your voice. Together we can speak up and out, defend and deliver a message of concern, and gather as one with hope and optimism for collective action to protect what we love: our blue planet.

April 22nd is Earth Day and scientists from around the globe are marching to remind the current administration that science is real and that peer-reviewed data should be respected when making policy decisions about climate action. Science is real. Science is everywhere and affects everyone. Watch for updates on our Facebook and Twitter.

April 29th is the peoples Climate March Nationwide. No matter where you live, there will be a march near you. Washington expects the largest turnout, but, like the Women’s March, cities across the Nation are planning to mobilize for climate action. Grab your signs and your family and join us in Boston on April 29th. Mark your calendar and look for more information about a meet-up place on Facebook and Twitter closer to the day.

 

May 16th W2O will present Heart of Hope: A Quest to Save Our Seas featuring author Liz Cunningham at the New England Aquarium’s IMAX Theater. Liz will harness that great energy from the marches and inspire you to find your role within the global initiative to safeguard our ocean. Liz delivers a hopeful message amongst dire circumstances that will leave you with a mission of action and a renewed faith that collective voices can influence decisions in this tumultuous and uncertain political climate. Come be inspired!  TICKETS

 

Posted on 03/11//17

 

We have been reflecting, reminiscing, marching, huddling, writing, posting and discussing. Now might be a good time to speak of hope. 

“Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act” says environmental writer Rebecca Solnit in a recent article for The Guardian. Right now our hope lies with knowing that our resolve is strong, that we will defend our progress and we will keep educating others so that they might begin to understand how our lives depend on a healthy ocean. After all, the ocean is the heart of our planet, providing us with the air we breath, food to sustain us, and economic stability from fishing and tourism. The ocean feeds our us and nurtures our soul.

W2O is excitedly looking forward to our Spring event, Heart of Hope: A Quest to Save Our Seas on May 16th at the New England Aquarium featuring author and ocean lover Liz Cunningham. Liz will describe her resolve to get back underwater after a life-altering kayaking accident led to a journey with flippers, tank and new friends and the renewal of her faith that we can have hope for the health of our ocean. Liz is an observer, citizen scientist and artist who can tell a story that will inspire you to pack your bags and adventure near or far to get a closer look and be involved with what she calls the passion for rescue.”The passion of rescue doesn’t calculate the odds,” Cunningham writes in Ocean Country, “Its risks are the one that make life all the more worth living, risks with heart. The passion of rescue is a lived, breathing hope.”

Liz Cunningham near her home in Berkeley California

Posted on 02/28//17

The sea is full of secrets. Beneath the surface, there are so many mysteries; while this uncertainty is scary, it’s also full of promise.

I am at a point of transition in my life: I recently graduated from a Masters program, I’m dipping my toes into nonprofit waters, and searching for the right career path. In short, it’s turmoil. There is a lot to be unsure about.

As the newest W2O board member, I’ve been struck by the refusal of W2O members to be bogged down in futility. Perhaps no single one of us can solve all the problems our world and ocean face, but every small action makes a difference. Working together makes those actions more impactful. We may be unsure, but that doesn’t mean there is no reason to have hope. The light of hope is central to our spring event.

W2O’s Spring 2017 event, The Heart of Hope: A Quest to Save Our Seas with author and ocean advocate Liz Cunningham, aims to inspire local communities to find their role within the global initiative to safeguard our ocean. Liz Cunningham will share her story of finding true hope amidst dire environmental crises. Leading up to and in conjunction with this event, W2O draws inspiration from the Ocean Optimism movement; in our social media, we will be using #OceanOptimism to build our sense of community, hope, and inspiration around the ocean. We hope to hear from all of you about what inspires you to work for our ocean, and what continues to give you hope for success.

Ocean Optimism is a marine conservation movement that highlights areas of success. The movement aims to facilitate connection and collaboration in order to create a new narrative of hope in marine conservation. In 2014, renowned scientists and environmental champions Nancy Knowlton, Heather Koldeway, Cynthia Vernon and Elin Kelsey launched #OceanOptimism to encourage the sharing of success stories and positive ocean news. This global movement has spread to over 60 million social media users in an incredible outpouring of marine support.

My own #OceanOptimism is bound up in curiosity. The seemingly boundless ocean waters hide fascinating secrets. It’s impossible for me to watch plunging Gannets, Sandpipers flitting about the shoreline, or schools of fish swarming coral reefs without getting tongue-tied with questions. For every answer I’ve found, there are (at least) 10 more questions. My hope for our ocean stems from how much there is always left to learn.

Delving deeper into my ocean curiosity always grows my #OceanOptimism. We want to know what grows yours. Use my example as a guide; think about what inspires you to work for the ocean; tell us your unique story of what links you to our blue planet.

To contribute to our social media campaign, contact W2O’s Social Media Manager Emily Conklin at emilyforw2o@gmail.com. Follow @W2Oorg on Twitter and @womenworkingforoceans on Instagram and be sure to use #OceanOptimism in your own posts.

 

Blog contributor and W2O Social Media Manager Emily Conklin holds a BA in Biology from Wheaton College, and a Masters of Science in Marine Biology from Northeastern University.
 

 

Posted on 01/22//17

 

Women Working for Oceans joined 175,000 collective voices marching in peace at the Boston Women’s March reminding America and the world that we stand together for dignity, equal rights and freedom from discrimination for all. W2O with many of our members and other organizations marched to remind the new administration that we will not look back when it comes to climate action. We will defend, challenge and mobilize for our blue planet.

 

 

The march is over but now the work begins. Each one of us has a role to play and we encourage you to continue that spirit of action by choosing to engage in participation that will further our mission of educating and advocating for our oceans.

 

Ideas for engagement after the March:

  • Join W2O and our partners at The New England Aquarium to defend, protect and advocate for our ocean
  • Start a movement in your town to ban single use plastic
  • Join environmental organizations in your local community or in your areas of interest.
  • Talk to someone you know about the importance of climate action and bring that person to a W2O event
  • Volunteer, attend events, create a local chapter of a group you follow nationally
  • Get active on social media, share and post things you like and speak up about ocean and environmental news that worries you
  • Run for office (grab that clipboard!) and/or support female candidates (and all candidates) that support an agenda of climate action and ocean protection in local and State elections
  • Build a relationship with your local elected officials so you can easily be in touch on issues that concern you about climate and ocean related issues
  • Write op-ed pieces for your local newspapers about why the March has inspired you to continue to fight for the protection of our oceans and why climate action must continue to be a priority for everyone
  • Be ready to march again when the need arises
  • Encourage your family and community to join you in all of the above

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on 01/07//17

Photo: Artist for Humanity

It has been a celebratory couple of years for our ocean. We have witnessed the designation of several key ocean National Monuments, finally felt committed as a nation to the Paris Climate Accord, embraced alternative energy development, nationally banned microbeads and watched the topic of plastic pollution rise to the consciousness of the world with considerable action taken on changing single use plastic usage. The world now knows that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is accelerated by the choices that we’ve made and that the ocean is warming because of those actions. There is no looking back.

Women Working for Oceans members will march on January 21st at the Boston Women’s March for America because we have to defend the progress of our nation and protect the future for our children. We march because the ocean is our life, our livelihood and its destruction harms the most vulnerable of people across the globe. Climate justice is social justice. All deserve to have a clean, healthy ocean and planet.

Join us on January 21st at the Boston Women’s March for America

 

Posted on 11/15//16

Free the feast! When shopping for produce avoid plastic packaging this holiday season. Single use plastic never goes away, breaks down into smaller and smaller particles, and ends up in our oceans. Mistaken for food, tiny fragments of plastic are often consumed by marine life and can end up at our dinner table in the food we serve to our families.

Shop locally, if possible, and remember to bring your reusable bag. Avoid storing leftovers in plastic wrap (use our handy guide) and invest in some everlasting quality glass or stainless steel containers. Give thanks for our oceans. Make your holiday season a happy and healthy one.. plastic free.

Good for you; good for our oceans!img_8616

 

Posted on 10/23//16

img_8543Kombu kelp lasagna anyone? When thinking of cooking with fresh greens, seaweed is hardly the first thing to come to mind for most people. Dr. Nichole Price and Chef Barton Seaver joined W2O members last week to show us why we shouldn’t be so quick to rule out vegetarian options from the sea when planning our menus.

At our “Cooking with Sea Greens” event, both presenters extolled the virtues of cultivating and consuming seaweeds. Dr. Nichole Price, a marine ecologist who studies climate change at Bigelow Laboratories in Maine, explained how these marine plants can play an important role in fighting climate change. Large seaweeds, such as kelp, are functionally the “trees’” of the ocean, absorbing carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, while producing life-sustaining oxygen. These amazing plants can lower acidity levels and also absorb toxins from the water column, helping to maintain healthy chemistry. While these absorptive abilities make a big difference for local ecosystems, toxins aren’t transferred to people when consumed, making these plants a powerhouse before and after harvest. Dr. Price’s work communicates this science, engaging local communities and inspiring active solutions. Seaweed aquaculture meets both these goals: healthy oceans, healthy communities.

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Science

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

Shifting how and where we grow our food could also translate into healthier diets. Sea greens are jam-packed with nutrients, providing often-lacking iodine, among others. “This is a blue revolution and my job is to convince you to eat it,” explains Barton Seaver. Seaver had no trouble convincing us; everything he cooked was delicious. From seasoning soups with seaweed for a “sultry sauna of flavor” to zesty pesto and fresh salads, attendees tasted a variety of dishes that would make you forget everything you think you know about seaweed. Barton Seaver’s cookbooks show you how to bring sustainable, delectable treats into your own kitchen. Sea greens are truly a super food: good for you, good for our oceans.

Chef Barton Seaver with W2O member Meghan Jeans

Chef Barton Seaver with W2O member Meghan Jeans

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Todays Blog contributor Emily Conklin, is a Master’s candidate in Marine Biology at Northeastern University. She is currently an intern for W2O working on outreach and education and plans to continue her career in science education after graduation.