W2O Blog

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on 09/22//16

What a relief to finally hear some promising, hopeful and, quite frankly, exciting news about protection for our oceans. September’s headlines about President Obama designating Papahānaumokuākea off of Hawaii and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic as National Monuments could not have come at a better time. Every day there is a broadcast, article, or radio commentary about climate change and the devastation taking its toll on our blue planet. Ten years ago information regarding ocean risk was something you searched for in an environmental magazine or maybe the science section of a newspaper. It is telling that the coverage of climate science related to our oceans is now every publication’s front page news.  This hopeful sign signals that conservation groups are no longer “preaching to the choir” and that generations are learning and becoming keenly aware of the importance of protecting our oceans for our future. With his announcement at the Our Ocean Conference, President Obama declared that “The health of our planet’s oceans determine, in large part, the health of our bodies and the health of our economies.”  Thank you President Obama, for putting the health of our oceans on the world stage and for giving us hope that this might be the first wave of more protection of vulnerable marine areas.wapo-ocean-legacy-ad

Posted on 08/28//16

Photo of Blue Trevally: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Photo of Blue Trevally: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Mahalo” (thank you in Hawaiian) to President Obama and many others for Monument designation expansion of the pristine area of Papahānaumokuākea off the coast of Hawaii. It is now the largest protected area (land or sea) in the world! This is big world news this week and hopefully sends a message to everyone of the importance of protecting vital habitat everywhere in our oceans. Protected areas are the basis of climate refuge and, according to Douglas McCauley from UC Santa Barbara in this NPR interview, the area of Papahānaumokuākea is one of the most spectacular places on earth. “You put on a mask, and the mask essentially becomes a time machine. You put your head under water, and you’re looking at what the ocean looked like on reefs thousands of years ago. It’s what Hawaii-the reefs that we see when we go on vacation out there-looked like before we impacted and disturbed this ecosystem,” says McCauley.

Photo: Lee Gillenwater The Pew Charitable Trust

Photo: Lee Gillenwater
The Pew Charitable Trust

Marine protected areas have proved to be a hotspot for the study of climate change and have demonstrated that when left alone, without fishing, tourism or reef disturbance, protected areas are able to rebound from damaging human activity. W2O co-founder and Chair of Trustees of the New England Aquarium Donna Hazard is so grateful for the news from Hawaii but also knows that she wants to see more areas protected.  She is particularly concerned about the Atlantic where it might be more difficult to imagine the abundance of diversity under the dark blue cold waters. “It’s so important to protect those biologically diverse habitats.  It would be great if I could just know that during my lifetime I could help secure more marine protected areas for the next generation. We can’t afford to let this opportunity pass by without trying to protect the most worthy scientifically significant marine areas,” Hazard passionately remarked when speaking about the possibility of a monument in the Atlantic.  “I am hopeful that the wonderful press and excitement about the Monument expansion of Papahānaumokuākea will help propel the movement for more marine protected areas,” Hazard added.

 

Posted on 06/23//16

 

Suntan lotion is at the top of the list for your summer holiday. Choose one that is healthy for you and for our oceans.

Consider this the next time you are investing in skincare protection for you and your family: most suntan lotions are harmful to marine life. Researchers at NOAA and the National Park Service warn us that, “the products covering our skin wash off when we enter the water, and it adds up! Research tells us that 6,000-14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion are emitted into coral reef areas each year. This means that our most popular reefs, such as those in our national parks, are exposed to the majority of sunscreens.” Scientists tell us that no sunscreens are completely “reef safe” and in fact, according to a study by the Coral Disease and Health Consortium (CDHC) and Cheryl M. Woodley, PhD, over 3,500 sunscreen products worldwide contain Oxybenzone (also known as BP-3;Benzophenone-3) which is known to have toxic effects on marine life. 

Look for a mineral-based sunscreen to protect you and the reef

Look for a mineral-based sunscreen to protect you and the reef

Tropical Snorkeling.com has a guide to better choice mineral-based sunscreens that might be right for you and your family. Proprietors of the site, Galen and Nicole give the low down on which are water resistant, which are oily and which ones go on clear (Yes!). Remember: when you can, use clothing (rash guard, hat, wetsuit) to cover up!
Good for you. Good for our oceans.

More on the science and research for this topic:

CDHC Scientific Study by Cheryl Woodley

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/nov15/sunscreen-corals.html

oceanservice.noaa.gov/…ws/feb14/sunscreen

 

Posted on 06/08//16

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Emily at WOD

Happy World Ocean Day from Women Working for Oceans (W2O)  

I am thrilled to be working with W2O on outreach and advocacy this summer and New England Aquarium’s World Oceans Day was the perfect first assignment. The event drew hundreds of families, all interested in learning more about our precious ocean resources and what they can do to preserve them.

W2O’s booth and education activity focused on the importance of Cashes Ledge, 80 miles off of the New England coast, and our work with partner organizations to try and have it established as a National Monument. Children colored in pictures of ecologically important marine organisms as part of a letter writing campaign to urge President Obama to designate protection for Cashes Ledge. Even the littlest participants had touching and remarkable things to say about the ocean and were eager to talk about the animals they were designing. It was exciting and refreshing to see such passion for the environment and enthusiasm for ensuring these ocean treasures are healthy and available for years to come.

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Interacting with the next generation of ocean conservationists, I was inspired by the level of interest in action demonstrated by World Oceans Day and am excited to move forward with this and other W2O projects. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will bring! 

Emily Conklin holds a BA in Biology from Wheaton College and is a Masters of Science Candidate in Marine Biology at Northeastern.

For more information on how you can help Save Atlantic Treasures, HERE

 

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Posted on 04/21//16

Guest blogger Nigella Hillgarth is President and CEO of the New England Aquarium and a W2O board member

Several hundred years ago there was said to be a strange and fierce sea creature that attacked ships.  The Water-Owl or Ziphius had the body of a fish and a head of an owl with huge eyes and a beak-like a sword. Today we think the animal behind these stories is Cuvier’s beaked whale or Goose-beaked whale. This deep water whale is the most widely distributed beaked whale species.

In early February I was on a sailing ship in the Caribbean passing through the channel between St Lucia and Martinique.  It is deep in that area –  several thousand feet and suitable for beaked whales. I was not thinking about whales at the time because I was busy photographing the brown boobies that were following the ship. Suddenly a robust, chocolate brown animal appeared next to the ship below me. I took as many photographs as I could before it disappeared into the deep. I was pretty certain I had seen a beaked whale but I had no idea what species.  It was not large – about 10 to 12 feet long but had the typical curved dorsal fin towards the back of the body and a strange elongated and slightly bulbous head. When I returned one of our marine mammal scientists at the New England Aquarium identified it as a young Cuvier’s beaked whale. I feel so lucky to have seen one of these elusive animals.

Cuvier’s beaked whales can dive deeper than any other marine mammal. A recent study shows that at least one individual went down as far as 9,816 feet!  Not much is known about these elusive and extreme divers, but there is concern that noise in the ocean from sonar and seismic testing may cause these whales to strand.  There is evidence to suggest that some of these stranded animals have surfaced too quickly and developed damage similar to that of the bends in humans.

Noise in the ocean is a serious threat to marine mammals and other marine life.  Commercial shipping noise, sonar testing and seismic surveys can clearly have significant, long-lasting, and widespread impacts on marine mammal and fish populations. Normally, when we think about pollution in the seas we don’t think about noise. We think about plastics and chemicals and ghost fishing nets.  Noise in its various forms is just as big a problem for life in the ocean.  If we care about the future of strange and elusive mammals such as the ‘Water-owl’ we need to understand and mitigate noise impacts in the ocean far more than at present.

Photo: Nigella Hillgarth

Learn more about seismic testing and how you can help stop ocean noise HERE