Sitting in the ocean means experiencing waves, changes in temperature, variations of color, textures between your toes, the giving over to the motion that gently (and sometimes not so gently) propels you in directions that you have little control over. Witnessing the tides-sometimes “oh so low” and often “oh! too high” is astonishing in it extremes. How can we measure something so alive and ever changing?

“If you could take planet Earth and move it out into deep space so that the sun, moons and other planets did not affect it and there were no temperature variations worldwide, then everything would settle down like a still pond. Rain and wind would stop, and so would the rivers. Then you could measure sea level accurately. If you did this, the level of the ocean’s water projected across the entire planet would be called the geoid.” This is the reality from a simple web search on measuring sea level rise from WikiHow.

MacMillan Arctic Expedition in 1926. Original photo NOAA Photo Library.

MacMillan Arctic Expedition in 1926. Original photo NOAA Photo Library.

Clearly measuring sea level rise is not an easy or exact science because of all of the variables that our dynamic, powerful beautiful ocean embodies. To complicate issues, when measuring sea level rise scientist must include movement of the land in and around the water. “Because the heights of both the land and the water are changing, the land-water interface can vary spatially and temporally and must be defined over time. Depending on the rates of vertical land motion relative to changes in sea level, observed local sea level trends may differ greatly from the average rate of global sea level rise, and vary widely from one location to the next,” according to NOAA. There are graphs, assessments, and a slew of documents from prestigious institutions, some confusing and some, thank god, worth reading for their simplicity and clarity.

For a very long time, sea level rise was measured with a tidal gauge, a simple tool that works by measuring the height of water relative to a fixed point on land. Today satellite equipment has taken over but fancy equipment doesn’t mean that data can ignore the variables that make sea level rise so difficult to predict. The important fact is, that data over a long period of time tells us that the sea is rising and that without cuts in emissions, it will keep rising with catastrophic results to many coastal communities across the globe.

Women Working for Oceans invites you to explore sea level rise at Water Rising: The Impact on Humanity on April 6th. National Geographic Photographer, George Steinmetz, will take the audience on a photographic look at how sea level rise affects coastal communities, rich and poor, around the world. Erika Spanger-Seigfried, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, will review the basic concept behind warming oceans, rising sea levels and human’s contribution to this critical global issue.

To read more about sea level rise, here are some websites that are easy to understand and thoughtful in their presentation. At Skeptical Science, you can even choose “basic” or “intermediate” language around the topic of sea level rise. Yale Universities report by Nicola Jones reviews data and questions what we really do know about sea level rise covering topics of long and short-term trends in data, melting polar ice sheets and governmental reports. Contributor to the article and sea level researcher at the University of Texas, Don Chambers, adds “I always tell people if they live under 3 feet above sea level, they should be worried about the next 100 years,” says Chambers. “We probably can adapt to a certain extent. The problem is that we’re not planning for it.”

 

:http://e360.yale.edu/feature/rising_waters_how_fast_and_how_far_will_sea_levels_rise/2702/

http://www.skepticalscience.com/sea-level-rise-predictions.htm

NOAA Photo: Morgan McHugh

NOAA Photo: Morgan McHugh

Some of you have already made your plans for the upcoming school break. Whether you are going to some exotic place or just staying in your “no place like home” environment,  exercise some thoughtfulness about our blue planet while on vacation. Breaks from the busy schedules of work and school are are good time to think about fresh ideas and an easy time to try something new. Did you pack an empty reusable water bottle and reusable bag for the journey?  Will your kids pledge to turn out the lights in their rooms each day before heading out from home base? Are you choosing restaurants that are conscientious about keeping a green/blue establishment? Taking a book? Try BlueMind by Wallace J. Nichols, a book that speaks to your love of the oceans.

Bring W2O blue mindfulness on vacation this year!

Photo: S. Burkus

Photo: S. Burkus

1st Place Art Award: Dafne Murillo from Lima Peru

1st Place Art Award: Dafne Murillo from Lima Peru

There is so much to say about saving the oceans and the expressive messages through art and essay from the contestants of the annual “Ocean Awareness Student Contest” at From The Bow Seat remind us that fruitful action sometimes begins at a young age. W2O board member, Linda Cabot, is the founder of From the Bow Seat, an organization that encourages middle and high school students from across the globe to submit art and written work about ocean awareness that is juried annually. Students receive cash prizes for their efforts.

Pour yourself a cup of something warm, find a comfy chair, and read this year’s winning essay, Plastic Pollution and How Individuals Can Change the World, by Katherine Rigney, a high school junior from Chelmsford Massachusetts.

Check out all of the winners of From the Bow Seat’s 2014 contest here!

Dr. Matral:Bigelow

photo: Laura Lubelczyk, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

 

 

Marine biologist Dr. Paty Matrai is talking about Coccolithophores from her office in Maine’s Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, where she is a lead research scientist. This intimidating word is a type of phytoplankton (remember that from science class?), or a tiny marine plants. Abundant and vital phytoplankton are both the smallest, but most important microorganism in the marine food chain and are key to a healthy ocean and planet. Disturbances to these plants, such as ocean acidification (the increase of  carbon dioxide in the oceans that produces carbonic acid, which reduces the ph of the water) affects the entire marine population. Phytoplankton produces much of the oxygen in the ocean and half the oxygen on land. They are effectively responsible for creating the oxygen in every second breath we take. Turns out, some varieties of this ocean movie star are also stunningly beautiful.

Chain-forming diatoms from the genus Thalassiosira (Bigelow Labs)

Chain-forming diatoms from the genus Thalassiosira (Bigelow Labs)

Dr. Matrai has worked at Bigelow Laboratory in East Boothbay Maine for 20 years. A native of Chile, she came to the United States and studied Biological Oceanography at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She is particularly interested in how sulfur cycles through the ocean, the biological production and consumption of organic sulfur and halogenated compounds, and the role of phytoplankton as both a source  (through respiration) and sink (taking in for energy) of carbon dioxide.

Over the years, Dr. Matrai’s work has taken her north to the Arctic for stints as long as six weeks sampling and analyzing ice cores and the microscopic creatures of phytoplankton that are hidden within. A job not for the faint of heart with cold temperatures that require lots of trial and error to find just the right gear for keeping warm and dry. While she is working intensively in these conditions, she is also conscious of the beauty that surrounds her.

“I marvel at the shapes, ridges and color of the ice.” Dr. Matrai offered.

“When you visit these places that are hardest to get to and have few inhabitants you feel an urgency to communicate to the rest of the world how delicate these systems are.” she adds.

W2O will help the New England Aquarium host Tiny Giants, a photographic exhibit from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, of the microscopic creatures that are vital to our very existence. On January 15th please join us to take a closer look at the ocean. Tickets are on sale now!

 

 

DSCN1903At W2O we believe that protecting the oceans is protecting ourselves. Thank you W2O members for attending our events, learning about ocean risk and enabling us to donate thousands of dollars to Marine Protected Areas. Your gifts are saving the oceans and we are thankful.

Read this wonderful article from Thomas Friedman “Stampeding Black Elephants” and be inspired to give back to the environment that sustains, feeds and protects you. Be thankful that, as Mr. Friedman puts it, “The planet will always be here.” But be aware that “This is about us.”

“Protected forests, marine sanctuaries and national parks are not zoos, not just places to see nature. “They are the basic life support systems” that provide the clean air and water, food, fisheries, recreation, stable temperatures and natural coastal protections “that sustain us humans,” said Russ Mittermeier, one of the world’s leading primatologists who attended the World Parks Congress in Sydney last week.”

That’s why “conservation is self-preservation,” says Adrian Steirn, the South Africa-based photographer who also attended the conference.

So, how about you? Tweet and share why you are thankful for all the bounties of the ocean. #howaboutyou.

 

Photo credit: Nickolay Lamm and Climate Central

Photo credit: Nickolay Lamm and Climate Central

Though Mayor Menino is surely missed in Boston, his presence was felt strongly at the Sea Level Rise and the Future of Coastal Cities meeting at Boston University last week. Most speakers credited Mayor Menino for bringing them together to engage in the topic of how climate change and the resulting sea level rise will affect cites across the world.

City officials from Helsinki to Melbourne came to collaborate and learn about what cities are doing to increase their resilience to protect their communities with smart design choices involving government, urban planners, developers, the private business sector, academia and scientists. Erika Spanger-Siegfried from the Union of Concerned Scientists explains in a video shown shown at the event that extensive research shows that over the next 30 years, sea levels will increase up to a foot or more in some east coast locations and that when storms occur on top of already typical tidal flooding, higher tides will magnify the risk of severe coastal events.

The conference highlighted the importance of communication between those entities working in different domains, especially from scientist who are learning the language that will be crucial to delivering the message of climate change that causes sea level rise to governments, insurers and the public. “Inherit uncertainties make it harder to make the message clear,” said Bud Ris, past president of the New England Aquarium and a contributor to environmental education and policy around the topic of climate change. But Tony Janetos, director, Fredrick S. Pardee Center for the Studay of the Longer Range Future and co host of the event with the Initiative on Cities, reminded us that “we (scientists) were never trained to communicate this way.” It is an urgent message they are tasked with delivering- one that he says is not that climate change is “50 years out, like we thought” but here faster than we even imagined. “We do not have the luxury to ignore what the science or the experience of others tells us. We must manage the risks while learning more.”

Everyone wants to know, “What will the future hold?” According to Janetos, “it depends on what future we choose.”

*The computer enhanced photo on this page is from a prediction project of the collapse of the Western Antarctic glaciers from Climate Central. Yes, that is the Boston Harbor Hotel. Check out the rest of the photorealistic work depicting iconic places around the globe (and maybe where you live) by photographer Nickolay Lamm.

 

Tiny_Giants_Invitation_FINAL

In this exhibit Bigelow Labs  along with the New England Aquarium will present a photographic exhibition of “marine microbes revealed on a grand scale.” Tickets are limited. Come take a closer look at the mystery and beauty of the ocean seen from a microscopic lens. W2O is so excited to host and we look forward to seeing you there!

Grey Reef Shark photo: marinebio.org

Grey Reef Shark
photo: marinebio.org

W2O’s event Sharks Matter highlighted the sharks essential contribution to our oceans health as the apex predator, serving a the critical role of keeping the balance of species in our oceans. Wendy Benchley and John Mandelman showed us powerful images of the majestic shark but also shared graphic pictures and a video of shark finning. Wendy and John educate people around the world about protecting sharks and our most precious resource, the ocean.  Take the Shark Pledge-its a simple way to show your support for protecting sharks, the oceans and ultimately yourself.

 

photo: MV Gazette

photo: MV Gazette

Something about the way in which Wendy Benchley speaks makes her seem both typical and extraordinary. She’s a mom, grandmother, wife and likes to work. She grew up in Montclair New Jersey, summered with extended family in Stonington Connecticut, lived for years in Princeton, New Jersey and now resides in D.C. …Sounds like someone you might know! But unless you are involved in the small world of conservation, you might only recognize her name from her famous first husband, the author of Jaws, Peter Benchley.

Make no mistake, Wendy Benchley is anything but typical!  Wendy makes waves, literally and figuratively. A short list of Wendy’s accomplishments and activism begins with her arrest (at a suburban Woolworth store while a student at Skidmore) for protesting in the 50’s about immigration reform. Stints at the American Field Service and as a Princeton N.J. councilwoman (while raising three children) honed her skills that are reflected today in her work for organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund, Shark Savers, Ocean Champions and currently, WildAid. 

I asked Wendy if there was a recent movie to share with our families, (the way that we all watched Jaws together in the 70s-usually more than once!), that might mobilize and inspire real action toward saving the majestic shark and other marine animals.  She recommended some of her favorites; Cove, Blackfish and the 6th Extinction but somehow they still don’t live up to the Jaws phenomenon. There is something about some popcorn, a tiny all American town, a rugged hero, an awkward everyman and a terrifying predator that resinates still. Wendy contemplates “turning the tail on its head” and telling the story from the shark’s point of view. Now that would be an interesting movie!

Join us at Sharks Matter: Busting the Jaws Myth with a New Script on this Majestic and Misunderstood Creature on October 22nd and hear more about why we must protect sharks. 

More about Wendy Benchley: William Waterway from Martha’s Vineyard interviews Wendy Benchley. Thanks to the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette for the photo used here of Wendy Benchley.

It doesn’t matter where you live, who you are, or what your economic or social circumstances are, a world without sharks would be devastating. Think desperate, barren, foul, depleted, or apocalyptic. It is estimated that 100 million sharks- majestic apex predators of the ocean-are killed each year. Fishing, accidental “by catch” and the demand for shark fins and other parts for sale are the major contributors to the shark’s decline.  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? We imagine them as voracious eaters because our perception of sharks has been colored by images that depict them as dangerous man-eaters. In truth, without a healthy shark population, we would be in real danger of loosing the living ocean that we rely on for food, our economy and livelihood. 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 oceans. 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.

Learn more about the importance of sharks at W2O’s October event Sharks Matter: Busting the Jaws Myth with a New Script on this Majestic, Misunderstood Creature. Wendy Benchley, co founder of the Peter Benchley (author of Jaws) Ocean Awards and shark advocate will present along with John Mandelman, scientist and director of research at the New England Aquarium.

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