The Right Whale to Save

By | Action today, In the News, New England Aquarium, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

Whale researcher Monica Zani with Captain Greg from the Liberty Clipper

The sun might have been setting Friday night on Boston Harbor, but a schooner of 80 Women Working for Oceans (W2O) members and their friends were just getting started by raising the sails to kick off year-long deep dive dedicated to saving our iconic North Atlantic right whale. After last year’s unprecedented 17 right whale deaths from both entanglements in fishing gear and ship strikes, the North Atlantic right whale is now considered among the most endangered of marine animals in our ocean.

The message of the evening is one of empowerment. “We humans hold the power to save the right whale, through increased research and new technology along with digging into our hearts. We can stop the killing and save this intelligent and family oriented whale,” said co-founder and W2O Director Barbara Burgess.

W2O members and their guests were joined onboard the Liberty Clipper by Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life of the New England Aquarium’s right whale researcher Monica Zani, who has been studying these animals for over two decades.

Zani explained the challenges facing these whales, aptly named because of its size, ability to float, an abundance of oil, and slow speed targeted by whalers in the 18th century as the “right whale” to kill. Some of these same characteristics pose challenges now as this whale lives in urban areas along the eastern seaboard, putting it in the pathway of lobster and crab traps, shipping lanes, and other man-made pollution.

Since the 70s the entire population of North Atlantic right whales have been identified and tracked through a catalog maintained at the New England Aquarium with contributions by the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium. The animals are identified by physical markings, like color, fluke shape and health. This allows researchers to trace family groups, births and deaths, as well as the individual health of specific whales over time, including where they migrate to for calving, how they feed, and other life-history traits important to protecting a species.

W2O Member Leigh Tappen provided a family tree of four generations of right whales, underscoring the loss that even one female represents for the future of the species. As Zani summarized, paraphrasing Dr. Scott Krause also of the Anderson Cabot Center, helping the right whale recover is something we already know how to do. “We simply need to stop killing them,” she said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The will to help our North Atlantic right whale among W2O members and friends is strong. A heart-felt thank you to guests on our sunset sail, who started off this year right by signing over sixty letters to thank Senator Elizabeth Warren for her work in co-sponsoring the Save Right Whales Act of 2018. If passed into law this act will allot $5 million per year over ten years (2018-2028) in federal funds for conservation programs. The act aims to fund research for solutions that will reduce the lethal effects of entanglements in fishing gear and vessel collisions, the first and second leading cause of right whale deaths respectively.

W2O Shawna Giggey braving the wind while collecting signatures for our letter to Sen Warren

Partnering with Lobstermen

This past summer, W2O and the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life met with the heads of the New England’s lobsterman associations including Executive Director of the Massachusetts Lobsterman Association Beth Casoni, Executive Director of Maine Lobstermen’s Association Patrice McCarron, Supervisor of Marine Programs
NH Fish and Game Department Cheri Patterson, Erin Burke from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and Erin Summers, Director, Division of Biological Monitoring Maine Department of Marine Resources to learn more about one of New England’s oldest and most sustainable seafood industries: lobstering.  It was an inspiring day of information sharing about the lobster population and their thoughts on difficulties facing the right whale.

Will You Help?

Please help us protect our marine treasures and heritage and defend the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, the first marine monument in the Atlantic, from being opened up to fishing by signing and sharing this petition in your networks. Read more about what’s at stake in this editorial by New England Aquarium CEO Vikki Spruill.

Blog contributor and W2O Dir. Laura Parker Roerden is Executive Director and Founder of Ocean Matters

 

 

 

 

 

Find Your Group: Forming W2O’s Young Professional Action Committee

By | Action today, Featured Post, In the News, New England Aquarium, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

Board Member Emily Conklin shares the story behind forming W2O’s Young Professional Action Committee

I have always considered myself a problem-solver, a detail-oriented perfectionist. If something had to get done, whether finishing grad school or finding an apartment, I’d make an orderly list and move through the steps until the task was accomplished. Protecting the environment doesn’t have an easy answer or fit into this strict model.  You can’t do it on your own. You need to find your group.

I found W2O as an intern in 2016. It was a strong answer to my need to join a community to advocate for our ocean. Over the two years I’ve been with the organization, W2O has spoken out, raised our signs in demonstrations, and lobbied our legislators about important environmental issues that impact us all. The women I have met through this group are passionate and serious about building a community that strives to make sustainable choices. Being part of this group fueled my determination to make positive change. I want to help shape the story of our blue planet so everyone can see and find their role in protecting it.  

As I moved from intern to board member and social media manager, I wondered how we could expand this messaging to highlight activist passion in a more diverse base. With the recent increase in youth involvement inspired by the Women’s March, March for Science and the recent March for the Ocean, including younger voices and perspectives is forefront in my mind.  More young people are raising their voices and mobilizing for causes they care about. As a young professional woman invested in the future of our environment and communities, I have felt the pull to stand up for our blue planet. I wanted to see how W2O could rise to meet this call.

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by intelligent, environmentally minded women on whom I could test out my burgeoning idea. A community of educators, artists, activists, students- all with a different perspective and unique ideas on our one common problem: how do we live in a way that supports our livelihood and our planet?

“Hey,” I asked them, “would you want to be part of a young professionals group that grapples with these issues?” Across the board, the answer was a resounding yes.

Our first meeting was an informational gathering where attendees enjoyed pizza while I explained what I had in mind. I told them I wanted to take W2O’s mission of understanding and advocating for our ocean and expand it to better fit the demands, restrictions, and interests of young professionals’ lifestyles. There are so many voices and ideas that we haven’t been hearing on these issues, and I have been at a loss to find a space where genuine discourse is created and encouraged. I say we make one. The women in that room came for different reasons, from different places, but we were collectively energized by the idea of cultivating productive discussion surrounding the often troubling, discouraging problems we face. That day, we threw around questions like: How do we make sustainable choices without breaking the (sometimes very tight) budget? How do we make a policy impact and responsibly raise our civic voices through voting, rallying, and all around advocating? Do you all feel hopeless and, if you do, what can be done to pull us out of that feeling and move forward? And that was just the beginning. 

We may not have the solutions, but there is inherent value in finding allies and creating an opportunity to discuss the intricacies of the issues we face.

I left that meeting pumped. My generation is far from apathetic! They want to engage! And they’re willing to help me create a forum to do so! From that meeting, W2O’s Young Professional Action Committee (YPAC) was formed.

Our main goal is to create an accessible, inclusive space for folks to engage with the dilemmas facing the world around us. The Action Committee will take our concerns and drivers to create programming that W2O’s young professional members can engage with and enjoy. We want to work together to make sure we all understand the threats, to our planet and to ourselves, and that we all feel safe to participate in building solutions. Every stressor is an opportunity for discourse; every perspective is a chance for fresh analysis. Whether it’s a beach clean up, a voter registration event or a conservation-focused happy hour, we aim to make a space where young people of all genders and backgrounds are welcomed to voice their concerns and weigh in on solutions. I can’t wait to bring everyone to the table. I can’t wait to help people find their group, as I have found mine.

Sometimes, we might still feel hopeless. It’s ok- that’s why we have each other. Right now, I feel empowered by this group, and we’ve barely even started.

 

Emily Conklin with W2O’s 2017 keynote speaker Liz Cunningham

 

For questions about YPAC, please contact Emily Conklin at emilyforw2o@gmail.com. To join W2O at the young professional level, visit our Membership page. Our next young professional oriented event will be a happy hour meeting at The Reef, after which we’ll attend NEAq’s lecture series installment from MCAF Fellow Kerstin Forsberg on Manta Ray conservation in Peru: September 26th at 5:30pm. Follow us on social media for upcoming events!

We Marched. Now Vote Ocean

By | Action today, Events, New England Aquarium, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

W2O descended on Washington D.C. with thousands of other ocean defenders from around the country at the beginning of the June to attend Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW), an annual event to highlight US policy and the importance of our coasts and inland waters. This year for the first time, in addition to the conference, gala and partner events, organizers National Marine Sanctuary Foundation added a “day on the Hill.” W2O and a New England coalition met with U.S. Representatives, Senators and their congressional aids to:

  • Encourage increased funding for NOAA and support public investment in ocean and Great Lakes conservation and science
  • Defend the integrity of all National Monuments designated by the Antiquities Act like our North Atlantic Canyons and Seamounts, the first ocean monument in the Atlantic
  • Urge Congress to sustain important ocean science-based management provisions like the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act

The week ended with The March for Our Ocean, produced by Blue Frontier and partners to bring ocean awareness to the public across the globe. Thousands marched with a renewed purpose of ocean advocacy. Now what? Time to vote!

We are all constituents of our elected officials and we have enlisted them to act on our behalf. Yet somehow, the ocean is not often on the agenda of what we ask from them. For coastal communities, the ocean is always reminding us of its importance. We rely upon it for food, tourism and the air we breathe. When, during a weather event, the ocean lashes back at us we see and feel the fiscal consequences of erosion, storm surge, and lost industry opportunity. When the storm is over, we take the ocean for granted and assume it will continue to provide for us. Out of sight and out of mind, to some, the ocean is way down on their totem pole of important issues.

Let’s face it, today there is a myriad of issues worthy of our concern. When we marched for the ocean, we showed unity across the spectrum in the knowledge that we have just one ocean. We need a healthy ocean for our own health, whether or not you live on the coast and regardless of your political views.

Just this month, the Administration revoked the 2010 executive order that created the National Ocean Policy. The new plan, reviewed by our partners at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium “abolishes the Regional Planning Bodies that helped New England create an inclusive, coordinated ocean plan and removes language that focuses on conservation and climate resilience efforts for our ocean.” In this statement in support of science-based decision making, the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life says, “We believe the best way to create sustainable oceans—both environmentally and economically—is through strategic and transparent planning, science-based decision-making, and collaborative partnerships across all sectors. We consider the current Administration’s decision to revoke the 2010 executive order that created the National Ocean Policy and the National Ocean Council shortsighted.”

Supporting legislation that defends our ocean from harmful action is part of our W2O mission. We promise to speak up and out, marching and meeting, but we need you to use your voice as well and vote with our ocean in mind. Everything flows to the ocean and no matter where you live, there are initiatives for legislation that will affect the quality of lakes, streams and rivers that flow to the sea.

If you vote, thank you! If you wonder if your vote will count, please consider the alternative. The ocean is what sustains us and gives us life. The ocean needs your vote.

Stories of Action Give Us Hope for Our Ocean

By | Action today, Events, Featured Post, New England Aquarium, New England Aquarium, Past Events, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

It’s as if Mother Nature herself rolled out the red carpet for W2O’s recent Think Big event at the New England Aquarium (NEAQ). Spring finally came to Boston Harbor and filled the tent with fresh sea air; Dr. Asha de Vos inspired with stories of her unlikely journey to becoming a marine biologist and blue whale expert in Sri Lanka; and our guests gave generously to support scientists working worldwide on the forefront of marine conservation through the NEAQ’s Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF).  But the real stars of the day were each of you—W2O Members and their friends– who attended and left with plans and dedicated actions to take on behalf of our ocean. In response to past events, attendees have shared stories of how they have changed minds in their community about using single-use plastic, have researched and purchased more efficient cars and have stepped up to speak out on behalf of our ocean at the MA State House and in Washington D.C. 

We delight in our being able to produce sold-out events, but the real success of W2O is when the topic of our events resonate with attendees and then, in turn, they take what they have learned and leave passionate and empowered to join our ocean workforce. After hearing Dr. Ahsa de Vos at our recent event, Montessori teacher, Dilani Vytheswaran wrote to tell us how she brought Dr. de Vos’s message about the importance of protecting the endangered North Atlantic right whale to her young students.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my day and the lecture by Dr. de Vos – it was informative and inspirational.  I loved when she said ‘do what you love and you will do it well.’  I think it will become one of my all-time favorite mantras – personally and professionally! After yesterday’s lecture, I was inspired to talk to the children in my class about the North Atlantic right whale, and the urgency in protecting them.  We discussed ocean pollution and the things we could all do to help make sure the right whale does not make it on to the list of ‘extinct.’  I encouraged the children to speak up and do their part by not littering, reminding their caregivers to use reusable bags, and, to pack their lunches in reusable containers etc.”

Teacher Dilani Vytheswaran with Dr. Asha de Vos at Think Big in May

According to the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium, the number of North Atlantic right whales are in decline because of stressors including ship strikes and entanglement. We need whales for a healthy ocean. They regulate the ecosystem and are our ocean’s unintended farmers, fertilizing the plants that give life to all ocean animals. Our ocean feeds us, gives us joy, regulates our weather and is the economic engine of our planet.

Thank you Dr. Asha de Vos for your inspirational talk and thank you Dilani Vytheswaran for spreading the word, to our youth, their families and the school community about protecting the endangered North Atlantic right whale. It is stories like these that give us hope for our ocean.

 

 

Summer Lovin’ Plastic Free

By | Uncategorized

 

Warmer weather means vacation and beach time on the East Coast and it is the perfect time to say thank you to the ocean. Renew your pledge towards protecting our blue planet by thinking about your use of single-use plastic.

 

  • You’ve been great about grabbing your reusable, washable grocery bag this winter. Now is the time of year to up your game and remember to bring those bags to the farmers market and the beach.
  • Your reusable coffee mug is now part of your morning… but wait! It’s iced drink season! Switch your mug out for a reusable cold drink container and make that part of your summer commute.
  • Words of wisdom have paid off and you are now an avid user of sunscreen. This summer is a good time to make the switch to coral safe, ocean-friendly sun protection. Cover up when you can and choose a mineral based sunscreen to keep your skin and our ocean healthy.
  • When you are watching the sunset on the deck of some happening place in the city or by the beach, say “no thanks” to a straw for your drink. Catch the wait staff early with this request if you can. Missed the opportunity? Have another drink and try again!

Good for you; good for the ocean

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Meet our 2018 Ocean Spirit Award Winner Sierra Joy Rothberg

By | Action today, Events, Featured Post, In the News, New England Aquarium, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

 

We are so proud this year to present our W2O 2018 Ocean Spirit Award to Sierra Joy Rothberg for digging deep and coming up with creative solutions for the reduction of single-use plastic pollution in her neighborhood of Dorchester and for all of Boston.

The W2O Ocean Spirit Award honors the individual that has encompassed our mission of educating and inspiring action using grassroots initiatives towards protecting our blue planet.  

 

Sierra Rothberg from Dorchester MA

 

“The ocean is everything for me,” says Sierra. “After moving from the West Coast to Nahant, the ocean was actually our backyard. All year long we watched storms roll across the bay for entertainment, felt wonder in endless discovery along the shores collecting shells, swimming, and felt the energy from the waves and tides. If we got a cut or scrape, we were told to go into the water. The ocean heals us!”

 

Knowing that single-use plastic bags litter our parks, clog drains and end up in our waterways, Sierra and a team of activist (including her supportive family and a very determined girl scout troop) fought for the Boston bag ban and then started Boomerang Bag Boston to provide reusable washable bags to communities that might need them. Partnering with local organizations, Sierra holds monthly sew-a-thons and to date has made over a thousand bags, helping to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in our ocean.

Repurposed donated fabric is used for these washable beautiful reusable bags.

Sierra Rothberg has serious skills. A creative entrepreneur with her own company, Lusterity, she can take something and make it into magic. With a mission of sourcing local products for socially conscientious events, her resume includes floral arranging, graphic design, event and organizational planning, development, being a data geek and community activism. Recently Sierra was hired by The Martin Richard Foundation as director of the community service component for One Boston Day. This day “serves as an opportunity to celebrate the resiliency, generosity, and strength demonstrated by the people of Boston and those around the world in response to the tragedy of April 15, 2013,” explains the organizers of the event. Sierra has just been hired as Director of Service Projects for the Foundation’s “Do More-Serve With Us” campaign inviting people to continue volunteerism throughout the year.  Sierra is someone that you want on your team!

“Our daily decisions on land greatly affect the ocean, even when not by the ocean’s side, and that is why I do what I can to change how we think and live more sustainably,” says Sierra. “Everything is all connected. Now I live in the city, just a mile from the ocean and even though the ocean is not my immediate backyard anymore, my favorite days are when I can smell the ocean air without seeing it.” 

It is fitting that Sierra will be presented the 2018 Ocean Spirit Award at our May 15th event featuring marine scientist Dr. Asha de Vos. Both women believe that community engagement to protect our blue planet is the key to making the meaningful lasting change that will benefit folks that are the day-to-day recipients of those efforts. Sierra and Dr. de Vos are “can do” women and mentors that bring hope to their communities.

Come join us in honoring Sierra at our event Think Big on May 15th. The lecture is free, but you must REGISTER.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save the Whales and You Save Our Fish

By | Uncategorized

A whale watch is the crown jewel of a visit to New England. A massive creature breaches out of the water in a majestic display of torque, seemingly defying gravity as she reaches for the sky. Time slows and you gasp. We watch spellbound as she crashes back to the water and slips gracefully beneath the waves. We are understandably in awe of the spectacle of what we see above the water line, but what happens during all that time whales spend beneath the waves? Why do whales matter? W20’s spring event keynote presenter Dr. Asha de Vos’ lifelong devotion to understanding and protecting whales can shed light on both why whales are important to us and how to defend these majestic creatures.

Dr. de Vos, founder of The Sri Lankan Blue Whale Project is no stranger to the importance of demystifying the value of these leviathans of the sea. She evangelizes about whales as ecosystem engineers whose poop is an ocean fertilizer upon which all other ocean life depends. During their deep dives, whales then provide mixing, bringing those deep water nutrients up the water column with their massive frames so that other marine animals can also benefit from them, including phytoplankton which uses these and other ingredients in the process of photosynthesis. You could say that whales are among the largest cogs in a system of interlocking levers and pulleys that drive the healthy ocean we all rely upon: one that regulates our weather, provides us with half of the oxygen we breathe, and supplies 2 billion people with their daily protein.

“Save the whales, and you save our fish,” de Vos explains.

But that’s not all. As Dr. de Vos reminds us in one of her many TED Talks, whales are knitted into the very fabric of our history, mythology, and identity. The iconic North Atlantic right whale, which graces our license plates here in Massachusetts, was once so abundant in Cape Cod Bay in the 1500s that “you could walk across their backs,” de Vos says.

Today, right whales in our waters in New England number in the hundreds. The critically endangered whale just this past summer had a record number of deaths from fishing line entanglements and ship strikes. According to Vice President and Senior Scientist at the New England Aquarium Scott Kraus, without human introduced stressors, the North Atlantic right whale can live up to 100 years. Sadly, this year is the first time since the monitoring of these animals began that no calves have been spotted in the predicted breeding grounds off the coast of Georgia. Scientists are sounding the alarm that unless something is done about the many threats facing these animals, they may become extinct within the next twenty years.

Time is running out for these animals, so what is to be done? “We only have whales in our waters now because of the ‘Save the Whales’ movement of the 1970s,” de Vos points out, “after whaling in the 1800s nearly decimated the population.” (The Right Whale was so named because it was then the right whale to kill, because it floated to the surface, making it easily transportable by towing and had abundant whale oil.) It was ordinary citizens who stepped up to fight for the end to commercial whaling and put the Marine Mammal Protection Act in place.

Dr. de Vos’ work today in her native Sri Lanka protecting the blue whale has involved an unorthodox combination of engaging citizens, fishermen, entrepreneurs and young people in science through the organization she founded, OceanSwell, Sri Lanka’s first marine conservation research and education non-profit. “I’m committed to the idea that all conservation is local and that solutions to conservation can come from all corners of the globe,” she explains. “Discoveries might not come from scientists,” she adds. “They might come from ordinary people who are passionate and can become involved,” de Vos wisely sums up.

At this moment in time, when our beloved New England right whales are like a canary in the coal mine demanding us to take action against multiple threats facing our ocean including plans to resume oil and gas drilling off of our shores, the weakening of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, plastic pollution, and ocean noise, Dr. de Vos offers a timely message of hope and a blueprint for moving forward. Each of us can take up a bucket in the brigade to save this icon.

Join us to welcome Dr. de Vos on May 15th at Think Big: A Passion Lived. An Ocean Saved. Although our annual luncheon associated with this event is sold out, we have availability for Dr. de Vos’ FREE lecture.

Blog contributor and W2O Dir. Laura Parker Roerden is Executive Director and Founder of Ocean Matters

 

Join us on May 15th with Marine Scientist Dr. Asha de Vos

By | Events, Featured Post, New England Aquarium, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

NEAQ Ocean Conservation Fellow Dr. Asha de Vos will be our keynote speaker on May 15th at Think Big: A Passion Lived. An Ocean Saved

Marine biologist Dr. Asha de Vos speaks quickly. An innate teacher, she has a lot to say and wants to make sure to get it all in. She is a celebrated scholar, National Geographic explorer and world-renowned marine biologist and is often referred to reverently as the “whale poop girl” because of her extensive research on the Northern Indian Ocean’s blue whale and her passion for what she calls the “the most beautiful poop in the animal kingdom.” She will challenge you to find poop more interesting than the brilliant red krill enriched poop of the whale. “Whale poop is our ocean fertilizer for the plants we depend on to breath. What could be more important than that?”

She has a casual cadence to her voice and that beautiful Sri Lankan accent. Growing up, Dr. de Vos’ parents celebrated curiosity and encouraged Asha and her brother to follow their passion. Her love for the ocean has brought Asha around the world as a research scientist and educator and then right back home where she says she is the happiest as a mentor to her community and country and as one of the few marine biologists in all of Sri Lanka. “My country doesn’t offer degrees in marine biology,” she says, “but I have found students, young and old, with a thirst for knowledge asking about our ocean. It is my obligation to respond and make this information available for everyone.”

Dr. de Vos’ response was to start Oceanswell, Sri Lanka’s first research and educational organization, to facilitate conversations about our ocean. With informal talks centered around a predetermined topic from a scientific paper, Asha leads a book group type of event creating what she calls “peer community engagement,” increasing awareness and enjoyment of ocean learning. “Communicating scientific research is the backbone of what we do,” Dr. de Vos says. Her Oceanswell website provides those scientific papers to anyone interested and all focus on the animals of the Northern Indian Ocean surrounding Sri Lanka. Oceanswell is growing and is now looking to hire interns and paid staff to support the team fostering new opportunities for Sri Lankans that want to take their interest to the next level.

Dr. de Vos rejects what she calls “parachute science” described by her as when scientists travel to countries around the world, do their research and then pick up and leave, never training or engaging the citizens that live where that research takes place. “You don’t have to have a degree to protect the ocean,” she comments.  She believes that through storytelling and shared ocean experiences people can become interested in the magic below the waves.“People from underrepresented nations need to be given the opportunity to build a movement of passionate citizen scientists to protect our ocean.” A favorite project features Dr. de Vos as a muppet-type puppet in an animated TedEdu about the blue whale. In the talk, she describes the secret to why whales are so big in an approachable way that doesn’t leave out the science. Her mission is to include everyone and she believes that the next generation of ocean heroes can come from any corner of the globe.

Join us on May 15th to hear Dr. de Vos speak about her journey, her passion for whales and how you can join in protecting whale species. Although the annual lunch associated with this event is now sold out, there are free tickets available for Dr. de Vos’ lecture. Please register! 

 

 

 

March for the Ocean is June 9th

By | Action today, Events, In the News, Uncategorized

SAVE THE DATE: On Saturday, June 9th, 2018, World Oceans Day weekend, we will march and wear blue for the ocean in Washington, D.C. and sister cities across America alongside a 91-foot life-sized blue whale! Join us!

At Women Working for Oceans, we believe that every voice matters and that when we speak up and out, together we can influence decisions and policy that will protect our blue planet. This year, W2O’s attention is on a symbol of ocean health; the North Atlantic right whale. When left to their own devices, without human intervention and stressors, the right whale can live 70-100 years. But like a canary in the coal mine, the right whale, critically endangered, navigates a world of a warming climate, rising seas, pollution, ocean noise, and a threatened habitat from proposed offshore drilling. Marching for the Ocean sends a message to our policymakers that our ocean is worthy of our protection. Speaking up about these issues educations others about our ocean as our giver of life, one that feeds us, gives us economic stability and even one out of every five breaths we take. There is no ‘us’ without the ocean and its inhabitants.

“We all want and need a healthy ocean and planet. Hope and action must be our mission always but especially now. The March for the Ocean is an inclusive way to change hearts and minds while highlighting issues such as the importance of marine protected areas, conservation of habitat and species, and the effects of a warming planet on our ocean.” Barbara Burgess, Founder and Chair of Women Working for Oceans (W2O)

 

March for the Ocean believes every community has the power to protect local waterways, lakes and rivers that lead to the ocean. M4O is a nonpartisan movement raising awareness of ocean issues affecting human health and the environment.

Elizabeth, MCAF and Thinking Big

By | Events, Featured Post, In the News, New England Aquarium, W2O Blog


“The whale is my gateway species,” says W2O member and biologist Elizabeth Stephenson with a laugh. “After a whale watch off of Montauk while visiting my relatives in my early teens I was transfixed and told my parents that I wanted to study animals in the ocean and be a biologist.” That was the start of her unconventional journey to becoming Program Chair of the Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF) at the New England Aquarium (NEAQ)

Childhood dreams sometimes get sidetracked and Elizabeth went on to study history and finally Earth Science Education, deciding to pursue a career teaching the subject she loved to 9th graders. Luck would have it that her sites were still on her goal of becoming a biologist when a graduate course was offered at the College of the Atlantic and she signed up. Her teacher? Famed ocean scientist and explorer Greg Stone, mentor to Elizabeth still, former V.P. of Conservation at NEAQ, currently Chief Scientist for Oceans at Conservation International and Special Advisor for Oceans at the World Economic Forum.  “Taking this course on “Whales, Porpoises, and Seals” was eye-opening for me and, even though I loved teaching, I felt compelled to continue on a path towards marine science.”

Today Elizabeth splits her time between raising two boys at her home in Maine and the New England Aquarium. Part of the Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, MCAF is described as a “micro-granting” program that funds conservation projects around the world led by the folks that live in the places where the research is taking place. MCAF gives support and builds enduring relationships with entrepreneurial marine scientists that engage in local conservations projects sometimes in places that are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. MCAF has been an important platform for emerging ocean heroes, often selecting grantees to spend time at the Aquarium, strengthening their connections with the Anderson Cabot Center researchers and sharing inspiration and enthusiasm with Aquarium youth audiences and the public. Like grassroots “boots on the ground, these “fins in the ocean” researchers, often from underrepresented nations, work with their communities to protect habitat, species and solve issues that benefit both marine life and the livelihood of the people that depend on the ocean.

The stories of these MCAF scientists is often both a beacon of hope and a blueprint for moving forward meaningfully with progress on pressing issues facing the sea.  Save the Date! On May 15th, Women Working for Oceans will welcome MCAF Fellow, Asha de Vos, PhD, as our keynote speaker for Think Big: A Passion Lived. An Ocean Saved.


De Vos, a marine scientist from Sri Lanka, and founder of Oceanswell, studies the Sri Lankan blue whale and with the support of Elizabeth, MCAF and others has become a leading expert in her field with numerous awards and accolades for her work. “I am so privileged to have worked with Asha as an MCAF Fellow and so excited that she will be presenting her inspiring work at W2O’s event. She is the epitome of  “Think Big”  through not only her commitment to her own research but with her work to train future marine conservationists and policy-makers in Sri Lanka,” says Stephenson. “Asha inspires the next generation of ocean leaders across the globe.”

Selfie photo of Elizabeth and Asha