March for the Ocean is June 9th

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

Join us and March for the Ocean in Washington on June 9th.

“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

Holiday Greetings from Women Working for Oceans

By | Featured Post, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

Dear W2O Supporters,

The challenges of this year inspired the women of W2O to jump into action with a sense of hope for our blue planet. More than ever, our members were called on to show up, speak up and shout out on topics like the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, plastic pollution, The Marine Mammal Protection Act and the shark fin trade. And show up you did!

At our spring event with Liz Cunningham, she spoke about the passion for rescue and the importance of personal and community action. Her words resonated. Together we are committed to making 2018 our most powerful year ever.

The ocean feeds us, nurtures our soul and even gives us the air we breathe. Now the ocean desperately needs us to lock arms and come to her defense.

So it is with a deep appreciation for your work over the last year and with joy that we mobilize together to protect what we love: our family, our communities and our ocean!

Onward!
Barbara Burgess
Co-Founder, President
Women Working for Oceans

Local Climate Action From Laura’s Farm

By | Action today, Featured Post, Sustainable Living, W2O Blog

The rain has finally stopped and Laura Parker Roerden is excitedly showing us what she calls “the three things” that she has changed on the farm this year in an effort to fulfill a promise to herself to reduce her carbon footprint. Farmer, biologist, writer, blogger and ocean steward, Laura serves on the executive committee of Women Working for Oceans and is founder and director of Ocean Matters. Land and sea: she is determined to protect both. This month Laura and her family added solar panels, a solar heated thermal water unit and an electric car to their already conscientious lifestyle. “Mahatma Gandhi said to be the change you wish to see in the world,” Laura explains. “We had been turning that around seriously in our plans for some time and these three actions just seemed a positive way to address our concerns about the health of the planet we will leave to our children.”

The farm, nestled down a quiet road in Blackstone Valley is over a hundred and eighty-three years old and has been in Laura’s family for five generations. The barn is the center of this homestead; it sits right off of the road and is a classic farm red with a huge sliding door that opens to reveal the “farm family” of chickens, lamb, llamas, and cows. Year round “farm campers” aged 8-18 are welcomed to learn about the secrets of sustainability and where real food comes from.

Now, the old farm seems new and relevant to modern times. Besides learning about the animals and farm activity, the next generation will learn about conservation on a larger scale. Laura and her family are using renewable energy to lower the farm’s and their family’s climate impact and saving money in the long run. “Sustainability is really important to a family farm, both ecologically and economically, if you hope to pass it along to the next generation,” says Laura.

With a south-facing roof and an expansive space, the barn is the perfect pallet for multiple solar panels which will pay for itself in 2-3 years, while providing electricity for both farm and farmhouse. The panels will provide energy for hot water, all their electricity used and for the running of the electric car, achieving a zero carbon footprint for these normally higher carbon outputs. These types of panels, thermal and electricity, qualify for federal and state tax credits and low-interest loans, which help significantly lower the initial investment.

The car is a 220 range Chevy Bolt, which also qualifies for tax benefits. Laura’s teen-aged boys were slightly hesitant about the cool factor of owning one of these, but with all the attention that the car receives from curious friends and the community, they are becoming perfect ambassadors for going electric. “It’s up to each and every one of us,” says Laura. “Climate action is local action.”

Read more HERE about Laura and her family farm

Below Laura has shared her notes on Federal Tax Credit for Solar:

http://news.energysage.com/congress-extends-the-solar-tax-credit/

Mass Tax Credit for Solar

http://www.cleanenergyauthority.com/solar-rebates-and-incentives/massachusetts/

EV deals in MA (explains the federal and state tax rebates available)

https://www.massenergy.org/drivegreen

About Solar Thermal Hot Water Units:

https://energy.gov/energysaver/solar-water-heaters

A federal tax credit is available for solar water heaters. The credit is for 30% through 2019, then decreases to 26% for the tax year 2020, then to 22% for the tax year 2021. It expires December 31, 2021. Learn more and find state and local incentives.

The federal tax credit for other water heaters expired at the end of 2016. If you installed an eligible water heater in 2015 or 2016, file form 5695 with your taxes to claim the credit.

W2O Whale Tales

By | Adventure on the Water, Events, Member Only Events, Past Events, Sustainable Living, W2O Blog

Being near or in the water brings wonderment and reminds us of why protecting the ocean is the mission of Women Working for Oceans. “Our members really want a deep understanding of what is below the water, and we want every member to be able to tell the story of why our ocean is vital to all of us,” says W2O Membership Co-Chair, Pat Chory.

In early October, with Boston Harbor Cruises and the staff of Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, W2O members were treated to a unique whale watch experience witnessing humpback whales “bubble feeding,” a choreographed technique that forces fish in a circular motion to the surface of the ocean. Whales then lunge from below with open mouths for their feast of krill and small fish. Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, right off the coast of Massachusetts, is described by the sanctuary as serving up “a sumptuous smorgasbord for marine mammals.”

Stellwagen supports a diverse and varied number of marine animals and seabird species. The tally of our sightings, according to the log from the boat Asteria, included 3 minke whales, 6 humpback whales, terns, jaegers, shearwaters, northern fulmars, gannets, and gulls. On most trips, the crew also records debris that makes it way to the ocean from beaches or is tossed overboard. The Asteria reported that debris from our outing included a plastic bag of trash and a balloon. Unfortunately, we know that more marine debris lurks under the water, breaking into smaller and smaller pieces. All of this debris is dangerous when ingested by marine animals.

On this recent trip, naturalist Laura Lilly’s narration of the action was equally as exciting as the events all around us. At one point Laura spotted an identifiable tail fluke of the juvenile humpback “London” that she had participating in naming (the pattern on the fluke resembles Big Ben.) Although she claims that naming whales does not make them pets, it was very clear from the tremor of her voice and the animation of her description that she is emotionally attached to these majestic creatures that she knows so well. Whales travel from where they were born off the coast of the Dominican Republic to Stellwagen Bank to feed May to November. Feeding on the rich variety at Stellwagen ensures that when they return to the Caribbean and begin their fast, they will have built up reserves of fat to last through the breeding season.

Whales, like sharks and other marine animals, help regulate the ocean food chain by ensuring that certain species do not overpopulate the ocean; they also contribute to the nutrient mixing necessary to a healthy sea. These enormous fascinating creatures belong to the cetacean species, along with dolphins and porpoises. All of these animals have become a part of a huge economic engine, drawing audiences and bringing in millions of tourism dollars across the globe. “Seeing these animals up close and personal is like seeing a national treasure,” commented W2O’s Anne Peacher.

Naturalist Laura Lilly (top) with NOAA’s Leila Hatch and staff from Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary

“Good for you; good for our ocean” is a saying here at Women Working for Ocean. We are linked, wholeheartedly to our most precious resource and its inhabitants.

Learn more about whales from the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium.

Knee-Deep in Essex Bay with W2O Members

By | Action today, Member Only Events, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

Sandy Nash says that she was “exploding with facts” after a recent trip to Essex Massachusetts for her first W2O members’ event. “I grew up on a farm and the deep sea is beyond my comfort zone but this event felt tangible; it made the work feel real and we could see what steps are being taken to make a difference,” she said when describing digging holes in the ocean floor to stake dozens of eelgrass plants.

W2O members Jen Godfrey and Sandy Nash in Essex MA

Coastal ecologist Dr. Alyssa Novak, from Boston University, led W2O members knee-deep into Essex Bay for a hands-on workshop to become familiar with the seascape that the eelgrass harbors and protects. Sandy experienced a heartfelt intimacy during this process observing and working alongside scientists and the W2O community. “It was a small enough group so that we could all ask questions. We were sorting through marine materials and learning about everything coming out of the water,” she said. “It’s one thing to hear about it but an entirely different experience being there doing it.”

Eelgrass or seagrass, a habitat for migratory birds and marine animals, protects the shore from coastal storms, sea level rise, and erosion. Along with collaborating partners, Dr. Novak is hoping to restore eelgrass to Essex Bay while studying how it might play a role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Her team of scientists analyzes data including the shoot’s length and density, and the plant’s genetic variation in hopes of finding the variety of seagrass that will be resilient to the transplant process.

Learn more about eelgrass here. Learn more about Dr. Alyssa Novak’s work on eelgrass here.

Join W2O to participate in our educational and inspiring member-only events.

Seagrass

By | Featured Post, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liz Cunningham and Her Passion for Rescue

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

“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.

The 2017 W2O Ocean Spirit Award

By | Uncategorized, W2O Blog

The Sustainability Scholars of  Ipswich High School will tell you that living in a town so close to the ocean makes them respectful of their beautiful surroundings. “We learned to respect the ocean and our surroundings early on and it was never socially acceptable to litter”, one student tells W2O.  

Flash forward to these young women entering Lori LaFrance’s 11th-grade classroom where they were challenged to design their own curriculum and research a sustainability topic of their choosing to focus on for the year.  Students say that this sustainability class prepared them for college and beyond by encouraging them to take action on real-world problems and by placing them in situations of negotiation and communication with adults in civic engagement. Veteran teacher, Lori LaFrance, will humbly tell you that she is proud of the successful outcomes, but from the students, we know that a particularly thoughtful and talented teacher mentored them.

Five members of the Ipswich High School Sustainability class chose to tackle the issue of single-use plastic waste by writing a bylaw that would ban plastic carryout bags and polystyrene. For their incredible work, Nicole Whitten, a member of the Ipswich Recycling and Advisory Committee, nominated the five students and their teacher for the Women Working for Oceans 2017 Ocean Spirit Award because, she says, “They not only made their community aware of the dangers of plastic pollution in written form but with the help of their teacher, also researched, talked to local businesses to get their support, and then took action. The girls put together a convincing presentation explaining the dangers surrounding the use of both single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam containers.  A few citizens in the audience had questions and raised concerns; the girls were prepared for these objections and answered with confidence and facts.”

The Ocean Spirit Award is given to the person or group that has encompassed Women Working for Ocean’s mission of educating and inspiring action using grassroots initiatives towards protecting our blue planet.

For their passionate work on the successful ban of single-use plastic and polystyrene in the town of Ipswich Massachusetts, Women Working for Oceans and their members are delighted to award the 2017 Ocean Spirit Award to:

Lori LaFrance and Ipswich High School’s Sustainability Scholars: Charlotte Howe, Claire McElwain, Carly Restuccia, Jillian Wall and Claire Werner.

 

 

Sharks Keep Our Ocean Healthy. Act Now to Stop Shark Finning

By | Featured Post, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

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

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.”