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.




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

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.

Make a Date with W2O for our Ocean

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

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

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

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



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


Hope Among the Ruins

By | Events, Featured Post, In the News, Uncategorized, W2O Blog


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

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

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

Liz Cunningham near her home in Berkeley California

Why W2O will March

By | Events, Featured Post, In the News, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

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


The Super Food Secrets of Seaweeds

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

Kombu 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.

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



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.








#MahaloObama from a Grateful Ocean

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

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

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.


Happy World Oceans Day from Intern Emily Conklin

By | Events, Featured Post, In the News, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

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.

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