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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.”

 

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

Find Your #OceanOptimism!

By | Action today, Featured Post, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

The sea is full of secrets. Beneath the surface, there are so many mysteries; while this uncertainty is scary, it’s also full of promise.

I am at a point of transition in my life: I recently graduated from a Masters program, I’m dipping my toes into nonprofit waters, and searching for the right career path. In short, it’s turmoil. There is a lot to be unsure about.

As the newest W2O board member, I’ve been struck by the refusal of W2O members to be bogged down in futility. Perhaps no single one of us can solve all the problems our world and ocean face, but every small action makes a difference. Working together makes those actions more impactful. We may be unsure, but that doesn’t mean there is no reason to have hope. The light of hope is central to our spring event.

W2O’s Spring 2017 event, The Heart of Hope: A Quest to Save Our Seas with author and ocean advocate Liz Cunningham, aims to inspire local communities to find their role within the global initiative to safeguard our ocean. Liz Cunningham will share her story of finding true hope amidst dire environmental crises. Leading up to and in conjunction with this event, W2O draws inspiration from the Ocean Optimism movement; in our social media, we will be using #OceanOptimism to build our sense of community, hope, and inspiration around the ocean. We hope to hear from all of you about what inspires you to work for our ocean, and what continues to give you hope for success.

Ocean Optimism is a marine conservation movement that highlights areas of success. The movement aims to facilitate connection and collaboration in order to create a new narrative of hope in marine conservation. In 2014, renowned scientists and environmental champions Nancy Knowlton, Heather Koldeway, Cynthia Vernon and Elin Kelsey launched #OceanOptimism to encourage the sharing of success stories and positive ocean news. This global movement has spread to over 60 million social media users in an incredible outpouring of marine support.

My own #OceanOptimism is bound up in curiosity. The seemingly boundless ocean waters hide fascinating secrets. It’s impossible for me to watch plunging Gannets, Sandpipers flitting about the shoreline, or schools of fish swarming coral reefs without getting tongue-tied with questions. For every answer I’ve found, there are (at least) 10 more questions. My hope for our ocean stems from how much there is always left to learn.

Delving deeper into my ocean curiosity always grows my #OceanOptimism. We want to know what grows yours. Use my example as a guide; think about what inspires you to work for the ocean; tell us your unique story of what links you to our blue planet.

To contribute to our social media campaign, contact W2O’s Social Media Manager Emily Conklin at emilyforw2o@gmail.com. Follow @W2Oorg on Twitter and @womenworkingforoceans on Instagram and be sure to use #OceanOptimism in your own posts.

 

Blog contributor and W2O Social Media Manager Emily Conklin holds a BA in Biology from Wheaton College, and a Masters of Science in Marine Biology from Northeastern University.