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

Image 5
IMG_3229
Image 6
IMG_2360

 

 

 

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.

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

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.