We Marched. Now Vote Ocean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stories of Action Give Us Hope for Our Ocean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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! 

 

 

 

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.”