Extinction Is Not An Option: Protecting the Right Whale

By | Action today, Featured Post, New England Aquarium, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

Dr. Scott Kraus believes that until North Atlantic right whales find safer habitat it is our job to protect them. “Biology is on our side,” says Dr. Krause, “because right whales will live a long life if we leave them alone.”

Like most marine mammals, the right whale relies on sound to navigate, find a mate, feed, and migrate with offspring. Ocean noise is just one of the stressors that can contribute to their poor health.  “Imagine that the ocean is the right whale’s living room, dining room, and bedroom,” says Dr. Kraus describing how we have become unwelcome visitors introducing ocean noise, ship strikes, and entanglement to their home and bringing the right whale to the brink of extinction. “Human ocean activity is disrupting the whale’s existence and my team and I believe that extinction is not an option. Saving the right whale is important for saving our ocean.”

Dr. Kraus spoke to a group of about 300 at W2O’s event “On The Brink: Saving Our Right Whale, Saving Our Ocean and shared his experiences learning from these animals. As Vice President, Chief Scientist and Senior Science Advisor at the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium, Dr. Kraus has been studying right whales for nearly 40 years. Of the remaining 400 right whales, most have been entangled in strong ropes used by the fishing industry to lift gear off of the ocean floor. Entanglement puts enormous stress on these animals causing a decline in breading and birth rates and often leads to death. Now alternative strategies for using whale friendlier fishing gear are being developed and there is an increased awareness of how important whales, which bring nutrients to all marine life, are to the entire food chain. These animals are the “canary in the coal mine” of our ocean and their fight for life is a reminder to all of us that we need a healthy ocean for a healthy planet.

Find out ways you can help save the North Atlantic right whale HERE

Meet Ocean Spirit Award Winner Bonnie Combs

By | Climate Action, Events, Featured Post, In the News, New England Aquarium, New England Aquarium, Sustainable Living, W2O Blog

Meet Bonnie Combs, our 2019 Ocean Spirit Award winner! Bonnie lives in Blackstone, a small Massachusetts community on the border of Rhode Island. Her journey to ocean conservation started years ago with a love of food and continues today with big ideas that exemplify how an army of one can influence two states and multiple communities, inspiring them to join the fight to protect our blue planet. When Bonnie tells her story, it’s best to have a map of Massachusetts and Rhode Island on hand! Her life has crisscrossed these borders and each state could claim her as their own ocean hero.

Bonnie’s motto is “be the change you wish to see” and believes everyone can make a difference when it comes to saving the planet. “Some people are just too shy or scared but I say if you just try and get out there, you never know how your efforts might make a difference,” she muses. Always a nature lover, Bonnie had her awakening to conservation while working as a chef at Whole Foods and was drawn into the company’s sustainability mission becoming Community Relations Team Leader. This work, in locations in MA and RI, became her conservation training ground and solidified her interest in working locally to spread the message that you too can choose healthy for your family and in turn, make our world a better place.

Bonnie is often using her skills as a trained chef to make sustainable meals or is firing up her sewing machine, stitching up t-shirts for reusable bags, sewing remnant fabric for cutlery wraps and repurposing animal feed bags. A creative energetic change maker, Bonnie is regularly organizing river and beach clean-ups across both MA and RI, teaching folks how to reuse and repurpose everyday materials to mitigate waste, and sharing her talents with the community by empowering others to learn how to make creative choices when it comes to refusing single-use plastic pollution.

Her life is bursting with community activism and her reach is wide. As Marketing Director at the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, Inc, she has developed and designed the Trash Responsibly and Fish Responsibly campaigns, making sure that waste and monofilament fishing line is recycled properly. A co-worker and volunteer coordinator of the Corridor, Suzanne Buchanan, describes Bonnie’s enthusiasm for her conservation work as contagious. “People stop by to donate feed bags for repurposing and you would think that she is being given a bouquet of flowers given her outburst of joy and the hugs that follows,” says Suzanne. “Bonnie is generous above and beyond as she gathers people together to think about their consumption and choices. She can’t go to bed until she has filled up a trash bag on one of her walks and on those walks she is stopping for conversations, inspiring others to join in.” Suzanne adds, “She makes me a better person and I am not the only one that would say that.”

Bonnie loves networking, outreach and the community participation in the building of a movement. She thinks big! Her newest project takes this concept on, literally. Bonnie is currently a “3D Resident Local Artist” at the Providence citywide public art initiative, The Avenue Concept, collecting a rainbow of plastic containers from across Rhode Island for an enormous public sculpture that will be assembled and constructed on site by famed New York artist Steven Siegel. The entire structure will be assembled from plastic waste including laundry jugs and personal and household cleaning products. The sculpture will be held together by discarded fishing nets and Bonnie hopes the art will spark discussions about how to protect marine life from entanglement and keep plastic pollution out of our waterways and ocean.

“The ocean to me (blending my passion for the environment and cooking) is the soup of life,” says Bonnie. “We all play a part in the recipe. If we want a well balanced, healthy and life-sustaining soup, we need to change our mindset and think of our daily actions as ingredients. Are we adding too much to the soup? If ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ we must be mindful of our individual impact and how collectively we all sit at the same table and share the same meal.”

Bonnie at The Avenue Concept

Congratulate Bonnie on May 21st at W2O’s On the Brink: Saving our Right Whale, Saving our Ocean. Bonnie will be presented the 2019 Ocean Spirit Award at this event that will educate the public about the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Find out how we can save this species, thought of as the “ocean’s canary in the coal mine,” and join us to take a closer look at how we can protect our blue planet. Click Here for Tickets!

 

 

 

 

 

W2O Joins Ocean Partners to Protect Our Coast

By | Events, Featured Post, In the News, New England Aquarium, Uncategorized

The ocean and our climate are making the headlines with awareness growing about sea level rise, plastic pollution, and the impact of human-induced carbon emissions. Just when it seems the threats to a healthy environment can’t grow any longer, our elected officials have proposed the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.  This proposal would include seismic testing and offshore drilling in the Arctic and off of our coast in the Atlantic, prompting W2O and other organizations to challenge each and every one of us to defend our coast.

The ocean has no borders when it comes to the threat of an oil spill. No herculean effort can contain a spill or determine where it won’t go. The ocean has its own agenda, especially with the proposed area for drilling including the Gulf Stream just hundreds of miles offshore flowing from Mexico right up to Canada, over to Europe and finally to the Norwegian coast. An oil spill would devastate the economic engines of New England; including tourism and the fishing industry.

The first order of business before offshore drilling is exploration using seismic testing, which entails analysis of the ocean floor using airguns that emit a deafening sound. In a statement released this week denouncing the administration’s proposal, the New England Aquarium joined aquariums across the nation to warn of the dangers of this type of exploration.

The statement explains, “Seismic airgun noise travels more than 1,500 miles underwater. Scientific studies show that when seismic surveys happen, fewer fish are caught, more zooplankton die, and marine mammals struggle to flourish. Seismic airguns negatively impact everything around them and haven’t been used in the North Atlantic since the 1980s to search for commercial quantities of oil and gas.”

We think of our oceans as a silent underwater world. In reality, the ocean is full of noise. Diving on any given day, anywhere in the world, you might hear fish chomping, waves crashing, mammals calling to each other and even rain falling. Marine life is wired for sound and depends on it for finding food, mating, and migration. Our critically endangered North Atlantic right whale has fallen victim to multiple human stressors with only a few hundred left.  These animals use the proposed area for drilling off of the Atlantic coast as their highway, breeding off of the coast of Georgia and coming north to feed right here in Cape Cod waters.

Explosions in the ocean not only affect the largest of our underwater friends, but also the smallest.  Important nursery grounds and our newly designated first national monument in the Atlantic, the North East Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument are at risk from this proposal. Zooplankton, which is an important part of the ocean food web and includes the larval stage of fish and other marine organisms, dies when exposed to seismic testing according to this article in Nature Ecology and Evolution.  

Join W2O on January 10th for an evening to learn more about seismic surveys, oil and gas exploration and how you can protect our coast. The evening will include short films on the topic and an expert panel monitored by Vikki Spruill, President and CEO of the New England Aquarium, poised to answer questions and inspire you to speak up on behalf of our blue planet. Register here

Find Your Group: Forming W2O’s Young Professional Action Committee

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

Board Member Emily Conklin shares the story behind forming W2O’s Young Professional Action Committee

I have always considered myself a problem-solver, a detail-oriented perfectionist. If something had to get done, whether finishing grad school or finding an apartment, I’d make an orderly list and move through the steps until the task was accomplished. Protecting the environment doesn’t have an easy answer or fit into this strict model.  You can’t do it on your own. You need to find your group.

I found W2O as an intern in 2016. It was a strong answer to my need to join a community to advocate for our ocean. Over the two years I’ve been with the organization, W2O has spoken out, raised our signs in demonstrations, and lobbied our legislators about important environmental issues that impact us all. The women I have met through this group are passionate and serious about building a community that strives to make sustainable choices. Being part of this group fueled my determination to make positive change. I want to help shape the story of our blue planet so everyone can see and find their role in protecting it.  

As I moved from intern to board member and social media manager, I wondered how we could expand this messaging to highlight activist passion in a more diverse base. With the recent increase in youth involvement inspired by the Women’s March, March for Science and the recent March for the Ocean, including younger voices and perspectives is forefront in my mind.  More young people are raising their voices and mobilizing for causes they care about. As a young professional woman invested in the future of our environment and communities, I have felt the pull to stand up for our blue planet. I wanted to see how W2O could rise to meet this call.

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by intelligent, environmentally minded women on whom I could test out my burgeoning idea. A community of educators, artists, activists, students- all with a different perspective and unique ideas on our one common problem: how do we live in a way that supports our livelihood and our planet?

“Hey,” I asked them, “would you want to be part of a young professionals group that grapples with these issues?” Across the board, the answer was a resounding yes.

Our first meeting was an informational gathering where attendees enjoyed pizza while I explained what I had in mind. I told them I wanted to take W2O’s mission of understanding and advocating for our ocean and expand it to better fit the demands, restrictions, and interests of young professionals’ lifestyles. There are so many voices and ideas that we haven’t been hearing on these issues, and I have been at a loss to find a space where genuine discourse is created and encouraged. I say we make one. The women in that room came for different reasons, from different places, but we were collectively energized by the idea of cultivating productive discussion surrounding the often troubling, discouraging problems we face. That day, we threw around questions like: How do we make sustainable choices without breaking the (sometimes very tight) budget? How do we make a policy impact and responsibly raise our civic voices through voting, rallying, and all around advocating? Do you all feel hopeless and, if you do, what can be done to pull us out of that feeling and move forward? And that was just the beginning. 

We may not have the solutions, but there is inherent value in finding allies and creating an opportunity to discuss the intricacies of the issues we face.

I left that meeting pumped. My generation is far from apathetic! They want to engage! And they’re willing to help me create a forum to do so! From that meeting, W2O’s Young Professional Action Committee (YPAC) was formed.

Our main goal is to create an accessible, inclusive space for folks to engage with the dilemmas facing the world around us. The Action Committee will take our concerns and drivers to create programming that W2O’s young professional members can engage with and enjoy. We want to work together to make sure we all understand the threats, to our planet and to ourselves, and that we all feel safe to participate in building solutions. Every stressor is an opportunity for discourse; every perspective is a chance for fresh analysis. Whether it’s a beach clean up, a voter registration event or a conservation-focused happy hour, we aim to make a space where young people of all genders and backgrounds are welcomed to voice their concerns and weigh in on solutions. I can’t wait to bring everyone to the table. I can’t wait to help people find their group, as I have found mine.

Sometimes, we might still feel hopeless. It’s ok- that’s why we have each other. Right now, I feel empowered by this group, and we’ve barely even started.

 

Emily Conklin with W2O’s 2017 keynote speaker Liz Cunningham

 

For questions about YPAC, please contact Emily Conklin at emilyforw2o@gmail.com. To join W2O at the young professional level, visit our Membership page. Our next young professional oriented event will be a happy hour meeting at The Reef, after which we’ll attend NEAq’s lecture series installment from MCAF Fellow Kerstin Forsberg on Manta Ray conservation in Peru: September 26th at 5:30pm. Follow us on social media for upcoming events!

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! 

 

 

 

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

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

 

Heroes of the Oceans

By | Action today, Events, Featured Post, In the News, Past Events, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized, W2O Blog | No Comments

W2O and the Massachusetts Sierra Club hosted Heroes of the Oceans at the MA State House last week, honoring those that have helped pass bills banning single use plastic pollution in their towns and cities.

Educating about refusing single use plastic is not enough. The real heroes are those that take up the challenge in their communities and enacting lasting change through legislation. Mindful change matters, but those changes that spark local, city and statewide initiatives, that is what its all about.

Plastic pollution clogs our drains, litters our parks, destroys our oceans and then ends up in us. The plastic ends up in us.

Our Heroes of the Oceans made endless phone calls, spent hours explaining the damage that single use plastic does to our environment, oceans and families, and convinced town chamber, town meeting members, selectman and legislators that now is the time to act and ban single use plastic in our communities. It is hard work getting that done.

 

Best Honorees

The “Heroes” with legislators on the grand staircase at the MA State House (photo: Gretchen Powers)