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.

 

 

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

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.

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

 

#MahaloObama from a Grateful Ocean

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

Photo of Blue Trevally: US Fish and Wildlife Service

Mahalo” (thank you in Hawaiian) to President Obama and many others for Monument designation expansion of the pristine area of Papahānaumokuākea off the coast of Hawaii. It is now the largest protected area (land or sea) in the world! This is big world news this week and hopefully sends a message to everyone of the importance of protecting vital habitat everywhere in our oceans. Protected areas are the basis of climate refuge and, according to Douglas McCauley from UC Santa Barbara in this NPR interview, the area of Papahānaumokuākea is one of the most spectacular places on earth. “You put on a mask, and the mask essentially becomes a time machine. You put your head under water, and you’re looking at what the ocean looked like on reefs thousands of years ago. It’s what Hawaii-the reefs that we see when we go on vacation out there-looked like before we impacted and disturbed this ecosystem,” says McCauley.

Photo: Lee Gillenwater
The Pew Charitable Trust

Marine protected areas have proved to be a hotspot for the study of climate change and have demonstrated that when left alone, without fishing, tourism or reef disturbance, protected areas are able to rebound from damaging human activity. W2O co-founder and Chair of Trustees of the New England Aquarium Donna Hazard is so grateful for the news from Hawaii but also knows that she wants to see more areas protected.  She is particularly concerned about the Atlantic where it might be more difficult to imagine the abundance of diversity under the dark blue cold waters. “It’s so important to protect those biologically diverse habitats.  It would be great if I could just know that during my lifetime I could help secure more marine protected areas for the next generation. We can’t afford to let this opportunity pass by without trying to protect the most worthy scientifically significant marine areas,” Hazard passionately remarked when speaking about the possibility of a monument in the Atlantic.  “I am hopeful that the wonderful press and excitement about the Monument expansion of Papahānaumokuākea will help propel the movement for more marine protected areas,” Hazard added.

 

Sailors for the Sea

By | Action today, Featured Post, In the News, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized

Milk jugs, plastic bags, fishing nets, food packaging, straws; these are now common sightings for avid ocean fanatics. Mark Davis and the “crew” at Sailors for the Sea are on a mission to educated boaters and sailors about how to make sustainable choices and still enjoy being out on the water.

From serious ocean racers, to the average weekend enthusiast, participation in activities on the water while being an ocean steward is a relatively new concept for most. “It use to be that out of sight out of mind mentality,” says author and sailor Barbara Beck of Annapolis Maryland. “I remember ocean racing and tossing large green garbage bags overboard without much thought, hoping they would sink to the bottom.” Today most boaters know about pollution in the ocean but are unaware of how they can be part of the solution. “At our yacht club there are efforts to “go green,” says Beck, “but those efforts often fall short because there doesn’t seem to be easy solutions and people opt for convenience.” Sailors for the Sea is hoping to educate boating enthusiasts that opting for convenience is creating a bigger problem and destroying our oceans for future “Sailors.”

The “Sailor” in our title is “anyone who travels across a body of water”, says Mark Davis, president of Sailors for the Sea. “We won’t be taking on other sports or events because we are very focused on the community of boating and sailing,” says Davis. Sailor for the Sea, headquartered near the harbor in Newport Rhode Island, is creating useful tools and delivering a global healthy ocean message to all sailors and boaters across the U.S., Europe and Asia. With the support of Sailors, enlisted volunteers follow “best practices” which begins with assembling a “green team.” With their programs for clean regattas next generation educational lessons through KELP and a new Clean Boating Guide, their mission is to make boaters “catalysts for change.” Good for you, Good for our oceans!

Protect Yourself and The Reef

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

 

Suntan lotion is at the top of the list for your summer holiday. Choose one that is healthy for you and for our oceans.

Consider this the next time you are investing in skincare protection for you and your family: most suntan lotions are harmful to marine life. Researchers at NOAA and the National Park Service warn us that, “the products covering our skin wash off when we enter the water, and it adds up! Research tells us that 6,000-14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion are emitted into coral reef areas each year. This means that our most popular reefs, such as those in our national parks, are exposed to the majority of sunscreens.” Scientists tell us that no sunscreens are completely “reef safe” and in fact, according to a study by the Coral Disease and Health Consortium (CDHC) and Cheryl M. Woodley, PhD, over 3,500 sunscreen products worldwide contain Oxybenzone (also known as BP-3;Benzophenone-3) which is known to have toxic effects on marine life. 

 

Look for a mineral-based sunscreen to protect you and the reef

Look for a mineral-based sunscreen to protect you and the reef

Tropical Snorkeling.com has a guide to better choice mineral-based sunscreens that might be right for you and your family. Proprietors of the site, Galen and Nicole give the low down on which are water resistant, which are oily and which ones go on clear (Yes!). Remember: when you can, use clothing (rash guard, hat, wetsuit) to cover up!
Good for you. Good for our oceans.

More on the science and research for this topic:

CDHC Scientific Study by Cheryl Woodley

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/nov15/sunscreen-corals.html

oceanservice.noaa.gov/…ws/feb14/sunscreen

 

Stop Ocean Noise!

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

Stop Ocean Noise That Threatens Marine Life

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. Sink a hydrophone in the ocean and discover a marine jungle of animal noises from the tiniest shrimp to the largest blue whale. Marine life depends on this soundscape for mating, finding food, navigation and avoiding predation.

A school of Bigeye Trevally with two Blacktip Reef Sharks in the background swim over a healthy coral reef; The Phoenix Islands Protected Area, Pacific Ocean, Enderbury Island, Kiribati.

Keith Ellenbogen’s school of Bigeye Trevally

This ocean cacophony was all natural until the advent of the industrial revolution when human-made sounds from blasting, drilling, military, and shipping began drowning out these important biological cues.  To search for oil and gas, arrays of airguns are towed behind ships and release intense blasts of compressed air into the water–think about a dynamite explosion underwater every 10 seconds for days and sometimes months on end. Airgun noise can displace and confuse whales, dolphins and porpoises by interfering with their ability to communicate.

Recently, the Obama administration moved to prohibit lease sales for testing in the Mid and South Atlantic for 2017-22. That decision does not halt seismic permitting in the Atlantic. The federal government will likely propose opening up Atlantic waters for oil and gas exploration with airgun surveys, affecting many marine mammal species, including the endangered North Atlantic right whale. According to the Department of Interior’s own estimates, the proposed seismic airgun array blasting in the Atlantic could harm up to 138,00 whales and disrupt their behavior over 13 million times. Take action to stop ocean noise. Tell your elected officials that you do not want them to support seismic testing.

Use this template to email or mail your Senator to stop ocean noise.  Use this link, Find your Senator or Congresswoman/Congressman for the address.

If you live in Massachusetts:
Letter to MA Senator Markey

Letter to MA Senator Warren

Your voice matters!