Archive for June, 2009

June 29, 2009

Trip to Midway Sparks Project Serious Sand

Reef fish abound at Rapture Reef of French Frigate Shoals, (c) James Watt

Reef fish abound at Rapture Reef of French Frigate Shoals, (c) James Watt

A fellow marine educator, Ron Hirschi, was recently honored with a trip to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. He was kind enough to detail his excursion on his own blog but his time spent on Midway Atoll particularly sparked a single great idea: Project Serious Sand.

As he recently wrote on the National Marine Educators Association listserv:

Hello All Sand Collectors and others interested in Plastic Toxicity in our Seas! Just back from Midway where I was overwhelmed by the death by plastic of hundreds of Albatross. I opened a film cannister I had filled with beach sand on Sand Island within the Atoll. To my surprise, the beautiful white sand was laced with red, blue, and lavender flecks — tiny bits of toxic plastic working their way into the micro-world. This was new to me and after having learned how plastics absorb pcbs and other toxins, I thought about a new project called Serious Sand.

Please collect a small container of sand from a convergence beach zone near you or where you vacation this summer. You will know a convergence zone along a beach — it is where two drift cells collide, usually creating our most favorite beach areas known as Points, spits, or hooks.
Just like the convergence zones in the open ocean, these beach sites collect debris, acting to concentrate macro and micro pieces of plastic. They are some of our more famous beaches and often have lighthouses or a bunch of fishermen tossing their favorite lure.

I think this is an exceptionally worthwhile endeavor and I’m hoping to further interest in Ron’s project by posting it on WaterNotes. If you would like to send him samples please contact me ( and I’m happy to forward on Ron’s contact information.

June 22, 2009

Invasion Smack-down, We Hope

Australian spotted jellyfish in the IRL (c)

Australian spotted jellyfish in the IRL (c)

The St. Johns River Water Management District is circulating a warning of recent sightings of invasive Australian spotted jellyfish in the Indian River Lagoon near the Eau Gallie River. The first reported sightings of the spotted invaders came in the 2001 and 2002 seasons with no further jellies seen in the interim until just last week. The Indian River Lagoon Program’s staff is concerned about their presence in IRL waters as this species is a voracious consumer of plankton and fish eggs.

The Aussie invaders are quite large – roughly the size of a basketball. Just two native lagoon jellies approach this size: the familiar moon jellyfish and the cannonball jelly. Confusion over identification of these animals is a bit unlikely and SJRWMD staff are asking that the public specifically reports any sightings of spotted jellyfish to their staff with information on the date, time, location, and number of jellies seen in order to track the current outbreak. (If you would like contact information please feel free to email me; I feel a bit funny about posting SJRWMD staff emails to WaterNotes.)

PS: Yes, a group of jellyfish are often known as a “swarm” or a “smack”.

June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

King penguins dominate the exhibit at SWF (c) SML

King penguins dominate the exhibit at SWF (c) SML

To all the fathers out there who brave hurricane force winds, sub-zero temperatures, months of starvation, and the rigors of courtship just to raise a family – or would if they were emperor penguins – Happy Father’s Day! Not every mammal is so lucky to have the two-parent system we humans enjoy.

June 17, 2009

Ocean In Focus Contest Is Open!

Kemp's Ridley hatchling tries his odds of survival in the surf, (c) Kirsten Dahlen 2008 /

Kemp's Ridley hatchling tries his odds of survival in the surf, (c) Kirsten Dahlen 2008 /

SeaWeb’s adventures with the Marine Photobank project continue to expand. In fact, the 2nd annual Ocean In Focus Conservation Photography Contest, held in concert between SeaWeb and the Project AWARE Foundation, just got underway last week on World Ocean’s Day. The contest runs until August 27th of this summer so if you don’t already have an image to submit consider it a challenge during your summer travels. Wherever you go near the water, take your camera along.

Submissions to the Photobank itself are taken throughout the year to highlight the need for marine conservation efforts but its the summer season when you can get major recognition for your contributions via the contest. Oh, and I should mention the prize (it’s huuuuuuge!): a vacation in Fiji at an ecoadventure resort as well as diving and carbon offsets! Get out there with your lenses and get to work!

June 16, 2009

Jump Froggy! Jump Little Froggy!

Glad to see you back at WaterNotes after the hiatus. What have I been up to? Well, as any environmental educator knows all to well, when the kids let out of formal school for summer camp season begins! My work has altered dramatically from lectures, question-answer sessions, and narrations into a more hilarious camp environment with aquatic adventures. There’s still plenty of teaching, to be sure, but we include a lot of silliness too. If you’ve ever met me in the flesh, you know that the eccentric and wacky element of a camp meshes well with my inner six-year-old psyche. The above video is one of my favorite camp songs.. and I think its obvious why! For more “infectiously silly” goodness, like the Baby Shark! song, visit Camp Songs.

June 1, 2009

Hand Feeding Flamingoes

Caribbean flamingo via wikimedia (c) Adrian Pingstone, 1/2007

I was lucky enough to visit Busch Gardens Tampa Bay last week with a number of close friends. Inbetween riding roller coasters (including Sheikra, which nearly killed me..) we found plenty of time to observe African wildlife and some native Florida wildlife in the exhibits. I visited Busch back in October of last year on a safari experience to feed giraffes. (Or as we in the buisness like to call them, “G-rafs!”) This time around we were lucky to stumble across Busch’s education area and hand fed flamingoes!

While its true flamingoes have upside down beaks and usually go sifting through the shallows for crustaceans and algae and other goodies, they apparently also have a love for duck chow. Letting giant five-foot-tall male Caribbean flamingoes nibble chow from my hand was sort of surreal. Their enormously loud honking was even better. And those upside down beaks, goodness. I had no idea they would feel so strange! Unlike most of the raptor beaks I’ve touched in the past flamingo beaks feel almost unnaturally smooth and nearly plastic-like. I’m not even sure how to truly describe it! Just by looking at the animals you would imagine that those giant beaks would be rather hefty hardware but when we touched them they seemed incredibly lightly built.

The flock made a total mess of nibbling chow from our hands but the Hawaiian nene geese – also in the exhibit – made short work of the leavings.

All in all a spectacular visit to the park. If you find yourself in Tampa, and you’re feeling adventurous, do try the Safari tour to feed g-rafs and get yourself back to the education buildings. In addition to flamingoes they’ve got African servals, coatimundi, African crowned cranes, Hoffman’s sloths, and other critters in their care.