Ocean Currents » Pearls of Wisdom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:18:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 The Gulf Through the Eyes of a Child http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/16/the-gulf-through-the-eyes-of-a-child/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/16/the-gulf-through-the-eyes-of-a-child/#comments Sun, 16 Apr 2017 13:00:52 +0000 Matt Love http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14170

We’re looking back on how the disaster has shaped our lives here on the Gulf Coast. We decided to revisit our 2015 interview with Calvin Love, my son, and one of the youngest contributors to our Postcards from the Gulf series. Calvin was six years old at the time of that first interview, and has since moved from his home on the bayous of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to the salty air of the Alabama Gulf Coast where he is now able to more frequently enjoy the natural beauty of the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve invited him to share his story with us again, to understand how his perspective has changed over these years.

Matt Love: We last talked with you two years ago. What’s changed in your life since then?

Calvin Love: Now that I live in Fairhope, Alabama, I have friends nearby that I can play with without having to drive to go see them. I like biking to my friend’s house on my own. This summer I moved from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Fairhope so I can go to the beach whenever I want. The beach sand is really white here and I like to look for sand dollars and cool shells. I haven’t seen any sharks yet but I know they’re out there. For my seventh birthday we went fishing in the Gulf but we didn’t catch anything. I did see a sea turtle though, that was awesome!

ML: There’s a lot of money available to restore the Gulf after the oil disaster (over $20 billion, in fact). How would you spend that money?

CL: I would buy a bunch of fish and put them in little spots all around the ocean. I would buy clean water and put it in the ocean so the fish would have cleaner water. I would make all the people with boats put things on them so they didn’t leak oil into the water. I would have all the trash picked up that falls into the ocean.

ML: Describe one of your best memories of the Gulf.

CL: On my summer break I really liked going out with my aunt and uncle in the big boat with their dog Banzai. He is a big, hairy Golden Retriever. We went to Crab Island in Destin and swam with Banzai. There were a ton of boats all around with lots of people playing and swimming. On our way back we saw a dolphin from the boat and Banzai and the dolphin looked at each other. That was cool.

Calvin Love in 2015

ML: What gives you hope for the Gulf?

CL: I’m hopeful that people with the big boats will stop shipping oil across the Gulf. That people will stop catching too many animals and not kill whales and stuff like that. This gives me hope because people don’t want to keep cleaning up oil spills that’s not their mess.

ML: Thanks Calvin. I think you have a lot of reasons to be hopeful. You were two years old when the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster began, and there is no question that your generation will be dealing with the trails left behind by decisions made before you. But now we are sitting together at a new beginning. We are embarking on one of the greatest scientific endeavors of our time, certainly for the ocean. It is our responsibility to help fix the things we’ve broken so you can thrive in a healthy, flourishing environment. It would be unfair to leave our mess for you to clean up. This broad Gulf restoration effort resulting from the oil disaster represents a contract between our generation and yours: to make the water cleaner, give nature a chance to provide more fish in the ocean and return those top predators you’re hoping to see out there. We are committing to provide that natural playground that supports your health and wellness for many years to come.

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What It Takes to Be the Perfect Spouse (According to a Penguin) http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/01/20/what-it-takes-to-be-the-perfect-spouse-according-to-a-penguin/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/01/20/what-it-takes-to-be-the-perfect-spouse-according-to-a-penguin/#comments Fri, 20 Jan 2017 13:00:44 +0000 Marja Diaz http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13638

It’s not an easy life we lead. And by “we”, I mean the entirety of the male penguin population.

As a male Magellanic penguin, the complexities of my life escalate the second I turn four. In a few years’ time, I’m expected to find the mate I want to spend the rest of my life with, build a nest, father children, raise a family and on top of it all, manage to not get eaten by a sea lion. Or an orca.

In honor of Penguin Awareness Day (my second favorite holiday) I want to shed some insight into the rituals, habits and traits that make me, and my kind, the very best of mates. You just might learn something.

Song and Dance

I’ll be the first to admit that this one’s tricky. It’s hard to tell that special someone they’re special, but I think the emperor penguin has us all beat. They’re no strangers when it comes to song and dance, using their loud voices to bellow shrieks and cries (songs and ballads, in your human terms) while waving and bowing their heads to capture the heart of a potential mate.

No matter if you’re singing the perfect tune, or constructing the perfect pebbled nest (Adélie penguins, overachievers), we penguins each have our own rituals to ensure our partner knows we’re the ideal spouse, and they’re our ideal mate. Often, this will entail a courtship ritual that involves bowing, braying and calling to each other for several minutes.

I believe in human speak you may call this activity words of affirmation.

Time Apart

It’s widely known that some of us, like macaroni and Magellanic penguins, mate for life. However, it’s not as widely known that we don’t actually spend every waking moment together. For example, the southern rockhopper penguin comes back to the same partner each year for mating season. However according to a recent study in Science Magazine (yes, I read academic articles in my free time), after the 20-30 days of mating season, they separate! Even more, partners were often separated by an average of 600km (almost 400 miles!) during the winter months, highlighting just how important it can be to maintain your own space.

Stalwart Dedication

One of our paramount traits as the world’s greatest partners (remember, I’m not biased, or anything) is our dedication to family. Take it from my buddy Doug, an emperor penguin. He loves his old gal Athene, and each year he will spend about 65 days withstanding the blistering winds and sub-zero temperatures of Antarctica to guard their egg while Athene hunts for the family. After two months they’ll eventually switch, but this insistent dedication and enthusiasm to protecting their young might be the key to the perfect partnership. At least, Doug and Athene definitely seem to think so.

Dress to Impress

Looks aren’t everything, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But fortunately for us penguins, we’re always dressed to the nines. Whether it’s the sharp tuxedos, or the yellow-orange forehead feather crest of the macaroni penguins, we’re guaranteed to be gussied up for any occasion. I’m not saying it takes a tux to make you the perfect partner, but it doesn’t hurt.

Finally, when the equivalent of bringing flowers is regurgitating fish remains into the mouth of your little loved ones, it might be worth noting things are a bit easier in my world. As a Magellanic penguin who grew up in the Galapagos, I know little about the frigid temperatures of the Antarctic, the razor sharp teeth of leopard seals or the best type of engagement ring. I do, however, know about love.

One of the longest recorded love affairs is between two Magellanic penguins like me, a romance of 16 years that was discovered during a 30-year study conducted on the Patagonia coastline of Argentina. While some penguins are no strangers to divorce, as serially monogamous species like emperor penguins usually find a new mate each breeding season, these two find each other every year.

So I may not be the perfect spouse, but in the animal world, we’re pretty dang close.

Oh, and happy Penguin Awareness Day.

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A League of Her Own http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/22/a-league-of-her-own/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/22/a-league-of-her-own/#comments Thu, 22 Sep 2016 20:57:27 +0000 Marja Diaz http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12942

“The ocean is a major part of my life, all our lives.” – Representative Lois Capps

Today, Congresswoman Lois Capps of the 24th District visited Ocean Conservancy, to speak not only on her legacy in Congress, but also her incredible contribution to our ocean.

Like me, Representative Capps is a Cali girl. Although born in the Midwest, she spent fifty years living in Santa Barbara as a nurse, educator and congresswoman, elected to first represent the Central Coast in 1998. In fact, Representative Capps spoke about enrolling her children in the Junior Lifeguard program–the same program I did growing up, the one that formed my love for the ocean!

Representative Capps demonstrates a dedication to marine conservation like no other, including advocating for marine protected areas, marine life and environmental education. She supported the expansion of coastal and marine monuments off the California coast, prevented offshore drilling and is a leader on the issue of ocean acidification. She’s even co-sponsored a long list of legislation, including acts protecting sea turtles, sharks and sea otters. And who doesn’t love sea otters?

Before Representative Capps was a congresswoman, she was a nurse. Her background lies in public health, and she understands the ways in which human health and the ocean are inextricably tied. Better than anyone I’ve met, she was able to communicate how human health relies on the ocean, just as the health of the ocean relies on us. (Did you know the devastation of the 1969 Santa Barbara Union Oil’s spill brought about the concept of Earth Day?)

During her talk, all I could think was “preach Representative Capps, preach”. Her calls to transition away from the burning of fossil fuels, mitigate the effects of ocean acidification and promote ocean education resonated with many in the room. Perhaps most important was her motivation to keep fighting for positive ocean change.

With the work of people like Representative Capps, I was able to grow up in a healthy ocean, along the coast of Southern California. My time in the water and the sand inspired a love for the marine environment, which ultimately led me here, to Ocean Conservancy.

Congresswoman Capps is a true ocean champion, a leader in ocean policy and an inspiration to future generations.

Thank you, Representative Capps for your vision, leadership and inspiration. We can’t thank you enough for such a wonderful visit!

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Women in Science: A Q&A with Tessa Hill http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/08/women-in-science-a-qa-with-tessa-hill/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/03/08/women-in-science-a-qa-with-tessa-hill/#comments Tue, 08 Mar 2016 14:30:26 +0000 Sage Melcer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11583

For International Women’s Day, we looked at how women are contributing to the ever-expanding field of ocean science. Tessa Hill from the University of California, Davis gave us a glimpse of her life as a marine scientist and how her work contributes to a healthy ocean.

Q: You’re an ocean biogeochemist – how would you explain your career to the average layperson?

A: I study how ocean environments respond to global change. I use a combination of many different fields – hence the long title with ocean, bio, geo, and chemist in there. I like working on questions that reach across typical academic boundaries, and collaborating with experts in other fields to broaden my own knowledge.

Q: In your research, you look at sediment records as well as current ocean conditions. Why is including both past and present relevant for your work?

A: I think we need to understand how the Earth works to be able to understand what the important consequences of future change will be. This understanding requires an investigation beyond “modern” timescales, where humans have had an impact. I like to think that paleoclimate records, or climate records taken from sediments, tell us stories about how the earth, ocean and atmosphere responded in the past to dramatic changes.

I also really enjoy having one foot in the ‘real’ ocean and thinking about how it works today. Some of my most exciting work is done with ecologists who are interested in understanding what the ocean will look like 50, 100 or 200 years from now. We do experiments that allow us to peer into the future and understand how marine animals will respond to changes that are around the corner.

Q: You also partner with Hog Island Oyster Company by monitoring pH conditions around their oyster farm. What are the shared benefits there?

A: This is a great partnership that has been really exciting for everyone involved. The owners at Hog Island Oyster Company – Terry Sawyer and John Finger – invited us to begin investigations at the site of their farming operation over three years ago. We deployed instruments that allow us to monitor the state of ocean acidification in Tomales Bay. We are monitoring temperature, salinity, oxygen, pH and carbon dioxide in the water there. We use these data for our scientific investigations and as a baseline for our laboratory work. The oyster farm uses these data to understand how acidification may be impacting their business today. They are making business decisions knowing that ocean acidification is something that will continue to impact their future, so it helps to start to understand how it is influencing the health of their oysters now. This work was a bit cobbled together at first, but now thankfully it is supported by our Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) and the NOAA Ocean Acidification program. It is really exciting to do work that can be used by scientists, the public, sustainable aquaculture, and coastal managers.

Q: In addition, you’re also an Associate Professor and work tirelessly on science communication and public engagement. Why do you feel communicating your work to the public is so important?

A: Ha! Tirelessly. That made me laugh because I definitely feel tired sometimes…but I also feel very committed to people understanding what we are discovering about or oceans and atmosphere. Essentially all of the work that I do is paid for by taxpayers: My research is supported by both the State of California and federal sources of funding (most significantly, the National Science Foundation). All of the information that I gather about the impacts of Earth’s changes should be public!  We have decisions to make about how to move forward and address our climate and environmental challenges. I’d like to see our decisions based in science.

Q: How about a shout-out to your favorite woman in science on International Women’s Day, Is there someone in particular that you admire?

A: Well, that is a hard one, because I actually can think of many women who I admire. I’ll start with a shout out to Rachel Carson, who has inspired so many women and men to investigate the world around them and try to understand how humans interact with the land and sea.

Q: President Obama recently awarded you with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineerscongratulations! As a female role model yourself, is there anything you’d like to share with young women pursuing a career in science?

A: Follow your curiosity! We need as many bright minds as possible to understand how the world works. Being a scientist is exciting, important, and a great way to spend your day. Come join me.

Thank you, Tessa Hill, for inspiring women and men everywhere to get excited about our oceans!

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BP Back in Court http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/01/20/bp-back-in-court/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/01/20/bp-back-in-court/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 13:00:22 +0000 Ivy Fredrickson http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9713

BP once again must appear in court today as the final phase of the BP trial begins in New Orleans. This is the third phase of a multiyear trial to determine how much BP and other responsible parties should pay for their role in the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Just last Thursday, the Judge issued another ruling, finding that 3.19 million barrels of oil were released into the Gulf. This means that the maximum fine BP will face is $13.7 billion. This final phase of the trial will focus on eight factors, as required by the Clean Water Act, including BP’s history of prior violations and the seriousness of this violation.

A key factor in court will be BP’s efforts to minimize the harm. In other words, did BP do enough in responding to the disaster to justify lowering their fine? Yes, BP took efforts to stop the flow from the well and the spread of oil, but BP also lied about the rate at which oil was spewing from the well.

The economic impact of the penalty on BP will be interesting to watch as well. The court will need to determine whether this inquiry focuses on BP (the parent company) as a whole or only on its subsidiary, BP Exploration & Production, known as BPXP. BP is expected to argue that the recent dip in oil prices should be factored into this inquiry. (This assertion, as you might expect, has been met with criticism.)

A third factor will be the issue of simple vs. gross negligence. That question was answered back in September when the court ruled that the oil disaster was the result of BP’s “gross negligence” and “willful misconduct,” Though this sounds like legalese, this ruling is extremely important; it means more funding will be available for restoring the Gulf. Funding for restoration projects via the RESTORE Act comes from Clean Water Act fines. And the finding of “gross negligence,” rather than ordinary negligence, means that fines can be as high as $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled, instead of $1,100. Eighty percent of the Clean Water Act fines will be used to repair and restore the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and the communities and economies that depend on it.

These penalty factors will be hotly debated during the trial starting today, and arguments will help determine whether the judge leans toward the high end of $13.7 billion or the low end of $7 billion. We can expect BP to argue for sympathy and leniency (i.e., “we’ve been punished enough; we’ve learned our lesson.”) BP will likely call attention to the money it spent on cleanup and capping the well back in 2010 (which was required by law). The courtroom action will last two or three weeks, and then the parties will file briefs with the court until late April. But there is no established timeline for when the judge will issue a ruling. And, of course, there is always the possibility that the parties could agree on a settlement.

Regardless of how this trial ends, a successful resolution must include funding to monitor the Gulf ecosystem over the course of 25 years, restoration that includes the offshore environment where the oil disaster began, and a transparent decision-making process that allows the public to participate in a meaningful way.

Many questions still loom, but we know a few things for certain. We know the people of the Gulf Coast and the coastal and marine ecosystems of the Gulf will feel the effects of the BP oil disaster for years to come. But from this disaster comes an opportunity to restore and chart a new path for the Gulf. Restoration is already underway, and this final phase of the trial gets us one step closer to justice and a healthier future for the Gulf.

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Video: Ocean Acidification – A Threat to Economies and Cultures Around the World http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/21/video-ocean-acidification-a-threat-to-economies-and-cultures-around-the-world/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/21/video-ocean-acidification-a-threat-to-economies-and-cultures-around-the-world/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:37:16 +0000 Alexis Valauri-Orton http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9059

Over these past three months, my blog series has taken you around the world and into the lives of marine dependent communities at risk from ocean acidification.  Hopefully this journey did for you what it did for me: showed how ocean acidification has the power to alter whole communities, and how these communities are in dire need of research, guidance and infrastructure to prepare for the challenges ahead.

Before I leave Ocean Conservancy, I want to share one more thing.  I have prepared this video to help make the stories I’ve shared in my blog come alive.  Listen to Waiaria talk about the value of shellfish to the identity of people in New Zealand.  Watch fishermen in Peru celebrate El Dia de Pescadores. Tag along as a shellfish farmer in Thailand hand dredges the bay in the middle of the night.  See the faces and the places that continue to drive my conviction that we have more work to do.  And share them with your friends, so we can do good on what Peter, a cod-fisherman in Norway who can trace fishing back 1,000 years in his family, said to me:

“The whole world has to know. Not only in this small place, but the whole world has to know what is happening.”

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Wishing You a Year Full of Hope http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/01/09/wishing-you-a-year-full-of-hope/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/01/09/wishing-you-a-year-full-of-hope/#comments Thu, 09 Jan 2014 12:09:02 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7277

It’s a brand new year and I wanted to take just a moment to acknowledge YOU and all you have done to keep our ocean healthy. Without you, Ocean Conservancy wouldn’t have achieved all that we did in 2013, from the International Coastal Cleanup to Arctic protection and restoration efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. We owe you an ocean of thanks for all you do.

You and I both know that our ocean faces increasing changes and pressures every day, from climate change and plastic pollution to fishing and increased oil and gas exploration. This year, Ocean Conservancy will tackle the most pressing issues to find new solutions for a changing ocean. I hope I can count on you to join me in these efforts.


I promise that 2014 is going to be fascinating, as we charge ahead with ocean conservation initiatives and tackle new challenges along the way.

On behalf of our team here at Ocean Conservancy, I want to express our gratitude to you and all of our supporters. You continue to astound us with your generosity and activism. Thank you.

I wish you and yours a year full of hope and optimism. Together, we can make the world a better place in 2014.

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