Posts Tagged 'thoughtful thursday'

An Exciting Week for Ocean Conservation

This is an exciting time for the National Aquarium to be stepping up its engagement in the ocean conservation arena.  We are fortunate to be a part of several special events this month calling national and international attention to some very important issues.

National Aquarium is proud to have sponsored and be participating in Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2014, an event that promotes dialogue among all sectors of the ocean community and with the public around critical current issues. After three days of inspiring conversation, we look forward to being a part of the next steps as we help improve ocean health, protect special ocean places, ensure sustainable fisheries and plan for new uses like renewable energy production.  We applaud our partners at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation for hosting another great ocean conservation event.

The momentum continues, and I am pleased to have been invited to represent the National Aquarium at the Department of State’s Our Ocean Conference next week. More than ever, our ocean conservation challenges require work at the international scale.  Protecting ocean health, managing migratory fish stocks and ensuring sustainable fisheries increasingly require coordination among countries and local communities around the globe.

Focused on the key pillars of Sustainable Fisheries, Marine Pollution, and Ocean Acidification, the conference will convene an international audience around pressing environmental issues.  Many of these same issues are also at the forefront of the National Aquarium’s conservation priorities.  This meeting of the minds aims to develop innovative solutions to some of the oceans’ biggest problems.

[youtube http://youtu.be/sOifRu6WdXs]

To highlight the forward-thinking solutions being sought, the event kicks-off this weekend with a Fishackathon.  Along with three other sites across the US, National Aquarium will convene hackers, coders, and other IT specialists to work on solutions to fisheries management problems in developing countries.  We are delighted to be a host site to facilitate the use of modern technology to address sustainable fishery issues in this new and exciting way.

I will not be the only National Aquarium presence at Our Oceans Conference – volunteer youth from our Climate Change Interpreters high school program will be assisting NOAA staff at the Science on a Sphere station in the expo hall.  Delegates from around the world will be able to learn how the National Aquarium uses this technology to engage our guests in active and solution-focused conversations around climate change.  In the past four years over 350 high school volunteers have become skilled in these communication techniques.  We are proud to have these outstanding young people represent our organization!

The Our Ocean Conference may be by invitation only, but engaging in ocean conservation is not.   Make your voice heard through social media campaigns or public comments on environmental legislation.  Or, take direct action by pledging to make a change in the things that each of us does daily in support of our oceans.  Volunteering for a a local conservation project, energy conservation, Bay friendly landscaping and wise seafood choices are just a few of the things each of us can do to support conservation of our oceans. To learn more about opportunities to take action, click here 

Eric-Schwaab

 

 

 

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Thoughtful Thursday: Ignoring the Unknown

The moon might seem like a mysterious, distant speck in the night sky, but, truth is, we know more about its backside than we do about four-fifths of our own planet.

Did you know? We have maps detailing every mountain and crater on the moon’s surface, but only 5 percent of our ocean has been mapped in high resolution. The rest has been captured in low-resolution maps that offer limited detail, often omitting volcanic craters, underwater channels and shipwrecks.

­Unsurprisingly, most of the seafloor we’ve been able to thoroughly map is close to shore and along common commercial shipping routes. And if you think “close to shore” at least incorporates America’s exclusive economic zone—the underwater territory spanning 200 miles off our coastlines—think again. We have better maps of the surface of Mars than we do of our nation’s own EEZ.

mapping graphic

So why don’t we have more high-res maps of our blue planet? Well, considering the average ocean depth is approximately 2.2 miles, or 12,000 feet, it’s a massive project to take on. We’re talking about more than 200 years of collecting data via ships, plus billions of U.S. dollars.

That said, these maps are invaluable tools for understanding everything from the condition and extent of seafloor habitats to how tsunamis spread around the world.

Additionally, those detailed images could also be used by organizations as visual tools to help change the way humanity views and cares for the ocean. Think about it: You’re unlikely to care about something you can’t see and know very little about. Because the ocean is largely unknown, unseen and inaccessible, conservation efforts are often challenged by a sense of futility, apathy and even alienation. Seeing what lies beneath the water’s surface could help inspire the world to protect it.

To view the areas that have been mapped, check out Google Earth. Its 3-D maps—based on 20 years of data from almost 500 ship cruises and 12 different institutions—allow you to virtually explore some of the world’s underwater terrain.

google street view oceans

Another great resource is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website, which offers sea floor maps of the world’s coasts, continental shelves and deep ocean.

There’s no denying that exploring and charting the vast ocean and seafloor is a difficult and costly endeavor; but considering it provides us with about half the oxygen we breathe, our main source of protein and a plethora of mineral resources, among other things we rely on daily, it may be a challenge worth tackling.

 

Thoughtful Thursday: Restoring Virginia’s Sand Dunes

Blog-Header-ConservationExp

Summer is fast approaching and soon many of us will be making regular trips to our favorite beaches along the Atlantic coast. Once you’ve made it to that special place where the water meets the sand, you are bound encounter the same warning sign, “Stay off the Dunes.” Have you ever wondered why we are asked to tread lightly on those seemingly ever-shifting dunes?

A healthy dune system is important for ecological and physical reasons. Sand dune vegetation is uniquely adapted to thrive in stressful conditions such as extreme heat, salt spray, drought, limited nutrients and shifting sands. This vegetation provides habitat, including nesting sites, to birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. Dunes also provide a physical barrier to the harsh conditions of the sea and act as a reservoir for beach nourishment.

virginia sand dune

Sand dunes protect coastal areas from high winds, salt spray, storms, flooding and erosion due to wave and wind energy. Along the mid-Atlantic seaboard, wave and wind action cause these dunes to shift over time – a natural phenomenon. In many areas, human development over the past century has upset the balance of this natural system and the coastal dune system has degraded over the years.

Development has also made it necessary to minimize the natural migration of shifting systems in order to maintain the built infrastructure. Mankind is only now beginning to find ways to work with nature so that the dunes are preserved and development is better planned to reduce adverse impacts to this habitat.

Naval Air Station Oceana (NASO) – Dam Neck Annex maintains nearly 1,100 acres of land, including four miles of beachfront property on Virginia’s Atlantic coast. The base’s coastal habitat communities contain primary sand dune structures, and marshes. Many of the dunes at the base are degraded or require stabilization. In their present condition, they are eroding along the trailing edge resulting in lost habitat with the potential to hinder base operations.

It is a long-term objective to stabilize these dunes by planting native grasses and installing dune fencing so a protective barrier can be maintained while ensuring the mission of the naval base is not compromised. Working with community volunteers to plant these grasses provides an opportunity to educate local citizens about the importance of dune communities as coastal habitat and provide them with a hands-on opportunity for restoration activities.

The National Aquarium has been working with its partners at Command Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic, and the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center since 2007 to restore sand dunes on the base. Our most recent project (May 16-17) included engaging more than 60 volunteers in the planting of 15,000 native dune grasses and installing dune fences to help stabilize the shoreline and provide habitat.

We will be returning again in the fall of 2014 to continue the work. If you are interested in joining us, click here!

Laura Bankey

Thoughtful Thursday: The Next Frontier

You would think that by time we had the technology to send people to the moon, we’d be experts on our own planet; but the truth is, more than 95 percent of our underwater world remains unexplored, leaving us nearly clueless as to what lies far below the water’s surface.

In space travel’s short history, we’ve sent 536 humans into the cosmos. Yet only three explorers have braved the depths of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans. Its lowest point rests 36,070 feet (nearly 7 miles) below the water’s surface. To give you some context: If you dropped Mount Everest into the Mariana Trench, its peak would still be more than a mile underwater.

Exploration Above and Below

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard made the first descent to the bottom of the trench, called the Challenger Deep, in 1960. Two descents were later made by unmanned vehicles, and most recently in 2012, an expedition was made by James Cameron—yes, that James Cameron, as in the filmmaker behind movies like “Titanic” and “Avatar.”

With only four descents made to this day to that part of the ocean, it’s no surprise the ocean remains a mystery to us. We do know that some basic life forms somehow exist down there, despite the freezing temperatures and intense pressure (8 tons per square inch, the equivalent of being crushed by 50 jumbo jets). Mud samples and observations by the explorers have discovered more than 200 different microorganisms, plus everything from giant crustaceans and sea cucumbers to enormous amoebas (4-inch, single-celled organisms) and jellyfish.

Some truly bizarre-looking creatures are also able to thrive in the midnight zone, the deepest, darkest ocean light zone (in which the Mariana Trench resides). Among them is the anglerfish, a bony fish that appears to have a built-in fishing rod attached to its head that pulses with glowing bacteria. This serves as a lure to attract prey and mates.

Joining this curious creature in the midnight zone is the vampire squid, which also uses bioluminescence to survive in this dark abyss. When threatened, it flails around frantically and ejects bioluminescent mucus containing orbs of blue light to confuse its predators. Check out our infographic on bioluminescence to learn more about this fascinating phenomenon.

The possibilities of what else exists at these depths are endless, but until we dedicate more resources to exploring our deep seas, we’ll never know the secrets hidden within our own planet.

Thoughtful Thursday: Ditching Plastic Bottles

It is the 10th day of our 48 Days of Blue initiative!

We are overwhelmed and excited to share that, in a few short days, we’ve reached almost 900,000 people online together! In the days and weeks leading up to World Oceans Day (June 8), we’ll be drilling down on each of our 48 Days of Blue pledges and sharing the conservation potential that exists with each.

This week’s focus is on reusable vs. plastic bottle use!

Did you know? A mass of plastic trash circulating in the North Pacific, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, spans an area twice the size of the United States.

Americans buy approximately 29 billion plastic water bottles every year.

By pledging to swap single-use with a reusable bottles, you can save an average of 168 plastic bottles (and up to $250) a year!

reusable water bottle conservation

Want to help make our blue planet a better place? Head over to 48daysofblue.com and join others in pledging to use a reusable water bottle!

Thoughtful Thursday: Putting Freshwater in Focus

Every living thing requires freshwater to survive—and there’s not much of it.

While a staggering 97.5 percent of our planet’s water is saltwater, only 2.5 percent is freshwater. And if you think that’s a small number, brace yourself, because it gets even smaller: We can access less than 1 percent of that freshwater. The rest of it is frozen and chilling, literally, in places like Antarctica and Greenland, or so far underground that we can’t get to it.

water defines our world

The freshwater we use exists in lakes, rivers, wetlands, reservoirs and in our soil. It’s replenished through rain and snowfall, making it a sustainable resource—if we use it wisely. This may come as a surprise, since many of us have seemingly unlimited water flowing out of our home faucets, but we have been taking advantage of it.

Global water use doubled between 1960 and 2000, and the number of people living in water-stressed countries is expected to increase from approximately 700 million today to more than 3 billion by 2025. Half of the planet’s wetlands that supply our freshwater have been drained or destroyed, and less than half of the world’s longest rivers are free-flowing, meaning they’re not blocked by dams or other barriers.

The good news is that there’s still time to change the future of our freshwater. If everyone pitches in, we can ensure there’s plenty of it for generations to come.

Don’t believe you can make much of an impact on your own? Consider this: A bathroom faucet runs at approximately 2 gallons of water every minute. By simply turning off the tap while you brush your teeth, you can save 200 gallons of water a month. That’s enough water to fill five bathtubs!

Turn the tide today. Use the 48 days between Earth Day (April 22) and World Oceans Day (June 8) to make a difference. All it takes is one small change in your routine, starting today. Go to 48daysofblue.com to take a pledge and protect our blue planet!

 Source: Map projection by Van der Grinten, GIS data from Natural Earth

 

Thoughtful Thursday: Inspiring the Next Generation of Ocean-Lovers

Our celebration of National Volunteer Appreciation Week continues with a special story about one of the Aquarium’s volunteers and her students!

Abbe Harman has been a volunteer supporter of the National Aquarium for 28 years and a teacher for for Frederick County Public Schools for 25 years. As an Enrichment Specialist at Middletown Elementary School, Abbe works closely with fifth grade students, teaching them about the Chesapeake Bay watershed and coral reef ecosystems!

Yesterday, Abbe hosted a large group of her fifth graders for a special field trip tot he Aquarium! The students were able to see their teacher in-action, as she led an interactive lesson and fed the animals in our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit!

national aquarium volunteer diver

In the weeks leading up to their field trip, Abbe’s students also had the opportunity to enter an essay contest for the opportunity to go on a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Aquarium.

Abbe, from all of us here at the National Aquarium, thank you for being a longtime supporter of our mission and an impactful educator.

Do you volunteer? Share your story with us in the comments section and online using #NVW14!


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