Posts Tagged 'thoughtful thursday'



Thoughtful Thursday: 300 Trees Planted at Masonville Cove

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Last week, the National Aquarium teamed up with local school students and community volunteers to restore vital habitat right here in Baltimore City. Through the Students Restoring Urban Streams initiative, 80 student and community volunteers planted more than 300 trees in Farring-Baybrook Park, a vital part of the Masonville Cove watershed.

Located in the heart of South Baltimore, Farring-BayBrook Park is one of the largest green spaces in Baltimore City.

Since 2011, the National Aquarium has partnered with the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks to plant native trees and improve the habitat in the park.

By planting trees along the small stream that runs through the park, volunteers helped to create an important buffer between the heavily urbanized communities and local waterways to help filter pollutants! These urban trees will also provide islands of essential habitat for native plants and animals and help to improve local air quality.

If you are interested in helping the National Aquarium restore Masonville Cove, join us next month for our next shoreline restoration project in the watershed.

The Students Restoring Urban Streams initiative is a city-wide project in partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, Tree Baltimore, Parks and People Foundation and Blue Water Baltimore.

Laura Bankey

Thoughtful Thursday: March 22nd is World Water Day

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It’s that time of year again.  Everyone’s favorite holiday – World Water Day!  What? Never heard of the holiday that celebrates the one substance that is the basis for all life?  Think about it, when scientists are looking for proof of life on other planets, what is the one clue they hope to find?  Water.  The simple presence of water.  They know that if there is water, there may be a possibility for life.  No water, no life.

Here on Earth, almost three quarters of our planet’s surface is covered with water.  The volume of water in your own body is made up of almost that exact same percentage.  We all need water to survive.  And by “we all,” I mean microbes, insects, kittens, people, polar bears, trees, frogs, flowers, birds, turtles, forests, ecosystems, etc.  We are all intricately linked through water.  As much as we try to separate these groups in our minds, as much as we disassociate ourselves with parts of the rest of the world, it would do us good to remember that we all have one common need.

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What do sharks and humans have in common? Their need for water. Clean water.

There is some great information now available that helps us visualize how truly dependent we are on water.  We can see how much water it takes to make a one pound of beef, one pint of greek yogurt, one cup of coffee.  It’s all very fascinating – mostly because it forces us to look at water in new ways.  We live in a world where “conserve water” or “save water” used to mean – stop letting the faucet run while you are brushing your teeth, or don’t water your lawn in the middle of the hot summer day.

This new view of water, puts a truer value on the resources required to produce the food we eat and makes us think about our daily choices in different ways.  For example, it takes three eggs to equal the amount of protein in one serving of beef, but the beef requires nine times the amount of water to produce.

If we are committed to being good stewards of this amazing water planet, we need to start with our own daily choices.  Figure out what is most important to you and then look for ways to make less of an impact!

Interested in learning more about the state of our of water supply and how it’s impacting marine life? Tune into PBS NewHour’s weekly Twitter chat (#NewsHourChats) at 1pm EST to hear from me (@LauraBankey) and our Chief Conservation Officer, Eric Schwaab (via @NatlAquarium)! 

Laura Bankey

Thoughtful Thursday: Maryland’s Lt. Governor Visits Masonville Cove

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We are all custodians of the environment. – Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown

The National Aquarium’s Conservation team was excited to welcome long-time friend and environmental champion, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown to our field station at Masonville Cove earlier today!

lt governor Anthony Brown at Masonville Cove

Lt. Governor Brown was on-site to participate in one of the first training sessions that are part of the Small Watershed Action Plan. He was joined by students from Benjamin Franklin High School, National Aquarium experts and community volunteers.

In the fall of 2013, the National Aquarium took the lead on creating a Small Watershed Action Plan (SWAP) for Masonville Cove. A SWAP identifies strategies to bring a small watershed into compliance with water quality standards and goals, in collaboration with local businesses and community volunteers.

The SWAP at Masonville Cove will include a comprehensive watershed assessment that will provide valuable baseline data and guide future protection and restoration projects that will lead to improved water quality. Community members are an integral part of the process and help create a shared vision for the watershed and included neighborhoods.

Background on Masonville Cove
The National Aquarium has been involved in the Masonville Cove Project since 2003, providing opportunities for community-based restoration both within the cove and upstream in the watershed. In partnership with the Maryland Port Administration, Maryland Environmental Service, The Living Classrooms Foundation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and community partners, National Aquarium’s goal is to provide a thriving natural area in the heart of Baltimore City.

In 2013, our site at Masonville Cove was named the nation’s first Urban Wildlife Refuge System.

If you are interested in joining us in one of our restoration projects at the cove or nearby Farring BayBrook Park this season, you can register here!

national aquarium conservation expert laura bankey

Thoughtful Thursday: Celebrating Women in Science!

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’d like to recognize just a few of the amazing women who have dedicated their lives and careers to the exploration and protection of our precious and fragile blue planet!

Margaret Leinen
As the Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Margaret Leinen is helping to pave the way for future generations of ocean scientists, explorers and environmentalists. Scripps, formally part of UC San Diego, is one of the world’s oldest centers for oceanic and atmospheric research. Since it’s establishment in 1903, this institution has produced three Nobel Prize winners and three National Medal of Science winners.

Margaret Leinen

Image via Scripps

Leinen’s recent appointment at Scripps is just one of the many accomplishments in an illustrious career dedicated to the ocean. As an award-winning paleo-oceanographer, Leinen is responsible for  creating a better understanding of the relationship between ocean sediments and climate.

Wendy Schmidt
In 2013, the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE launched. The goal of this prize is to address a global need for better information about the process of ocean acidification.

Wendy Schmidt

Image via XPRIZE

A long-time supporter of ocean exploration and research, Schmidt and her husband Eric are founders of the Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI). Through combining science with state-of-the-art technology, the SOI hopes to achieve lasting results in ocean research and shares their groundbreaking knowledge with audiences around the world, with the ultimate goal of fostering a deeper understanding of our environment.

Ruth Dixon Turner
Marine biologist Ruth Turner was the world’s expert on shipworms, wood-boring bivalves that were responsible for destroying ships.

Ruth Dixon Turner

Image via Wikipedia Commons

Throughout her lifetime, Turner published more than 200 scientific articles and became one of Harvard’s first tenured female professors. In addition to her contributions to marine academia, Turner worked closely with filmmakers and explorers like Stan Waterman, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Robert Ballard (responsible for discovering the Titanic).

Margaret Murie
Affectionately referred to as the “Grandmother of the Conservation Movement,” Margaret Murie played a critical role in the passage of the Wilderness Act and the creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Margaret Murie

Image via Wikipedia Commons

Beginning in the 1960’s Murie, an author, naturalist and conservationist, dedicated her life to lobbying Congress to pass legislation to prevent development on designated wildlife habitats nationwide. As a result of her tireless dedication to preserving millions of acres of Alaskan habitat, Murie was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 1998.

Want to learn more about the amazing contributions women have made to science? Join us for our annual Women’s History celebration tomorrow, March 7th!

Thoughtful Thursday: The Key to Sustainable Seafood is Information

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In this space, we’ve often discussed how our seafood choices reach far beyond the particular fish on your plate and are related to healthy ocean ecosystems, healthy economies and healthy families.  As a result of the increase in communication from organizations like us on this issue, more and more people are paying attention to the seafood they purchase. There is new consumer awareness around the link between the fish we choose to feed our families and the health of our rivers, bays and oceans.

Primary to all of these efforts to make thoughtful choices is information.  Without accurate information about how and where our seafood is caught, our efforts to protect our aquatic ecosystems can be fairly ineffective. Inadequate or wrong information can lead you to think you are supporting local fishermen when you are not.  Worse yet, it can lead to making choices that support overfishing or habitat destruction.

 Accurate information is key to seafood sustainability, and it is why the National Aquarium will be supporting the “Maryland Seafood Authenticity and Enforcement Act.” If passed, this legislation would ensure that seafood sold in the state is labeled with the correct species name and location of harvest – giving consumers the tools they need to make the right decisions.

In a recent study, our partners at Oceana revealed that 1 out of every 3 seafood samples they purchased were mislabeled.  Sometimes this is done intentionally to inflate the value of the fish or to hide illegal fishing practices. The problem is that even honest restaurant and market owners can mislabel their product if every step in the supply chain is not verified.

seafood fraud quiz fresh thoughts

Locally, this can have a big impact on our fishing communities. This industry is an intrinsic part of the culture of this state, and we take great pride in our local seafood, like blue crab, rockfish, oysters, etc.

Take a closer look at crabs, for example. Many Marylanders grow up eating bushels of crabs with family and friends at backyard barbecues and can recite their favorite crab cake recipe from memory. There is a bustling tourist industry that revolves around the “Maryland crab cake.”  Yet millions of pounds of crab meat are imported into Maryland every year. While just about every seafood restaurant in the state highlights their own version of the Maryland crab cake, there’s no telling if the cakes are actually being prepared with locally harvested crab meat.

Using our collective power as consumers to show support for local sustainable fishing communities, like our Maryland crabbers, will be an important step in the future success of healthy communities and ecosystems. Requiring accurate seafood labeling is an imperative part of this process.

Laura Bankey

Thoughtful Thursday: 14 Ways to Love the Ocean

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We spend the month of February showering friends and family with love, so why not shower our natural surroundings with a little love and appreciation, too? They are, after all, the reason why we can continue to live on this planet!

national aquarium ocean love

As part of our Month of Love celebration, I’ve gathered 14 easy ways for you to show the ocean some love:

  1. Play in/on it. It is hard to escape the respect and awe you will feel once you’ve immersed yourself in it.
  2. Discover what is beneath the surface. Become a certified SCUBA diver – or check out some of the amazing animals and habitats at the National Aquarium!
  3. Protect ocean habitat. Look for ways you can protect or restore vital ocean ecosystems. Join us for a coastal sand dune restoration event May 16-17 in Virginia Beach.
  4. Start at home. What you do in your home and your yard has downstream effects on our rivers, bays and oceans. Fertilize less (or not at all), discontinue use of herbicides and pesticides and don’t dump chemicals into your drains.
  5. Drive less. As distant as it seems, our greenhouse gas emissions on land are directly linked to ocean acidification. If we decrease the concentration of these gases in our atmosphere, we can help the oceans maintain a healthy balance.
  6. Learn to share. We share the ocean with an amazing array of plants and animals. Slow down when boating near marine mammals and sea turtles, make sure you retrieve any lost fishing line and watch animals from a distance to ensure their safety and yours.
  7. Eat sustainable seafood. Seafood is a very healthy meal option, but make sure the fish you eat is caught or farmed responsibly.
  8. Eat locally. See #5. Locally grown food options cut down on transportation in the supply chain and are fresher alternatives.
  9. Learn about ocean planning efforts. Join us for the Ocean Frontiers II Maryland Film Premiere to hear how lessons learned in New England will help guide efforts here to chart a new path for the Mid-Atlantic’s long-term health.
  10. Ditch the plastic. Plastic pollution is one of the most visible threats facing our oceans. Find ways to reduce the amount of disposable plastics you use in your daily routine.
  11. Definitely ditch the microplastics. Microplastics are the tiny plastic particles that show up in popular personal care products, like face scrubs. These plastics are washed immediately down the drain and into our nearby rivers and streams after use. Although hard to see with the naked eye, microplastics are seriously damaging the health of our oceans.
  12. Visit or support a National Marine Sanctuary. Similar to National Parks on land, these sanctuaries are areas set aside to help protect vital ocean resources.
  13. Stay inspired. Check out our live exhibit webcams if you ever need a quick dose of inspiration!
  14. Share it with your family. Form cherished memories by spending time with your family at the water’s edge. It will heighten your appreciation of both!

So, what do you say? Are you ready to join me in giving our blue planet some love this Valentine’s Day?

Laura Bankey

Thoughtful Thursday: Bag Fee Coming to Baltimore in 2014?

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This coming Monday, the Baltimore City Council will vote on a bill that would require city businesses to charge a ten cent fee on all bags (paper or plastic) provided by retail establishments at point of sale.  If passed, Baltimore City will join the ranks of Washington D.C. and Montgomery County in trying to use economic incentives to decrease litter and promote the use of reusable bags. These laws, which took effect in 2010 and 2012 respectively, have been successful in substantially reducing the number of single-use bags distributed at retail stores in those districts. In fact, bag pollution in DC neighborhoods has been reduced by more than two-thirds!

Want to make this important environmental step a reality for Baltimore? Here’s how YOU can help:

  • Tell your Baltimore City Council member that you care about out city and our wildlife and you support council bill 13-0241.
  • Make bringing reusable bags with you as you shop a routine!

There is no denying that plastic bag pollution is a real problem in our city.  Discarded bags are almost always visible -stuck in tree branches and floating along our harbor, streams and rivers.  They can clog storm drain inlets and cause localized flooding and the city spends millions of dollars each year cleaning up bags and other litter.

debris at ft mchenry

They are also often seen being used as building material in bird nests and pose a threat to aquatic predators that mistake them as food.   Plastic pollution in our environment and waterways is well documented but its effects on wildlife are still being studied.   In one recent study, more than 50 percent of the sea turtles stranded on a beach in Texas, in a two-year period, contained traces of debris in their digestive tract – 65 percent of those animals had ingested plastic bags.

Our own Animal Rescue team has cared for animals that have ingested plastic bags, and while the deleterious effects of plastic digestion by animals may be obvious, the chronic effects of toxic chemicals found within these plastics and ingestion of degraded plastic (or microplastics) is just beginning to be characterized.

Paper bags are also being included in this legislation because they too require a significant amount of resources to manufacture and ship and ignoring this would be counterproductive to the intent of the bill.

It is important to remember that the intent of this bill is not to penalize our most vulnerable citizens by imposing another fee they will struggle to pay.  In fact, there are several exemptions that take into account the type of purchases and participation in public assistance programs.  We simply can no longer ignore the true cost of favoring single-use products like plastic and paper bags within the system. These items are not free.  There is a cost for their resource extraction, manufacture and shipping.  If they end up as litter, there is a cost to remove them from our waterways, city streets and storm drains – and when we aren’t able to do that, there is a cost to wildlife.

Laura Bankey


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