Wonderful Waterful Wednesday: James Cameron and Enric Sala Named National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence

Welcome to Wonderful Waterful Wednesday, a weekly post at Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog that explores everything fabulous and fascinating about the oceans and waterways that cover our Blue Planet.

Filmmaker and alternative-energy proponent James Cameron and marine ecologist  Enric Sala have been chosen as the National Geographic Society’s newest Explorers-in-Residence. This select group includes some of the world’s preeminent explorers and scientists and represents a broad range of science and exploration.

A Titanic Passion for the Abyss

James Cameron working on a underwater shot. Photo courtesy James Cameron.

James Cameron has brought together two of his passions — filmmaking and scuba diving — in his work on movies such as “The Abyss” and “Titanic.” The latter took him on 12 manned-submersible dives to the famed shipwreck in the North Atlantic.

Since then he has investigated the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck; organized expeditions to deep hydrothermal vent sites along the mid-Atlantic Ridge, the East Pacific Rise and the Guaymas Basin in the Sea of Cortez; and led seven deep-ocean expeditions with a combined total of seventy-two submersible dives!

Cameron is currently leading a team building a unique manned sub capable of diving to the ocean’s greatest depths. Next year he plans to pilot the sub to the deepest point in the ocean, the Pacific’s Mariana Trench. It will be the first in a series of dives to some of the  world’s deepest places, including the Mariana, Kermadec and Tonga trenches.

Avatar Inspires a New Passion

James Cameron on board a helicopter
Filmmaker James Cameron tests a 3-D camera while on a helicopter. Photo courtesy James Cameron

Work on “Avatar” inspired a new mission for Cameron — illuminating the plight of indigenous peoples, especially those involved in struggles over energy issues. Since the film’s release, Cameron has spent  18 months in energy battlegrounds — in the Alberta, Canada tar sands and the Amazon — meeting with indigenous peoples whose environments and way of life are threatened.

Cameron has also organized a task force of deep-ocean experts to address offshore oil production and ocean engineering issues raised by the 2010 Gulf oil spill. He continues to work in the arena of alternative energy.

Marine Ecologist Enric Sala

Witnessing the harm people do to the ocean led marine ecologist  Enric Sala to dedicate his career to working to conserve marine life. Sala is one of a rare breed of scientist who combines research with effective communication to inspire people to protect the ocean.

Enric Sala diving with a green turtle
Enric Sala diving with a green turtle off Cocos Island, Costa Rica. Photo by Octavio Aburto

One of his goals is to help protect the last pristine marine ecosystems worldwide, using scientific expeditions, the media, partnerships with local conservation organizations and high-level discussions with leaders in countries around the world.

Sala fell in love with the sea while growing up on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. After obtaining a Ph.D. in ecology in 1996 from the University of Aix-Marseille, France, he worked in California for 10 years as a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.

In 2006 he moved back to Spain to take the first position in marine conservation ecology at Spain’s National Council for Scientific Research, and in 2008 he became a Fellow at the National Geographic Society, where he leads the Pristine Seas project.

Pristine Seas Successes

The Pristine Seas team recently worked with Oceana-Chile and the Chilean government to establish the 15,000-square-kilometer Motu Motiro Hiva Marine Park around Salas y Gómez, a small, uninhabited Chilean island in the Pacific Ocean.

Working with local and international non-governmental organizations, Sala’s Pristine Seas project also inspired the Costa Rican government to create the new 10,000-square-kilometer Seamounts Marine Managed Area around Cocos Island.

Cameron and Sala join 13 other National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence: oceanographer Robert Ballard, anthropologist/ethnobotanist Wade Davis, geographer Jared Diamond, marine biologist Sylvia Earle, conservationist J. Michael Fay, archaeologist Zahi Hawass, filmmakers/conservationists Dereck and Beverly Joubert, paleontologists Meave and Louise Leakey, anthropologist Johan Reinhard, paleontologist Paul Sereno and geneticist Spencer Wells.

For more information on the Explorer-in-Residence program and other fabulous National Geographic projects, including the ever-exciting monthly magazine, visit www.nationalgeographic.com.

Round of Words in 80 Days

Rond two of the #ROW80 challenge. I petered out on the first one because I gave myself too many goals and stopped checking in regularly. Round two went well, as I was writng A LOT, but then forgot to post my successes!  this time I’m going to try to be more deliberate about both goal-setting and checking-in.

Round three started this weekend and goes until September 22. I’m not sure I want a wordcount goal – I think that contributed to my demise in Round One.  Instead, I have two completion goals.

Writing goals: finish AND submit two short stories, one this month and the second by the end of August.

Blogging goals: Twice weekly – “Wonderful Waterful Wednesday” and “I’m Diggin’ Friday.” I keep threatening to add another day, and keep psyching myself out, so I’m NOT going to put that down.  We’ll see if I end up doing it anyway…

Social Media Goals (I got this from a fellow WANA alum): leave at least a half-dozen comments a week on other folks’ blogs.  It’s great to RT something (and I do, often), but nothing makes a blogger feel warm and fuzzy like comments (hint, hint!)

BONUS: July Poster Giveaway

This month’s special giveaway is this fabulous out-of-print NOAA poster, Marine Mammals of the Western Hemisphere. Everyone who leaves a comment between now and the middle of July gets one entry in the drawing. Link to this site on your blog and get two entries. Get your comments in now!

Danielle Meitiv is a writer, marine science geek, gardener and mother who goes barefoot whenever possible. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate for Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, and on Facebook: Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog, and Danielle Meitiv.

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Wonderful Waterful Wednesday: Living on the Edge

…all things are one thing and that one thing is all things—plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.

John Steinbeck (The Log from the Sea of Cortez)

Sea grass and kelp at Bodega Bay, CA
Bright green sea grass and shiny kelp at California's Bodega Head. Photo: David Liittschwager/National Geographic

I love tidepools, those bits of ocean left behind when the moon lures the water away for a while. They’re microcosms of the sea, featuring much of the diversity and spectacle that makes the ocean so extraordinary, in a tiny and accessible place. I wrote a blog post on these “sometimes oceans” a few weeks ago, which you can find here.

This week National Geographic has given me a wonderful opportunity to return to these incredible places. (All photos are from the June 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine, on newsstands May 31).

Photo: Brandon Cole/National Geographic

In “Brimming Pools,” author Mel White and photographer David Liittschwager explore the pools of the Pacific Northwest. The unique climate and geology of this region gives it the most diverse and spectacular tide pools in the world. The cold upwelling waters off the West Coast bring abundant nutrients to the shore. Frequent fogs protects exposed sea creatures from the sun and the absence of hard freezes mean the rocks are not scraped free of life in the winters.

Among the creatures described in the article is a species of Pisaster – a sea star. These creatures are remarkably strong and patient. A sea star will crawl along the tidepool floor looking for bivalves like mussels or clams.

When it finds one, it grabs onto the two halves of the shell and pulls, using its tiny suckers for leverage. When it’s pried the shell open far enough, it everts its stomachs into the shell and digests its meal. I kid you not.

Sea stars are far from the most bizarre creatures found in tidepools. Here’s a great composite of some of the creatures found in the pools of the Pacific Northwest.

The rocks and pools of the intertidal zone are home to an array of creatures fancifully named for their shapes and colors. Photo credit: David Liittschwager/National Geographic

For those so inclined, here are the names of these critters:

From top First row: red abalone, Cockerell’s dorid, ringed nudibranch, variegate amphissa, grainyhand hermit crab, ochre sea star, cabezon

Second row: red octopus, opalescent nudibranch, mermaid’s cup, smooth iridescent seaweed, San Diego lamellaria, purple sea urchin, hammerhead doto, leather star

Third row: red rock crab, calico sculpin, colorful dendronotus, stubby frond nudibranch, rough limpet, calico sculpin

Fourth row: red sponge nudibranch, chink snail, woody chiton, nereid worm, syllid polychaete, peanut worm, brown turban snail, red sea fern

Fifth row: shield limpet, sea clown nudibranch, red sea fan, monkeyface prickleback, bat star, green rope, red rock crab, flat porcelain crab

Sixth row: splendid iridescent seaweed, Farlow’s soft seaweed, blood star, six-armed star, Pacific sea comb, glycerid worm, sea palm, red gunnel, tinted wentletrap, surf grass, red sea cucumber

National Geographic June 2011 coverThis article and more can be found in the June issue of National Geographic.  Check out the article featured on the cover about how stone pillars in Turkey are inspiring anthropologists to re-examine their assumptions about when and why religion began. Enjoy!

Blogging and Writing and Blocks – Oh My!

Writing is going well. Checking in during the Round of Words in 80 Days? Not so much. I’ve come to the conclusion that Sunday blog posts are just not going to work for me. Sunday is for family and it’s really difficult to get time in front of the computer. When I do, I prefer to work on my fiction. So I’m dropping the Sunday update and focusing on Wednesday instead.

Overall, blogging has been a bit erratic lately. I’ve started a new writing project with a serious deadline – getting it up and running took up a lot of attention. I kept to at least one post a week but I prefer to do more than that.

I’ve committed to at least twice a week (“Wonderful Waterful Wednesdays” and “I’m Diggin’ Fridays”) and I’m thinking about adding a mash-up post on Mondays. An odd day for a summary, I know, but it’s the only one that fits into my schedule.

The fiction is going well. For the first time I’ve written out a synopsis before starting to write. It’s functioning as an outline, which is totally odd for me but working.

I hit a serious block about 4500 words into it. (It’s a short – I’m aiming for 10,000 to 15,000 words). What I’d written was awful. Not the first draft kind of crap – I mean totally flat. There wasn’t a single line that I liked. Not a good sign.

I took a step back and thought about the problem and realized that I just didn’t like my main characters. I didn’t get them and couldn’t write them. After some brainstorming with my husband (he’s great at it) I figured out what I needed to do; how I needed to change them.

It worked. In the last two days I’ve written 2500 words with very little effort. Whew!

And You?

Ever played in a tidepool? Touched a live a sea star? (Never gonna look at them the same way, eh?) Found your way over, under, around or through writer’s block? Let us know in the comments below! And remember to check back on Friday to see how my garden is growing – and tell me all about yours.

Danielle Meitiv is a writer, marine science geek, gardener and mother who goes barefoot whenever possible. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate for Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, and on Facebook: Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog, and Danielle Meitiv.

Wonderful Waterful Wednesday: Ocean Heroes and Stylish Bloggers

This weekend the Blue Frontier Campaign and its partners will convene the Blue Vision Summit. Hundreds of ocean activists from all over the country will descend on Washington, DC to learn about ocean issues, experience ocean-inspired music and art and lobby Congress for better ocean policy. Among the speakers and guests will be some of the best known and passionate ocean advocates in the world. This week’s wonderful waterful post is dedicated to a half-dozen ocean heroes and the wonderful work they do.

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A Stylish Blogger

I’ve been given a Stylish Blogger Award! Yes, Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog has been recognized for it’s substance and style (well, it’s style at least) with this prestigious accolade.

So, what makes me a stylish blogger?  No, it’s not the bare feet. I’ve been nominated for the award by my fellow blogging buddy and writing group member (writing groupie?), Patrick Ross. I first encountered Patrick’s creativity through his tweets about creativity (Conveniently enough, he tweets as @on_creativity), and have since become a big fan of his blog, The Artist’s Road.

There are three obligations that come with the award: as I recipient I have to post seven random things about myself, nominate five other blogs, and link back to the wonderful person who nominated me. As a bonus, I get to display the Stylist Blogger Badge on my blog! (Check it out at right).

Seven random things:

  1. At the age of 6 or 7 (?) I proposed and debuted the role of Toto in a summer camp production of the Wizard of Oz.
  2. I have a naturally deep, scratchy voice, which prompted double- takes and comments from strangers when I was young: “Where did you get that voice?” (Occasionally, I told them I stole it).
  3. On a family trip to Senegal when I was ten, I was chased by a baboon wielding a dead parrot. My father had to scare him away.
  4. I pursued majors in bio and French in college and one of my professors tried to convince me to pursue a PhD in French lit. I can no longer read the papers I wrote back then.
  5. I shook hands with Nelson Mandela and attended a private speech he gave to the Independent World Commission on the Oceans in Capetown, South Africa.
  6. While recovering from a break-up in grad school (you know who you are!), I learned to knit, spent a month brooding and completed a sweater. In the process, I developed a wool allergy and have never been able to wear it.
  7. Before my first pregnancy, I couldn’t stomach the smell or taste of tomatoes or olives. Now I love both.

My five Stylist Blog Award nominees:

  1. Eat The Damn Cake. Kate is an author and blogger who writes about beauty, body image, women and dessert.  She does an “unroast” with each post, highlighting something she likes about herself. @EatTheDamnCake
  2. Three New Leaves. Blogger Matt Madeiro turned over three new leaves in his life: he lost weight, started to travel and embraced a minimalist lifestyle. In addition to blogging about it, he wrote two great e-books: Simpler and Roots. @MattMadeiro
  3. Jen Greyson, Author – Survival. Mama’s Point of View. Author Jen Greyson writes about disaster planning and survival in mama-sized chunks. Because survival is about getting what you want. @JenGreyson
  4. Shellie Sakai – Something Wicked This Way Comes. Author Shellie Sakai and her creepy crawly spider friend blog about wicked spooky things like demons and zombies. @shelliesakai
  5. Damian Trasler’s Secret Blog – Do Not Read! Playwright Damian Trasler posts top secret information about life, plays and…shhhhh…Canada. You should read it – but he may have to kill you afterward. @dtraslerwriting

I met Jen, Shellie and Damian through a wonderful online blogging course given by social media maven Kristen Lamb, who’s pretty stylish as well.

Round of Words in 80 Days: Wednesday Check-in

Writing is going well.  I’ve done my morning pages everyday except, gulp, today! (Will get to those as soon as I finish this post!). I sent a synopsis to my agent friend on Saturday. It’s for an erotic short story.
While waiting for her feedback, I started revising an older piece story that I think would also make a good erotic short story and I’m pleased with how it’s going.

This AM comments came back from the agent, however, so I’m putting the older piece aside. This week I’ll revise the synopsis to make it editor-ready (I’d sent her a rough draft to get feedback on the story) and enxt week I’ll start writing the story itself. I’ve agreed to get it to her in a month. Wish me luck!

I’ve met my blogging goals so far this week: Sunday and Wednesday posts and ROW80 check-ins. I’ve put aside the learning goals because I have so much writing to do. Of course, I’m learning while I’m learning “on the job”  this way, so it’s all good!

For a description of the Round of Words challenge and my ever-shifting goals, check out this post. To follow everyone else’s progress go here.

Danielle Meitiv is a writer, marine science geek, gardener and mother who goes barefoot whenever possible. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate for Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, and on Facebook: Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog, and Danielle Meitiv.

Wonderful Waterful Wednesday: Carnival of the Blue & Round of Words Check-in

Who doesn’t love a carnival? The sights, the excitement, the sounds. This week I’m honored and excited to host The Carnival of the Blue, a monthly round-up of ocean-related posts from around the web.

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Carnival of the Blue # 48

Seafood at risk: Dispersed oil poses a long-term threat —  Allie Wilkinson

This April marks a year since the Deepwater Horizon spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico and almost 2 million gallons of the dispersant Corexit were dumped to “clean” it up. In a guest blog at Scientific American, Allie Wilkinson asks: “With all federal waters currently reopened, the question still remains— is the government responding appropriately to ensure not only that the present levels of oil and dispersants are not toxic, but also that those levels won’t build up over time through the accumulation of toxins in the tissues of seafood, contaminating Gulf seafood for generations to come?” Great question – and the answers are far from reassuring. Check out the post here.

Marking the Oil Spill Anniversary In Washington DC — The Beacon: Oceana’s Blog

Oceana marked the one-year anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill with an event in Washington, DC featuring actress and supporter Kate Walsh (“Private Practice” and “Grey’s Anatomy”) and Aaron Peirsol (gold medal-winning swimmer). Also attending was Patty Whitney, a Louisiana resident-turned-activist whose home was affected by last year’s disaster. Couldn’t make it to my backyard to attend? You can watch a video of the event here.

Awesome Orcas All Around — Amanda Banks

Author Amanda Banks describes an exciting encounter with a pod of orcas offshore of Monterey Bay, CA. I’ve only seen orcas close up once (further north of where she was, but also with a group of whale researchers) and it’s an experience I’ll never forget. Check out her play-by-play of the amazing behavior and victorious hunt of these incredible animals here.

The Ways of Whales —  Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog: http://daniellemeitiv.com

As a complement to Amanda’s orca post, I’m including one of my own about the evolution of whales, some of their unique characteristics and the threats they face today. Check out the fabulous photos – and a link to a life-sized encounter with a blue whale, the largest creature to ever live on Earth – here.

Hiding the doomsday device: camouflage and venom in stonefish — Zen Faulkes, Neuro Dojo

Zen Faulkes writes about the stonefish one of the most venomous creatures in the sea. Interestingly, the stonefish don’t appear to use their awesome powers for anything – good or evil. They’re ambush predators, so their venom isn’t used to capture prey, but neither is it used to ward of predators. As Faulkes notes, it sounds like a good subject for a dissertation! Check it out here.

Squid Have Mirror Eyeballs — Danna Staaf, Squid A Day

Many sea creatures use camouflage to hide themselves from predators – but their eyes remain a dead giveaway. Squid use smoke and mirrors – ok, maybe just the mirrors – to hide in the open ocean. Their eyes reflect ambient light like a special kind of mirror called a ‘dielectric.’ When the light hits them a certain way, their eyes don’t appear to be there at all! Don’t take my word for it, check out Daana’s post here.

Ping-pong paddle worm — Susannah, Wanderin’ Weeta (With Waterfowl and Weeds)

Wanderin’ Weeta brings us a video of a tiny paddleworm that hitch-hiked a ride to her home in an empty thatched acorn barnacle shell. I love the music! Who knew that invert biology could be so entertaining. Watch how this critter wriggles to the music. Ok, maybe the wriggling came first, but it’s still fun to watch here.

The fun continues  – just head on over the the blogs listed above and see what these ocean authors have in store for you for May!

What are your favorite ocean topics? Let us know below!

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Round of Words Mid-Week Check-in

My progress has been somewhat inconsistent this week, but still pretty good so I’m pleased.

  1. Writing/revising: my good friend, the talented literary agent Louise Fury, convinced me to take on a cool new writing project (complete with deadlines!) so I’m psyched about that. I’m still revising my WIP and received incredibly supportive and valuable feedback from my new writers’ group. I have yet to do my ‘Morning Pages’ today – and it’s after 9pm. Sigh.
  2. Learning: Working through Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel (while I do just that), but haven’t done much on The Artist’s Way. Hope to go on an artist’s date tomorrow – Friday at the latest.  Perhaps a hike?
  3. Blogging: I’m here, aren’t I? 😉 I’m pretty happy with my new Sunday feature – a mash-up called ‘Beachcombing.” That brings me to twice weekly. I’m hoping to add a third on Fridays, but I’m not committing just yet…

Check out everyone else’s progress here.

How are your goals coming along?  Steaming along, dragging your feet?  It’s all good. Let us know so we can cheer you on – below!

Marine Mammal Poster Giveaway

I’ll announce the winner of last month’s drawing soon, I promise!  just haven’t compiled the names yet.

Danielle Meitiv is a writer, science geek, gardener, and mother who goes barefoot whenever possible. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate for Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, and on Facebook: Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog, and Danielle Meitiv.

Wonderful Waterful Wednesday: The Magnificent and Fragile Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is a living coral landscape stretching more than 1700 miles along Australia’s eastern shore. It is home to 5,000 types of mollusks, 1,800 species of fish, 125 kinds of sharks, and innumerable miniature marine organisms. And a wealth of coral species – more than 350 different types including branching staghorn and elk corals, fronds of waving soft corals, hard nubby domes and pancake-flat plates – all made out of calcium, seawater and sunlight.

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Credit for all photos lies with the incomparably talented David Doubilet/National Geographic. More of Doubilet’s photos of the Great Barrier Reef can be found here.

A Fragile Empire

This empire of carbonate rock was built over millions of years by coral polyps, each smaller than a grain of rice. These colonial organisms, which are closely related to sea anemones and jellyfish, live symbioticly or in partnership, with photosynthesis algae called zooxanthellae. (Not sure how to pronounce that? The x sounds like a z and it rhymes with “no more jelly” 🙂 ). The algae harvest solar energy and feed it to the corals, who in turn build living temples to the sun.

Charlie Veron, coral expert and a longtime chief scientist for the Australian Institute of Marine Science worries about the future of corals in a rapidly warming ocean. When temperatures rise to high, coral expel their zooxanthelle symbionts, a phenomenon known as bleaching because the absence of the algae causes them to appear white. Without their partners, the coral polyps will die. “Reefs for me are places for solitude and thought,” says Veron, seen admiring stony corals in the slideshow above. “But I know there is fragility in their existence. I fear what lies ahead.”

The reef is also threatened by ocean acidification, which lower ocean pH and makes it harder for polyps to build the reef material itself. The massive runoff of toxins and sediment that followed the Australian floods last year is expected to affect the reef for years to come.

Not Without a Fight

But the Aussies aren’t going to let the reef die without a fight. In 2004, strategic sections of the reef amounting to one third of its total area were set aside in marine parks were fishing is banned. The biological recovery has been faster and more dramatic than expected. If diversity is strength, then this empire has a lot more fight left in it.

For more about the great Barrier Reef, as well as wonderful articles on Yosemite’s superclimbers, saving the world’s forests, and how the people of Bangladesh deal with rising seas, check out the May issue of National Geographic, on newstands April 26.

Everything Except the Writing: Round of Words Week Three Check-in

I missed both of last week’s check-ins due to travel and the Passover holiday. But the goals are going well – everything except the writing, that is.

  • Writing: I started a new piece that I’m really excited about.  I just have a bit over one page so far but the world-building is going well. The writing – not so much.  I thought a 3000 word a week goal would work but I find that i do need a daily goal.  For the next week and a half I’m going to try one hour a day focused on writing. No word count, just a chunk of time.  I’ll let you know how that works.
  • Blogging: I missed Sunday’s check-in and Wednesday’s post came out on Thursday (a bit of a challenge when it’s usually called “Wonderful Waterful Wednesday,”) but the overall blogging endeavor is gong well.  I’ve decided to revamp the blog – focus and all – so expect a whole lotta changes in the near future.
  • Learning: I did a lot of reading on the plane to and from California including whole chapters of the Artist’s Way and the How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writer course material. For my artist’s date I spent an hour and a half working on a hand-sewing project I thought up ages ago: a yoga bag made from an old skirt.  Since I’ve never actually sewn anything, it’s a challenge but also a lot of fun. One thing I’ve noticed about these dates – I have a really hard time dedicating a full 2 hours.  Will have to think about why and work on it.

There is it. To meet all the other ROW80 participants and where they’re at, check ’em out here.

Marine Mammals Poster Giveaway

This month’s giveaway is an out-of-print NOAA poster of Marine Mammals of the Western Hemisphere. Every comment left in the month of May equals one entry. Every link or reference to this blog on your site equals two entries. The drawing will be held on the 1st of May, so start your entries now!

Danielle Meitiv is a writer, science geek, gardener, and mother who goes barefoot whenever possible. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate for Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, and on Facebook: Danielle Meitiv’s Barefoot Blog, and Danielle Meitiv.

Wonderful Waterful Thursday(?): Life in a Sometimes Ocean

Welcome to Wonderful Waterful Thursday! WWT as I like to call it is the extra special blog post that follows what would otherwise have been Wonderful Waterful Wednesday, if I hadn’t spent an extra five hours waiting in Baltimore-Washington Airport for a flight to California…

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What is a “Sometimes Ocean”?

If you’ve ever visited the shore and poked among the rocks, you’ve seen them: shallow puddles on the edge of the sea, cut off from the great Mother Ocean for hours, even days at a time. They’re tidepools of course, and a whole host of organisms have become adapted to living in them.

Some of the marine creatures common to tidepools in North America are sea stars and urchins, snails, barnacles, and crabs. And of course various kinds of seaweed or algae thrive in tidepools, providing all important cover and shade for the creatures who live there.

Living on the Edge

Life in a tidepool is a study in extremes. Temperatures rise and fall over the course of the day. Salinity too. A water evaporates the pool itself can shrink and at times disappear. Considering that conditions are relatively constant in the open ocean, these kinds of conditions are pretty unusual for marine creatures.

And while they may seem idyllic, dangers lurk in those placid little ponds. In the sea, there’s lots of space to flee and find food. Not so in a tidepool, where you’re trapped until the next high tide, which can be hours or days away. Some parts of the intertidal zone (the area between the high and low tide levels) are only submerged at the highest of high tides, while other areas are only uncovered during the lowest of the low.

The Whys of Tides

The rise and fall of the tides is caused by the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon on the oceans. When all three celestial bodies are arranged in a line (called syzygy), we get spring tides, which are higher and lower than usual. Quadrature is when the sun, Earth and moon form a right angle. This occurs during the quarter phases/half moons. The tidal range is smallest at this time – the highs are lower than

Every shoreline has its typical tidal range determined by the shape of the basin and where on Earth it’s located. In some areas the range can be as little as a few inches a day; in others many feet. The Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia holds the record for the largest range: more than 53 feet during a spring tide!

Most coasts have semi-diurnal (twice daily) tides, but a few shores experience only a single cycle.

Tidepooling at its Best

Rocky shores like those found in New England and the Pacific Northwest are my favorite places to explore. I have a very clear memory of holding a sea cucumber given to me by a park ranger in Acadia National Park in Maine. My dream of becoming a marine biologist was cemented that day.

I also saved a couple of sea urchins from a grim fate as souvenirs, but that’s another story.

Marine Mammals Poster Giveaway

This month’s giveaway is an out-of-print NOAA poster of Marine Mammals of the Western Hemisphere. Every comment left in the month of May equals one entry. Every link or reference to this blog on your site equals two entries. The drawing will be held on the 1st of May, so start your entries now!

Have you ever held a prickly sea star, caught sight of a crab scuttling through a tidepool forest, discovered a sea star clinging to the underside of a wet rock? Share your tidepool discoveries – and any other fond seaside memories – in the comments section below!

Danielle Meitiv is an oceanographer by training, an advocate for all things marine and a writer of science fiction and non-fiction. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate for Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, and on Facebook: Brave Blue Words, and Danielle Meitiv.

Wonderful Waterful Wednesday: Preserving the Blue Frontier

“The cure for anything is saltwater: sweat, tears or the sea.”

–Isak Dineson

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Life evolved in the sea and never really left it. We just took it with us onto land – in our blood, our tears and the amniotic fluid where our days begin. Ocean rhythms flow through every living thing, from the first fish that crawled on land to the first critter that swam through the water and the first bits of matter and energy that came together to make something that would recognize as being alive.

Our lives still depend on the seas. Oceans produce the air we breath and the food we eat. Even the winds that sweep over the globe are fueled by the heat stored in ocean waters.

Isn’t it time we gave something back? That’s what the Blue Frontier Campaign (BFC) is all about.

The Blue Frontier Campaign was founded in 2003 by author and ocean advocate David Helvarg. I encountered Helvarg’s work through his first ocean book: Blue Frontier: Saving America’s Living Seas. Since then he’s written four other books about oceans and the environment: The War Against the Greens, 50 Ways to Save the Ocean, Rescue Warriors and Saved by the Sea.

With the Blue Frontier Campaign, Helvarg’s put his time and energy where his words are. BFC emphasizes bottom-up organizing to bring the voice of citizen-activists into decision-making that affects the world oceans.

50 Ways to Save the Ocean

David Helvarg’s new book, 50 Ways to Save the Ocean focuses on practical, easily-implemented actions everyone can take to protect and conserve this vital resource. Here are a few:

1. Go to the Beach
2. Visit an Aquarium
3. Eat organic and vegetarian foods whenever possible
4. If you chose to eat seafood make sure it’s sustainable
5. Grow a natural yard and garden
6. Maintain an earth (and ocean) friendly Driveway. Try a Green Roof.
7. Reduce Toxic Household Pollutants
8. Drive a fuel-efficient car, car pool, or use public transit
9. Don’t use your Storm Drain as a toilet
10. Support Marine Education in our schools

Check it out the rest on the Blue Frontier website, or watch it as a Flickr slideshow here.

Blue Vision Summit: May 20-23, 2011, Washington, DC

BFC’s 2011 Blue Vision Summit will bring together hundreds of “seaweed” (grassroots) activists in Washington, DC learn about the state of the world’s oceans and what citizens can do at the local, state, national, and global levels to protect them.

The first two days will focus on education and planning – Day Three is for action! Seaweed activists will wash over Capitol Hill, flooding their Congressional offices with demands to preserve the oceans today and for future generations.  Don’t worry if you have no experience with that sort of thing – experienced advocates will walk you through the whole lobbying process.

Thanks to my total lack of personal modesty (around other women writers, that is), I have the privilege of being one of the sponsors of the 2011 Blue Vision Summit. (Yes, there’s a story there…) You can find more information and register for the summit here.

Marine Mammals Poster Giveaway

This month’s giveaway is an out-of-print NOAA poster of Marine Mammals of the Western Hemisphere. Every comment left in the month of May equals one entry. Every link or reference to this blog on your site equals two entries. The drawing will be held on the 1st of May, so start your entries now!

A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80): Week Two

My goals for this 80-day writing challenge, which started last week, are described here. My progress during Week Two:

  • Morning pages are going well.  So far I’ve done them every day, and only once in the evening.  This AM I even came up with a story that i;m thinking about entering into a flash fiction contest!
  • Still revising my workshop submission, so the 3000 words a week will have to wait. I’m pretty psyched about the submission piece and plan to enter it into a few contests.
  • I’m blogging on the oceans on Wednesdays and doing ROW updates twice a week, so that’s going well.  I’ll add the Friday post at the beginning of May. Stay tuned!
  • Weekly reading of the Artist’s Way is going strong. Tomorrow is my second artist’s date – I’m very excited!
  • I’m working through Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways Course from the beginning, and re-read Lesson One today. Great stuff!

Tune in on Sunday for another update.  In the meantime, check out everyone else’s progress here.

Baring All for the Sea

You KNEW I wouldn’t leave you hanging, right? At a recent party for women writers, I participated in the 2nd Annual “Skinny Dip for Charity.” Each one of us who took the plunge – five in all – raised $1000 for the charity of her choice. Other worthy causes included the Wounded Warriors Project and a local animal shelter.

Danielle Meitiv is an oceanographer by training, an advocate for all things marine and a writer of science fiction and non-fiction. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate for Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, and on Facebook: Brave Blue Words, and Danielle Meitiv.

Blooming Spring Comes to the Sea

Spring has sprung. Daffodils are blooming, birds are building nests and my kids are putting away the winter PJs. (I put a stop to that). I know, with colder temperatures threatening much of the northern US, it’s hard to believe it, but spring officially started last Sunday, with the vernal equinox.

Spring means new growth as plants respond to warmer temperatures and higher light levels. That’s true in the ocean, as well. In the spring, the population of phytoplankton (microscope algae) in surface waters grows rapidly, creating patches of green so large they can be seen in satellite photos. Unlike land plants, however, the algae aren’t just sitting there waiting for the sun’s warmth to return – in the ocean, there’s nowhere to sit! So what happens?

Springs Means Green – Even in the Ocean

When water is heated from above, it becomes stratified – separated into layers, with lighter warm surface waters floating above denser, cold water. A boundary forms between the warmer and colder waters, called the thermocline. This prevents mixing between the water layers. (If you’ve ever gone swimming in a deep lake or pond, you’ve probably experienced this effect, when the water around your feet is colder than at the surface).

The classic explanation for the spring bloom was that the thermocline allows phytoplankton to remain in the upper water levels, where there is enough light for them to grow and create large blooms. As they grow, populations of the critters that feed on them, microscope animals called zooplankton, grow as well.

Eventually, in late spring/early summer, the phytoplankton eat all the food in the upper layer, their population growth slows, and the zooplankton eat them at roughly the same rate as they grow. (So, even though the growing and eating is still going on, the big green patch  disappears from satellite photos). Newer research* suggests that the phytoplankton begin to bloom during the winter, and that stratification only concentrates them at the surface where our satellites can see them – and zooplankton can find them and eat them.

03/21/04. Before the spring bloom. Color scale shows concentration of chlorophyll (phytoplankton) in North Atlantic surface waters. MODIS image: NASA Aqua satellite
A month later, the spring bloom is well underway from North Carolina to Canada. 04/22/2004. MODIS image: NASA Aqua satellite

 

 

 
 

Marine Food Web

Phytoplankton are the primary producers in the marine food web – they capture energy from the sun. Zooplankton feed on the phytoplankton, and are themselves food for immature fish, shrimp, small fish such as sardines and herring, and even huge creatures like blue whales and North Atlantic right whales (who feed on tiny shrimp-like krill and copepods, respectively). Small fish feed bigger fish and so on – right onto our plates.

Just like on land, recent studies** of satellite data suggest that climate change is causing the spring bloom to occur earlier in parts of the ocean, like the Arctic.  While that may seem like a good thing (who doesn’t want winter to end sooner?), it’s not clear if the creatures that feed on phytoplankton will be able to hatch earlier in response. If the phytoplankton use up all the nutrients and begin to die sooner, before the zooplankton can hatch and eat them, then all the other creatures that depend on this annual event may suffer.

Scientists are watching the spring bloom closely, monitoring fish populations throughout the Arctic region, to see what will happen.

In spite of the impending cold front, I’ve been out in my garden, planting peas and potatoes, and harvesting greens from seeds that I put out in the late summer and fall, (and didn’t get around to harvesting during the winter). How about you? What does activity does the bloomin’ spring inspire in you? Gardening? Spring cleaning? A trip to the beach? Let us know in the comments below!

Lunch!

References:

* Behrenfeld et al. Abandoning Sverdrup’s Critical Depth Hypothesis on phytoplankton blooms. Ecology, 2010; 91 (4): 977 DOI: 10.1890/09-1207.1

** M. Kahru, V. Brotas, M. Manzano-Sarabia, B. G. Mitchell. Are phytoplankton blooms occurring earlier in the Arctic? Global Change Biology, 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02312.x

BONUS: Cool Science Swag Giveaway

For the rest of March, anyone who leaves a comment will be entered into a random drawing for one of the fab calendars that I got at the AAAS conference last month, shown in the photo below. Each comment = an entry, so feel free to check out some older posts and comment on those too.  Forwarding a post from the blog, RTing it on Twitter, or following this blog via Facebook will also get you an entry. Linking to this site from yours will get you TWO entires per link. One week to go – start your entries now!

Cool science calendars
Yes - one of these can be yours! Just comment, forward, RT or link to Brave Blue Words!

** LIVE WEBCAST – Clearing the Air: Managing Air Quality to Benefit Heath and Climate in India.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30, 2011, 10:30am – noon

http://www.sais-jhu.edu/pressroom/live.html

Dr. Sarath Guttikinda, an air quality expert from Delhi, India; Dr. William Lau, a climate scientist from NASA; and yours truly will discuss the links between air quality and climate in India, and what can be done to improve both. The event is free, open to the public, and will be webcast by Johns Hopkins University.

For more information, click here.

Danielle Meitiv is an oceanographer by training, an advocate for all things marine and a writer of science fiction and non-fiction. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate of Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, and on Facebook: Brave Blue Words, and Danielle Meitiv.

Wonderful Waterful Wednesday

Arctic Sunflower Stars
Subarctic sunflower stars, Prince William Sound in Alaska.Photo: NaGISA - Casey Debenham, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Welcome to the inaugural post of a new feature here at Brave Blue Words: Wonderful Waterful Wednesday. Each Wednesday, I will feature one of the more than 1,200 beautiful and bizarrre creatures cataloged during the recently-completed Census of Marine Life. I’ve written about some of the amazing accomplishments and discoveries of the census here and here.

This week’s star (pun intended), is Pycnopodia helianthoides, the sunflower sea star. This trio was photographed in the frigid shallow waters of Alaska’s Prince Williams Sound, although they are found all along the West Coast. It’s one of the largest sea stars, and all those arms make it one of the fastest, too. Sunflower sea stars feed on their bottom-dwelling cousins (other echinoderms or “prickly-skins”), such as sand dollars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. Their mere presence is enough to make those critters scramble for cover.

Some of my best memories of the sea come from the tidepools I’ve explored and the critters I’ve found there, including sea stars, urchins and the like. How about you? Ever hold a squishy sea cucumber? poked a seastar or scratched up your knees with barnacle kisses (ouch!)? Share your seaside experiences in the comments section below.

** LIVE WEBCAST – Clearing the Air: Managing Air Quality to Benefit Heath and Climate in India.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30, 2011, 10:30am – noon

http://www.sais-jhu.edu/pressroom/live.html

Dr. Sarath Guttikinda, an air quality expert from Delhi, India; Dr. William Lau, a climate scientist from NASA; and yours truly will discuss the links between air quality and climate in India, and what can be done to improve both. The event is free, open to the public, and will be webcast by Johns Hopkins University.

For more information, click here.

Great resource for writers

A shout-out to writer and awesome social media expert, Kristen Lamb. Her blog and book “We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” are musts for any serious author – and are damned funny, too!

BONUS: Cool Science Swag Giveaway

For the rest of March, anyone who leaves a comment will be entered into a random drawing for one of the fab calendars that I got at the AAAS conference last month, shown in the photo below. Each comment = an entry, so feel free to check out some older posts and comment on those too.  Forwarding a post from the blog, RTing it on Twitter, or following this blog via Facebook will also get you an entry. One weeks to go – start your entries now!

Cool science calendars
Yes - one of these can be yours - just comment, forward or RT Danielle Meitiv's Brave Blue Words!

Danielle Meitiv is an oceanographer by training, an advocate for all things marine and a writer of science fiction and non-fiction. Danielle is also a huge fan and sales affiliate of Holly Lisle’s online courses: How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers, and How to Revise Your Novel. Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, and on Facebook: Brave Blue Words, and Danielle Meitiv.

Clear and Present Danger: Overwhelming Ourselves into Apathy

Head in Hands

After covering a AAAS session on science and the media in my blog post last week, I’d planned to focus on another titled “Adapting to a Clear and Present Danger: Climate Change and Ocean Ecosystems.” Two of the talks stood out for me: one on the potential impacts of ocean warming and acidification, and the other on coral reefs, and all the threats they face. I had all my notes, including quotes from the speakers and abstracts of their talks.  I’d even hunted down some of their earlier talks, and found cool graphics to accompany the post. Then, I sat down to write. But I couldn’t.

Why? Work’s been busy lately, especially since we’re trying to raise money for my primary project.  I’ve been neglecting my WIP (work in progress: a first person sci-fi novel), and wanted to work on that. And on top of all that was simple procrastination – or so I thought. I should have suspected that something was up. I like writing this blog, and don’t usually look for excuses not to. So why was I having so much trouble?

Some people would turn to soul-searching at this point. I turned to the web. And what do you know? It turns out that I’m not the only one who gets tired of reading (and writing) about bad news.

Wait, Don’t Tell Me

Climate change is real. So is ocean acidification, the demise of coral reefs and the destruction of rainforests. Not to mention (but I will anyway), the loss of dozens endangered species, overfishing, air pollution, ocean dumping and oil spills…

Have your eyes glazed over yet? Were you tempted to stop reading, to find something positive to check out for a change? Me too. It’s natural. No one can take a steady diet of misery – it just wears us down. Some psychologists believe that we have a finite capacity for worry and just can’t take it all in at once.* The kids are sick, I’m being downsized, the mortgage is due, there’s a tragedy in Japan – oh, and the climate is changing? Take a number. Sometime we go numb, tuning out what our brains just can’t handle.

That’s not a cop-out. Humans evolved to handle immediate threats like hungry predators, and modern-day stresses trigger same basic fight or flight response. But our bodies can’t stay on high alert all the time. After a while, the alarms stop ringing, and we go back to business as usual. Without doing anything.

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…

That’s another problem – what can we do? The problems I’ve mentioned are so huge, is it even possible for one individual to make a difference?  Too often we scientists, reporters, bloggers and the like give folks the bad news without any ideas of what to do. Any reason for hope.  Is it any wonder people stop listening?

Some studies** suggest that people resist doing anything about climate change – and even deny that it is happening – because it contradicts their views of a “just world.” Surely, if God (or the Universe or humanity, etc) is good, things can’t be that bad. Or it will all work out in the end.  I have to admit that I fall into this camp sometimes.  I have to or else I could never keep working and writing about the issue of climate change.

So now what?

What does that mean for someone like me, who lives and breathes this stuff all the time, and tries to educate others about it, too? Some take-home lessons:

  • Stay away from the apocalyptic messages – they cause people to tune out.
  • Give people reason for hope, including things they can do and info about efforts underway to make a difference.
  • Share as much good news as possible.
  • Enjoy all the wonderful things about people, the environment, life – celebrate! Those are the REAL reasons we work so hard to save it all, right?

As I said, I do believe in a just world. I know we humans have the capacity to address the challenges of climate change in ways that will make the world a better place for having done so. And we can even have a good time while doing so.  To quote the incomparable Emma Goldman: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” Keep fighting the good fight – and dancing all the while.

—————————-

What do you think? Does bad news about the environment cause you to tune out? Are there strategies that can help people see the threats – and the solutions? What things do you celebrate and work to save? Please share in the comments below.

BONUS: Cool Science Swag Giveaway

For the rest of March, anyone who leaves a comment will be entered into a random drawing for one of the fab calendars that I got at the AAAS conference last month, shown in the photo below. Each comment = an entry, so feel free to check out some older posts and comment on those too.  Forwarding a post from the blog, RTing it on Twitter, or following this blog via Facebook will also get you an entry. Two weeks to go – start your entries now!

Follow @Danielle_Meitiv on Twitter, and Facebook: Brave Blue Words, Danielle Meitiv, and Author Danielle Meitiv.

Cool science calendars
Yes - one of these can be yours - just comment, forward or RT Brave Blue Words!

References

* The Psychology of Climate Change Communication, published by the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University

** Feinberg, M., and R. Willer, 2011. Apocalypse Soon? : Dire Messages Reduce Belief in Global Warming by Contradicting Just-World
Beliefs Psychological Science 2011 22:34 Originally published online 9 December 2010 DOI: 10.1177/0956797610391911