Sunday, September 19, 2010

Book Review: Over in the Ocean

Over in the Ocean In a Coral Reef is a very fun and interactive children's book written by Marianne Berkes. My first reaction was to fall absolutely in love with this book's unique pictures, which are not your traditional illustrations. They are polymer creations (think play-doh) molded into intricate and beautiful scenes. Now, let's add in a tune. The book is written to be sung along with the tune from "Over in the Meadow" that we all grew up singing.

I have sincere appreciation for the fact that the author took care to be accurate. This is one of the best books directed at very small children that will truly entertain grown ups too. And any ocean buff will get extra fun out of the book, I promise.

This children’s book is available in various sizes and paper qualities. I am currently a big fan of board books – they seem to hold up the best against my 1-yr old. If you purchase this book, be sure to flip to the back of the book for interactive tips. These are referred to as "finger-plays" directed towards infants, but that term is just creepy if you ask me.

RATING: ~~~~~ (yep, 5 out of waves) This is really all anyone could ask for in a marine animal focused children's book

If you are intrigued by this book, I can also highly recommend another Berkes's book - Over in the Jungle. This is the same format and artistic style, but with a jungle focus... I'm talking sloths and kinkajous, so it also a very unique book. Maybe she will do one with an Australian theme...?

On a side note, I started a new job recently. One of my responsibilities is actually leading story time every week for small children. Therefore, many more children's book reviews will be coming your way. This particular book is a popular favorite of both the kids and staff. So if you are hanging out in Jupiter, FL - come look me up at The River Center.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Cove - A Movie Review

The Cove” is an intense documentary exposing the horrendous practice of bottlenose dolphin slaughter taking place in Taiji, Japan. It is an Oscar award winning film for best documentary released in 2009. Every September, in accordance with dolphin migration, an estimated 23,000 dolphins are brutally killed in a hidden away, well guarded cove. These animals are then served as meat (often mislabeled) in markets all over Japan. A secondary issue mentioned in the movie is the ridiculously high mercury levels found in the meat; 0.4 ppm is considered safe for human consumption, and the tissue samples from these dolphins are at 2,000 ppm. But, that is an entirely different problem in the ocean food web.

I appreciate the topic of the movie, but most importantly am pleased to see the passionate, yet professional approach to the issues at hand. This is not another Michael Moore edition of “the Ranting Swede” that is simply anti-Japanese. It is a well constructed piece, with climactic events and strong characters – just like any other movie should be. However, it does not have the same positive bolster at the end that the documentary Sharkwater surprisingly delivered. But I understand the inherent challenges that come with tackling such tragic subject matter while avoiding a depressing conclusion.

A side note to the main message of the film is the very interesting insight into Ric O’Barry, the original star of the Flipper show. I would seriously watch a biography specifically on that man. He went from a man who helped chaperone dolphin captivity into a worldwide multi-million dollar industry to a “Free Dolphins” zealot with PETA-esque fervor. I was moved by his story all on its own. To learn more about his organization, check out:

RATING: ~ ~ ~ 1/2 (3.5 out of 5 waves) There are some extremely brutal scenes in the film, so I do not suggest sharing this with young children, and make sure you are mentally prepared before watching as well.

I actually learned of the film from a friend on Facebook, and joined the cause… and I don’t play Mafia Wars or have a Zoo or play Farmville; but this is a serious issue that should be addressed. The film was officially released in 2009, but primarily on the independent film circuit. It is now available on DVD for rental or purchase, and it is currently hitting censorship roadblocks in Japan. Big surprise. For information on the Ocean Preservation Society (OPS) - they produced the film- check out:

In addition, the IWC (International Whaling Commission), a “toothless” organization that is meant to mitigate all activity concerning whales, generally dismisses issues about dolphins because they are the smallest cetaceans and not on the endangered species list. Consider this- dolphins may not be endangered, but most species found throughout the world are not actually found everywhere. An animal may be abundant in only a few small areas, but since they can be readily found there, the dangers to the population are often overlooked.

Also, as devil’s advocate: What exactly IS the problem with killing and eating dolphins? Should we stop ALL meat consumption? Should somebody make a film about farms and beef slaughterhouses? Personally, I feel (based on our teeth and other physiological traits) humans were meant to be omnivores. Some humans have the fortitude, or even just a natural inclination, NOT to eat meat. That is fine, as long as they take care to get all the proper nutrients in order to remain healthy. I do NOT, however, believe we are the only intelligent beings on this planet. It is widely accepted that cannibalism is wrong, and it makes sense to include all creatures that are self-aware under that umbrella. Okay, this hot debate will be a battleground for vegans and self-proclaimed carnivores that will never end. But there is a reason why we feel for certain animal species; it is possible to connect with another creature. If you have never experienced it, then I suggest you spend more time outside… some animal will connect with you in a way you never expected. I will never knowingly eat dog or wolf, whale or sea turtle; I don’t eat veal and like to buy eggs that come from happy chickens (i.e. free range, veggie-fed). I’m not a vegetarian, but I understand why many people choose that lifestyle and I respect it.

Spend some time this week making choices that are bigger than just one person. Think about the food you eat (I don’t mean stress about it, just try to appreciate it) and where it came from. Show respect while driving through a parking lot or waiting in the checkout line. These little changes make us a better species, so it is always worth your time.

-Callie Sharkey

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jacques Cousteau: Reflection & Review

The 100th anniversary of Jacques Cousteau's birth was June 11, and I am reminded of how much individuals shape the universe by inspiring those around them. As a role model, yes, the man made mistakes, but we must also consider the era in which his career developed and find it in our hearts to forgive those transgressions. The adventures on Calypso impacted, and still are affecting, the attitudes regarding the sea and its wonders. He was a filmmaker who even won an Oscar for the short film "The Golden Fish" back in 1960. This man developed the aqua-lung into the true predecessor of modern SCUBA (nitrox, etc. is excluded, of course). While many of the early practices, for instance, the keeping of multiple sea lion pups on deck in cages to compensate for mortality while filming, would be unacceptable now, in the end Jacques Yves Cousteau was a remarkable individual who managed to bring the ocean to a land-locked world. He eventually became a champion for the message of protection and education about our oceans. He is still inspiring new generations with his work, and I will always be thankful for the motivation his example provided for me as well. I do have the DVD collection of his films, which I will happily share in the future.

As for the book review... I found an old hardback copy of The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea written by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Philippe Cousteau. It was published in 1970, and Jaws didn't come out until 1975, so I was really interested to check this book out... plus, the extensive alliteration used in the title was amusing as well. Essentially, it is a compilation of shark encounters experienced along with details of how they filmed sharks and other underwater challenges. Both Phillipe and Jacques give narratives, and I found Philippe to be the more scientific and less charismatic of the two authors. There are some cool anecdotal stories, but if you get hung up on factual details matching the descriptive language- well, I would stick to the Philippe narratives.
The photos are almost laughable considering both basic photoshop and the capabilities of digital photography these days. But, hey, for the time this was really amazing stuff. I did find it interesting to compare some of my own photos taken with disposable underwater cameras to the high-tech images found in this book. Made me feel pretty good as a photographer, actually. My favorite part of the book is the Appendix B. Yeah, I know, sounds corny... but it is "Drawings of Ships, Sharks, and Sea-Going Equipment" and I think that stuff is really neat from a historical perspective. I wouldn't be surprised to find the illustration of a shark's eye still in modern textbooks- as our knowledge of sharks has grown, but still remains far short of where it could be.

If you are a marine-history buff, or a big Cousteau fan, it is totally worth the effort to check out this book at a local library. I wouldn't use it for a scientific paper, but if writing a biography on either Cousteau, then it is an interesting and useful work. I found my copy at a garage sale, so really have no suggestions on where to find it... so I looked it up on for fun. At this time there are 4 new copies for $13 and 40 used ones starting for less than $1. I was disappointed to see the 7 reviews for the book gave it an average of 4.5 stars. As for me...

RATING: ~~1/2 (2.5 Waves out of 5) Just because I have mad respect for the authors doesn't mean I've fallen off my rocker when it comes to writing, research, and accuracy. If it's out of date, and this one IS, I can't in good conscience highly recommend it.

Remember your heroes, even when they let you down. Know that we are all human and therefore fallible, but we are also capable of amazing -and positive- actions.
Go inspire somebody!
-Callie Sharkey

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Abyss: Review

So, as a reprieve from the Oil Spill Crisis (but not for long, I have new information to share on that soon) I have returned to the fun of doing ocean related reviews. My husband was shocked to find I had NEVER seen the film in its entirety. After actually watching the special edition, start to finish, I was shocked to realize I had never seen it either, and knew I had to recommend to all that would hear this film MUST be watched by all oceanic and science fiction enthusiasts.

It was originally released in August of 1989, and when you think of the scope and nature of James Cameron films in general, this was a spectacular predecessor to Titanic and Avatar (Terminator came prior, back in 1984). The settings are amazing, and the story is exceptional. Having a background as an aviation mechanic and having worked on and around the bubble-domed submersibles at HBOI really gave me an intense perspective on the film. I was constantly analyzing the machinery and running the physics through my head, checking plausibility. Cameron has always made films I have enjoyed, but honestly, The Abyss changed my perception of his work like nothing else. If you can set your brain back to the theatrical technology of the late 80's/early 90's, you will realize this film, as always for Cameron's work, was WAY ahead of its time.

So, even if you've seen it, watch it again. Reminisce and enjoy the heart-pounding moments of tragedy and discovery all over again. Let's remember why we are so keen in the first place to both love and want to save this precious ocean surrounding our planet.

RATING: ~~~~~ (5 out of 5 waves) you, like me, really have no excuse NOT to own or at least watch this film again... and again

Take care, and more reviews - books and otherwise- are on their way soon,

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Oil Spill STILL Going...

I told you the "top-kill" procedure would be temporary at best. Now, that was even more temporary than hoped, but what happens now? I have come across material that said BP is done trying to stop it and will focus on capture/cleanup, but all is not lost. Well, it is... but I'm trying to be optimistic and being a grouch about the situation is not going to help efforts anyway, right?

The next move will likely be an LMRP - "lower marine riser cap" - which involves ATTEMPTING to cut into the damaged part of the well and insert a shut off valve. Okay, this is another risky move that will take an estimated 4 days to complete. Who knows how long before they even know if it worked. Amongst other failed attempts so far was a large box placed over the leak and a tube inserted to suck out the oil. What about drilling relief wells, you ask? There is so much controversy due to this spill that the public just wants the darn leak plugged so we can truly assess the situation. Plus, relief wells is at least 3 months away.
I found good information on the Voice of America news site:

Hey, this is scary stuff. People are NOT overreacting to the impacts and implications of this disaster. It SHOULD be headline news everyday for as long as possible. Hurricane season is around the corner and who knows what that will bring. Unfortunately, not even the Weather Channel can prepare us this early. After a few "quiet" seasons, many here in Florida are holding their breath and try to carry about normally until the weather, or oil, or BOTH reach our shores.

So keep yourself up to date on environmental situations in general. Yes, this is something focused on the southeast, but there are devastating impacts from our species that affect locations and ecosystems all over the world. Do not lose sight of how to keep your local environment healthy just because another coast is having bigger problems. ALL the ecosystems are important, and often we do not realize exactly how important until they are damaged beyond restoration.

Remember that during your BBQ this Memorial Day weekend. And be sure to raise your flag and your awareness for our soldiers and veterans too this holiday.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oil Spill Stopped?

Well, the latest reports coming out of the Gulf of Mexico are stating that the oil leak is now considered capped. Unfortunately, there are 3 separate places where the lines had been leaking... so it is not yet clear if ALL of the leaks are stopped. The May 17th issue of TIME magazine's article "The Big Spill" has great detail and diagrams explaining the entire disaster in layman's terms.
They used a method called "top-kill" to stop the leak. Essentially, tons of mud and debris are stuffed down on top of the leak. Then, after the pressure is low enough, cement is funneled down to the area to "permanently" stop the problem. But in actuality, this method is only a temporary solution.

But at least now the clean up efforts will be more productive for the time being. Let's just hope everyone (public, politicians, AND BP) bears in mind that this disaster is NOT over yet. The carnage and real impacts of this spill have only just begun.

Take care, and take initiative!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ocean Science Lecture-HBOI: Reefs

Ocean Science Lecture Series: Brian Lapointe, Ph.D. “Reefs, Wreckers, and Shipwrecks in the Florida Keys

This portion of the FAU/Harbor Branch 2010 Ocean Science Lecture Series goes along a little bit with the episode of Undersea Explorer discussed back in January about artificial reefs in Canada. The talk has some very interesting historical facts presented in association with the biological aspect. The speaker in this film covers the Wrecking Era and several wrecks going back hundreds of years. This lecture does focus on the Florida Keys, but the information can be transferred to many other areas since the research is expansive. The historical background is very interesting, and the research is both relevant and useful.

If you know you want to see it, then skip straight to the video posted on You Tube:

First, Dr. Lapointe defines the term “reef” in a way that gives a clue into the history of the word itself. There is a mining reference definition, and a nautical one as well, but the first one is perhaps the most interesting “n. 1. A narrow ridge of rocks or sand, often of coral debris, at or near the surface of the water.” WOW! Does that not sound completely different from everything you imagine when someone says “reef”? Maybe that is why I prefer an encyclopedia over the dictionary – it provides a more detailed description (often with pictures!)

The first study on coral reefs was actually held hundreds of years ago in order to find a way to reduce corals as they were considered serious navigational hazards. In the era of modern coral research, it has been learned that 98% of the coral reefs have died in the Florida Keys – this is the definition of a mass extinction. Now, eco-tourism and fisheries in the Keys are relying heavily on artificial reefs to survive… not to mention the marine animals themselves. This type of information is how marine preserves, like John Pennecamp, came to be. That particular sanctuary was created in 1974 and was the first of its kind in the Florida Keys. There was degradation of the coral ecosystems noted since the 1960’s, and it is STILL getting worse. (Just wait for the Oil Spill to get there. Whoo-hoo.) It is important to understand this decline is not strictly from over fishing. What goes into the water from the mainland of Florida has such a serious impact and in the past did not garner the attention it so desperately needed.

I have a great appreciation for the PowerPoint included in Brian Lapointe’s talk because he took the time to include many photographs for reference, and since he has been doing this research for many years, some of the vibrancy and life seen in the photos no longer exists in reality. SIDE NOTE: This is why is it always important to take photos wherever you go and on whatever adventures you may have; many of the amazing things we experience may not be there in the future.

If you want a nice decade by decade synopsis about the condition of the water quality and the health of grass beds and coral reefs in the Florida Keys, this is really the lecture you have been waiting to hear. Also, if you have a research project or paper that includes almost anything about the marine environment, then this will provide some great information. I personally like Brian, but will admit that if you aren’t into the science or the history, he might lose you in the middle of the lecture. But hang on for the artificial reef stuff!! This is around the 35 min. mark in the video. There is great footage of The Vandenberg Project – a.k.a. the “Swiss-cheesing” of a ship that is now a successful artificial reef.

RATING: ~~~ (3 out of 5 waves) there is a lot of history, so if you want just the biological stuff, then you should move the video forward to the pictures that capture your attention.

While artificial reefs serve as a wonderful form of aid to the ecosystem, the economy, and our history… I can’t help but worry that some people will focus on this as being a suitable alternative to simply protecting the natural habitats that struggle to remain. Can’t we have both?

Happy Mother’s Day and try to find thoughtful and sustainable gifts when you show Mom how much you care,


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Oil Spill: Part III... still going

All right, I’ve been trying so hard not to simply rant on and on about the Oil Spill and its impacts, considering it has not (YET) reached my own shoreline. But this is a great video clip that was released by CNN yesterday regarding this infamous spill:

... and hey, anyone who knows me understands I'm a sucker for sea turtles...

RATING: ~~~~ (4 out of 5 waves) hey, it is a short first-hand clip; there really is no excuse not to watch it (unless you have dial-up, and even then it is worth the wait)

One of the most important things to note about this piece is the “treatment” of the oil spill. This process causes the oil to break into small (relatively speaking) droplets that are still just as dangerous as the large slick itself to the marine environment. Animals ingest it, get coated in it, and breathe it in… all with bad results. To give you some information on the behavior of oil in the water, I found a website that explains everything clearly and accurately based the knowledge I have (which isn’t bad I dare say). The only disclaimer I have is at the end where it states, “oil in the marine environment rapidly loses its original properties and disintegrates into hydrocarbon fractions” – define rapidly, okay? But there is a notation about the amount of oil released, so remember that too.

I promise that I am making a sincere effort to approach this incident without the emotional diatribe that I break into in real life, but anyone who is unaffected by the impending tragedy that will befall Florida’s shores is a nimrod that deserves to be publicly flogged. So there. In addition, I am EXTREMELY annoyed at the shock and awe of the media’s reaction to the “it could reach Florida” … uh, every heard of the Gulfstream? Geez.

I also find it fascinating, although I don’t know whether that is positive or negative, that Deepwater Horizon created a response page on Facebook. How public relations in a time of instant feedback is changing the world. All I can say is- beware of propaganda. When information is so freely provided to the public, odds are it is a watered-down version of the truth (if truthful at all). Even as you read this blog, understand it all amounts to one human providing information to another. No matter what I read, I will not blog about it based on one lone source or other blog. Information must come from somewhere – which is why I try to give you useful links to get to the real goods as fast as possible.

Oh, one last POSITIVE note… I have not heard anything from the media, but I have a friend whose father works for the Colgate company, which has donated “tons of soap” to be used to help clean animals affected by the spill. A spot check via Google left me without corroboration on that one, however.

Take care and use a water purifying system at home instead of bottled water every time, okay?

Record-Breaking dive for Great White Shark

This is my attempt to give a little positive relief from the frustrating madness of the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I have other stuff for you to read on that subject if you really want more. But, THIS is a little something different from the other side of the globe.

I have been a long time fan of Steve Alten’s work, a local author gone best seller. His earliest works involve a theory that the MEG (Carcharadon megaladon), an extinct monster shark thought (by most) to closely resemble the modern day Great White Shark (Carcaradon carcharias), still exists living in the deep ocean of the Marianna Trench. One debunking argument to that theory was that the great white shark is a coastal predator staying within the first 600 feet of the water’s surface.

This leads to an interesting article documenting some results from a great white shark tagging and tracking program that has been going on for some time. Most recently, and notably, the largest shark NIWA had tagged in an ongoing study – 4.8 meters (~15 feet) long – was recorded diving to 1,200 meters (~4,000 feet)! I love that there is so much to learn about even infamous species such as the great white… I just wish that there was more attention given to this need for ocean research in general.

A variety of websites are noting this feat, but mostly those are blogs – like this one. So I decided to track down a reference for the actual research done and here you go:!

It is not the publication itself, as the findings simply haven’t been published yet, but this link at least traces to the NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) in New Zealand. This article does not focus on the dive itself, but more on the tagging process used and the shark migratory information gathered. It is actually a migration study that happened to discover and record this along with several other 1,000+ meter dives.

RATING ~~~~ (4 out of 5 waves) absolutely worth reading, especially if you like keeping up with ongoing research around the world

I hope your “Cinqo de Mayo” was pleasant and not too rowdy… stay dry when it rains and get in the water while it is still clean!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

Well, here we go again. An accident happened on a British Petroleum oil rig that was doing exploratory work to find a new spot to drill in the Gulf of Mexico, not far from the LA and MS coasts. The rig caught fire on Tuesday and actually sank on Earth Day, yesterday. I chose to post an NPR article because I find their work is typically objective, and does not typically attack any person or company so you can draw your own conclusions.

Let's put the irony of an oil spill on Earth Day aside and discuss the issues at hand. It appears 11 crew members have died with 4 more in serious condition. There are currently ??? rigs active in the Gulf of Mexico alone, and although BP is taking the initiative with the clean up, the potential disaster could be as much as 336,000 gallons a day that may leak from the reservoir that was tapped and about to be plugged so they could return and pump for real production. Keep this in mind, that leak would have to continue at that pace for an entire month in order to reach the status of the Exxon Valdez's 11,000,000 gallons... yeah, that's millions.
This article gives some insight into modern day clean up procedures and the Marine Spill Response Corp. has the reins. This is an independent non-profit created in 1990 specifically to handle problems like this one. What scares me is the necessity for its creation in the first place. I thought you might like to learn more about this company, so I have included their website too:

I plan to watch the progression of this issue closely in the media - will it get the warranted attention? Will it get the press of disasters such as the Exxon Valdez? I know individuals who will not stop at an Exxon station solely because of that environmental debacle. So, how will BP be portrayed in this case?

There are also many discussions about the dangers of offshore drilling. Just in case you don't make it all the way to the end of the article, this rig was inspected 3 times THIS year alone - with the most recent inspection being April 1st.... Hm, that IS April Fool's Day, do you think...? nah, I'm sure the inspector took everything very seriously.

RATING: ~~~~~ (5 out of 5 waves) you NEED to read this article and get people talking about these issues

My Earth Day was spent with family, friends, and at Whole Foods Market's Sierra Club benefit day. I bought my groceries, got a canvas bag to add to my collection, and attended Mommy & Baby Yoga with my 10-month old son.

How did you spend the day?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lecture - Dr. Edie Widder

First of all, I feel priveleged to say that I have met Dr. Widder on multiple occasions during my time at Harbor Branch, and she is a fantastic person. She tenaciously rollerbladed around the campus and has a wonderful, approachable demeanor. Oh yeah, and the woman is brilliant too.

I adore how she started the talk with the quote:

“People protect what they love” – Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Isn't that profound? The guy made some mistakes in his life, but also had such an amazing impact on the culture and progression of marine research and conservation that he will always have my endearing respect.

Her talk took place as part of the Mission Blue Voyage and gave the presentation in the Galapagos. Here is the link for Dr. Edie Widder's "Glowing life in an underwater world"

I love how she started her talk with “my addiction began with….” Isn’t that why this blog exists? She is a ground breaking scientist who is well spoken and easy to understand whether you are a seasoned researcher or a budding student. I will always think of her as the “queen of bioluminescence” and feel honored to have attended her talks in the past. Now her work with ORCA continues to make great strides.

Dr. Widder gives a complete background on her research and the biology of bioluminescence. She notes that drag nets coming up from 3000 feet yield 80-90% animals that make light. She shows her work with the “splat screen” used on the Johnso-Sea-Link submersible. It is cool she has never shied away from adapting technology to be used in deep ocean research.

This discussion also covers the importance of bioluminescence in chemistry, evoluntionarily, and biologically. There was even a recent Nobel Prize given for research on glowing jellyfish. Widder covers her journey through an amazing career as a marine researcher, the background and biology for her work, and she even gives props to Pixar's Finding Nemo and the use of bioluminescence. Widder's personality shine throughout this talk and you can even hear the audience laughing over some of the comments and analogies.

RATING: ~~~~~(5 out of 5 waves) an absolute MUST SEE

Lots of nature centers and environmental facilities (zoo & aquariums included) offer scientific lectures from some pretty spectacular people. These are often FREE, so check out what your local area offers... you may learn something or even find a new passion!

I know I do!


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Sharkman" on 60 Minutes

On 60 Minutes this past week, there was a segment about great white sharks and one man who studies them in South Africa - Mike Rutzen. He has been working with great whites for many years, starting as a part of the tourist trade and shark cage diving. Rutzen has since moved into the realm of shark awareness and education. He is trying to convince people that the sharks are far more than just "man-eaters" and have more intelligence and depth than given credit.
For Anderson Cooper, this was a short piece, but I have to give much respect to the guy... he actually gets IN the water with NO cage or chain mail and a great white on site. Nicely done. What I particularly liked about Rutzen was his ability to anthropomorphise the great white shark. Generally, we humans love to give our traits to animals, and with extremely intelligent mammals we may even be right to give them "feelings" of some kind. But sharks always get a bad reputation, and the best compliment you may hear is how majestic they are while gliding silently through the water. But Rutzen characterizes some sharks as calm, relaxed and even curious. I can dig it. My favorite line of his, however, was that he expects to die young- from his lifestyle of smoking and drinking, not his work with great white sharks.

This link will take you to the CNN website where you can read a written article or watch the video from the t.v. segment so you can, as always, form your own opinion. There are additional links on the site as well if your appetite is whetted and ready for more.

RATING: ~~~~ (4 out of 5 waves) totally worth watching, could have been a longer segment though!

It is nice to see the plight of the ocean and her animals in mainstream news without major tragedy involved (i.e. oil spills). Remember not to always have a gloom and doom attitude when it comes to saving our planet and its creatures. Just appreciate every experience and interaction that you do get, and you will be much happier!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ocean Science Lecture-HBOI

Up in Ft. Pierce resides the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI). The organization was founded by Seward Johnson (of Johnson & Johnson products) and recently merged with Florida Atlantic University (FAU).
Hence the website:
For years, HBOI has presented the Ocean Science Lecture Series for the general public. It is fun to attend because you get a variety of people in the audience from researchers to the elderly. As a student, I spent some time living on the HBOI campus and attended these talks religiously. Now that I live far away, the lectures are a treat.
On March 17th, (yep, St. Patrick's Day) instead of drinking at a local pub, I drove 80+ miles to attend a lecture given by Dennis Hanisak, Ph.D. called "Algae? This is a color?" I have known Dennis for years and was, er, thrilled to support his passion - algae. He is a marine botanists and has a very different perspective on the oceans compared to my marine fauna loving comrades. I must give great compliment to those hard core scientists who still manage to keep not only a good sense of humor about their work, but are able to translate their research and knowledge into a great talk that can be understood and appreciated by all levels in the audience. Dennis, you rock!
The lecture served two different algae friendly portions - a general information session on algae, and a look at his research interests conducted on the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) and with seaweeds. This talk delved into the unknown and under-appreciated world of both micro and macroalgae. And in Dr. Hanisak's honor I will mention:
alga - singular algae - plural algaes - NOT a word

Some interesting points I want to make are how fast these organisms grow, and therefore are a vital portion of the marine food web. In addition, a great deal of oxygen - breathable oxygen - is produced by marine algae; I mean on par with what we get from the rainforest. There are forms of micro algae that even produce a usable grade of OIL as a by-product. Just like sharks get a bad rap for being excellent hunters, algae are typically considered slimy, pesky organisms even to many researchers. But we have to remember to both respect and give credit to the important role played by all organisms on our planet and in our oceans.

RATING: ~~~~~ (5 our of 5 waves) you should have been there

DO NOT LOSE HEART! Eventually, the entire lecture should be posted on YouTube, as are several from earlier in the 2010 Ocean Science Lecture Series, so you actually CAN see it for yourself. I'll be pulling those up as well, sharing thoughts, and providing the links so look for those in the future!

Got plans for Earth Day yet?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Support your local organizations

Sorry about the long delay in posting. A fun little cold ran its course through my entire household, and with one of those being a 9 month old baby, it was a long drawn out process that did not allow for quality blog-time.

During my "absence" I went to a local event at one of my favorite places: Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, FL. On March 13th, they celebrated the 5th annual "Turtle Day" and this was the first time I attended simply as a guest. Usually I am working for an organization or volunteering to help GL out, but this year was just for fun! To learn about this awesome place for yourself, check out

While trekking through the hammock on a shady boardwalk, baby in stroller, I remembered how I first found the place. I had decided to take a drive down A-1-A and see the ocean. I just happened to drive by and made a point to drive by again on purpose and take the time to pull over. I filled out a volunteer application that day and Gumbo Limbo became a part of my life within a week. I acquired have life long friends and unforgettable experiences because one day, I took the long way home.

There are wonderful and unique opportunities no matter where you live. On T.V. I heard an obese man comment on how he look at a local mountain everyday for 38 years, but never climbed it until he finally started losing the weight. Living in Florida exposed me to countless New Yorkers, and when asked about Central Park's attractions or the Statue of Liberty, or even Ground Zero, they say... "oh, I've never been" or "never took the time to see it". Why do we often wait to go somewhere great that happens to be close by only when a friend or relative comes from far away? There is nothing wrong with being a tourist in your own state, and checking out all the must-see areas.

Yes, I live in Florida, and while raising my son it is extremely important to me and Jacen's father that we give him exposure to everything there is to offer here. He was at the beach at 5 weeks old. At least once a week we go to an area park, sanctuary, or natural preserve to walk around and show him the world. He will go to the Keys, and the Everglades, and Disney too! As he grows up, the adventures will only get bigger an better.

In this world of economic downturn, I have seen (and am still watching) wonderful organizations struggle or shut their doors completely because there is a lack of LOCAL SUPPORT. I understand how it can be financially difficult to have that vacation you so desperately deserve, so look into what is within one day's driving distance. You will save money, support a very worthy cause, and maybe... like my experience with Gumbo Limbo... change your life.

An easy way to find out what is around is to visit a weekend festival or green market. Earth Day is coming up, and that will be a perfect time to go somewhere new. So, I challenge you to find the time in April and try something different! Earth Day is technically Thursday, April 22nd, but many places will celebrate on the 17th. Check your local paper or go to your city's website.

Good luck, and have fun playing OUTSIDE! Maybe even play in the WATER if you can!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Undersea Explorer - Part III: The Galapagos

In 1997, The Best of Undersea Explorer traveled to the Galapagos Islands to film for a paltry 7 days. This island chain is located in the Pacific Ocean near the equator, roughly 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. It is famous for being where Charles Darwin had a fire lit under his hindquarters while carrying out his work as a naturalist aboard The Beagle; one of the islands even now bears his name. In the documentary, there are only snapshots of the diversity in the area, but I was shocked and excited to learn the crew saw at least one whale shark... on EVERY ONE of their 10 dives!

Since this piece is 13 years old and there have been many changes to the area, instead of a film synopsis, I'd rather bring up some issues regarding this mysterious place and its heritage.

RATING: ~~~ (3 out of 5 waves) totally worth watching; it would get more waves if it were more recent or perhaps a longer documentary... allowing for more coverage

1/3 of the species found on the Galapagos Islands are endemic (i.e. they are not found anywhere else in the world). This makes the area invaluable as its own independent biosphere and pristine ecosystem... well, in theory. The animals coating the island chain and the surrounding waters show no fear of humans since there are no large predators; this makes for an amazing scientific and eco-tourist hot spot. But having said that - human interference and habitation of the islands, whether temporarily or permanently, is having profound effects. Initially, this influence was purely negative, and only in recent years (in relation to the Galapagos' ancient history) has that impact started turning around for the positive. Our very presence is hurting the ecosystem. So I pose these questions...
  • Should anyone be allowed to see the area at all? Is is fair to only allow scientists or a select few with the money partake in such a priceless area? But, is it right to let the tourist industry run amok and allow humans to trample the area like a hoard of army ants?
  • Since Ecuador is such a poor country, all the protection issued as a sanctuary and international treasure is basically followed by those who choose to uphold those laws - there is no one to enforce it. Maybe the tourist industry should have to pay to have guards permanently available to patrol and protect? I'm certain the list of interns willing to spend a summer in the area for food and shelter would quickly have a long wait time, permitting the industry to be picky when choosing with whom to share such a privilege.
  • So, if this untouched biotic paradise exists in the middle of the Pacific, is it realistic to believe there are yet more unspoiled treasures out there? We have supposedly mapped the entire planet, but with the vastness of the oceans, is that a realistic assumption?
I have omitted a discussion on Darwin himself because THAT will be a topic all on its own for another day. To delve into the man's history and reasoning deserves more time and the proper attitude. But there is a mass of people who simply condemn the man and his work for all the wrong, close-minded reasons. When diving into this subject, you might learn a few things.
HINT: Darwin was a Christian, and evolution is scientifically considered FACT, not theory.

With all this said and done, traveling to the Galapagos Islands remains a personal goal I have harbored since I was just a kid and saw my first giant tortoise. Put it on my "bucket list" right next to the Great Barrier Reef.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sea Tails - Vol. 2

Volume #2 in the Sea Tails series is Knot's New Home (2007); it is written by Sheriee Dardis, illustrated by Sean Kelly, designed by Tim Dardis, and created by all three. Keeping to a long format for a children's book, this one is 90 pages long. Sloop, the sleepy clam, is still there at natural stopping points in the story, but I definitely would not leave this book to be read by a child on their own. It is meant for adult and child to read together, and that shows in the writing and tone of the story.
Point blank, this is not Dardis' best work. Volume 2 picks up immediately after Volume 1, although there is a spoiler update on the first page to bring you up to speed or at least clue you in on what happened in the first book. Comic books do this all the time... but reading things in the order which they were written is still the best way to enjoy a series if you ask me. If you choose to explore this series, be sure to start with Vol. 1.
Knot's New Home starts out by introducing you to new "students" that will be Porthole the little loggerhead's friends at Sea School. Do not expect any character development, lest you be sorely disappointed. Tack, the red coral crab, is perhaps the most annoying character I've ever encountered in a children's book. Just giving you a heads up. I think she is meant to be comic relief, but is about as successful as Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars series. Besides... should a kid's book actually NEED comic relief? The first half of the book is a rush of meeting new animals with speedy introductions and Knot, the octopus (and also in the title), is barely in the story until the end. There isn't much of a story until the end, either.
I think the creators really want to put a moral in each story and teach kids practical lessons about respecting the oceans, I just hope they find a way to do that and still tell a good story in subsequent books. This time around, there is a snippet about boat wariness, and more regarding the dumping of trash in the oceans. I don't really know how to blend these concepts together for you, because the story itself was choppy. There is great promise in the Sea Tails series, but for Vol. 2 perhaps Dardis should either make this one smaller and focus on one thing or make the book 120 pages instead, go all out, and give the story better meaning and development. I was also a bit put off by the OCD behaviors of several characters (i.e. Tack's speech issues going back and forth as she walks back and forth, Knot's locking/unlocking of jars and windows and his constant tying/untying of tentacles like the wringing of hands).
I said not to let your little one read this alone because there are random large words used by the characters and I think this is meant to build vocabulary... but, since they never define those words outright, a grown up will need to be nearby to help the child understand what they are reading. But do not despair, Kelley still keeps the illustrations light and interesting.

RATING: ~~~ (3 out of 5 waves) worth reading... at least once

The Sea Tails creators have included a Sea Tails coloring book (2006), which features individual pictures of all the characters (many not yet introduced in the early stories) and a little factoid at the bottom of each page. Some of the different species are hard to distinguish, mostly from lack of color, but I think that would not be an issue in the story books. The pictures are fun and it seems a shame to color them only once!

RATING: ~~~~ (4 out of 5 waves) highly recommended for little kids

I'll conclude today with one of my favorite quote/summaries. Since it came from Archimedes, there is some argument as to the exact wording in English...

"Give me a staff and a place to stand and I can move the world" - Archimedes

Feel free to put THAT on your wall!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tragedy at Sea World

Typically, I try to keep this blog a good place for objective feedback. Today, I'm going to soapbox a bit... a few days ago, tragedy befell Sea World Orlando as one of their trainers was killed by an orca. Part of why I am personally and deeply saddened by this incident, aside from the loss of life, is how it will impact the way zoos and aquariums are viewed by many. More importantly, perhaps, is the reaction people have to animals being trained to perform for human entertainment. And so the debate begins...

I stand on the PRO side for the existence of zoos and aquariums. As an environmental educator, nothing reaches people, especially children, the way a live animal does. In my experience, the closer and more intimate the encounter, the longer lasting the impact is on that group or individual. Not every facility can provide fence-free views like the Australia Zoo's Koala exhibit, nor should they, but each place no matter the size has individual opportunities for a personal experience. In addition, these places often serve as hospitals and rehabilitation centers to rescue and release (when possible) animals that would otherwise die - in many cases directly because of irresponsible human behaviors. These permanently injured animals make for wonderful ambassadors too.
Most people would never see an amazing animal, like a whale, in the wild under any circumstances. Too many never see the ocean or even learn how to swim, so being able to bring a live animal into context for a landlocked individual is priceless. When it comes to conservation, many negative environmental impacts come far from coastal communities; that leaves the mass uneducated completely apathetic to a cause that is as relatable as life on another planet. The ocean and its creatures literally mean nothing to a vast majority of humans on earth, so how else do we make them care enough to protect it?
Also, much of what we know for many rare and endangered species is based on captive animal research. Most AZA accredited facilities are involved in wildlife research and conservation directly as well by funding the researchers, and trust me - when it comes to funding, non-profits and non-medical research becomes cut throat competition for very few dollars.
... which brings us to the "entertainment" portion of the conversation...
The masses want to be entertained, and while this is not a gladiator arena of blood and dirt, training intelligent animals to perform tricks is an attention grabber. People pay good money for it. As discussed before, this money is hard for rescue efforts to come by at all, and Sea World funds many important projects. Take away "shows" and you are reducing the funding and footage for research, conservation, documentaries, and education. There is a trend toward "natural behavior" shows, and THIS will be the future for animal programs. But teaching the humans to forget about the thrill of these spectacular shows as future generations come along will be difficult to do without chastising or dousing the fragile compassion harbored for wildlife (i.e. when I was a kid, we used to ride on the sea turtles backs as they crawled around the beach *gasp!!*).

Check out the article below for details on the accident and the trainer, and let me know where you stand on these issues.,0,6076530.story

I decided to include a photo and video from a performance a couple of years ago because admit it... THIS is why we go to Sea World. You can see great rehabilitation efforts and thousands of fish often inaccessible or too dangerous to be around in the wild... but everyone wants to see the cetaceans vaulting through the air, out of their element and into our lives.

So, knowing the intelligence of killer whales... what does it mean that we as humans keep them captive and teach them to perform tricks on command? As long as they are captive, training keeps an intelligent animal engaged and helps avoid depression; but if an animal can get depressed, should it be captive at all? Personally, I think killer whales need not be captive. If I remember correctly, the sea lion and otter show was just as entertaining and not nearly so dangerous for the trainers, at least. As many little marine-biologists-to-be... I wanted to be a dolphin trainer as a kid, then I thought the sea lions seemed just as smart and way more fun. Now, I am passionate for sea turtles. But the ocean is the calling for me, not the species.

This topic is so deep, I could carry on all day, but instead- I will go watch Planet of the Apes for the millionth time and ponder these questions with popcorn in hand.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sea Tails Vol. 1

Since "green" is the new "black" and supporting local markets is all the rage, checking out local street festivals and events is becoming a fun and enlightening past time of mine. I came across Tim & Sean at Gumbo Limbo's Sea Turtle Day celebration a couple of years ago, and they had an entire truck (former ice cream truck maybe?) painted with the characters. It was so unique, I had to take a picture of it.
Today's focus is Porthole, the Little Loggerhead (2006) written by Sheriee Dardis, illustrated by Sean Kelly, designed by Tim Dardis, and the Sea Tails series itself was created by all three. This children's book takes a different approach with a much longer format, the book is 70 pages. It's laid out specifically for adults to read to a child in multiple sittings- which is a great way to bridge from the standard short books to more in depth books that are separated into chapters. This is also why I love the bookmark ribbon attached to the spine! Instead of chapter breaks, there is "Sloop the sleepy clam" located at the bottom corner of each page that would be a good stopping point in the story; so, you have the option of continuing without pause if desired. The pictures are fun and brightly colored too.
Now, realize the intent of this series is to introduce many characters over many books; I think they have 35 characters in all. Each of these creatures is meant to teach lessons, and in order to be relatable for children, are very human-like in attitude and language. While that does avoid a dry story, it may irritate those of us who want accuracy in all things marine... even a kid's book. But if you can enjoy the concept of young animals playing and "going to SeaSchool" together, it will make this book much more fun for you as a grownup too. Forgive those child focused traits, and it is a creative point of view that should get you and the little one(s) talking about marine life, which is really all we want anyway, right?

Check out the website: to see illustrations, etc.

RATING: ~~~~ (4 out of 5 waves) highly recommended

If you had a choice, what would your kids be interested in? Dinosaurs? Snowboarding? Painting or sculpting? I want to give compliments to those parents out there who managed to support your kid in pursuing their passions... and I really give applause to those whose children actually made it into a lifelong career! I wanted to be a marine biologist since I was 10, but my mom says I wanted it even earlier than that. Just a few days ago, she read to me things I wrote about wishing I could read the minds of animals so I could talk to sharks and answer the ocean's mysteries. Whoa. Thanks, Mom.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Impulse Buy

Admit it... we've all done it. There is an ocean related book sitting there on the bargain shelf at Barnes & Noble... you don't really need it, but c'mon, it's only $5. Why not?
My most recent of these purchases (we don't need to explore exactly how many of those I have sitting on my own shelves at home) was The Anatomy of the Sea by Dr. David Ponsonby & Professor Georges Dussart (2005). Part of what drove me into this book was its nice hardcover and small package, about 6" X 8" and "over 600 creatures of the deep" as the cover so gloriously proclaims. I was also piqued by the author's both being employed at a Christian college and wondered what point of view they might have taken.
But, alas, it end up being just that - a useless impulse buy. The book utilizes illustrations that go back hundreds of years and the quality of many of those pictures are nearly impossible to decipher. This also means you will often come across incredibly inaccurate depictions. The informational sections, although more up to date, are equal to the "fun fact" sections of a childrens' book, but without the cool pictures those usually have. If you are in high school and desperately trying to buffer the references section of a research paper, then I guess the book has a purpose. I would probably give it to a smart 11-yr old who wants to be a marine biologist, but even then, it could only be part of the present.

RATING: ~ (1 out of 5 waves) because there really is no reason to actually buy it, but it might be fun to share the old fashioned pictures with people who have seen the real thing & can make fun of it too

Today, embrace the compulsive shopper in you - but be sure to keep a salary cap on it!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Blue Planet - The Deep

The Deep is Part IV of BBC's Blue Planet series from 2001. I found it extremely interesting that more humans have visited outer space than inner space; by the latter I mean the deep ocean. Creatures found in this realm are the inspirations for creatures in movies, specifically Aliens and The Abyss... hm, these are both James Cameron films. And, if you have seen his latest creation, Avatar, you probably noticed some really cool plant-like organisms that have a remarkable resemblance to giant christmas tree worms and the seeds of the great eywa tree behave like jellies. I have included a photo I took of 2 little worms seen while snorkeling in the Dry Tortugas.
I'll get the annoyances about The Deep out of the way first. The same idiot who master minded the insertion of ridiculous sound effects in the previous program Open Ocean got his sticky fingers all over this one too. The film could also use some well placed analogies to put size in perspective as well, since there is nothing else in the shot to give scale. For instance, "a siphonophore 40 m [105 feet] in length" doesn't really hit home unless you compare it to something else... like a 10 story building. Overall, this film gives a deep water snapshot of the biota hiding down there; realize there is still so much yet to be discovered. To give a few noted examples from the program - the black smokers (hydrothermal vents) were discovered in 1979, and the brine pools (aka cold seeps) were seen for the first time in 1990. Thank you, Johnson-Sea-Link and HBOI. It can only leave you thinking, "what else is out there?" Maybe creatures that can survive without sunlight in the food chain at all? Oh wait, they found those ecosystems in the deep sea already, didn't they? And that, my friends, is why I rate as follows:

RATING: ~~~~ (4 out of 5 waves) a must see, especially if you want to start a classroom-type discussion

What types of things inspire you? Everyone around you is passionate about something, even the most boring person you know... maybe you should ask what inspires them?

P.S. I totally considered name dropping on this one from the thank you credits... but I choose humility and a smirk instead.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Blue Planet - Open Ocean

Part III of BBC's Blue Planet series reminded me to give a proper shout out of credit to the BBC Orchestra, who plays the opening sequence of music for the series. The extreme talent of those first bars of music really sets the tone, literally, for the show with a sense of majesty and elegance.
Open Ocean will satisfy a few curiosities about the watery desert that covers most of this planet, but in reality only exposes the fact that we still know very little about the largest area of livable space on earth. Think about it... wide open clear blue water... where there is no place to hide, and yet to find life can take days of swimming in any given direction. It is like a crazy game of Battleship where you start out with no idea of where to look, but once your prey is identified, GAME OVER. (insert Pac-Man like bleeps and bloops HERE)
This program really reminds those of us lucky to have actually been in the ocean with a de-fogged mask how different photos are from video when it comes to underwater media. The footage of the shoals / schools (depending on whom you ask) is awe inspiring. The photo to your left I took while snorkeling off a local beach in Boca Raton on a day when all I wanted to do was photograph budding staghorn coral. Needless to say, none of those shots turned out. Now compare that to the video clip below to really get the impact of how many fish are present. Yeah, I took that video clip on the same day so you really can see the difference of still vs. real time; and those darkish spots at the end of the clip are large chunks of rock only about 10 feet down.
The documentary does sport rare shots of animals like the Mola mola, a.k.a. sunfish, coming up from the depths to floating kelp lines that are sheltering cleaner fish. As a very loose storyline, Open Ocean also gives snapshots of the life cycle of the yellow fin tuna: floating eggs, helpless hatchlings, schooling juveniles, and hunting adults. In order for foot webs to really work, there must be massive quantities of the little stuff including plankton, fish eggs, and bait fish just to name a few. This is well explained and shown numerous times in the film.

All is not amazing. The presence of trash, or "flotsam" as referred in the program, is treated as another shelter source, and not, well... trash. It is NOT supposed to be there in the ocean at all, but this is not mentioned as a negative in any way. Disappointment #1. Then, some editor decided the footage of comb jellies requires goofy sci-fi sound effects and a floating crab merits strange and poorly inspired Asian music (I swear you can hear the *gwong* resonating)? Disappointment #2. That is enough in the end to knock the whole picture down a ripple.

RATING: ~~~ (3 out of 5 waves) still worth watching

Enjoy the Olympics and try watching a sport you may have not paid attention to in the past. And I will happily explain the scoring system of "curling" if you are interested!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Perky Pelican washes ashore

Hope you had a happy Valentine's Day (or Singles Awareness Day) and are now enjoying President's Day as well.

For this entry, I am returning to a children's book and find myself in a conundrum over whether or not to expand into more works by this particular author. Let me know what you think...
Perky Pelican: A Tale of a Lively Bird by Suzanne Tate is #18 of a 30 book "Nature Series" as she calls it. The illustrations (by James Melvin) are simple and colorful enough, although not in an Eric Carle sense. Interestingly enough, Tate also has teaching guides and sticker books available for most of her stories too; that's thinking ahead I guess. This story is about a young pelican that hatches, eventually leaves the nest, and must learn to find food for itself, er, himself. Tate has a flair for anthropomorphizing her characters in a way that pushes beyond child-like enthusiasm; compared to many of my scientifically sound friends, I am fairly forgiving in this department. Now, let's be honest... pelicans are funny birds with oddly shaped bodies and c'mon, if you've ever seen one walk, or even "run" it is down right hilarious.
On a positive note, Tate brings up some interesting things about the birds, i.e. chicks sticking their heads into their mother's mouths, the trials of a young shorebird figuring out how to dive and catch fish. As a matter of fact, the book is going on quite well until... Perky Pelican gets lazy.
[SPOILER ALERT!!] Perky decides to start mooching off of the local fishermen's bycatch and the hand feeding and begging behavior begins. I actually purchased this book to teach a class of 4-5 year olds about birds in Florida, and decided NOT to use it because of the downturn on those last several pages. I just could not get myself to pass on the bad practices encouraged by the book. If you are going to buy a kid's book to share with others, spend the extra 3 minutes to finish reading the whole thing before dropping your cash. There are too many good books out there to waste your hard earned money.

RATING: ~ (1 out of 5 waves) ouch... it had real potential and fell to disappointing lows

So here I sit all broken hearted, and wondering if I dare to give Suzanne Tate's many works another shot. I mean, she has written 29 other books, so something has got to be catching on there, right?

Enjoy your greeting card holidays whether alone or with others, and remember to always take a little time off for yourself. And if you are still sad, look on the bright side - chocolates are on sale today!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Blue Planet - Frozen Seas

This evening I was able to delve into the 2nd program of BBC's The Blue Planet: Seas of Life called Frozen Seas. Be prepared for a tighter episode than the introductory program of Ocean World, and I mean that as a good thing. The theme is much easier to follow since, naturally, it focuses on the frozen portions of the ocean. The editors must have used an actual storyboard this time as it flows much better (no pun intended). Perhaps the most interesting term that is only used once though, is polynya, the natural formation of holes in sea ice. I misunderstood Sir Attenborough to pronounce it as 'polenta' and knew that had to be wrong. It took way longer than it should have to figure out what the word was supposed to be, so I have now taken the time to include a definition and an explanation of the process below for your reading pleasure!

Just for fun, let's review: the ARCTIC is the NORTH pole where you will find polar bears, belugas, and all sorts of charismatic macro-fauna. ANTARCTICA is the large, continental land mass at the SOUTH pole. Moms and Dads... you can explain to your munchkins that this is where Happy Feet would have taken place. One of my favorite points made in the film about going down south is how the food chain is masterfully based around krill, who in turn are eating algae off the pack ice. Now that footage is cool, especially when you consider these tiny creatures are facilitating a life cycle that includes huge whales. However, I do not recommend wearing "I like Krill" t-shirts, particularly if your body is on the heavier side or you are opening up for some pointing and giggling.

RATING: ~~~ (3 out of 5 waves) worth watching
NOTE: < ~~~~ if you are using this as a teaching tool; be sure to include it at the beginning of your unit as a fantastic introduction into the biology of both the Arctic and Antarctica>

I also went to the special features section of the DVD to see "the making of..." Ocean World (the 1st program in this series). THAT was a sweet surprise. It focused almost solely on the months of work it took to capture just a few minutes of usable footage that graced the beginning of the documentary. It really puts into perspective how dedicated the crews of documentary work truly are, and it also sheds light into how the BBC put $10million into the making of the entire series.

Wow... that is not exactly chump change, eh? Something to dwell on during tight economic times... how should money be spent? Personally, education and conservation remain fairly high on my list. How about yours?


Polynya or polynia is an technically an area of open water surrounded by sea ice. It is now used as geographical term for seas which remain unfrozen for much of the year. In Russion it means "a natural ice hole" (and haven't we all known a few of those). The term was eventually adopted to refer to navigable waters in both Arctic and Antarctic seas.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Blue Planet - Ocean World

The Blue Planet series was produced in 2001 (released in 2002) by the BBC. They are narrated by Sir David Attenborough, a name you may not recognize but a voice you certainly will if you are a regular documentary watcher. The style of this opening program is very similar to the Planet Earth series, and I would be shocked to find out that Blue Planet wasn't part of the inspiration.
Ocean World gives a very rough representation for the entire series, and therefore does not focus on any one part of the ocean. That means it goes from the blue whale to tides and currents to deep water migrations. So be prepared for lots of video "teasers" that will give extremely basic facts, leaving you wanting more information. I think that is the whole point, but it can lead to this specific documentary being disjointed and your mind might wander off... no disrespect Sir David. This also means the footage is spectacular, and sometimes brutal, so you may not want to watch this with your little one until you have pre-screened it for content. Hey, if your munchkin can handle gray whale calf vs killer whale pod, knock yourself out. No, seriously, knock yourself out because that's just a mean thing to do to a little kid.
There are some great comparisons of ocean animal behaviors to more well known land animal behaviors; this makes it a little easier to digest, particularly for those not so well versed in the ways of the ocean. So, it is a good film for a group without a ton of prior knowledge.

RATING: ~~~ (3 waves out of 5) worth watching

This is a good way to get started for the entire series, and the footage will get your mind primed and ready for future episodes. (which of course we will discuss later!)

Dolphins were probably the original surfers riding the swells far out in the open ocean... think on this when you catch your next wave much closer to shore: who ELSE has ridden this wave?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Baby Honu strikes back

Baby Honu Saves the Day, written and illustrated by Tammy Yee. This is the 2nd book about Baby Honu; see the first Baby Honu post to learn about her style of writing.
In this adventure, Baby Honu is commissioned by Mama Dolphin (Nai'a) to save her stranded baby. The story itself is meant to teach a youngster about how even the smallest creature is still very important and can do great big things. It is a cute and somewhat touching story, but think of it in Disney terms... it is about as accurate as The Little Mermaid is compared to Finding Nemo, so don't expect this to be a biological teaching tool for little ones. Also, if you thought the 1st Baby Honu book was good for 5+ year olds, well, this book goes way beyond that. With all the Hawaiian language built in, you really do feel like you are speaking another language by the end of the book, which is kind of fun and a great cultural teaching tool.

RATING: ~~~ (3 out of 5 waves) worth reading
If you are looking for accuracy, it is not the book for your little ones. But if you want sweetness and fun illustrations, it is right on point. It is worth checking out and deciding for yourself.

Make sure to never take anything you read or see too seriously, because then you might miss out on the real fun!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sea Turtle Surgery

Since having a baby and dropping completely off the face of the planet, I have returned to my watery roots. When Daddy is able to babysit, I sneak off to volunteer at a local nature center that recently acquired the ability to rehabilitate sea turtles. Today was unprecedented as multiple veterinarians, including a few from Disney World, gathered with vet techs and a plethora of volunteers and staff to perform surgery on 30-35 endangered green sea turtles burdened with the fibropapilloma virus. I've worked with this problem before as an intern, and will be reviewing the book Fire in the Turtle House later; it focuses on the early identification and study of the disease.
For really great videos and information on the "event" check out this link:

Just remember - it is great to read, watch, and learn about the ocean, but nothing compares to actively participating in conservation. Certainly revitalizes me!

Take care and more reviews coming soon!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Undersea Explorer Part II

Just an FYI - the Undersea Explorer collection has 25 episodes... so be prepared for LOTS of these particular reviews. I promise to mix things up and not drone on forever.

Episode II - "Treasure Hunters"
First off, this program claims to cover: the discovery of the Atocha, Bermuda, the affects of saltwater on artifacts, the controversy over salvaging, and feature some treasures; that is just not plausible for a show that lasts less than an hour. The sites are interesting, and this is a great film if you are wanting to stir up a dialogue of controversy. Here are some, um, interesting things noted in the film:
  • Treasure hunter Mel Fisher discovered the Atocha, the "mother load" worth millions, and is still looking for more wrecks, in particular the Margharita
  • Henry Cox is an old salt who does his searching over coral reefs with his bare hands
  • These are often considered spectacular archaeological finds, but are treated as salvage expeditions
Are these "adventurers" greedy? Should they be considered grave robbers? Or are they salvaging/saving important parts of history? Think to how King Tutankhamen's tomb was ransacked and we still gleaned such valuable information about the culture... how should these historical sites that are lost without "treasure hunters" be treated once found?

But the documentary itself belongs on the History Channel, not Discovery, and bear that in mind while watching. It is way too short for the amount of material covered as well.
RATING: ~~ (2 waves out of 5); watch if you are bored

Take care and splashing in puddles isn't just for kids!

I have seen the Atocha exhibit as well, and the stuff is spectacular. I am fortunate enough to have found my own doubloon while spending time in the Florida Keys for a sea turtle rehabilitation internship. (I won't give the EXACT location, sorry) Just an FYI too- the crew that salvaged the Atocha used a system that blew the exhaust from their engines to remove the sand... and in the process scattered an estimated $50 million in emeralds all over the ocean floor.
Wanna go to Key West?