Monday, August 27, 2012

Water - from a Coconut

Apparently there is another new health craze that I simply stumbled onto based solely on curiosity and cravings a couple of weeks ago - coconut water.
So, water can come from a coconut - yeah, so what? Everyone knows this, right? But to be honest with you I had never tried it until an impromptu and very hot trip to Whole Foods led me to the cool drink section. A huge area was consumed by various sizes, flavors, and brands of coconut water and I figured "Why not? Let's try something new."

I snagged the Vita Coco(c) coconut water with pineapple - hey, sounded like a pina colada to me! Then I grabbed the ZICO(c) pure coconut water from the "buy 1 get 1 free" pile barricading the aisle to try later.  My 3 year old toddler got a kid-focused coconut water with Clifford proudly displayed on the "juice" box by Hansen's Natural Junior Juice in "Very Berry".  Who wants to try something new alone, right?

The main claims about the benefits of coconut water are a boost in electrolytes, potassium (the good stuff in bananas), and it is comparatively lower in sugar than most sport drinks, sodas and even some fruit juices.  Go a step farther to hear claims about how this elixir from nature will alleviate kidney stones, hydrate you better than spring water, and even treat conditions ranging from hangovers to cancer.

The drive home was definitely made cooler and more flavorful by my drink of choice.  Not only did I enjoy it, I wasn't thirsty after drinking it - many extra fruity or super healthy foods tend to leave one feeling a bit dried out.

I was looking forward to chilling the extras purchased and adding them to my favorite new vice: at home smoothies.  My blender died a few years ago, and having a sleeping toddler will keep anyone away from loud appliances; but my husband discovered the blender free smoothie option at our local grocer and I have been hooked!  This summer has been crazy hot across the nation, and a wonderful discovery was the addition of straight up coconut water with smoothie mix instead of juice was a pleasant experiment.

But the greatest part of this new product was part II, also brought about by my husband. He came home from work with a fresh coconut, right off the tree.  We went outside as a family, and he cracked it open with a machete.  The coconuts usually seen here in Florida are green and have been recorded causing damage when they fall.  This includes hitting cars and people, and many home owners associations require their neighborhood inhabitants keep all palm trees well groomed for safety as much as aesthetics or bugs.
Coconuts are technically the fruit of the palm tree.
We held a cup under the coconut once it was split, and collected nearly 20 oz. of clear coconut water.  It has a surprisingly sweet with a bit of nutty aftertaste.  Next, my husband carved large sections of coconut meat out of the husk and we chewed yummy chunks of raw coconut.  Very cool new experience, but it got me thinking... what did I really know about the coconut? Not much - so I decided to do a little bit of research.

A coconut first develops as a small fruit, and can fatten into the large green coconuts pictured above.  These green coconuts contain the most water.  Over time the small white tissue on the inside of the coconut, also referred to as the "meat" of the coconut, absorbs the water and fattens this tissue.  A mature coconut has a hard brown shell, has absorbed most of the water into the meat, and generally falls off the tree on its own. When the water is gone, a "flower" may form inside the fruit, but leave it too long and mature coconuts will still rot like any other produce.  Therefore, I do not suggest cracking open that blackened, slimy coconut that washed up on the beach. Ew.
The Life Cycle of a Coconut
 As for health effects on humans, I went to my trusty WebMD and gleaned this nutritional info:
It has fewer calories, less sodium, and more potassium than a sports drink. Ounce per ounce, most unflavored coconut water contains 5.45 calories, 1.3 grams sugar, 61 milligrams (mg) of potassium, and 5.45 mg of sodium compared to Gatorade, which has 6.25 calories, 1.75 grams of sugar, 3.75 mg of potassium, and 13.75 mg of sodium.
The fact is, natural stuff is often the best for your health.  Eating local produce and honey has been proven to boost immune health and have a lower carbon footprint.  Exploring the local options for fruits, and shopping for items while in season is always smart, and generally cheaper. Here in Florida, coconuts are plentiful.

For flavors and more about the products I tried visit the company sites:
For the cool life cycle photo, check out:

As a kid, we were all forced to taste new things. There is no reason, as an adult, to stop trying new flavors and textures - especially since you don't have to finish anything you don't like!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Local Research: Green Sea Turtles 101

photo by Kirsten Jones - beautiful shot taken in Boca Raton, FL
Many moons ago, a professor referred to the anemone as "charismatic macro fauna".  He was, and still is, a marine plant and algae guy.  Some animals are definitely more attractive to the general population of humans just as some species have a bad rap and strike fear in others.  I have close friends who freeze at the sight of a spider or snake, even if it is just a still photo or on television.  I have family members who do not venture into the ocean for fear of sharks (making my married last name even more ironic!) or jellyfish. There are also good friends in my circle who literally breed reptiles of all sizes, so I like to think of myself as being well rounded in my love/hate relationships with animal species.
    ...Except for scorpions. 
...Not cool with scorpions.

Sea turtles are certainly one of those creatures who have the "charisma" stated by my former instructor.  Today enjoy some background into the world of one particular sea turtle species.  This post does not give all the general information on sea turtles, their life cycles, and information of that sort.  I have decided today to be specific and give those who may already have a love for the marine turtle some knowledge that goes a little deeper.  Plus, at the end enjoy a BONUS!  I received such wonderful feedback about Jellyfish 101 and Evan Orellana's paper, that this time my friend and colleague Cody Mott has agreed to share some of his turtle research with us. Enjoy!

Green Sea Turtles 101:

Happy Birthday, little green turtle!
General consensus in the scientific community is there are seven different species of sea turtles: The Loggerhead, Leatherback, Hawksbill, Kemp's Ridley, Olive Ridley, Australian Flatback, and the Green. There is one noted sub-species to the Green known as the "Black" sea turtle if you really want to get technical.
Most of those species are found in Florida waters at some point in their life cycle, and today the focus is one particular species - the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas).  Greens nest here in Florida, and are also found in local waters as juveniles, feeding on plants and grasses.  There is even a species known as "turtle grass" (Thalassia testudinum).  This last fact is especially cool when you look at the classification of the sea turtle:
Kingdom - Animalia (animals)
Phylum - Chordata (vertebrates)
Order - Testudines
So, the plant is quite literally named after turtles - even in Latin!
Why are they called "green" turtles? Especially as adults, green sea turtles are vegetarians, and just like a flamingo turns pink from eating shrimp, the body fat of these turtles is tinged green from all the plant consumption.  Cool.   Ew.   No... Cool.

Where do they nest?  Green sea turtles are found all over the world, partly in fact due to their migration routes that expand for tens of thousands of miles.  The "long road home" takes on a whole new meaning as this species, along with all other marine turtles, swim back after nearly 30 years to the original beach of their birth.  Florida happens to be a nesting hot spot and considering this species has had some serious downs (endangered status) along with great research and conservation efforts, nesting is back on the rise.  While an individual turtles may nest as many as 5 times in one season, that takes such a toll on the animal that she doesn't return to the beach the following year.  That means a bi-annual pattern of high and low nesting seasons for greens has developed.  Plus, with that really long swim mentioned earlier, just trying to get back every single year to nest would be extremely difficult.

Green turtle track with a distinct tail drag down the middle
These ladies seem make HUGE nests with deep body pits, and often work their way well into the dune vegetation.  A variety of theories are out there as to why this occurs, including that turtle-momma might be nesting as far from the high tide line as possible to avoid her nest washing away during its 60+ day incubation.  Here in Florida, though, when up in the dune vegetation beware of FIRE ANTS. These invasive insects have been regularly documented killing hatchlings (baby turtles) by swarming nests.

Big turtle = BIG PIT
During my years of nesting surveys, I found green turtles occasionally spend so much time nesting (digging, laying eggs, and covering the evidence) that they were still on the beach after dawn.  This also led to me learning exactly how far those flippers actually spray sand while covering their nest.  I stood behind the lovely female below only to be knocked over by the sand blast!
The 3 stakes in front of this turtle mark a loggerhead nest laid that same night. The tracks from that nest are still visible.
Similar to loggerheads and hawksbills, green turtle eggs are roughly the size of a ping pong ball. Green nests are usually larger though, which makes sense as this is a much larger species of turtle. The average green turtle nest has 120 - 150 eggs, with my personal highest count being 174 eggs in one nest.

How big do greens get?  This particular species of turtle can easily grow anywhere from 250 - 400 lbs (110 - 190kg) on average. The largest green turtle documented was 5' long and 870 lbs.

How to identify a green from another species:  Green sea turtles are distinct in a few ways. When looking head-on, there is only one pair (i.e. 2 total) scales between the eyes. Most turtle species have two pair in that location.
The 2 Pre-frontal scales between the eyes are unique to green sea turtles
When looking at the carapace, or top shell, greens have four scutes on each side, and five down the middle.  Their shells may vary in color from green to yellow.  Their shells are usually clean, especially compared to loggerhead turtles; they are even documented on reefs at "cleaning stations" where fish or other symbiotic critters come out to help keep the turtle looking shiny.  Picture the "car wash" in the movie A Shark's Tale and you will get the basic, albeit far more musical, concept.

Juvenile Green Turtle - Carapace View
Green sea turtles are on the rise, but were once a critically endangered species here and in other parts of the world.  Why?  Think about it... this animal is named after the color of its meat.  That would be like referring to cows as "red" cattle.  Humans ate them, and in some areas and cultures still do.  The Cayman Turtle Farm in the Cayman Islands participates both in research and restaurants.  Sea turtles are a part of the lifestyle there; while I have never (and doubt I ever could) eaten turtle of any kind, I do have to slow down and understand that my culture is not the same for everyone.  I do eat meat.  Some humans have chosen a life as a vegetarian or even gone a step further as purist vegan.  No judgement, except on to-fur-key.  If you have never heard of it, good for you. Sorry, vegans. But I digress...
Turtle canneries went out of business long before sea turtles were added to the endangered species list in 1978.  This was due to overfishing practices.  Research and conservation efforts have been in full swing almost ever since.  The point is humans should take responsibility and always tackle feeding our race while keeping sustainability in mind.
Ouch! (I just twisted my ankle jumping off the soap box)

If there is some burning question you have about greens or any sea turtle species, feel free to ask! I'll be happy to share what I know as fact, or else I will find the right answer for you!


I consider myself lucky to have acquired many wonderful friends and colleagues over the years, and Cody Mott is no exception.  I have the honor of bragging that I knew him before completing his Bachelor's and Master's degrees, before his work at Inwater Research, and now even before his marriage to another awesome friend- Rebecca.  Cody's Master's thesis focused on one behavioral aspect of the green sea turtle.  While all sea turtles must orient themselves to reach the ocean as hatchlings, animals with large migration routes must also be capable of finding their way through a multitude of habitats without getting lost.  Cody worked closely with one aspect of green turtles and their ability to find direction using the sun as a compass.  Many of the behavioral studies on sea turtles focuses on the green.  This is because the general consensus among those working with marine turtles on a regular basis is that the green is the most intelligent among the lot.  They are usually the ones trained first in captive settings and personally, I find them the prettiest (sorry, hawksbills).  I am also aware that the last fact is completely unrelated, but thought you should know anyway!
Don't those eyes look intelligent to you?

Sun Compass Orientation in Juvenile Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas)
Department of Biological Sciences, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida 33431 USA

ABSTRACT. – Juvenile green turtles occupy home ranges on shallow reefs that parallel the
southeastern coast of Florida. When disturbed, the turtles often flee eastward toward deeper water. We captured turtles at night and recorded their orientation during the next 2 days while they swam tethered inside a large circular outdoor pool and were exposed to the sun. The turtles from 2 reef sites were significantly oriented eastward. After 7–10 days of exposure to a laboratory photocycle advanced by 7 hours, turtles tested in the same pool were significantly oriented westward, the predicted direction if they used the sun for orientation. Westward orientation was unaffected by placing either disc magnets or brass discs of identical mass above the turtles’ heads. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that orientation under clear skies is preferentially based upon solar cues. However, control turtles exposed for 7–10 days to a photocycle advanced by 1 hour were also expected to swim generally eastward, but, for unknown reasons, failed to show significant orientation. Our results therefore support the hypothesis that the sun is used as a compass, but additional experiments will be required to provide definitive evidence.

To learn more about Cody's research, or to acquire the complete paper, contact him directly or contact myself through this blog and I will be happy to help.  He now works with a fantastic organization called Inwater Research Group. To learn more about their (and Cody's) current work, check out the website:

For general facts about sea turtles, to learn more about the conservation and research going on throughout the entire world, I highly recommend the following sites: or The latter was formerly the Caribbean Conservation Corporation and is most useful when looking into research done in that region of the world.  I hope this post has helped you get to know and love one of my favorite species just a little bit more!

Just keep swimming!
-Callie Sharkey

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Aquatic Patriotism - Celebrating the Olympics

Our country's celebration of Independence Day has passed by with millions of dollars in hot dogs and fireworks consumed across this great nation and I burst with pride like the fiery explosions in the air when thinking of this amazing country.

Before I knew it the Olympic trials were underway and my month long obsession with the most respected athletic competition in the world began anew.  I love both seasons, but let's face it - the Summer Olympics has more WATER!! Snow is technically water, yes; but the direct interaction and diversity of water based sports is embodied by warmer climate activities.

Didn't watch all of it? Don't have the awesome replay abilities that my cable company offers at no charge? Well, my friends, I did not use the word "obsession" lightly.  Whatever was missed has been recapped all the way back into the trials themselves.  On this last day, with the closing ceremony holding its breath in the corridor (praying for a less disastrous display as it's opening partner - sorry, London, that ceremony was for you and absolutely no one else) and waiting for these moments of greatness to be considered history forever hence, I shall attempt to give you the flash bang of water-based Summer Olympic sports.  That means there is no mention of gymnastics or track.  Look for the "Onshore Landoholics" type sites for those stats.

Brief History:  The first modern Olympics dates back to 1896, but the concept of Nike (Greek Goddess of many things, including Victory) was introduced in 1928 and is still used today.  This is London's 3rd time hosting the event (1908, 1948, 2012) which includes 36 sports and 302 events - not including preliminaries and qualifiers. 204 countries.  Over 10,000 athletes (well over).  The US of A is bringing home 104 total medals, nearly half of which are gold.
In case you still aren't certain, that funky design is "2012" with a wave representing the Thames running through it.
Here, ladies and gentlemen, are the results you really wanted to know about!

Beach Volleyball:  The US women swept 1st/2nd with Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings winning gold for the 3rd time.  Yeah, that is just nuts!! These ladies have been through surgeries and child birth in the past 4 years... and STILL lost only game. That is one game when each match is 2 out of 3. HO-LY COW.  Their seriously tough competition came in the form of comrades April Ross and Jennifer Kessy. Impressive, but I think if Kerri teams up with Nicole Brahagn those girls will still be fighting for the top spot. Misty announced her retirement after the big win.

Yes, Ladies, that totally just happened - AGAIN
Canoe Slalom:  Okay, you probably don't know a lot about this sport unless you actually play this sport because the US didn't medal at all in any category.  There are 4 races in this sport included Olympic competition: Women's Kayak (single), Men's Kayak (single), Men's Canoe single, and Men's Canoe double.  Um... we didn't even make it to a final round, so perhaps whitewater should call a little more loudly? I am positive there are some amazing athletes up in the mountains of West Virginia taking on Gauley season everyday, but perhaps they are too far outside of the US Olympic committee's view to be drafted just yet.
For those of you now inspired to break the mold and into this sport, here is how the officials describe the sport:
The Canoe Slalom competition will call for speed, control and precision on the daunting white water rapids at the new Lee Valley White Water Centre.  Modelled on slalom skiing, the first Canoe Slalom competition was held in Switzerland in 1932. The sport was staged on flat water during its early days, but was later switched to white-water rapids.  Since becoming a permanent part of the Olympic programme 20 years ago in Barcelona, the sport has thrilled spectators at the Games with spectacular, non-stop action on the powerful, unforgiving water.  
 Canoe Sprint: Insert long annoying buzzer sound HERE.  I shall admit my own laziness here; with 12 events (4 women's, 8 men's) and digging through half of them to find to US qualifiers, I gave up and realized this is just not our sport... yet.

Italy's gold medal winner Daniele Molmenti in the kayak final of the canoe slalom.  Talk about white water!
Diving: The United States came away with 4 medals - 1 gold, 1 silver, and 2 bronze.  Understand this not currently as US dominant sport, and China is serious about their divers. The Chinese Olympians typically start diving at 4 or 5 years old. Considering my toddler is 3 and currently in Swim School, I honestly cannot imagine having him begin training for Olympic competition starting next year!

David Boudia took gold with an amazing final dive in the 10m platform competition.  In Men's Synchronized 10m platform and 3m springboard, US took bronze.  The Women's Synchronized 3m springboard team fought hard for an impressive silver medal.
Kelci Bryant and Abigail Johnson - synchronized in flight
Modern Pentathlon:  Well, it includes water for awhile at least.  Here ya go:
At the London 2012 Games Modern Pentathlon celebrates 100 years as part of the Olympic Games.  Modern Pentathlon was championed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, and has its origins in a 19th-century legend. The story goes that a young French cavalry officer was sent on horseback to deliver a message. To complete his mission, he had to ride, fence, shoot, swim and run – the five challenges that face competitors in Modern Pentathlon today.
Well, we stank at this too.  Moving on...

Rowing: US medals came in the form of gold in the Women's Eight (8 rowers and a "cox"or "coxswain" yelling out orders from the stern of the boat), a bronze in the Women's Quadruple Sculls, and a bronze medal in the Men's Four.  This is the ultimate of team competition as athletes must row in perfect harmony. Think it looks easy? Spend 15 minutes non-stop on a row machine and take notes on how much your body hurts. Then, compare it to how much MORE your body hurts when you wake up the next day. The term "sculling" is often heard in the same circles as rowing, so here is a clear definition: in sculling, each rower has 2 oars.
Sweet and simple and now don't you feel smarter?!
Gold winning Women's Eight team
New Zealand's impressive gold medal team / Synchronized exhaustion after a race
Sailing: 6 different sailing competitions is still not enough to help the United States garner a medal. But this a growing pastime among more Americans than only those that inhabit the Hamptons on holiday.  It remains something I have never done myself, I am sad to admit - but that is why "bucket lists" exist, right?  I think the next step is to allow sailors to dress as pirates and get into full character; then we might really have a crowd gathering for that sport in local waters!  Or at least allow cannons during races...

 Swimming:  This is by far my favorite to watch from Olympic Trials to Relay Finals.  This is one of the United States' strengths and of course, the sport of choice for the great Michael Phelps, the newly found Missy Franklin, studs like Ryan Lochte and record breakers like Dana Vollmer.  I chose not to include a million photos you have already seen or go on about the stories that by now you already know.  This is simply a list of Olympic Swimming AWESOMENESS in 2012:

16 Gold: Michael Phelps (100m Butterfly, 200m Individual Medley), Missy Franklin (100m Backstroke, 200m Backstroke), Ryan Lochte (400m Individual Medley), Allison Schmitt (200m Freestyle), Adrian Nathan (100m Freestyle), Tyler Clary (200m Backstroke), Matthew Grevers (100m Backstroke), 15-yr old Katie Ledecky (800m Freestyle), Dana Vollmer (100m Butterfly), Rebecca Soni (200m Breaststroke), Women's 4X200m Freestyle Relay, Women's 4X100m Medley Relay, Men's 4 X 200m Freestyle Relay, Men's 4 X 100 Medley Relay

9 Silver: Cullen Jones (50M Freestyle), Michael Phelps (200m Butterfly), Ryan Lochte (200m Individual Medley), Nick Thoman (100m Backstroke), Allison Schmitt (400m Freestyle), Rebecca Soni (100m Breaststroke), Elizabeth Beisel (400m Individual Medley), Haley Anderson (10km Marathon), Men's 4 X 100m Freestyle Relay

6 Bronze: Peter VanDerKaay (400m Freestyle), Brendan Hansen (100m Backstroke), Ryan Lochte (200m Backstroke), Elizabeth Beisel (200m Backstroke), Caitlin Leverenz (200m Individual Medley), Women's 4 X 100m Freestyle Relay

That is 31 medals, folks.

Synchronized Swimming: While I understand the extreme discipline and hard work that must go into these performances... um, it's not really my gig. I tried, I really did.  But since the US didn't have any chance at a medal I chose instead to watch other non-water related competitions.

Triathlon: One of the fastest growing sports in the world (since SUP has not become an Olympic Sport yet) is the triathlon, which by definition includes swimming, cycling, and running - in that order.  So yeah, I watched the beginning and then waited for highlights later.  The United States did not win any medals this season.

Water Polo:  A single, shining gold medal for the US Women's polo team for the first time in history. While these female athletes are quite pretty (can't say that for all the female Olympians), I still decided NOT to portray ESPN the Magazine's version of them.
Nice work, Ladies!
This was an amazing Olympics for the United States, and particularly the women in many more than just water sports.  I was also impressed to learn every country this year had at least one woman participating- again, pretty darn cool.

I am indeed proud of my country, and passionate about being an American citizen.  I feel our own athletes and their competitors carried themselves with pride and great character.  Sure, some of them are cocky and probably say pretty intense things during competition - but these are, in fact, the greatest athletes in the world and have earned that position out right. Anyone who has competed physically in any sport also knows how driven and wired up one can be, often has to be, in order to win.  I try to stay away from tabloids and reality shows and just look at them as athletes representing their country; and I believe they shined and made their country proud.  At least they made me proud.

I hope you enjoyed the games as much as I did!  Try not to forget how inspirational it has been while you wait four more years to see them again.
-Callie Sharkey

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Soul Surfer - Movie Review

While shark attacks remain rare, and even more rarely fatal, they still grab headlines and
garners attention like few other lines in print.  Whether you fear the ocean or thrive on it, those words will definitely get you reading. Where did it happen? What kind of shark? Tell me about the victim? Did they LIVE? Are all questions that have readers scouring the article until the answers are found.

Discovery's Shark Week is also just around the corner (begins August 12th) and most likely more sharks will appear in the news around the same time. People are thinking and talking about sharks, so ride the wave - right?

It is easy to find movies that involve sharks, and while my recommendation of Sharktopus (2010 film with Eric Roberts) is reserved for those who love "D" level movies (Bruce Campbell wouldn't be caught dead in this one) and revel in the unrealistic ridiculousness that is a badge of honor for such films, I went outside the box a bit and found Soul Surfer.  Of course I already knew the basic story of Bethany Hamilton - a young future professional surfer living in Hawaii; in 2003 she was attacked while surfing and lost an arm, but was driven by her passion to surf again anyway. SPOILER ALERT: In real life, Bethany rises above adversity that few people realize and fewer still conquer. So, duh, yeah - she surfs again.

I confess, while I loosely followed the young surfer's story from afar I did not read the book published in 2004.  I knew it became a movie (2011), but with a toddler don't make it to many films these days and missed it in the theaters altogether.  Take a very solid cast that includes an Oscar winner (Helen Hunt), proven actors that have experience in a variety of genres (Dennis Quaid, Craig T. Nelson), a promising starlet in AnnaSophia Robb (Bridge to Terabithia, and many more), toss in American Idol's Carrie Underwood and Kevin Sorbo (yeah, TVs Hercules, same one), and now you have experienced actors ready to work with a heartwarming story.

That's right - heartwarming and inspirational.  The Hamilton family, aside from being avid surfers, also home schooled their kids and were very involved in their local church.  This movie is not about sharks, or even really the ocean from a documentary or conservation stand point. It's not even about the shark.  This film is about one girl following her passion and overcoming all obstacles to reach one goal - to surf.

My favorite line of the entire movie was a simple statement Bethany makes to her father as he is carefully explaining how she must work her way down from an 8'+ long board to a ~5' short board in order to be ready for competitive surfing again.  The line:
"I don't need easy, just possible."

For non-surfers let me explain: I am terrible surfer. I love it and wish I didn't completely bomb, but I totally stink - and I can still manage my 8'6" long board. The shorter the surfboard, the more experienced the surfer.
The general consensus on the Internet Movie Database ( is that Soul Surfer rates about a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.  Mediocre at best.  This all depends on what you expect from the film. It is not Riding with Giants and all about big waves.  It is not a documentary or a horror story.  It is an inspirational feel-good movie with great actors and a beautiful backdrop. So don't expect epic breakthroughs or wild love scenes and you will not be disappointed.  This is a good movie to watch with young kids, knowing at the end everybody leaves feeling better than when they walked in.  If cynical is your general daily attitude, well, then don't expect that to change. No Oscars here, but it is a movie worth watching.

RATING: ~~~1/2 waves (out of 5)

After the movie, try to recall what your passion was as a kid/teen, and embrace it again.  Then ask the kids around you what their passion currently is, encourage it, and be sincere.

My passion was writing- and the ocean.
-Callie Sharkey

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Professor Clark the Science Shark

Keep yourself busy and cool things will happen. 

A brilliant colleague, Brian LaPointe (a review on one of his lectures about artificial reefs posted on 5/9/2010, so now you have an excuse to scour the archives!), serves as the inspiration for a lovable character surfacing in the new children's book series Professor Clark the Science Shark.  I heard about a book signing but missed the opportunity to attend.  So, naturally I dropped a line to Brian asking how could I get an autographed copy.

Within a few days my phone rings and the series' author Scott is on the other end, bursting with passion and enthusiasm for his new project.  Working with children for a huge portion of my life, including conducting Story Time for a couple thousand people over the past 2 years alone, has shown me how quickly child like excitement transmits to the audience.  But it is also easy to burn out when constantly faced with the challenges of teaching children and trying to make the right choices everyday in order to "practice what.  So I took the phone call and the opportunity to meet a talented couple and learn about their creation, Clark the Shark, first hand.

I have reviewed books in the past, and had originally planned to do the same thing here after snagging my autographed copy... but plans always change, right?  I did meet Scott and Karen Lamberson with my 3 year old son in tow.  While he traumatized the office with dancing and race cars, they just smiled and shared the love behind their new endeavor into the world of children's books and ocean conservation.  Perhaps what I like most is that the Lambersons are not trained in marine biology or have spent years doing research - they are normal people who simply have a love for the ocean and all its creatures.  Sound familiar?  Why does anyone get involved in a cause these days?  Knowing this is also why so much care was taken by the authors to ensure that the "Fin Facts" in each Professor Clark book are completely accurate.  Personally, this last fact is super important to me as an environmental educator.  Plus, authors who take the time to research their facts write better stories regardless of the genre or demographic.

The creators are working with a variety of non-profit organizations as part of the mission to make a difference by inspiring the newest generation.  Both COAST Ecology and Shark Savers are already involved, but expect to see more of Professor Clark in the future (I hear from authors Scott and Karen that great things are on the horizon!).

Basically, yeah, I bought the book for myself.  I am looking forward to the next 2 books in the series (which I have already seen - how cool is THAT?!)  I highly recommend the series, particularly for kids ages 6 & up.  Toddlers will not likely sit and allow you to read each word on every page, but the illustrations are fun for them anyway. I am constantly finding my 3 year old pulling out his copy to flip through the pages and tell me what he sees.  Over the next few books, look for unique character development and the chance to meet new creatures with great interactions and an even better message.
Support the local authors in your community - you will find some real treasures I guarantee it!
-Callie Sharkey

For more information:
The book is available at Barnes & Noble, and online through Professor Clark's website and I have learned that special color-yourself t-shirts are soon to follow!