Heather Spence, Marine Biologist
Orchestrating Coastal Marine Ecology Investigation and Outreach

Heather Spence, Marine Biologist

Solar Power!

This is from the Swiss Embassy —

Riding on Sunshine

Swiss schoolteacher Louis Palmer and his SolarTaxi are driving around the world on a mission—to show the world that solar energy technologies are feasible and ripe for development. The SolarTaxi, built in cooperation with four Swiss universities, is fueled entirely by the sun. By the time he finishes his trip in December 2008, Palmer will have driven through five continents, over 40 countries and over 33,000 miles without spending a penny on gasoline.

Palmer arrived on the East Coast of the United States last month and held several events under the banner of ThinkSwiss-Brainstorm the Future to promote alternative energy together with the Swiss Embassy in Washington, D.C., The Consulate General in New York, and swissnex Boston. Palmer presented his car to students and staff at such prestigious universities as Georgetown, New York University, and Harvard, among others. He also gave test rides to Washington, D.C. government officials and drove UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to work in Manhattan on his morning commute.

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Plastic Pollution, cont.

Thank you Susan for bringing this excellent article to my attention!


Their tips:

8 Ways to Reduce Your Exposure
The following practices will help protect you–and most importantly, your children–from harm caused by endocrine disrupters. Learn more about endocrine disrupters at Theo Colborn’s site www.endocrinedisruption.com.

1. Drink out of and store food in glass, stainless steel, porcelain, or BPA- and phthalate-free plastic.

2. Don’t wash plastic items in the dishwasher, which can cause endocrine disrupters to leach onto other items. Wash plasticware in warm, soapy water instead.

3. Never microwave plastic–the heat may drive endocrine disrupters into food.

4. Throw out scratched or hazy-looking plastic containers, which are more prone to leaching chemical nasties.

5. Limit or eliminate canned foods, especially baby formula. Acidic foods such as tomatoes are more likely to absorb the BPA in the can linings.

6. Make coffee or tea some other way than running hot water through a plastic appliance. Good alternatives: A glass and stainless-steel French press or a stainless-steel percolator.

7. Search the chemical content of toys at www.healthytoys.org. PVC content is listed (phthalates are not), but toys made with PVC generally include phthalates.

8. Go to this site for a list of phthalate-free cosmetics.

Safer Plastics by the Numbers
To avoid the most dangerous plastics, look at the number in the recycling triangle located on the bottom of the container.

1-Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, PETE): Used in soft-drink and single-use water bottles. Can leak the heavy metal antimony.
3-Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): Contains phthalates.
7-Other: This catch-all category includes bisphenol-A.

2-High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
4-Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
5-Polypropylene (PP)

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Passive Acoustics

doen’t need self esteem training – the term “passive” distinguishes the approach from “active” acoustics, which includes SONAR and other methods of emitting sounds and receiving the echoes to collect information about the environment. Passive acoustic approaches do not emit sounds, but simply receive the sounds from the environment.

Much information can be gained through passively gathered acoustic information from the coastal environment, including calls made by marine animals, physical vibrations of water and natural phenomena, and anthropogenic noise such as from motor boats.

We can practice “passive acoustics” ourselves without any special equipment, just by using our ears to listen. With the emphasis we place on sight, we often overlook what we learn about our surroundings through hearing. While you are visiting the coast, try paying special attention to the soundscape – you might be surprised at the range of sounds and information you can piece together.

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Spiny Lobsters

are like cellists

they have a very specialized parts of their antennae that they rub against their head like a bow on a string

check out their sounds as well as other sea creatures’ at – http://www.dosits.org/

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Ocean Dump

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean is an island of trash the size of Texas.  Most of the trash is plastic.  And this is just the plastic that has yet to photo-degrade (break into smaller pieces, but never completely integrate into the environment) and floats – imagine the rest of the trash, that has sunk and smothered the marine life, or that has been eaten by and killed sea turtles, fishes and birds…

To read more about the dangers of plastics and the trash island in the North Pacific Sub-Tropical Gyre check out:


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Rubber Duckies

can be physical oceanographic research equipment


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Plastic Pollution

We are filling our oceans with toxic plastic!  Many people now know that plastics are not biodegradable – they don’t rot like wood or rust like metal.  But who cares?  So there’s some plastic bottles and plastic bags floating in the water, oh well.  Maybe they’ll just sink and after a really really long time they’ll dissapear.  Well… not ok.  For one thing, animals mistake the plastic for food (classic example sea turtles think plastic bags are jellyfish) and when they eat them, they get sick and die.  Not just from the structure of the plastic, although that is a problem, but also from the toxins.  Plastics contain all kinds of toxins from how they are made, and also they absorb toxins from the environment.  While they do not biodegrade, over time they disintegrate into tiny toxic nuggets. 

Check out: 



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Coral Reefs

They’re alive!!!  Some corals may look like rocks, and others like plants, but they are actually huge colonies of tiny animals called polyps.  The coral structure ‘homes’ they create and live in form an intricate environment which in turn provides refuge for many other types of marine life.  When we talk about coral reefs, we are talking about not just the structure created by the corals, but all the life that lives in and around them.

There are two main types of corals – hard corals (the ones that look like rocks and are rigid, like Brain Coral), and soft corals (the ones that look like plants and are flexible, like Sea Fans).

The largest coral reef in the world can be found off the coast of Australia.  The second largest is found off the coast of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.

2008 is the International Year of the Coral Reef, to raise awareness about the importance of protecting these rich and fragile ecosystems.

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Snapping Shrimp

Did you know that perhaps the loudest sound in shallow waters is made by animals the size of your pinky finger?

Snapping shrimp have claws (which makes them look a bit like baby lobsters), but one claw is much bigger than the other. They shut or ‘snap’ their big claw so quickly that it creates a vacuum bubble – the bubble bursts and produces a loud popping sound! (described by Versluis et al, 2000 in journal Science)

Next time you’re walking on a beach or a pier listen for their distinctive crackling sound!

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there’s sound in the seas…

from the crackling of snapping shrimp, to the whistles of dolphins; from the crash of a wave on a rocky coast to underwater earthquakes, the sea is far from silent.  Humans contribute to the soundscape as well, in minor and major ways – for instance, recently there has been significant exposure to the harmful effects of SONAR on whales.

Sound in the sea is especially interesting for the very fact that it is under water, and so has different properties.  In particular, water is denser than air, so the sound pressure waves travel faster.  This is part of why when we are underwater it is difficult to localize where a sound is coming from.

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