Juvenile Spadefish

Juvenile Spadefish
I took this picture this summer

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Why Trump is irrelevant on the Paris Treaty

        The events of the past week on the global stage have been extraordinary.  Our President has travelled the world, met with his European peers, shook hands (vigorously) and come home.  Upon return, in the pale of this important meet and greet trip, President Trump has chosen to slam the door on the global community by rejecting the Paris Climate Agreement- a global treaty aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  This has many understandably dismayed, not surprised, but upset.  The world is looking to us for leadership, but we sit now as the mercenary state, turning our back on this critical effort at this pivotal time, because we are too greedy and shortsighted to act.
        I however believe in a rather different version of reality, where President Trump's actions don't really matter- mine do.  In fact, the Paris Agreement was enacted by heads of state in word, but it is carried out by all of us in the global community in deed.  Therefore, President Trump may have turned his back on Paris, but you and I do not have to, in fact, we should double down to do what we can to make this right, all of us.
        How can this be?  Doesn't the government control climate policy?  Of course not.  The government can set CAFE standards for automobile efficiency at low 1990's gas guzzling levels- but they can't make you buy a Hummer.  The government can license 52 new coal fired power plants- but they cannot make you forego solar panels.  The government can permit a new pipeline in your backyard, but they cannot make you run your AC at 66 degrees all summer.  Get the picture?  We are the change that needs to happen, not Trump.  It is the actions of each and every citizen of planet Earth that contributes to the greenhouse gas emission that the Paris Treaty seeks to abate.  We as individual Americans set our goals and personal commitment to the health of our environment.  As a consumer, your dollars have a voice that politicians and big business will listen to- so speak out!  Tell businesses with your actions that you demand clean products with small carbon footprints.  Shop at the local farm stand and reduce your food miles and food waste.  Purchase LED lights and energy star appliances; make your home as energy efficient as you can.  Buy an efficient vehicle, carpool, keep your tires pumped up and your engine tuned, and plan your routes to save trips and miles.  Recycle your old clothes to the local thrift or Goodwill and buy fewer impulse purchases at Walmart.  Stuff does not make us happy- memories, activities, days spent with friends and family do.  Changing our way of life to reduce the lust for "stuff", shopping as a hobby, and constant acquisition and instead being "do-ers" for pleasure and entertainment.  Instead of going shopping- go kayaking, go rock climbing, have a picnic, learn how to sail, go for a family walk or just sit around with a bunch of good friends having a laugh.  Bringing home the latest chachki from  Taiwan or outfit from China cannot hold a candle to time spent with good friends.   Live life, don't acquire it.
      In defiance of our President's shortsightedness on the Paris Treaty- be the change yourself and make his decisions irrelevant for your part in this global effort at change.
           You'll be happier and live lighter on this Earth.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What does the American Environment mean to you?

I am not sure where to begin these days other than to ask the question- What is important to you?  If you are reading this blog, I hope the study of our Earth systems and oceans has brought you here. What do we do as a result of our knowledge of the environments, ecosystems and organisms of our planet?  Do we sit as passive bystanders while they are compromised, questioned, sold off, or otherwise destroyed?  How do we as objective, rationale practitioners of science live in a natural world as part of it, not controllers or exploiters?
      We have studied the impacts of resource extraction as a part of our geology learning.  We have studied the benefits and drawbacks of natural gas and considered worst case scenarios therewith.  Consider now the Dakota Access Pipeline.  The US Army Corps of Engineers has an open public comment period right now wrt the re-opening of this project that was recently canned.  It is an important exercise in democracy to understand how the government considers public input.  Check out the link to see for yourself.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Happy New Year!  No, I haven't lost track of time.  This is the start of a new academic year coming up and it does help us to think of it in some of the same terms as start of a new calendar year.  For example, making resolutions.  As we start a new school term, it pays to examine our past performance, our goals and dreams and our behaviors that have led to success or perhaps disappointment.  Further, this time of renewal offers an opportunity to approach our academic challenge with a fresh eye, renewed commitment and determination.
     As I have been watching the Olympics this past few weeks, I am so awed by the level of personal investment of the American athletes, and their sheer awesomeness!  Think of how hard they have worked!  Think of the personal sacrifices, the time spent, the focus, the determination!  In spite of many, many things we mere mortals might term hardship, every great star in Rio has said they "just wanted to have fun out there"- and this is such an important thing for us all to learn.  As an athlete, as a student, as anyone who commits themselves to a difficult task- you have to love what you are doing!  You have to find what joy there is in the activity- so it is with swimming and gymnastics, as it is with intense academics.  We visualize our future, we set goals, we strive and find purpose, accomplishment and yes, joy, in these pursuits.
     So my friends, as summer winds down and we launch into a new year, pause and consider why you are on the Virginia all star academic team!  What gives you joy in your education, and strive to find it somewhere everyday you are at school because that is where success lies.  Peace out... :)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Student Research Projects and VJAS

CBGS Students did a great job at VJAS, writing great papers, making great presentations and overall being excellent.  While we love to be recognized for our work, the real joy in our research is the doing and the things we learn along the way.  Check out the best day ever on the Rappahannock River, me and Sam Gale out hanging out with nature.    Hopefully this will inspire you to do the same.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why Should You Care?

As we learn about our global biosphere and it's workings, we should also be thinking about the other organisms that inhabit this planet with us.  Sometimes in our incredibly busy lives we forget that there are other creatures on this ride with us, and that they feel the direct impact of our decisions, our actions and our inactions.  Two very interesting reports are attached here that have just come out on BBC news regarding habitat loss and the global accounting of all true Plantae on Earth.  Having lived in Africa, the Inherit the Dust piece is very close to me, and I find it a very compelling story as I know areas that were very remote and wild that I lived in are now much more affected by people.

 The other article on plants reminds us of what we still do not know, and how our relationships with our primary producers is one that is absolutely fundamental to our survival and success.  We are facing a massive loss in biodiversity because we have not prioritized the preservation of wild habitat in our human lives- this needs to change.  What can you do?  Set aside a little place for wildness in your landscape, let some weeds grow and bloom, set up a bird house, plant some native plants, and if you can't do those things- support those who do.  As a consumer, make wise, careful choices like buy from sustainable sources, organic, and farmer friendly.  Avoid products that negatively impact wildlife like palm oil, overly processed foods and things with a lot of waste packaging.  Send a signal to big business that you prefer more careful products that put a value on your environment and we will turn the tide to a better environmental future.  Every little thing does count!

Inherit the Dust

Global Plant Count- Concerns

Friday, April 22, 2016

Happy Earth Day 2016!  To me, this is one of the most important days of the year!  It is a day when we recommit ourselves to the understanding and stewardship of the world around us.  Through our study of environmental science and the oceans, we gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the limitations of our system, for the finite nature of resources, and the fragility of life's relationships in our ecosystem.  Today and this weekend, try to spend just a little time appreciating the air your breathe, the clear water that flows from your tap, the beauty of the butterflies in your backyard and imagine how different our lives would be were this not the case.  Then go out and do one deliberate act that will make your environment a better place!  Pick up some trash on a shoreline or roadside, plant a tree or some vegetables, eat a vegetarian meal, ride your bike or carpool with friends- small acts that are intentionally done are the key to the problem, I am convinced.  So go out and enjoy one day for our beautiful Earth, and perhaps you will be inspired to celebrate every day as your Earth day.

Friday, June 12, 2015

CBGS Student Research

One of the best parts of my job as a teacher at CBGS is my role as a mentor of student research.   Marine scientists are inherently curious people, and research is how we address our curiosity.  We make observations, wonder why something is the way it is, and then we set out in an objective, systematic way to answer our questions.  This year we have the extraordinary opportunity to team up with the residents of Cherry Point, Gwynn's Island, Mathews, on a project looking at the efficacy and impact of an engineered, artificial reef.  The biogenic reef project is being guided by myself and Mr. Darryl Nixon, the inventor of the structures, and being executed by CBGS students.  It is not called an oyster reef because the goal is to provide habitat and structure for a myriad of Chesapeake flora and fauna, and the structure is not purely oyster based.  We do hope that oysters will set on the reef, but that is yet to be observed as we are early in the game.  So far, the students have sampled twice and found distinct changes in the reef assemblage, from a fairly clean surface in May, as the structures were pretty fresh in the water, to an incipient mixed algal cover and some barnacles just recently in June.  We have found more fish and crabs in the vicinity of the reef than in the off-reef environment and so far we are heartened that the reef is indeed doing what it was designed to do!  I am particularly excited by the algal cover, as macroalgae serve many, if not all of the same ecological functions, as SAV in terms of photosynthesis, O2 production, refuge for small critters, food for grazers, etc..  Here are some pictures I took of the algae from the reef!

We look forward to more work on the reef and will keep posting!  In the meantime, check out the recent article from the Daily Press about our project.  Way to go kids!

CBGS Students Research on Mathews Biogenic Reef