The national bird of the United States is the bald eagle, a symbol of freedom and power that can invoke an unparalleled sense of pride in Americans. The bald eagle is a spiritual symbol and charismatic bird, yet it was once almost driven to extinction. Contributors to the bird’s decline included: loss of habitat due to development, illegal fatal shootings from farmers who believed that bald eagles were a threat to livestock, and post-WW2 use of the agricultural pesticide Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) which contaminated the eagle’s food source and affected the strength of its eggshells.
Thermos filled to the brim with steaming coffee, my mind buzzed with the day’s tasks of collecting people’s powerpoints, compiling presenter and panel bios, and attempting to orchestrate a smooth transition between presentations. This scramble of thoughts, as my heels relentlessly clambered up and down auditorium steps, was not how I initially envisioned the conference to be. Nevertheless, it was a valuable experience that helped me grow, not just as a researcher, but as a member of society.Read more
In the spring during his interview class, professor Marc Miller would always stroll into the classroom, look you dead in the eye, and ask, “Are you excited for the summer?”
We were excited. We’d planned on doing thesis work, going hiking and diving, and doing all the things normal twenty-somethings in grad school would do. Then it all crumbled. And we weren’t excited anymore.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts is known for a lot of things; sandy beaches, overfilled lobster rolls, and countless Kennedy tragedies. However, over the last few years, this summer vacation destination has become known for something else: sharks. Although sharks are not unheard of in New England, the last time sharks became synonymous with Cape Cod was in the mid 1970s. With last year’s shark-related death and almost 300 Great Whites visiting each summer, the word “shark” is on everyone’s mind throughout the Cape.Read more
In 2014, 80 feet underwater in the Galápagos, surrounded by hammerhead sharks and black-striped salema, I experienced a moment of emotional clarity that sparked my desire to protect this planet. This underwater moment, with all its unimaginable curiosities and bursting biodiversity, affirmed my commitment to promoting marine conservation over my lifetime.
In the years since, I’ve wandered the world leading wilderness trips, writing stories for PBS NewsHour, substitute teaching, coaching tennis, working temp jobs, and fumbling through all the responsibilities and obstacles that come with being a twenty-something — the clarity of my life’s mission and my confidence that I could make a meaningful difference in the world becoming faded and fuzzed along the way.
For the first Currents blog post of the school year, Sallie Lau, the managing editor, interviews Brittany Hoedemaker, the editor-in-chief, about the importance of science communication, what makes good sci-comm, and what readers can expect out of Currents this year.
Who is Brittany?
I’m a second year SMEAgol and the editor-in-chief of Currents! Perhaps more importantly, I’m also a golden retriever enthusiast, a native Seattleite, and a shark lover.
On a transatlantic flight this spring, I met a climate modeler at the back of the plane as we peered out of a tiny window to look at the ice breaking up over Hudson Bay, a phenomenon that NASA’s Earth Observatory says now happens two weeks earlier than it did in 1988. We talked about our careers; he was a climate scientist looking to retire soon, having spent his entire career using data to model current and future impacts of climate change, and I was weeks away from my attaining my master’s degree in marine affairs and just starting my career, hoping to continue the fight against climate change on a wider political stage.Read more
So I heard you’ve been talking trash. #Trashtag, that is. In the past few months, posting pictures of litter cleanups has swept across Reddit, Twitter, and Instagram. The trend consists of posting before-and-after pictures of outdoor areas that people have cleared of garbage. All around the world, places like parks, beaches, and rivers are getting a facelift as bags of trash are hauled away and social media users post another selfie on their accounts.Read more
Most of us in the Puget Sound area are aware that the iconic Southern Resident Orcas and the food chain that supports them are exposed to toxic contaminants, habitat loss, hydropower dams, vessel strikes, noise pollution, ocean acidification, climate change, and overharvesting of Chinook salmon – their primary source of food. But there may be another threat lurking in our waters that is relatively unnoticed: invasive zooplankton.Read more
This past winter, a severe cold wave caused by a weakened jet stream around the Arctic polar vortex triggered the coldest Arctic outbreak in the United States in over two decades. Low temperatures shattered records: more than 340 daily low temperatures were broken across the Midwest alone, hospitals reported hundreds of cases of frostbite and hypothermia, residents of Minnesota were shocked to discover that their toilet bowls were freezing over, and cities scrambled to prepare shelters for those who were not fortunate enough to live in a warm house.Read more
I think about, learn about, and talk about the impacts of climate change day in and day out. When I flip on the TV or read the news at the end of a long day of climate-focused class and work, there it is again. The inescapable dark cloud of our climate reality is ever-present, and it’s time to admit: some days it weighs me down.Read more
A few months ago, I received a proud text from my mom that she and my aunt had both refused straws at dinner. Like the other 34 million of us, they had seen the video of a turtle having a straw removed from his nose and were moved to action. Following the video and a celebrity-backed #stopsucking social media campaign, policy-makers and companies like Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Alaska Airlines initiated plans to phase out straws and other single use plastics.Read more
Close your eyes and imagine a pristine region of a mountain range with snow-capped peaks, glacier fields, precipitous cliffs, dense forests, and rolling hills blanketed in beautiful flora. In your vision of this pristine region, are humans a part of the natural environment or are they a separate entity? Perhaps this mountain range is the Pyrenees Mountain Range, extending almost 500 kilometers from the Bay of Biscay on the Atlantic Ocean to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, forming a natural border between Spain and France with the microstate of Andorra sandwiched in the middle.Read more
Technology could be blamed for many of the environmental problems we face today. It’s no coincidence that unprecedented increases in greenhouse gases began around the time of the Industrial Revolution. So what role does technology now play in solving those problems? As it becomes an increasingly large part of our everyday lives, it’s no surprise that technology is also becoming a more central part of the way we try to solve some of our planet’s biggest environmental challenges.Read more
Making travel plans for the summer? You’re not alone: according to the World Bank, a staggering 1.3 billion people traveled internationally as tourists in 2017, and reports estimate that number will continue to grow. There’s no question that we are adventuring more than we ever have, and modern technology continues to make it easier and more affordable to tackle our travel bucket lists.Read more
What makes an environmentalist? Awareness? Recycling? Voting? As the environmental movement has evolved and become popularized over the past decades the boundaries have blurred, making it increasingly difficult to define what or who is and is not considered a part of the movement.
There are countless ways now to engage and to exercise your claim as a champion of the environment: going vegan or vegetarian, traveling less, refusing a bag, shopping at thrift stores, taking the bus or biking instead of driving, and so on.
When you think about conservation projects, what is the one thing they seem to lack more than anything else? The answer is often resources – capital, human, or both. A recent study looked into the management practices of 433 marine protected areas (MPAs) across the world (Figure 1). The study observed that around 65% of these MPAs were suffering from inadequate budgets and 91% were suffering from a lack of qualified staff to conduct key management duties.Read more
We talk a lot about “conservation management”. What are the best ways to protect orcas? How should salmon stocks be managed for sustainability? Where is the best place to put a protected area? While the focus of conservation questions like these are to conserve some sort of natural resource, so it might seem like natural science is the best way to inform this management.Read more
In honor of World Book Day (April 23rd), the Currents staff wanted to put together a list of some of their favorite marine and environmental books. See below for your next great read!
A Fish Caught in Time: the Search for the Coelacanth by Samantha Weinberg (1999)
Non-Fiction – Coelacanths, History, Politics
The coelacanth was once thought to exist only as fossil specimens—no living specimens had been reported.
Seattle’s Duwamish River estuary has something new afloat along the shorelines. If you have the chance to visit the river this spring, you might see several structures holding large, square mats of wood straw, biodegradable foam, and other natural materials tethered to piles near the river’s edge. You might also see me or other team members perched on the wooden frames, counting fish, measuring plants, and sampling water quality.Read more