Bring Live Ocean Exploration to the Mountains!

Posted Posted in Got Ocean?, TopStory

Sitting on a 211-foot ship just off the coast of California this summer, I went down to the studio, put on my headset, and with the help of a stellar production team in Rhode Island, starting talking to teachers at a summer development workshop in Colorado. As live ocean exploration and the power of videoconferencing united us, we discussed how engaging classrooms to science in another realm can have a lasting effect on their students.

This past year I was a Science Communication Fellow with the Ocean Exploration Trust for the year, delivering outreach about ocean exploration and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education to audiences around the world. Part of my audience was the 4th and 5th classes in Ft. Collins, CO at Lopez Elementary – A Leader In Me school. Twice during the school year in 2015 I was able to connect with students at this school to talk about the excitement of deep sea exploration, experiment with scientific concepts like pressure and density during hands-on labs, and encourage them to follow along with live undersea exploration during the 6-month long expedition season of E/V Nautilus in 2015. I was thrilled to connect students from Colorado with the excitement of ocean exploration and I know more students are out there in the state ready to apply for the experience of a lifetime.

As part of my fellowship I sailed on board Dr. Robert Ballard’s Exploration Vessel Nautilus for three weeks in August off the coast of California. This ship has spent 3-6 months each year since 2008 sailing the world’s oceans, exploring and sharing live exploration with a global audience through www.nautiluslive.org.

“The Ocean Exploration Trust was founded in 2008 by Dr. Robert Ballard to engage in pure ocean exploration. Our international programs center on scientific exploration of the seafloor and many of our expeditions are launched from aboard Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus, a 64-meter research vessel operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust. In addition to conducting scientific research, we offer our expeditions to explorers on shore via live video, audio, and data feeds from the field. We also bring educators and students of all ages aboard during E/V Nautilusexpeditions, offering them hands-on experience in ocean exploration, research, and communications.”    – from OET Website

The excitement of pure ocean exploration by E/V Nautilus is brought in real-time to your fingertips through a live, streaming feed on the website Nautilus Live. When the expedition is underway questions and answers are addressed from a live chat box and over the air by a Science Communication Fellow and the rest of the team in the control room. From now until the next expedition begins there are highlight reels and footage from 2015 and previous years available at the site.

Take a spin around the site – you’ll see highlights from previous years of exploration across the Mediterranean Sea, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and beginning in May of 2015, the Pacific Ocean for the very first time.

  • Watch a timelapse of the historic transit of E/V Nautilus through the locks of the Panama Canal. Marvel at black smokers and incredible lifeforms living in extreme environments.
  • Click on interviews with the Corps of Exploration – a diverse and talented group of over 120 scientists, engineers, videographers, high school students, college interns, and ship crew members who join Nautilus on its exploration of the known and unknown.
  • See more events and get notified for updates about the 2016 season on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Videos galore await you at YouTube.

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – how can YOU join the Corps of Exploration? Each season the E/V Nautilus sails, a new group (and several lucky returnees) is chosen to become part of the Corps of Exploration. Applications are open now to students of all ages, from high school to recent graduates, to join the exploration in 2016. Find the application details and requirements here – 2016 Opportunities with Ocean Exploration Trust (deadlines are Jan. 18, 2016 for internships and Feb. 1, 2016 for high school honors program).

I am grateful to the students in Ft. Collins for joining the adventure with me and I know there are many more out there who want to bring the ocean to the mountains, so submit your application today!

 

 

Written by Sarah Burgess. Sarah had the Nautilus adventure in 2015 and looks forward to many more by land and by sea. Read more at BurgessAdventures

The Drainage Network

Posted Posted in TopStory

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As most have heard on the news lately, there was an immense incident with the EPA and acid mine drainage into the Animas River from Hold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado. There has been confirmation that the mine drainage has reached Utah and is headed for Lake Powell, which is sourced by the Colorado River. This is a significant environmental issue for a variety of reasons, and we know this because acid mine drainage has been studied by numerous scientists, and its affect on aquatic ecosystems have been documented.

 

Acid mine drainage is a created by a high concentration of waste due to mines that contain dissolved metals reacting with atmospheric oxygen, which was studied by Blowes and his team in 2003. When metals react with oxygen, ferric acid is produced. This chemical creates acidic drainage, which then leaks into pristine streams surrounding the mine and impacts macroinvertebrates. Many organisms are known to be delicate to a change in pH, which can result in mortality if there is a sufficient change. Depending on the concentration, mine drainage does not always create a defined change in pH

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Numerous studies in Colorado have shown that macroinvertebrate densities and vegetation decrease significantly in streams below a mine site as compared to streams above a mine site.

 

The problem with the Gold King Mine’s discharge is that is a concentrated toxic body of water that was released at a very high rate.   The acidic waste will likely kill macroinverebrates as well as larger organisms including fish. Communities living within the region are at risk – they can’t bathe or recreate in the waters and can’t drink the water

 

The discharge rate is at such a high number as compared to studies done in other locations in Colorado, that what may be the result is scary. Therefore, not only will macroinvertebrates be affected, but also so will larger organisms, such as fish. Not only does it affect the organisms within the stream, but it also affects surrounding communities as it is toxic to drink, bathe in, or recreate in. this can cause commercial declines in cities and towns that base their economy off tourism. It would also increase spending, as they have to import quality water for domestic use.

 

On a global scale, it also affects the ocean! All rivers drain into the ocean- but can the mine drainage subside by the time it reaches the ocean?

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Follow the Waterways

Posted Posted in TopStory, Watersheds

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A recap of my first week at the mountain research station includes the following:

  • Endless bottles of lake water, containing a variety of zooplankton and phytoplankton
  • Awareness of what I deposit into surrounding areas (trash, etc.)
  • A heightened sense of adventure
  • A conquered hike to Rollins/ Corona Pass and the Needle Eye Tunnel (which if you haven’t read about- you should)
  • A continuous love for the ocean- as well as lakes and streams
  • An increase in motivation to combine freshwater and marine science studies in graduate school

 

With that said, I have decided to show through pictures rather than text, the effects of alpine watersheds on the ocean, and why it is important to keep them clean!

 

Start:

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Finish!

Protecting the Oceans from Two Miles High

Posted Posted in TopStory

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Location: Niwot Ridge

 

For the next few weeks, I am able to have the opportunity to stay in the outskirts of Nederland, Colorado for a 3-week class on lake and stream ecology. How fitting it would be, I thought, to connect experiences from this class to oceanic issues.

 

            Within the first few hours of class we are welcomed by our professor, and continue into lecture for the first hour. Next stop: Niwot Ridge, elevation 3520 meters. An approximate 10 minute off-roading adventure, followed by a 25-30 minute steep, rocky hike, and we have arrived! While eating lunch and admiring the tree-less slopes of the mountains, we discuss groundwater and precipitation. Groundwater moves approximately a foot per day, but can move faster in more geological areas- such as high alpine environments. As it moves downhill toward the lake and stream systems, the water collects nutrients and minerals that it runs over. Therefore, by the time the groundwater gets to the oceanic waterways, it could have collected thousands of feet worth of particles, whether it is nutrients or pollutants. Even these high alpine areas have pollutants, through precipitation. For example, sodium chloride would not be abundant in mountain regions, although there are trace amounts of it found. Why would sodium chloride be present here? Well, precipitation in these areas comes from evaporation from the ocean, hence oceanic nutrients are cycled to the mountains, and vice versa. This enhances the importance of maintaining healthy oceanic and alpine ecosystems! Another nutrient that was found to be in these high elevations was ammonia. This was due to food plots, in which food for a desired animal is plotted on land in order for it to be easier to hunt. It is the same concept as planting crops in association with fertilizer runoff. There are many issues with runoff, mostly concluding that it will lead to eutrophication.

 

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Location: Left Hand Reservoir

 

 

Bringing the Beach to Colorado…

Posted Posted in Ocean Ambassadors

You might be wondering why there is an “Ocean Coalition” in Colorado, and furthermore why they are spouting out newly trained “Ocean Ambassadors” armed with the knowledge and skills to go out into the community to address “ocean issues.” I know that sea level rise is problem, but Colorado isn’t exactly ocean-front property yet…

(more…)

Introducing the Colorado Ocean Coaltion

Posted Posted in TopStory

The Colorado Ocean Coalition…what? That doesn’t make sense. Did the Colorado River become the sixth ocean?

Don’t worry you haven’t missed anything, the Colorado River is still a river. And while hearing the name Colorado Ocean Coalition for the first time might throw you for loop, the reality is an inland based ocean organization makes perfect sense.

Living along the coast isn’t a requirement for caring about our oceans. In fact, it doesn’t matter where you live; we are all impacting the health of our oceans. Thanks to modern technology and a global economy, a fish caught off the coast of South America can end up on a dinner plate in Colorado. But should you be eating that fish?

Well…that depends. Is the fishery sustainable? Did the fishing method destroy other ocean habitats? Does that fish contain a heavy dose of mercury? Aren’t these things you would like to know before digging in? And you certainly can’t ask a baked fish those questions.

The Colorado Ocean Coalition is filling an inland ocean void by raising awareness of ocean issues and getting more people to start asking questions. This is very exciting because the more people ask questions the more they begin to make conscious consumer choices and the more power we all have to affect change.

Now with an ocean coalition in place, Colorado and other inland states can work with coastal states to develop healthy ocean policies and legislation inland. Hawaii passed a statewide ban on plastic bags this summer that becomes effective July 1, 2015. Wouldn’t it be great if an inland state did the same?

The possibilities are endless and every move in the right direction helps our oceans. Executive Director Vicki Nichols Goldstein sums it up best with her favorite question, “Do you really need to see the ocean to save it?” Definitely not! So join the Colorado Ocean Coalition on their quest to save our oceans and check out their website to start learning more about hot ocean topics. Because whether you live a mile high or at sea level you can be part of the solution.

Colorado Ocean Coalition’s 2nd Annual Event, Making WAVES is coming up on October 20th and 21st! Held in Boulder, this multifaceted symposium and celebration highlights ocean issues, solutions and is a change making event for engagement and national action. Making Waves provides the general public access to and opportunities to interact with cutting edge researchers, well known speakers, award winning film makers and advocates creating an upwelling of supporters and inland ocean activists. Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of Jacques Cousteau, will be the keynote speaker for the weekend.

Click here for 2012 Making Waves symposium information.

Click here for REGISTRATION and TICKETS to Making WAVES 2012.

Pre-registration for the Ocean Symposium is free, but required. Also, don’t forget to order a box lunch from The Purple Bus !

Carolyn Kraft is a freelance writer, content developer and social media manager for Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, and whale watch naturalist. She blogs at oceanwildthings.com.

Image Credit: Claudio Garzon