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
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?
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.
Many people wonder how inland states can be connected to the ocean environment. In an episode of Diving Deeper, hosted by NOAA, Jeff Adkins explains how the ocean economy is continental-wide. With that said, this week’s blog will consist of a compilation of reasons inland states are connected to the coastline.
Our restaurants serve seafood- that inevitably, comes from the sea.
Factor in transportation and CO2 emissions, and you could say we are definitely involved in ocean issues
We buy products made in other countries- that export their goods via ships
Our agricultural practices release pesticides into our waterways- and “all drains lead to the ocean”- take it from Nemo
We pollute just as much driving to the mountains as we would driving to the ocean
The filter feeders of the oceans take in the pollutants- and then we eat them- gross.
Our activities result in nonpoint source pollution- rainfall and snowmelt moving over and through the ground collect pollutants and deliver them to the oceans- oil, grease, toxic chemicals from urban development, sediment from construction sites, eroding streambanks
Watersheds include the boundaries of streams and moving waters that lead to the ocean. Therefore, the tiny streams you see on your beautiful hike up the mountains high above a mile are included in these watersheds. Streams are ordered numerically, starting with a first order stream, which is characterized as mountainous, tiny streams that include very few fish and many tiny organisms that scrape their food. Once a first order stream and another first order stream join together, they create a second order stream. These streams may seem pristine and beautiful far away from society, but at some point they will join with a polluted, urban river and continue down the pathway to the ocean.
Ocean Ambassadors is changing their game! We have proudly partnered with loveanimals.org, a campaign to save the sharks!
Loveanimals.org is a crowdfunding campaign, #LoveSharks, launches to encourage shark enthusiasts and others following Shark Week to donate to online fundraising campaigns for nonprofit organizations working with sharks. Crowdfunding websiteLoveAnimals.org is hosting the campaign: http://www.loveanimals.org/lovesharks/
The organizations participating have joined together to raise money for shark conservation. Individual donors can support important projects to: organize a grassroots movement towards stronger shark bycatch rule enforcement, ignite an inland ocean protection movement, protect threatened thresher sharks, and to protest shark finning.
“Thousands of people participate in Shark Week every year,” said Dr Rob Moir of Ocean River Institute. “The #LoveSharks campaign aims to inspire caring people to donate to groups like ours – impacting shark conservation like never before.”
Launched in 2013, LoveAnimals.org helps non-profits raise money for animal projects by hosting free crowdfunding campaigns. Unlike many other crowdfunding websites, LoveAnimals.org is a non-profit organization and takes no administrative fees.
“Most animal nonprofits struggle to raise enough money to cover their operating budgets, let alone fund critically needed projects,” said Sarah Timms, founder of LoveAnimals.org. “LoveAnimals.org is a nonprofit, too, and our mission is to increase giving to animal nonprofits by empowering individuals to help animals.”
Social media is a key component of the campaign, and organizations are asking supporters to share with the hashtag #LoveSharks.
Duhhh nuh. Duhhh nuh. It’s Shark Week and we’re vouching to save our sharks! These beautiful creatures may look scary to the outsider, but they make for amazing companions on our deep-sea dives!
Dangers of sharks
Many people assume that sharks are one of the most dangerous predators on Earth. If you go into more research, you’ll find that out of the 480 (and counting) species of sharks, only four of them are considered dangerous. These four species are the great white, tiger shark, bull shark, and oceanic white tip. That means that less than one percent (0.83% to be exact)- of these sharks are dangerous- and only if you provoke them! If you’re diving or swimming in sharky waters, be sure to stay calm! Remember: sharks don’t have arms- they get to know their surroundings by poking their heads around. We’re in their territory- be respectful!
Why sharks are being killed
There are many reasons why sharks are being killed. They threaten humans with their aggressive behavior. Another reason is shark fin is seen as a delicacy in some European countries, as well as shark oils being used in many products. What is interesting about shark fin soup is that the fin isn’t used for the taste of the soup, rather it is used as a thickening agent for the broth. That is a lot of shark waste for a small bowl of soup! When fisherman aren’t decapitating sharks solely for their fins, they may be collecting cartilage, which can be found in pills and powders of health-related issues such as, asthma, eczema, hemorrhoids, etc. In order to determine whether your medication has to contribute to the declining of shark populations, look for chondroitin on your ingredients label. Sadly, these aren’t the only reasons sharks are being hunted. Another is for their liver, which is used in anti-aging creams, lotions, deodorants, hair conditioners and many other beauty products. These products include shark-based squalene, although many companies have vowed to switch to vegetable-based, so be sure to do your research before purchasing your beauty products! Not only are we unknowingly supporting the sharking industry while getting ready for a date, but we may also be eating it! Shark may be combined with other whitefish products for foods such as fish patties and fish sticks! Depending on the type of purse or shoes you’re wearing on your date, you may even be wearing shark! Many high-end designers like Jimmy Choo have used sharkskin as leather as it is unusually durable. Over 10 shark species are being used for this type of material, and can even be used by companies such as Nike! That’s not all. The use of sharks has extended to our pets- it has been found in pet supplements, specifically for joint health, and even chews toys. (Maybe your dog is as tough as it thinks it is- chewing away at shark parts)
Impacts on sharks
Aside from declining shark populations, there are many other reasons that shark hunting is a problem. The stability of marine ecosystems is declining due to the fact that sharks are an apex predator. Foreign fishing vessels that will capture other marine organisms and possibly damage those populations as well are invading local, pristine waters. These fishing vessels that capture sharks only us 1% of the shark (the fin/ cartilage), while the rest of the shark is thrown away and unused. In fact, while finning, the shark is captured and kept aside the boat. The fisherman will then cut the fin off and the shark will sink to the bottom, unable to swim.
Many people understand that killer whales should not be help captive in locations such as SeaWorld, based on the size of the animal relative to the size of the tank. Although, there are many other health issues that arise due to keeping these amazingly beautiful and intricate creatures in bath-tub sized tanks. In this blog, I wanted to discuss two of those issues: collapsed dorsal fin, and tooth decay.
The risk of infections and bacterium in pool-sized tanks due to tooth decay is a high concern for killer whales in captivity as they bite down on steel gates separating the training pools from the performance pools (Jett & Ventre, 2011). I will explain the consequences of tooth fragments and the exposure of the pulp of the teeth. Because the space in amusement parks is not comparable to the size of the ocean, there are elevated risks of diseases (Jett & Ventre, 2011). I have provided background information on health factors, diseases, visible signs of distress, and specific cases on the reasons scientists and societies began to focus on the captivity of orcas. Female orcas have a mean life expectancy of 50.2 years and a maximum of 80-90 years; wild males have a mean life expectancy of 29.2 years, and a maximum of 50-60 years (Olesiuk et al, 1990). Most industry sources insist around 35 years as the maximum captive lifespan (Mooney, 1998). Of the 107 orcas in captivity that have died since 1961, average length of survival was under six years. The health affects presented to orcas in captivity are of concern to medical, veterinary, and orca researchers. The elevated opportunities for infectious agents cause many problems for orcas in close proximities (Jett & Ventre, 2011). Treatments of these illnesses are constantly evolving as veterinary staff is discovering new diseases.
The factors that play into the deaths of orcas in captivity at young ages include: collapsed dorsal fin syndrome, tooth decay, and brain damage, to name the most studied (Ridgway 1979). Collapsed dorsal fin syndrome is a major theme in health concerns for captive orcas because it is not seen in the wild. This is due to the lack of space and movement that orcas are able to carry out in the pools they are held in. Contrary to captivity, the lateral, torsional, and compressive forces generated by consistent moving in the ocean water sculpt vertical dorsal fins (Jett & Ventre, 2011). With the removal of these forces, and the constant surfacing of orcas in captivity, the connective tissue is impaired and results in a collapsed dorsal fin. This phenomenon is not seen in females due to the incomparable size of dorsal fins in females versus males. Male orcas acquire taller dorsal fins than females (Durdab et al, 2006). This also plays from the fact that orcas in captivity do not have to chase live fish due to a change in diet. Now, they eat dead, frozen fish, rather than having to strategize for their meals. This lack of movement causes fins to collapse, as well as provides less nutrition and other health affects.
Killer whales are some of the most aggressive animals on the planet. Ways that they display dominance in cases of captivity include biting down on the steel bars of the pools. This is known as a process called “jaw-popping,” and is used to show another orca that they are of lower hierarchal status than the one showing aggression (Graham & Dow, 1990). In addition to showing aggression, it is very common for orcas to experience boredom and social strife, which is shown by chewing on the steel gates that separate them from their training pools and entertainment pools (Jett & Ventre, 2011). Tooth fragments are commonly found on the bottom of their pools and can leave some of the pulp of the tooth exposed if not picked up. Improper care of teeth can lead to a number of diseases including: valvular heart disease, gingivitis, pneumonia, stroke, and heart attack (Jett & Ventre, 2011). Pathogens have a direct route to the blood stream through open bore holes due to teeth falling out. These can then be deposited into the tissue of various organs throughout the body, such as the heart or kidney. Some orcas have their teeth drilled and are treated with prophylactic antibiotics to control the risk of bacteria. It is known that long-term antibiotic use can lead to health effects aside from tooth decay, such as antibiotic-resistant bacteria, increased susceptibility to certain cancers, and disruption of intestinal flora leading to phytochemical malnourishment (Jett & Ventre 2008). There is also an increase in risk for skin cancer since various antibiotics can cause photosensitiation and phototoxicity to those exposed to UVR. With the constant exposure to the sun, due to minimal availability of shade in the orca pools, the risk of skin cancer is higher in captivity than in the wild.
There are many reasons to care for the ocean. Whether you live on beachfront property, or high in the mountains of beautiful Colorado. No matter where your exact latitude and longitude is, the oceans affect your daily life. The ocean is a vast expanse of organisms, all working together to create a place that I call my home away from home. Some people think of the ocean as an object- a place where constant waves can bring you on a joy ride to shore. Other people think of the ocean as a food source- the place where their oh-so-delicious dinner came from. And then, there are those who think of the ocean as a miraculous, incomprehensible place that brightens your day, or better yet, enlightens your world. Any way that you view the ocean, there is more to it than the human mind can seek. While some wake up to a constant reminder of the environmentally degrading processes that happen on a daily basis, some of us wake up to a crystal clear world disguised by pristine mountains. There have been questions about why it would be important for someone who lives in Colorado to care about the oceans, and my answer is rather long and complex. So, to break it down quite simply, I am going to list what I have compiled as my top 10 reasons to care for the ocean from experience:
I love animals- in fact, orcas are my absolute favorite animal- I want to be able to see them one day (Soon, preferably)
I’m actually a fish disguised as a human- I live in the water, I need the water, I want the water. All the time. Which is quite difficult since I’m not presently living in the Carboniferous era- although I do wish from time to time that the sea would reappear in Colorado.
There is something so incredibly peaceful about walking up on the beach, being seconds away from the cold water touching your toes- and marveling at the forces that are causing the water to beg at your feet.
The blueness- talk about being awestruck- bluer than the eyes of a blonde girl in every country song
It holds so many organisms that my human brain would not be able to comprehend every single organism that it nurtures- although, challenge accepted
It contributes to the climate of our entire planet- that amazing rain you’re listening to- yeah, thank the ocean
It contains the cycle of life within it- WITHIN it- one of the most amazing and inspiring moments of my life was watching a leatherback sea turtle (which happens to be endangered) lay her eggs and go back into the ocean- if you’re interested, look up the Royal Caribbean resorts in Cancun and their effort to help save the sea turtle population
**Fun fact: female sea turtles find their way back to the beach they were born on, by using Earth’s magnetic field, to lay their own eggs. You can read a little more about this here.
It is acting as a landfill-when it shouldn’t be- and causing harm to its organisms
It covers more surface area than the land we, humans, take up- times two.
It doesn’t just get its strength from its mussels- waves and tides are the strongest forces on Earth. Therefore, the ocean is strong. Strong enough to fight against all of the dangerous chemicals and objects we are polluting into it’s beautiful waters.
Now that I have been a part of the amazing organization, Colorado Ocean Coalition, I have learned even more about how important it is to save the oceans, especially when you’re inland. The two main things that I have learned are the ways to help protect the oceans. One: Watch what you do. Even if you live no where near the ocean, the river lying adjacent to your house leads to the ocean. With that said, any piece of trash, or any chemicals put into that river, will be deposited into the oceans. Two: outreach. I have met more people recently than ever before who have asked me why the oceans are in trouble. And it’s disturbing to realize that some people don’t understand more than their eyes can see. Provide outreach to your local community about why it is important for us, inlanders, to deposit of our trash responsibly, and take further steps to protect our oceans. The most vulnerable creatures on Earth aren’t the animals eating our trash, but us as humans, not being able to come together and protect those animals from our own nature.
Colorado Ocean Coalition Administrative Coordinator Position
The Colorado Ocean Coalition (COCO), a project of The Ocean Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) seeks an experienced part time Administrative Coordinator. COCO is a rapidly growing socially responsible organization with a strong emphasis on collaboration and community outreach with a mission, “To inspire an inland community to be stewards of our ocean.”
The Administrative Coordinator will work from their home & the COCO office in Boulder, CO approximately 20 hours/week to provide all aspects of non-profit administration and support. The position may grow to full time.
Duties and Responsibilities
Heavy emphasis on healthy, open-book operation and management
Oversee bi-monthly newsletter: co-write, layout and mail
Maintain COCO MailChimp activities
Manage COCO contracts and licenses
Assist in event planning, i.e. Blue Drinks, fundraising, and social events
Administer database – maintenance and data entry
Manage Website including updates, calendar, and new information
Assist with grant submissions and grant tracking
Supervise a selected intern and/or a job specific volunteer
Coordinate accounting activities and participate in COCO wide budget planning and management
Support COCO Advisory Board activities and implementation plans
Must be computer savvy and proficient in Word Press, Mail Chimp, social media platforms, excel and Donor Relationship Management software
Positive attitude, resourceful approach, and comfortable with a highly collaborative work environment
Self-starter, able to initiate work, complete tasks, pay attention to detail and meet deadlines with minimum supervision
Ability to juggle multiple projects with superb accuracy and a smile
Keen interest in environmental/watershed/ocean stewardship
Strong administrative and database management skills
Excellent written and verbal skills
Bachelor’s degree or several years of work experience in this field
Please submit a cover letter, resume, and 3 references with contact information by July 3rd, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please make the subject line: “AdminCoordCOCO”
Register/ Sign in to The Blue Ocean Business Summit and learn about what is damaging the ocean and how we can fix it! The Blue Ocean Business Summit is a free, virtual experience that streams online until June 19, 2015. The first few sessions include talks on solutions for the ocean, changing business models to become more sustainable, coral reefs and what exactly is affecting them, and how to provide outreach to those who aren’t aware of the everyday issues we encounter. It also includes the insights of the ocean from those who have spent over 50 years diving the vast expanses of diverse marine life. These talks feature many of our most fearless ocean leaders, including our very own Vicki Goldstein, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Dr. Sylvia Earle and many more. They offer up to an hour of how our oceans are being depleted, as well as innovative advice on how to reduce the detriment the oceans are experiencing. Vicki offers an interview discussing one of her new collective initiatives, Blue the Dive, and how the efforts for this program will in turn help save our marvelous blue waters. An inland movement is a very important movement, as many who live mountainside only see the pristine wilderness around them. What most do not realize is that what we deposit in our waterways high up in the mountains of Colorado will eventually find its way to our coastal waterways, and therefore the ocean. Fortunately, Boulder is a rather advanced and environmentally aware location, although outreach needs to be provided for those who are unlike the Boulder area. Many of us who enjoy our log homes on the top of hills also love to explore the cold, salty water that is ever so slightly drawing us to move away from our pristine environments. In order to continue to reach new depths on our dives, we need to be aware of how our daily lives are affecting areas further away than we expected. With that said, Vicki discusses her newest collaborative initiative, Blue the Dive, and how the outreach that this effort provides will spread throughout the diving community.
Blue the Dive is a collaborative effort within the diving community to provide education and outreach on sustainable ways to dive. The main idea of Blue the Dive is for dive shops and dive instructors to sign the pledge, which states the following, as provided by bluethedive.org:
Improve dive industry sustainability and conservation practices
Create a more informed and educated consumer to improve the way our communities interact with the ocean
Improve dive industry manufacturing and supply chain sustainability business practices to reduce waste and increase efficiencies and profits
Support scientific research and actions that protect our ocean resources
Ways that these goals can be reached include, and are not limited to:
Stay in an eco-friendly hotel if scuba diving further from home
Volunteer to dive and help an organization with research- (Reef Environmental Education Foundation offers fish survey and lionfish research trips for scuba divers)
Don’t feed the organisms in the water
Dispose of trash found in water properly
Reduce your single use plastic
Talk to your local dive shop about what “blue-ing” the dive means to them, and how they can partake in this headstrong initiative! Take this short survey here to let us know!
Also looking to get a little more inspiration? Read this blog from the initiative, Ban the Bottle, to learn how you can help keep our oceans safe, and celebrate World Oceans Month!