A great dive our troop did recently in Lake Travis: the sunglass hunter specialty! It was hosted by Matt Jacobs, on a Giant Stride boat. He let us pay for the class in Girl Scout cookies!
First we talked about what sort of odd shapes the sunglasses make. You have to be able to recognize those even in low visibility, and lots of times they are covered in algae. Picking them up isn’t as easy as it sounds, either. When picking up something out of the muck, you have to angle -your feet upwards so that you don’t stir up the bottom. Not only would that be bad for your buddy, it also could make those expensive Oakleys you just found disappear! Now that we knew the basics, it was time to dive! And boy, did we find sunglasses! We also found some really strange things: A wig, a ring (we think it’s platinum), 32 dollars in cash, a steak knife, a fitbit that was still on, and lots of other weird stuff!
And it helped the environment! Along the way, we picked up a lot of trash and treasure, but they can both be bad for the lake. If we hadn’t picked up those sunglasses, they could have been there for many years to come. Then they might break down and their little plastic pieces will wash out to sea, and get eaten by some poor creature.
So if you have the chance to be a sunglass hunter, or just participate in a lake cleanup (which is coming up) take it! You are helping fight against litter and save our oceans!
Last weekend was Women’s Dive Day, and I can tell you, we had a blast! Jennifer Idol even came to hang out with us, and you can sea Sandshark and I on her Instagram. A lot of people went on the scavenger hunt, which was really exciting because we knew that everyone loved it.
I am glad that we get to participate in Women’s Dive Day. It is important to celebrate our wonderful female divers that have changed how we dive today with their significant discoveries, bringing awareness, and being pioneers in a mostly male-dominated sport. Not only have they broken the glass ceiling and accomplished so much, many turned around and educated us about the underwater world. We have them to thank for the many advancements in scuba diving and how we view the aquatic environment today. Like how Dr. Eugenie Clark taught us that sharks are trainable, Sylvia Earle broke the record for deepest untethered dive, and Tamara Brown developed the standards for commercial scuba diving certification for ANSI.
And on Women’s Dive Day, we get to teach others about these wonderful ladies that made big changes. There’s no better way to spend a weekend, so next year come out and join us!
by: The Cool Cuttlefish
For Women’s Dive Day, I interviewed Women Divers Hall of Fame photographer Cathy Church, and we talked about dangers to the ocean.
Fishing is a fun activity. But there is a difference between safely & practically fishing and harming an ecosystem by endangering or removing whole species! Overfishing causes an imbalance in marine ecosystems, or simply just dropping fish populations as a whole. Did you know that around 200,000,000,000 pounds of seafood is removed from the ocean each year? This is because of the high demand for seafood and other ocean products. People like coral or shell necklaces. But this is still harmful for the ocean as well. You may be taking away a home for a sea creature. By-catch is also another issue. By-catch defines any sea creature caught on accident when fishing for something else (commercially). By-catch makes up around 20% of our oceans seafood intake. So what can you do to help out with the problems of the ocean? You can stop eating all seafood to make there be less of a demand.
“Help to support three good environmentalist organizations, Appreciate what you have, and recycle. By yourself you are tiny, but no organization can become powerful without a large number of supporters. We all count!” -Catherine Church
Just got back from the Florida Keys and saw this amazing creature! These spiny lobsters aren’t endangered but their habitat, coral reefs, are slowly disappearing due to pollution, global warming, and human activity. One of the biggest factors that kills coral is sunscreen with the ingredient oxybenzone. The ingredient commonly found in sunscreen causes the coral to grow faster than it can handle. The corals skeleton wraps itself around the coral polyp, so the zooxanthellae in its tissues (that help the coral perform photosynthesis) get covered. Without sunlight the corals tissue can’t make food for themselves so they die. But with just a few small efforts we can help save our beautiful reefs. Some of the few brands of reef safe sunscreen (sunscreen without oxybenzone) include Badger, Goddess Garden, and Stream2Sea, so use those or look for oxybenzone free and non-nano sunscreen.
A ghost net is a net that is used by fishermen and left there and stay there stranded for sea life to get caught inside of and die. When the fish, sharks, and dolphins get caught the net sinks to the seafloor where they decompose. Then the net becomes lighter and it floats to the surface and the cycle continues.
On Monday April 16th, 2018 a ghost Net was found in Grand Cayman Islands. Many species of animals were found trapped inside the net. A white tipped shark, yellow ocean tails, and some triggerfish. The net was about 50 feet in diameter on the surface. People tried to help free the sea life, but for some it was too late.
There are many organizations that help make a difference like Ghost Gear Initiative and you can become a member too. By signing up members can get recognition as a member, participate in projects that help find a solution, and help work with other organizations on certain projects. One project that they did was ‘Fishing for Energy’ which is taking old fishing gear that is collected with bins and is converted into energy at a center called Covanta Energy-From-Waste Facility.
Facts on net:
Ghost Gear initiative website: https://www.ghostgear.org/solutions/fishing-energy
It's getting to that time of year where just stepping one foot outside you get sunburned; especially in Texas. So let's say you go to your closest Walmart or H-E-B and pick up the first few bottles you see such as: Banana Boat, Sun Bum or Coppertone. But sadly these sunscreens contain chemicals that are killing our coral reefs.
Most sunscreens contain chemicals that are unhealthy for the ocean such as : octocrylene, octisalate, homosalate, octinoxate, and last but, most common is oxybenzone. These chemicals can be found under the "active ingredients" section on the back of the sunscreen bottle.
I bet you are wondering why these chemicals are bad at this point. Well when we get into the ocean, the chemicals on our skin come off into the water. With these chemicals in the water they start the process of bleaching our coral. When coral is bleached it turns a pale white color and cannot reproduce because it is considered dead. With this coral dead it starts to break off and this causes sea animals that live in the coral to have to find refugee in a new location. Or some animals use the coral as a source of nutrients. 3,500 species live and eat coral which is a majority of the fish population.
So if the coral is starting to die then the animals that need the coral to live are forced out of there home. This causes there predators to eat and reproduce more. Not only is it bad for ocean, but it is sad for divers to not be able to see the beautiful colors and species that live around the coral.
As much sunscreen company's use these chemicals, there are some that don't! A helpful tip when looking for sunscreen is to look for sunscreens that announce that they are safe for our reefs.
The sunscreen that you put on your body can cause our ocean system to go out of balance. Next time you are out shopping for sunscreen check out the active ingredients section and pick a coral safe sunscreen! By simply choosing sunscreens that don't contain harmful chemicals you can help stop the bleaching of our coral reefs.
Picture from: Bio ninja
Facts on species: Teach ocean science
Chemical list: Goddess Garden Sunscreen
As you may know, we are hosting a scavenger hunt on Women's Dive Day! Our troop has set up a unique photography-based scavenger hunt, which is why I am interviewing women that are underwater photographers! In the last blog post, I interviewed local Austinite Jennifer Idol. Now you can learn more about Maurine Shimlock!
Maurine Shimlock is an underwater photographer who runs Secret Sea Visions, which is a sustainable diving and travel business. She is also a member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame.
I first asked Maurine how she first got started with underwater photography. She replied:
"Back in the mid-1970s my husband and I owned a dive shop in in Mexico. We started taking pictures for fun with a Nikonos III, a completely submersible camera. In the late 1980s we moved to the Solomon Islands to work on a liveaboard dive boat. That's when we really began studying how to take good underwater images."
She also told me about the importance of conservation:
"I think the most important thing anyone can do is to be aware that this planet is really one system. There is no place called 'away'. There is no place to throw garbage away, to use toxic chemicals where it won't impact the marine environment. Participating in beach and river clean ups is a great way to give something back to the environment. Understanding why consuming certain types of fish, like sharks, are very harmful to the entire system is important."
As Jennifer Idol spoke to us about reaching for our dreams, I think Maurine Shimlock also has a very important message. We need to preserve the ocean world by using less toxic chemicals, and keeping the four R's in our minds: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This can keep the garbage out of our ecosystem.
In July, we like to participate in PADI Women’s Dive Day by hosting an event for our local dive community. This year, to celebrate female underwater photographers, we are doing an underwater photo scavenger hunt! If you participate, you have to find something underwater that fits the clues, then take a picture of it. We are also holding a free drawing with prizes donated by Women Underwater Photographers, such as Jennifer Idol. Jennifer Idol is a fellow scuba diver from Austin that was the first woman to dive in all fifty states. To read more about that, you can visit her website (http://www.theunderwaterdesigner.com) or read her book: An American Immersion. I interviewed Jennifer Idol so we could get to know her a little bit better.
How did you first get started in underwater photography?
"I was always a visual person, I started out as an artist and a photographer. When I was fourteen all I knew was that I liked painting and making things. I went to college to become an artist. I became a graphic designer, worked professionally there, I worked for twelve years as that and a professional photographer before I took my photography underwater. And now I’ve spent seven years as the underwater designer, working professionally in an underwater capacity."
What is the hardest thing about underwater photography?
“Taking photos is really gratifying because you can make an image and capture the moment and then share that with people much quicker. Telling a meaningful story and helping people see the underwater world with clarity is the hardest part of photography for me, creating effective images that impact, not just an image of something but an image that does something.
What are your goals for the future?
"My dream is to work for National Geographic and dreams can be really hard and really long to follow. There may be another ten years before I can get to National Geographic so I need talent, luck, and a lot of hard work. Keep trying, make big plans, and make progress in a direction. The more I learn about the underwater world, the bigger my dreams get and the more places I want to go and the more stories I want to share with people.
There we go: always follow your dreams and your heart! In Jennifer Idol’s words: “in whatever you choose to do, to follow your strengths and your passion, to follow what you are interested in and to do what you love” and you will get there, even if it takes 29 years. Good luck!
If you haven't already heard: straws are bad. 500 million straws are used a day in the USA, which is enough to fill 125 buses full! Imagine that falling into the ocean or ending up in the fish you had for dinner last night.
Straws don't offer much benefit to a drink besides maybe blowing bubbles, but at the end of the day they are doing more harm than good. Plastic is the main source death in sea animals and it still seems to find it's way back to the ocean or where it does not belong. 90% of seabirds have eaten plastic and predicted to be 99% by 2050.
If after all of this you still think that even if you throw your straw in the trash it won't end up in the ocean I would suggest searching up "straw stuck in sea turtle's nose" on YouTube and trust me when I say this: you will never want to look at a straw again. But if you can't handle blood, I would stick to no plastic straws
Well to the happier side of things! There is other options for you straw-loving people out there! There is metal straws!!! Metal straws are a great alternative to plastic: They are portable, reusable, washable and great conversation starters. But for everyone else out there here is a little note: straws cause lip wrinkles. So if the death of million of sea animals didn't work for you there is another reason to stop using straws.
Help save the ocean one straw at a time by declining. You can make a difference just by saying no to a straw. #stopsucking
Facts on straws: www.nps.gov/commercialservices/greenline_straw_free.htm
Facts on animals and straws: https://blog.ukonserve.com/2016/09/23/straws-enviornment/