Barbados Turtles

With up to 500 females nesting per year, Barbados is home to the second-largest hawksbill turtle nesting population in the Caribbean. The Barbados Sea Turtle Project (BSTP) was established over 25 years ago and is working to find a sustainable balance between restoring the local marine turtle populations to healthy levels while still providing opportunities for sustainable use by the people and guests of Barbados. By incorporating monitoring, training, education, and public awareness programs, this dynamic organization is working to turn the turtle’s greatest threat, humans, into their biggest ally.


Green Sea Turtle

The primary nesting season for the hawksbill turtle runs from mid-May through mid to late October, a busy time in Barbados’ active tourist season. By partnering with the tourism industry, the Barbados Sea Turtle Project is turning a challenge into an opportunity. Sea Turtles have become a major attraction in Barbados and the BSTP is embracing this to help locals and visitors learn about the turtles and what they can do to help keep these magnificent creatures.

In addition to offering a 24-hour “Sea Turtle Hotline” to monitor sea turtle sightings and address sea turtle “emergencies,” the organization is involved in sea turtle conservation at all levels. Below is a list of some of the projects in which the Barbados Sea Turtle Project carries out:

  • Education – During the school year, BSTP volunteers make presentations to students throughout the island. Additional programs are offered to children attending various camps during the summer break.
  • Public Outreach – They offer presentations to hotel staff and visitors to help ensure that people are interacting safely with the sea turtles and can react appropriately if they find hatchlings or a turtle in distress.
  • Monitoring – The BSTP monitors the nesting beaches nightly for four months during the nesting season. The record whether the turtles attempted to nest, if there was anything that prevented nesting, if eggs were laid in a safe and secure location, and how many of the hatchlings emerge from the nest.
  • Research – Volunteers document all of the sea turtle nesting activities. They measure and weigh the females when possible, tag the animals for tracking purposes, and keep a running history of remigration intervals and results.
  • Rescue & Rehabilitation – When needed, the BSTP will step into rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles that have run into trouble by falling into swimming pools, getting caught in nets or other unfortunate circumstances.

greenseaturtlesAlthough the populations are not as high, Barbados is also home to leatherback, loggerhead, olive ridley, Kemp’s ridley, flatback, and green sea turtles. By collaborating and partnering with the government, tourism industry, and fellow NGOs like itself, the Barbados Sea Turtle Project has made great strides in successfully finding a balance between protecting it’s turtle population and meeting the needs of the local economy.

Watch People swim with the turtles in Barbados



Galapagos Penguins

I don’t know about you, but when I think of penguins, I think of cute little birds in tuxedos playing in the snow. I recently learned that there are actually penguins that live in the tropics, right near the equator in the Galapagos Islands.Tropical Penguin

There several islands in the Galapagos archipelago (a group of islands), but the penguins seem to stay mostly on the western islands of Fernandina and Isabela. They probably stay on these islands because there is a current of colder water that runs along their shores called the Cromwell Current.

Galapagos Penguin SwimmingA survey done in the 1970s estimated that there were around 10,000 of these penguins, but current surveys show that there are only about 1,000 breeding pairs left. Scientists think that about 77% of the population died in 1982 and 1983 when the islands experienced unusual weather, which caused a food shortage for the penguins. They seem to be slowly rebuilding their population.

Galapagos penguins are pretty small, they only weigh about 2 kg (4.5 lbs.) – about the weight of a pineapple. They only get to be about 49cm tall, that’s less than 2 feet. They have a large bill and a narrow white line around the face. Their backs are grey and black and their belly is white.

Galápagos Penguin Galápagos IslandsThe penguins mostly eat small fish like mullet and sardines. Unfortunately, because they are so small they have many predators. On land, crabs, snakes, owls, and hawks pick on the little penguins; in the sea, sharks, fur seals, and sea lions can attack them. It can be a rough life, but these penguins seem to enjoy their tropical paradise.


Click here for a link to a teacher resource on the Galapagos Penguin.


Watch to learn more about the Galapagos Penguins


Galapagos Penguins trying to catch dinner


Oyster Reclamation

oyster growing on peirLast year, we kicked off our summer with a Memorial Day party at a friend’s house. His home sits on the scenic South River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, just south of Annapolis, Maryland. Little did we know, that day would turn into so much more than just a fun day with old friends.

After the all the kids, and some of the adults, wrapped up their adventures out on the river in our friend’s 14-foot sailboat, we relaxed on his pier and enjoyed the view. At one point, our friend mentioned that his baby oysters, aka “spat,” were grown and almost ready to go to their new home in the bay. He pulled up one of the eight cages he was caring for and explained his role as a volunteer in the South River Federation’s oyster restoration program.

Oyster Spat

Oyster Spat

In partnership with Marylanders Grow Oysters, the South River Federation gives hundreds of waterfront property owners the opportunity to participate in hands on oyster restoration. Volunteers with access to community piers or have their own, grow millions of young oysters in cages suspended from private piers each year. The volunteers are tasked with protecting the young oysters during their vulnerable first year of life, so they may be planted on local sanctuaries where the oysters enrich the ecosystem and our oyster population.

After attending an oyster husbandry workshop, volunteers pick up their spat in the late summer or early fall. Throughout the growing season, the volunteers measure the length of spat, track mortality, and measure dissolved oxygen levels throughout the growing season. In early June, the volunteers deposit their oysters in the Glebe Bay sanctuary during the South River Days Oyster Flotilla.

Why are oysters so important? Oysters are filter feeders. This means that they feed by pumping large volumes of water through their gills and filtering out plankton and other particles. As they filter water to get food, oysters also remove nutrients, suspended sediments andbay oyster sanctuary chemical contaminants, helping to keep the water clear and clean for bay grasses and other underwater life. One oyster can filter more than 50 gallons of water per day.

The spat fascinated the kids and adults alike and we all learned so much about their importance in the bay’s ecosystem. Having grown up near the ocean, I have always been enamored with our oceans and marine habitats. In 2000, I married an avid scuba diver on the beach and our now 12-year-old son might as well have been born with gills. That Memorial Day party changed our lives; we decided that it was time to apply our skills to make a positive difference and do something we love. The Marine & Oceanic Sustainability Foundation was sparked that weekend and has continued to grow with the support of friends, fellow ocean lovers, marine conservation organizations, and educators.

South River Federation - Kids Getting Spat

South River Federation – Kids Getting Spat

Beach Cleanup Day

Every year, on the third Saturday of September, people from across the globe gather on their shores for what has become the largest volunteer event on the planet. In 2013, volunteers in over 100 countries held “Coastal Cleanup Day” events. Although the numbers for 2013 have not been compiled yet, in 2012, over 563,000 volunteers participated in this event and picked up more than 10 million pounds of trash.

coranado coastal cleanupThe first Coastal Cleanup Day was organized in 1984 by a woman named Judie Neilson, an Oregon resident, who was frustrated with the amount of debris accumulating on the beaches. Impressed by the results of this event in Oregon, the California Coastal Commission held one in 1985, followed by The Ocean Conservancy (then known as the Center for Marine Conservation) in 1986. In later years, the Ocean Conservancy became the coordinating agency for the International Coastal Cleanup, helping to spread the concept to nations around the world.

In 1993, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized the California Coastal Cleanup Day as the “largest garbage collection” ever organized, with 50,000 volunteers. Sponsored by local businesses and organized by nonprofits, people from all walks of life come out to show their appreciation of their beaches, coasts, rivers, bays, and marine habitats. This event is also a great teaching and community service opportunity for scout troops, school groups and service clubs.

ciggerette on beachVolunteers are encouraged to bring their own containers and supplies for collecting debris, including reusable buckets or recyclable plastic containers and work gloves and closed-toe shoes. Typically, organizers will provide a central location for the collected trash and containers such as a dumpster, trashcan, or large trash bags. In recent years, clean up days have expanded beyond beach sites to include inland waterway events and dive and kayak events.

Unfortunately, an estimated 6.4 million tons of trash enters the oceans every year. Each piece of paper, cigarette butt or bottle cap that isn’t disposed of properly finds its way into our streams and rivers and eventually makes its way to the ocean. Ultimately, all of this debris in our oceans compromises human and wildlife health and negatively affects our economy. Not only are our oceans beautiful, they are an essential part of our water cycle, food supply, and provide many of the ingredients in medicines and everyday products.


Common Debris Found On Beaches

Common Debris Found On Beaches

Humpback Dolphins

wp humpback dolphin locationLast month, scientists announced the discovery a new species of dolphin living off the coast of Northern Australia. While most people are familiar humpback whales, few know about humpback dolphins. Scientists have known about Atlantic and Indo-Pacific species of humpback dolphins for some time, but recent physical and genetic tests by researchers have revealed that there are actually four distinct species of this beautiful creature. Humpback dolphins are distinguishable by a peculiar hump just below the dorsal fin and are found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

Humpback dolphins grow up to 8 feet in length and their coloring ranges from dark gray to pink and/or white. The species generally inhabits coastal waters, deltas, estuaries, and occurs throughout the Indian and Pacific oceans to the coasts of Australia. According to Guido Parra of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, this particular species of dolphin are very shy and keep their distance, unlike their curious and friendly cousins that most people are used to.

The scientists, who were working for the Wildlife Conservation Society, the American Museum of Natural History, and a number of other organizations contributed to the study. The researchers arrived at their conclusions after examining 235 tissue samples and 180 skulls from mostly beached humpback dolphins around the globe to define genetic and morphological distinctions among the species. These findings were published in the November 2013 issue of Molecular Ecology.

Close up of a Humpback Dolphins hump“New information about distinct species across the entire range of humpback dolphins will increase the number of recognized species, and provides the needed scientific evidence for management decisions aimed at protecting their unique genetic diversity and associated important habitats,” said Howard Rosenbaum, director of WCS’s Ocean Giants program and senior author of the paper. The Atlantic humpback dolphin is considered “Vulnerable” according to the IUCN Red List, whereas the Indo-Pacific dolphin species Sousa chinensis is listed as “Near Threatened.” Humpback dolphins are threatened by habitat loss and fishing activity.

The major threat to this newly identified species habitat degradation due to coastal development, mining, and resource exploitation. Although the new species have not been named yet, the scientists are now preparing their formal proposal for the recognition of the new species. Once the International Whaling Commission and the Society for Marine Mammalogy have accepted their proposal, this newly identified species of dolphin will be officially recognized.

Seeing Positive Impacts First Hand

students learning marine scienceThe Marine & Oceanic Sustainability Foundation (MOSF) is raising funds to acquire its first ocean-going research vessel. The acquisition of this vessel is a critical step in the success of MOSF, enabling the movement of our staff of educators, researchers, scientists, journalists, and videographers. This new vessel will allow MOSF and its guests to visit both remote and developed coastal areas worldwide.

An important element of our education mission is a program in which we will sponsor K-12 teachers and college-level marine science students to join us on expeditions. By getting out in the field, our guests will expand their understanding of marine habitats and conservation work going on throughout the world. Our goal is to give teachers and future marine scientists hands-on experience that they can take back to their students and colleagues at home.

By traveling and working with locals across the globe, MOSF can dig deeper into what is working, and what isn’t, in their marine communities.

Research VesselMOSF is committed to working with local teachers, students, and community groups. Through outreach programs like this, people will gain a better understanding of how they are affecting their marine habitats and how they can get involved to assure their long-term health and sustainability.

In our search for a vessel, we are focusing on safety, functionality, fuel and environmental efficiency, and range. The vessel will ideally be between 65 to 85 feet in length and able to accommodate 6 to 15 full-time crew. A range of 3,000 to 6,000 nautical miles is desired along with the ability to reach remote locations under its own power.

It is very important to consider the safety of crew members both in transit and upon arrival at any port of harbor. video research workFunctionality of the areas aboard the vessels for research, living, gear, and diving are paramount. In order minimize costs and impact to the environment, we are carefully considering fuel efficiency and the ability to minimize waste. While no vessel can meet 100% of any need defined, it is important to find vessels that meet as many criteria as possible.

Getting out and meeting with individuals, organizations, and businesses that are engaged in successful marine conservation projects is a fundamental goal. A second is providing educational outreach programs and working with teachers and students globally to share the wonders of our oceans and inspire future generations to be good stewards of our oceans. We sincerely hope that this vessel will be the first of many that we will bring into our organization.



Fireflies of the Sea

Have you ever seen a firefly? It glows due to something called bioluminescence. Our oceans are full of creatures that use bioluminescence. Why are these creatures glowing? There are actually many different reasons why they glow or flash. They could be calling for help or trying to attract a meal – they might even be trying to lose a predator. Different creatures use bioluminescence in different ways; squids spray bioluminescent ink, whereas other creatures have bioluminescent cells the glow or flash.



There are many different types of animals that glow and for all different reasons. For example, the deep sea angler fish has a small rod above its mouth with a “lightbulb” to attract fish near its mouth so it can eat them. There’s also the vampire squid that shoots out a glowing liquid when escaping a predator to shock it. As a last resort, the deep sea jellyfish flashes when it’s attacked, it does this to call larger predators in hopes they will eat it’s attacker.

Bioluminescence is created by a chemical reaction. This reaction involves at least three ingredients: an enzyme called luciferase, oxygen, and luciferin. The luciferase helps the oxygen bind to the organic molecule called luciferin. The high-energy molecule created by the reaction releases energy in the form of light. To be able to do this it took 50 evolutions or more!



Bioluminescent are found throughout marine habitats, they can be found in the deepest parts of the ocean all the way to the surface. There are so many more types of these creatures that have not been discovered yet. Humans have only explored 5 percent of our oceans and have barely touched the deepest parts. Scientists discover new fish everyday and there are thousand or even millions more to be found.

Click here for a link to lesson plans and activities on bioluminescence.

See bioluminescence in action.

Learn more about bioluminescence in this talk.

The Mystery of the Ocean

giantsquitgraphicfactf320x301You would think an animal the size of a school bus would be easy to find. Yet the giant squid, which weighs over a ton and is over 42 feet in length, is still one of the biggest mysteries of the ocean. Scientists all over the world are trying to learn more about this elusive animal. Part of the reason that so little is known about them is because they live in the deepest parts of the ocean. They are so deep that it takes about 2 hours to go up and down in a submarine. It has only been recently that they have had technology advanced enough to go that deep and it is still very expensive.

A giant squid’s body may look pretty simple – like other squid and octopus, it has two eyes, a beak, eight arms, two feeding tentacles, and a funnel. The eye of a giant squid is a big as a dinner plate. The main part of the body is called the mantle. On the underside of the body is the funnel. The squid pumps water through the funnel to move through the water, to lay eggs, and to squirt ink. Feeding tentacles can catch prey up to 330 feet away. They also have sharp tooth suckers at the end of their tentacles.


Giant suckers

Giant squid feed on deep-water fish and other squid. Once they catch food with the suckers and teeth on their feeding tentacles, they pull it back to their body and their beak. The beak breaks the food down into smaller pieces first and then they use the radula, a tongue-like organ with teeth, to grind it up more. The food then goes into the esophagus, which travels through the squid’s brain, to the stomach. Although giant squid do not have many predators, remains of them have been found in the stomachs of sperm whales.

architeuthis beak 32xx258


It is believed that giant squid live for 3 to 5 years, but this is just an educated guess by scientists. During their life, giant squid only reproduce once. Females release millions of tiny, transparent fertilized eggs into the water in a jellied clump called an egg mass. They need to make lots of eggs because other marine animals quickly eat most of the eggs that are released.

It is believed that the giant squid live in all four of our oceans, but none have ever been seen in tropical or polar regions. They are usually found near continental and island slopes. Although there is so little known about the giant squid, there are multiple studies in progress right now. In 2012, researchers in Japan were able to capture video of a living giant squid for the first time. Using flashing lights to mimic bioluminescent jellyfish, they were able to attract a giant squid to the camera in a submarine. Scientists are learning more and more about these mysterious squid every day.


Architeuthis distribution

Click here for a link to lesson plans and activities on Giant Squid (Architeuthis dux).

The first video of a giant squid ever!

How they found the giant squid.