Spring 2019 Update

It is past time for a blog update! My apologies for not posting sooner, the past year has been quite a trip- literally! Allow me to fill you in.

Spring 2018 – Duke Marine Lab

I spent the spring semester of 2018 at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort, NC. Beaufort is a quaint coastal town located in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The downtown city front (might be an overstatement) looks across Tylor’s Creek to the Rachel Carson Reserve. If you sit long enough, you might be lucky enough to see some of their  26 wild horses. The lab is stationed on Pivers Island, the only other buildings belong to a NOAA Laboratory facility. Spring is a unique semester at the Duke Marine Lab. Classes are in a block schedule, only one class at a time, each lasting for about 4 weeks. Many of these classes offer the opportunity to travel. I was fortunate enough to spend the first course traveling to Belize with Dr. Brian Silliman for Marine Ecology. We spent the first week in the rain forest and the other two weeks our on a caye off the coast. We spent our days lecturing, snorkeling, identifying species, and observing interactions. We completed our time on the island working on research projects. After returning to Beaufort for a few days, we were off on our next adventure to Singapore to study Urban Tropical Ecology with Dr. Tom Schultz and Dr. Dan Rittschof. Exploring such a unique city/metropolitan country was incredible. I was consistently blown away by the utilization of green space in the downtown area. No ground space? No problem. Build a vertical garden on the sides of high rises and establish rooftop gardens. Gardens by the Bay is a wonderful example of creative utilization of space to make the city all the more green. My favorite part of this course was the short trip we took to Malaysia. We crossed the border and drove to a coastal town where we boarded a boat for a long boat ride out to Pulau Dayang. We were the only ones on this island surrounded by brilliant blue water. I have never seen so many diverse species of coral or as many brilliant colors while snorkeling as I did here. From Giant Clams to Cuttlefish to massive neon coral, I was amazed. I would give anything to go back and explore further. We returned to Beaufort for a block at the lab where I took Biology with one of my favorite professors, Dr. Schultz. The last block I spent time in St. Croix working with The St. Croix Leatherback Project on Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge with Dr. Matthew Godfrey. Here we spent the nights walking the beach with team members from 8:00pm to 6:00 am looking for nests and turtles. Some nights were long with no turtles at all, and other nights we would have up to three leatherbacks nesting. We helped measure the turtles, mark nest sites, and tag the turtles. When we found the first turtle, we stayed behind her while she dug her nest as to not disturb her. Once she began laying her eggs, we went to work. As we moved around her, I was finally able to appreciate the sheer size of this animal. The shell alone can reach up to 6 feet in length. Truly an amazing experience never to be forgotten.

Summer 2018 –R/V Falkor

If you follow any Ocean Steward social media accounts, you will have seen posts from aboard the R/V Falkor with Schmidt Ocean Institute. I set sail aboard the R/V Falkor on a voyage up the coast from San Diego, CA to Astoria, OR mapping methane seeps with chief scientist Susan Merle (OSU) as a student scientist. There were also artists on board working with the crew and scientists to present research in their respective media from murals to sculptures to resin paintings. This was a fascinating experience. So often research is difficult to comprehend and intimidating, as a result, many people are not up to date on the most recent research. These scientists present the work in such a way that it draws attentions and sparks curiosity in the audience. Curiosity is the first step toward engagement. While on board, I presented to the Rotary Club of Coronado during a ship to shore FaceTime. I learned to appreciate the work we were doing in a different way. It truly is beautiful.

Fall 2018 – Duke Marine Lab

I returned to the lab for another round! However, this semester was disrupted by Hurricane Florence that devastated the lab for some time. The students were evacuated to main campus where we stayed for four weeks until the lab was restored enough for us to resume classes. At this point the campus dorms were still destroyed, so we lived in a hotel for a few weeks while repairs were made. The lab faculty and staff deserve all the credit for making it possible for us to return. For a time, it looked as if we would not be able to return, but everyone pitched in and made it possible it happen. We are all grateful for the time and effort they spent restoring the lab, moving our items out of rooms to prevent damage not once, but twice. We owe the semester to these wonderful people. Fall at the marine lab is set up like a normal semester. All classes occur at once without travel components. However, Fall Break at the marine lab is extended so students may participate in a travel course. I was part of a travel course that traveled to Bocas del Toro, Panama. We spent the days on boats going from site to site collecting data and snorkeling. Evenings were spent data crunching with further analysis. Having opportunities like this sets Duke apart. Being able to get back to hands-on science and work in the field is always refreshing. Upon return we resumed our normal classes. I began my research with Dr. Avery Paxton in Dr. Silliman’s lab – a project collaborating with NOAA to map artificial reefs in the Southeast US. This project is ongoing and will be my senior thesis so stay tuned!

Spring 2019 – Duke

After a year away, I returned to main campus in Durham, NC. I am continuing my research with Dr. Paxton remotely. Classes are normal and stressful, as to be expected. However, I managed to find another unique opportunity to travel and do research. I found an opportunity to take a course with Dr. Stuart Pimm, Seabird Dispersal and Analysis, with a travel component to Dry Tortugas National Park. Dry Tortugas is located 67 miles west of Key West. This is a breeding site of the Sooty Tern. A massive banding effort has been going on for years now. Duke has been assisting this project since 2015. Every spring break, Dr. Pimm takes students to the island for a week. Days are spent out at the breeding site catching birds in nets, banding them, and recording the band number and weight. This season we managed to catch 590 birds total. While I was not the best at catching birds, I found my strength in running birds up and down the beach to be banded. At times we had so many birds being caught we had to have three people running and even still we were backed up. I cannot say enough about the beauty of the birds and island. We were truly fortunate to have this opportunity.

Music: Darwin Derby by Vulfpeck

 

There is more travel in my future as the summer I as I will be completing my NOAA Hollings Scholarship Internship in Saipan, CNMI working on a research project involving invasive catfish. Stay tuned and as always – and be an Ocean Steward.  

~ D’amy Steward

The Ocean Steward

Summer 2017 Update

Happy Summer! 

BLUE VISION SUMMIT

I was fortunate to represent EarthEcho at the Blue Vision Summit in Washington D.C. this past May. I served on a panel along with Nora Abdiruham (National Aquarium), Kimberly Correia (Plastic Free Mermaids), Seth Weinfield (Heirs to Our Oceans), Steve Culbertson (Youth Service America), and Bill Street (SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment). Sean Russell from Youth Ocean Conservation Summit was our moderator.  We discussed the importance of engaging youth leaders in the field of ocean conservation and strategies for reaching and mobilizing young audiences in a time of increasing threats. I enjoyed speaking with like-minded inspirational youth leaders.

The second day of the conference was Healthy Ocean Hill Day. Participants broke into groups by state to lobby officials on the Hill. I realized the importance of making our voices heard. Without legislation and support from Washington to protect our oceans, there is only so much we can do. Whether your voice is heard at the local, state, or federal level, it is important and makes a difference. Now more than ever, we need people of all ages to speak up and share their concerns with their elected officials.

TIJUANA SEWAGE DOCUMENTARY

Most people from San Diego have heard about the ongoing and worsening sewage issue in Tijuana, Mexico, but others may not have. When a pipe broke in March releasing 256 million gallons of raw sewage into the Tijuana River, people on both sides of the border were outraged.  Coronado Middle School’s broadcast program created the documentary, The Awful Truth, to provide background on the issue and underscore the devastating impact on San Diego beach communities. I was pleased to contribute footage from my time in Washington, DC, to this important documentary. Please watch this 16-minute video and share it to help spread the word about what is happening on our beaches. This is a bi-national issue requiring Washington's action. 

UCSD SCRIPPS MARINE LAB

This summer I am interning at the UCSD Scripps Marine Lab as a part of the Marine Physical Laboratory Internship program. Working at Scripps has been eye opening to see all the different research projects in the individual labs. 

BE AN OCEAN STEWARD

I am seeing a lot of trash on our beaches and in the ocean this summer. Let’s pick it up!  Please pick up three pieces of trash every day and ask your friends to do the same. Every little bit helps! Stay tuned for updates on social media. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Please encourage your friends to visit the website and subscribe. Thank you for being an Ocean Steward!

~ D'amy Steward

The Ocean Steward

 

Happy New Year!

As we begin 2017, our oceans need us more than ever!  Did you know every year 8,000,000 metric tons of plastic enter the ocean?  Americans throw away 60 million plastic water bottles a day. At this rate, by the year 2050 plastic will exceed the number of fish in our oceans. If this disturbs you, it should!  We need everyone to become an Ocean Steward. 

With my first semester at Duke completed, it is clear ocean research is more important than ever with study of the epigenetics and genomics leading the way to formulate future policy regarding fisheries and marine protected areas. I want to share a few highlights from my fall:

1) Our Oceans Conference 

I was fortunate to attend John Kerry’s Our Ocean Summit in Washington, D.C. in September as a member of EarthEcho International’s Youth Leadership Council. It was an incredible opportunity to meet like-minded people from around the world who are committed to helping our oceans. The inspiring speakers ranged from US Secretary of State John Kerry to Sylvia Earle (Mission Blue) to Phillipe Cousteau (founder of EarthEcho International). It was exciting to sit and listen to countries announce their goals for the year.  Protecting our oceans and planet takes vision, hard work, and collaboration of all countries and people. It is a shared responsibility to care and advocate for our oceans.

2) 3T4E (Three pieces of Trash For the Earth)

Thank you to everyone who participated in EarthEcho International’s project, 3T4E.  I was pleased EarthEcho International selected my concept as their first Youth Leadership Council Initiative. While I would have liked to have more lead-time, the results are impressive. Social media reached 1,624,016 people in 19 countries and 24 states with 469 posts with #3T4E. Look for 3T4E this fall and be sure to post your photo. In the meantime, make every day a 3T4E Day! Pick up 3 pieces of Trash 4 the Earth every day!

3) Sailors for the Sea Gala

I was honored to be recognized for my ocean conservation work at Sailors for the Sea’s annual gala fund raiser hosted by David and Susan Rockefeller and Stephen & Wendy Lash at Christie's in New York City. Fellow awardees included Dr. Enric Sala (National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence & Executive Director of Pristine Seas), Ian Walker (two-time Olympic Silver Medalist & winning skipper of the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race), and Charles Goddard (Editorial Director, Asia-pacific, The Economist Intelligence Unit & Executive Director of the Economist's World Ocean Summit).  Sailors for the Sea engages, educates, inspires, and activates the sailing and boating communities toward healing the ocean. Speaking to a crowd of over 200 whose generosity that evening raised over $880,000 for ocean conservation, I spoke of my life-long love of the ocean and passion for its preservation. Thank you US Sailing for sponsoring my award and Sailors for the Sea for believing in me and allowing me to serve as their ambassador.

As we look ahead, think about what YOU can do to help our oceans:

1)    Choose sustainable seafood.

2)   Say no to single use plastics.

3)   Skip the plastic straw and lid.

4)   Get involved with an ocean conservation group.

5)    Pick up three pieces of trash EVERY day and convince your friends to do the same! 

Here is to a healthier ocean in 2017!

- D'amy Steward

Welcome!

Welcome! I am excited and proud to announce the launch of Ocean Steward, and I am so glad you are here. My name is D’amy Steward, and I became involved with ocean conservation after a high school version of SEA Semester with Sea Education Association (SEA) aboard the tall ship, SSV Robert C. Seamans, following my freshman year in high school.  We sailed down the coast of California starting in Sausalito sailing through the Golden Gate Bridge, then through the Channel Islands ending in Catalina at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center. Throughout the trip, we conducted experiments over the side of the rail, one of which was a net tow. In every single net tow, we collected plastic. From microscopic bits to hose reels, my eyes were opened to the magnitude of the pressing issue of plastic pollution. It pained and angered me to see all the garbage. Upon my return I was determined to find a way to make a difference and take action. I have been a sailor my entire life and have raced competitively around the country. I began noticing at regattas a logo that would appear on banners and water bottles we were given. I decided to research the logo. After a brief Google search I learned Sailors for the Sea is a non-profit organization based in Newport, Rhode Island, that is dedicated to educating the boating communities about plastics pollution and ocean conservation. I contacted them and offered to be a person on the ground at regattas.  I was appointed the first West Coast Ambassador and began speaking at yacht club dinners, regattas, and schools helping to spread the message for Sailors for the Sea. My message was a simple three prong plan: 1) Pick up three pieces of trash every day, 2) use reusable water bottles, and  3) convince your friends to do the same — a plan that was easy to remember and not too much to ask. Fast forward a few years, I am now a member of the Youth Leadership Council for EarthEcho — an organization run by Jacque Cousteau’s grandchildren. EarthEcho strives to inspire youth to take actions toward a sustainable future. It is my goal to create an organization and website that makes it easy for people to find ways to get involved by synergizing the efforts and projects of various conservation organizations. Hence, the double entendre of this website:  "Ocean Steward."  I seek to bring together like-minded people who want to make a difference and join the movement to help save our oceans. Man and the oceans are inextricably linked. It is our responsibility to help protect our waters. I hope you find this website useful and become an Ocean Steward. While ONE can make a difference, MANY can make an ocean of difference. 

- D'amy Steward