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A photo of plastic trash floating in the water, taken from below the surface.

Witness to a Plastic Invasion

The Smithsonian Institution's Dive Officer documents a "swirling monster" of plastic trash that she encountered while diving in Belize. It blew in for two solid days: a flotilla of plastic forks, soda bottles, rubber gloves, and other refuse. I tried to pick everything up off the beach, but when I turned around, you couldn’t tell that I had cleaned at all. When we went out in the boats, we had to go slowly in order to dodge the debris. Eventually the tide came in and swooped it all away. I was at the Smithsonian Marine Research Station on Carrie Bow , a small island on the southern end of...Read more
EPA Pick 5 for the Environment website screenshot

Earth Day 101: Students Set the Example

Looking for more Earth Day ideas? Visit the EPA’s “Pick Five for the Environment” website. For more than 40 years, Earth Day has been a day to get your hands dirty—or wet! No act of green or blue is too small. Whether you choose to plant a tree or pledge to use less water, small collective acts add up. They also help raise awareness and inspire protection of the Earth and its ocean. It is no surprise that some of the students who gathered at the Smithsonian in February 2011 for the Third Student Summit on the Ocean and Coasts are planning actions for Earth Day, held annually every April 22...Read more
Coral Head Near Pearl and Hermes Atoll, Hawaii

Your Ode to the Big Blue

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. Your poem for the ocean is what we wish. Conjure your inner Dr. Seuss or Walt Whitman. Credit: Louiz Rocha April is National Poetry Month here in the United States. We'd like you to help us celebrate by penning a poem in the comment field below or on our Facebook page . Not the next Walt Whitman? Fear not. The only rule is that you must invoke our favorite muse: the ocean. Whether you praise saltwater waves, ponder Arctic jelly fish , or pretend to be the baleen in a whale's mouth , WE WANT YOUR POEMS. Please take a few seconds, minutes, or hours and...Read more
North Carolina Delegation students and teachers posing for a photo in front of the ocean at Bald Head Island in North Carolina

Teens Making a Difference in Your Community

The North Carolina Aquarium delegation visited Baldhead Island, a barrier island near Wilmington, N.C., to observe and learn about the effects sea-level rise firsthand for their Student Summit project. Over the past year I have been working for an organization called Coastal America helping to plan the Third National Student Summit on the Ocean and Coasts , a program that teams up high school students with educators to work on an ocean-related research project and “action plan” in their community. In February, the program brought 80 students and 40 educators from schools and aquariums across...Read more
Cut of Atlantic Salmon on a Plate

Love Salmon? Listen Up.

A beautiful cut of Atlantic salmon, a popular species among seafood lovers that is in severe decline. Credit: Flickr User Kent Wang (Creative Commons) Salmon are one of the most widely loved varieties of seafood in the world. A ubiquitous alternative to meat and poultry, salmon wear a halo of healthfulness, as they are rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids . But many wild salmon stocks are dwindling, which means that unless otherwise specified, the salmon you’re most likely to find in restaurants and stores is from a farm. Wild Atlantic salmon once ranged from Portugal to Newfoundland and...Read more
Horseshoe Crab in Stage Harbor, Massachusetts

This Flu Season, Thank a Horseshoe Crab

A small horseshoe crab rests on seaweed in Stage Harbor, Massachusetts. Credit: © Luke Robinson (Creative Commons via Flickr) Fever. Aching muscles. Coughing. Sniffling. It’s flu season . Have you had your shot? If so, thank a horseshoe crab. In fact, if you’ve been put on an IV, had a medical device implanted, or received nearly any injectable medication or vaccine in the past few decades, you likely owe the humble horseshoe crab a debt of gratitude . These bizarre creatures —with their helmet-shaped shells, blue-colored blood, seven pairs of legs, and 10 eyes—hold an important medical tool...Read more
Neighborhood Seafood Market in Rome, Italy

Seafood for Thought

A neighborhood seafood market in the Testaccio area of Rome, Italy. Credit: /Marine Photobank Sunday, November 21 marks World Fisheries Day , an annual occasion observed in many fishing communities around the world. It’s a great opportunity—even for those of us who do not fish for a living—to pause and reflect on the importance of maintaining healthy fisheries. As a scientist, my research on tropical marine fishes has taken me around the world, including locations where I have seen firsthand the impacts that humans are having on marine resources. In 2001, for example, I was part...Read more
A variety of organisms make their home on this tropical coral reef in Indonesia.

Coral Reefs Need You

A variety of organisms make their home on this tropical coral reef in Indonesia. Credit: © Chris Newbert/Minden Pictures For those of you who have had the opportunity to visit a coral reef , you know that it’s an experience you are unlikely to forget. Coral reefs are among the world’s most magnificent ecosystems. Their beauty alone makes them incalculably valuable, but beyond aesthetics, their importance to both marine life and humans is immense. Though they cover less than one percent of the ocean floor, coral reefs support an estimated 25 percent of all marine life. They generate billions...Read more
Venomous Box Jelly from South Carolina

Pinning Down the Jellyfish

Credit: Bastian Bentlage Depending on whom you talk to, jellyfish are either fascinating, a nuisance, a toxic menace, or some combination of the above. Jellyfish plop into the media spotlight when their presence causes beach closures, or when an unlucky swimmer meets a jelly's toxic tentacle. They stimulate debate among scientists: some say that rising numbers of jellyfish are a sign of climate change and pollution, since the animals thrive in warmer, more acidic waters. Others say we don't know enough about their natural cycles to blame population booms on human activities. Still others say...Read more
Mangroves are being decimated by human development, like this shrimp farm in Belize.

Five Minutes for Mangroves

This shrimp farm in southern Belize is just one example of how mangroves worldwide are giving way to human development. In just the last decade, at least 35 percent of the world's mangroves have been destroyed. Credit: Ilka C. Feller/Smithsonian Institution, made possible by LightHawk Happy International Mangrove Action Day! This occasion is a small but vibrant tradition that has been observed annually on July 26th for nearly a decade in countries around the globe, including the U.S., India, Ecuador, Micronesia, and many others. To celebrate, some communities organize protests or restoration...Read more