Thursday, December 13, 2007

Photos of Smith Island, MD

To see pics from our trip to Smith Island, visit my Flickr account here.  I feel that the set of pictures showing the piles of trash demonstrate how we need to take a stand to protect our environment.  It's upsetting how a place so in-tune with nature and the sea around them could neglect their surroundings and the earth.

'Ewell' love Smith Island!

During our Fall Break trip, some of us got the opportunity to visit Smith Island, as some other bloggers have noted.  The island consists of three towns, Ewell, Tylerton, and Rhodes Point.  To get on the mainland, it takes a forty-five minute ferry ride, which costs about twenty dollars round-trip.  This is why most inhabitants of the island, go to mainland as little as possible, making the most out of it when they do.  One thing that was so shocking to me was the education system for the children.  Because of the number of students, there is only an elementary school on the island.  This means that after grade eight, students must take the long boat ride every morning and afternoon to commute to school.  The ferry ride is part of public education so it fortunately does not cost to ride.  If a student wants to take part in any extra-curricular activity after school, they must stay with someone on the mainland because the ferry leaves a certain time every afternoon and it only goes once.  

Church and religion are very important parts for the people on the island.  There is a Methodist church in each of the three towns on Smith Island.  There is, however, only one minister, who we were lucky to meet and talk with.  He makes his rounds to each church every Sunday morning to preach in each town.
Another great part of the island is its famous Smith Island Cake, which was delicious.  It's a cake made up of ten or so very thin layers filled with flavored creme and sometimes even candy pieces like peanut butter cups or candy bars.  Here's a recipe for a version of the cake via Oprah so it has to be good.  If you make it, be sure to share how it came out, or maybe even share some of the cake!
Going to Smith Island was a great experience and I recommend it to everyone.  It was interesting meeting people who live there and learning how their lives differ, and are strikingly similar to ours.  More pics to come!

P.s. - I'm very sorry about the title.  I just felt someone had to do it.  I can practically hear the eye-rolling through the computer.   

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Sea Around Us

I had heard the name Rachel Carson used before, but I had never taken the time to understand who she was. When I started reading "Courage for the Earth", the essays that were in the book helped me to realize what it was that Rachel Carson stood for and how her legacy remains today.

When I first opened "The Sea Around Us" I was afraid that it would be like any other required reading for a class and I would not enjoy it, but I was mistaken. The way that Rachel Carson wrote about the environment with such passion helped me to really enjoy every page.

I especially loved reading the chapters about the ocean and how it works. My family and I spend the summers at the beach, there is no other place in the world I would rather be. Reading about the ocean with both the beauty and the strength that Carson writes of it with captured my attention. I've always known what the ocean has meant to me, but reading about what it means for our planet and all of our lives was so interesting to me.

As a math major, I had never thought about all of these environmental problems in our world today, and didn't think that there was much that I could do to fix them. After reading more about things that I love and learning more about how I can help out, I know that I will try to spread the knowledge that I have acquired from Rachel Carson with others.

Learning from the Alternative Fall Break

I was unable to attend the alternative fall break trip that the other half of my class went on. I was not surprised when they came back to hear stories about fun experiences and new friendships that were made. Classmates were willing to tell all about their adventures and what they had learned. Hearing about all of the different environments that the students had seen helped me get into this green initiative myself more.

I enjoyed learning about environmental problems from my classmates who were able to see some of these conditions firsthand. While I was not there to experience it, hearing these stories made it a lot more real for myself. When I was able to hear some of Rachel Carson's works applied to things that were being seen my other students, it made it a lot more easy for me to understand what we were working for.

Going Green

I've always heard people talk about "going green" and how it is so important to protect our environment, but I've never understood all of that until now. After reading Rachel Carson's thoughts in "The Sea Around Us", it is now clear to me how much of the world around us is changing and the effect that it is having on us. Realizing this made me more interested in taking action to help build awareness in this environmental cause.

They always say that taking action can begin in your own backyard, but it is always so difficult to find where to begin. I was very happy to be able to take part in researching new ways in which Shippensburg University can help in the cause of "going green." With plans being made for new residence halls, this was the perfect opportunity for the University to help out in this environmental cause. It was also the perfect opportunity for some of my classmates and I to help out in this cause by do some researching that the University could use to help their decisions.

We were able to look at many different aspects of the new residence halls in order to create a proposal of how these new residence halls could be designed. We even looked at things that students could be doing now to help out. We sent out surveys of what students were looking for in their residence halls and took them all into account, while still keeping this "going green" idea in our heads. It worked out quite nicely and everyone came up with some really good ideas! I'm really looking forward to presenting our ideas to the University to see what they think!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Through the Lens

Before the trip even began, I shared the same apprehension as a few of my peers about what we would be doing, where we would be going, and how serious our professors were about bringing shoes we would throw out from the muck.  Yet at the same time, I knew this was going to be a unique experience, and I brought my camera along as a second set of eyes to record the adventure. There were a few close calls in the marshes and kayaking where it almost seemed like a bad idea to bring technology, but in the end no harm was done.  Since the adventure has been fairly well documented by others, I won't reiterate the details, but rather the changes I observed through the footage I viewed afterwards.

We began our quest to Wallops Island as a group of strangers.  Most of us had friends or classmates we knew going, but as a group, we were new faces to each other.  Some were excited to go, others curious about what lay ahead, and some, like myself, who were questioning whether this was truly a better alternative to sleeping in and earning some cash. After all, it was the first true break since the year began, and we wouldn't see another rest from our studies until Thanksgiving! Yet nobody backed out, and we all loaded the vans.

As we traveled to the Baltimore Aquarium and then down to Wallops Island for the night, people gradually got into the attitude of the trip and began to enjoy themselves. We arrived rather late, so the only glimpse we got of the Marine Science Consortium was what the flickering parking lot light would reveal to us before we rested.

Saturday was an experience everyone had to enjoy, myself included.  That morning the group I was with set up a Rachel Carson display board to answer questions about her life and legacy. We also had the opportunity to take a hay ride, where we came across a hog-nosed snake. Harmless in nature, for those who don't know, this snake when frightened will flip over on its back. If it is still scared, it will vomit (having a rather strong aversion to snakes, I could sympathize). Later that afternoon we were greeted with fair weather as my group kayaked and got the chance to catch fish with a net. We caught a shrimp. Yes, one shrimp.

Sunday is when everything changed. We were up early, and the looks on our faces were not exactly blissful when we one-by-one remembered this beautiful morning included a laborious trudge through waist-deep mud. Once we arrived and started our hunt for trash, that feeling was intensified by the fact that there was little to be found in the shallow regions by the parking lot.  Deeper we journeyed, slowly submerging ourselves in something we could only categorize as 'natural,' and the plants rose higher and higher the closer to water we came (I am not a tall man by any means, and at one point I remember disappearing from view and wondering if I'd be found).

Then... the nets.

Resting on a sandy bank was a mountain of the stuff, used in clam beds further offshore. Glancing back at the murky depths from whence we had come, it was sprawling out on both sides, seemingly endless.  As if a light switch had been flipped, people sprang into action.  Hands soared out to grab any netting they could reach, and there was plenty to reach, indeed.  The larger the pile of nets got, the less tedious it seemed to be, and in fact people were having fun, laughing, and in some cases intentionally mucking themselves or each other while gathering the garbage.  There we were, covered in marshland hauling loads of netting and other garbage larger than ourselves, out of a landscape none of us prior to the start of the year could have expected to be in. 

Our friends back home were sleeping in their beds while we dove through the dirt trying to find the next piece of garbage, and suddenly we became the lucky ones. Joking and laughing in an environment with its own identity; a raw exposure to life in its most natural state. We respected the marsh, and we removed that which others left behind, and enjoyed it in a way I could not imagine before entering.  We live in a rural area rich in nature, yet there we interacted with the earth in a way I could only compare to that feeling when one is finger painting and no longer cares about getting their hands dirty.

I felt good about making a positive impact by cleaning the marsh that day. But the marsh had its impact on me as well. People travel from home to car to class or work and back again, moving from one box to another, and maybe we forget sometimes that it's places like the marsh that we come from, that we are family to. Even now, while I write this blog, I am drinking the water that man did not create, that has traveled farther than any one person could in their life,  just to end up in my glass. And it will continue to travel long after I am gone, forever binding man to the sea. Rachel Carson knew. And now we know. 

The rest of the trip (to the oyster vessels and the farm in Pennsylvania) solidified that connection. The apprehensive faces seen in the beginning were changed. Expressions of respect, comfort, smiles, and even guilt for previously disregarding something so directly intrinsic to our existence took their place. Most of all, it was fun. We got muddy as promised, found more trash than we thought possible, and came back as friends. We bonded with one other and the earth in a way no classroom could mimic. Some, before the trip, were looking for an excuse not to go; now we are all looking for an excuse to go back.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Looking back on our trip to Wallops Island I could honestly say I was not looking forward to going on the trip. Our trip was over fall break at Shippensburg University. Over break I was planing on working a little, and most of all relaxing. The trip had very little of that, but it realy wasn't in a bad way. We left Friday afternoon for Wallops Island Marine Science Consortium Research Center. Along the way we took a detour to Baltimore's inner harbor where we took a tour of the Baltimore Aquarium. This was the first time I had ever been to the aquarium. The stop was to help us "connect" with nature before we got to the research center. It was fascinating. The exhibits were amazing and any type of animals species you could think of. The only down fall was the time we had at the aquarium, because of budget constraints.
Once we arrived at Wallops Island the work began. We had numerous activities and service projects that we did through out the next four days. Monday morning we kayaked in the Chesapeake Bay and explored the beach. In the afternoon we volunteered at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and clean a 140 year old lighthouse in preparation for its anniversary the next day.
On Sunday we went to Tom's Cove located at the end of Chincoteague Island. We all got ankle deep in mud for two hours and clean a marsh that serves a a buffer zone for the ocean and the mainland. During the clean up we found hundreds of oyster netting that broke away from privately owned oyster beds and washed ashore. The netting as a serious impact on the animals that life in that marsh area, and it was amazing how much netting we cleaned up.
On Monday morning we went to Smith Island and explored the culture and they way they people on the island live which is unique from any other society that i have seen in the modern United States. I have posted and elaborated earlier on this day in a previous post.
On our return trip home we wanted to bring what we learned and are experience full circle. We Stopped at a farm in St. Thomas PA where we were given a tour of the farm and a lecture on best management practices.

A relaxing breeze sweeps
Across the calm flat surface
of the sea
reflected deep azure,
the waves start to roll and tumble
in the sea
crash, crash, crash
waves smash on high rocky cliffs
beside the sea
the sky darkens
huge, fluffy grey candyfloss gathers
above the sea
wind roars, thunder cracks
water crashes down like waterfall
sat the sea
schools of small fish panic, fear grips
they're being tossed around
through the sea
and eternity passes, clouds part
the sun shines down, heavens rays
onto the sea
tranquility is restored
gulls squawk happily
near the sea
Rhythmic pattern of tides
a vast expanse of blue water, remember
the sea.

This is a poem was written by a friend of mine. It reminds me of the circle of life with in nature. As always there is the calm of life, then there is the destruction of nature. Its wild, free, and untamable. Nature takes its course and come full circle again to a calm and beautiful setting.

Beach Research Day

On Saturday October 6th, 2007 7 am came early. For the first time in as long as I can remember i have not been up that early on a Saturday. That morning I woke up know I was going to go kayaking. I have never been kayaking before in my life and I wasn't looking forward to it. My classmates ans I left the Marine and Science Consortium Research Center on Wallops Island on a journey to the unknown. We traveled by shuttle vans to a park and boat ramp located on Assateague Point. We left Assateague Point and kayaked down the Chesapeake Bay, approximately two miles to a beach on Chincoteague Island. At the beach we pulled our boats ashore and began to explore the beach. We were at the beach for about two hours, and walked around searching for and wildlife that we could. On this exploration we found several species of wildlife. Some people dug in the sand for crabs and other attempted to catch fish in the ocean with nets. Along the way we collected various types of species of animals and kept them to run research on. On of the most fascinating things I ever saw was a Bald Eagle that perched its self on a branch right in front of us. I never seen a Bald Eagle before in the wild, let alone 35 yards away. The Bald Eagle sat perfectly perched on the tree branch. Several of the other students took pictures of it, and i was lucky enough to look at it through binoculars. Once we were done looking and taking pictures of the Bald Eagle it flew away. I thought it was so interesting that the eagle sat on the branch for the entire time that we wanted to look at it, and as soon as we were done if flew away...... It capped of a great morning and it was one of the most amazing experiences I ever witnessed with nature.


Change you can your hair color, not your skin;
Change you can your smile and grin: not your eyes;
Change you can your sex partners, not your kin;
Change you can your sinful life: Be soul-wise!

Change you can your friends and foes, not parents;
Change you can your teacher/guide, not your brain;
Change you can your exam-marks, not talents;
Change you can your habits bad and be sane.

Change you can the environment, not the sun;
Change you can the landscape old, not the soil;
Change you can your temperament and not run;
Change you can your heart and mind: you must toil.

Change you can your ambitions but be brave;
Change you can your life-styles much but behave!

This poem is written by John Celes. Its shows that change, is an important part of our lives. We always change the way we look, the clothes we wear, our hairstyles, and even partners. We change our environment and our landscape while barley noticing it. We need to change our lifestyles and ambitions in life, especially towards our environment. This trip, as well as Rachel Carson, changed me to see a new and unique perspective of our environment. Both showed me that preservation is key of future endeavors for generations to come. It’s wonderful to see how much our environment has to offer. I believe it’s our responsibility to take care of our environment and preserve it for our kids as well as theirs. We should not be greedy and take our environment for all of its resources. If we continue to remove these resources from time to time while not replacing it, than civilization as we know it will no longer exist. My mother once told me, “Always leave a home just the way you entered it.” The earth is our home. We all need to leave this world just the way we found it, if not better. It doesn’t take much time and it really does make a difference. You too, can change.

The Legacy of R. Carson

First of all, this post is primarily in response to an article in Washington Monthly which was brought to my attention by my professor in Environmental Sociology class (to read the article click on the title of this post; tell me in your comment if this does not work and I will put up a comment with the link included). Generally, this article tells about how attempts to recognize the life and accomplishments of Rachel Carson were met with attacks from both media and the government. I have read the article for the second time today and, again, sit stunned at the reaction of what the article calls the "detractors."

I simply cannot fathom how someone could be so cruel toward a woman who was so nice. What I mean is that she comes across as a nice person, regardless of her professional life. The only solution that I have come to is that this situation must have something to do with money. It is hard for me to imagine that all these "detractors" have some personal grudge against Rachel. It seems more likely a preemptive strike made in response to a perceived threat against their sources of revenue. I cannot think of any other reason, although I wish I could because I hate to think that anyone would sink to such a level for the sake of money.

A concept that has been going around is that if we work to preserve nature we will lose revenue. Even if this concept held water, and reality does not support it, it is still a ridiculous reason for attacking Rachel Carson. Many feel that if Carson had not written her books then the American environmental movement would never have formed and we would not have to deal with all the regulations that have come about because of it. This is like saying that Jesus Christ is to blame for all the terrible things humanity has done in the name of Christianity, or maybe that Martin Luther King is responsible for all the inconvenience whites have had to put up with as a result of the Civil Rights Movement. We miss the point entirely when we do this, and no one's situations, neither the "detractors" or the supporters of Rachel Carson, can be improved in this way.

Rachel Carson had some great ideas, she wrote beautifully, and brought to the attention of millions the impact humans were having on the environment, but her time is past now. I think that both sides of this argument must move on if we are ever to find some answers and peace. I do not mean that we cannot show appreciation for Rachel Carson, I do that myself, but I do not think she should be raised above humanity as some sort of visionary or prophet. On the other hand, she most certainly did not have a malicious streak either; she did not sit at home just thinking up new ways and new lies she could tell to further wreak destruction against and inconvenience American businesses and lifestyles. Rachel Carson was simply a woman, a human like the rest of us. The only difference between her and us was that she, first, was concerned about the environment and, second, had the courage to talk about her ideas and feelings in a public setting.

As far as I can tell, the most she ever asked of us was that we might take a moment and think about how our lifestyles might be effecting the environment. If we can do this seriously and earnestly, and still feel no remorse for our actions, then Rachel would have had nothing further to say to us. After all, it is only because of the guilt we feel over our actions that Carson's ideas can have any impact on us. Ironically, it is those of us who feel the most guilt and responsibility for our actions that end up empathizing the most with Carson's words.

Unlike some countries, it is not a crime to think for yourself in the United States, and yet sometimes it seems like the people in this country perform this action the least out of all the people in the world. Some people in this nation are specifically paid to confuse the rest of the American public. It occurs to me that this may have been the actual purpose behind Carson's actions - to get the American public to start thinking. If the environment were destroyed, Rachel would have been sad, probably devastated, but I do not think she would have called it the end of the world. When people stop thinking, though, we lose our autonomy; I believe we would be losing the most important part of ourselves. So, sorry for the long post, but I guess my point is to tell you all to get out there and start thinking, for yourselves that is, and never stop questioning the truth of what you hear and see from media, from the people around you, and even from yourselves.

Smith Island

One of the most interesting and appealing events on the trip was our visit to Smith Island. Smith Island is a small island made up of about 250 or so people. The island was inhabited hundreds of years ago because of the thriving fishing industry. Smith Island is a 45 minute boat trip from the main land. There is no other access there other than by boat. As a sociology major i was interested in the social interactions and functions of their everyday lives. There are only a few cars on the island. Some do not have license plates on them and would never pass any state inspection laws that we have on the mainland. Their is no police on the island. Crime is low, and mostly consists of theft and drug use. The church is the authority and if any one commits a non serious crime they are locked in the church basement. Most of the roads are dirt, and there is a lot of garbage scattered around the island. All mail and groceries are brought over by boat daily. And the children got to school up until 7-8th grade, and take about to the mainland for high school. It is sad to see that the town is run down and the population is decreasing. The population decrease is because of the declining water quality. The majority of people that live on the island make their living off the sea, and the bay. And because of the poor water quality the aquatic animal live is rapidly decreasing and the people living on the island can no longer support themselves or their families and are forced to move to the mainland.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Farm

There has been a great deal of discussion thus far on the blog relating to our trip down to Wallops Island and the research/good times we had on that leg of the journey; however, I think the Myers Dairy Farm in St. Thomas has unfortunately been overlooked, and I say unfortunately because it is what truly brought what we experienced on the trip full circle for myself.

All of the experiences discussed in other threads are vitally important to the notion of conservation and what we as individuals can do in playing our part. The destruction of the Chesapeake Bay, the disease ridden oysters, and the filthy marsh are but examples of the numerous and varying problems that each of us can personally make an effort toward remedying. And personally, I think a big step in the process can be done from our own backyards. The Myers Farm is a prime example of a small family doing their part to save the world. The best management practices which they employ go an awfully long way to preserving the Bay, toward promoting the health of the oysters, and perhaps even reducing the litter and other pollution found in Tom's Cove.

And when one thinkgs about it, it is truly amazing that the actions in little St. Thomas, Pennsylvania affect such an extraordinary amount of individua'ls lives. The buffer zones which the Myers family has erected around the stream that runs through their farm will eliminate an exorbitant amount of pollution from runoff that may have tainted the Bay. The no-till farming practices used by the Myers will preserve their farmland for generations to come and perhaps provide nurishment for individuals living throughout the country. The list of best management practices employed by the Myers family goes on and on, and we should all be grateful for their contributions toward conservation and also to some degree preservation.

And finally, the Myers family themselves are wonderful people. They graciously opened up their farm to a group of semi-interested young adults (at that point I think everyone was ready to get back to Shippensburg) and were willing to take the time out of their busy schedules to give us a tour and explain the effects of their best management practices. It is from their generosity that I was truly able to accomplish the goal of this trip and connect the dots from a place far, far away to my own home. I think the Myers farm is a part of the trip we all unfortunately overlook, but nonetheless I am sure we all realize the impact and importance of that leg of our journey.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Blue and Green

Deal Island The Colloquium following our time on the Alternative Fall Break was tonight. I was highly impressed by all of the presentations from fellow Ship students. I find it interesting that everyone brought back different perspectives and applications from the same experience. Everybody was able to synthesize information and apply findings to their own interests and specialities. You know that a cause is special and important when so many people can be positively affected in so many different ways!

CrabI myself am an English major and thought it would be impossible to find anything on Wallops Island that I could bring back that related to my major. I was wrong! I was personally inspired by activities that we participated in on the Fall Break. In addition, I am also inspired by the legacy that Rachel Carson has left us. I would like to leave you with the poem that I wrote about her life and our call to action.

Blue and Green: A Tribute to Rachel Carson

She walks with the glow of tree-filtered sun in her eyes
Dancing black shapes in the windy breeze
Printing dark colors on those irises that would
See the world and long to keep it blue and green.

She wrote words of report, elevated into poetry
The world she saw made her believe.
Science intrigued her, beauty inspired.

Her treacherous truths lingered in public eyes.
Whispered words they were; to not be deceived.
Pesticides kill and nature recedes.

Silent Springs ruptures silent dreams
When earth coddles degradation.
Man is echoing, echoing, echoing in his trail,
And only Rachel hears reverberations.

The sea wraps her silky fingers around our plantetal bodies. Affectation. An all consuming tide. The sea washes her silent words over our cold hearts and sustains our landly trysts. She pushes and pulls and makes us whole, but we never say thanks.

Waters flow in Rachel’s eyes, blurring that gaze
That saw blackness pooling on our belov├ęd oceans
Polluting the beauty and truth we once knew.
One good conscience crying for generations forward

Rachel spoke for the currents.
For the earth.
For us.
Of the sea and all around us.
Mustn’t we say thanks?

Earth reflecting in her gentle eyes
Closed before nature was redeemed.

Wallops Island Organisms

I spent the summer at The Marine Science Consortium at Wallops Island taking summer classes for Shippensburg University in the marine sciences. While down there, I kept a photographic log of the organisms I collected. Here are a couple...
(Click on picture for larger view!!!)

Common Name: Mantis Shrimp
Scientific Name: Squilla empusa
Location: Shallows off of Tom's Cove
Description: This shrimp is not in fact a shrimp at all. It is a crustacean of the class Malacostraca. They are typically found in the shallows of the central to southern intercostal areas. They are light purple with iridescent colors around the entire body. They have very unique bi-lobed eyes that move independently on one another, which look amazingly iridescent in light.
This fascinating organism is most well known for the blinding speed of its mantis-like front claws (shown tucked under its body to the left). The claws have a whipping speed of 10 meters per second!!! This is enough to slice a fish in half, lacerate a human hand, and break double pained aquarium glass.
These organisms typically burrow in muddy substrate, and are mostly nocturnal, which makes them very difficult to find. They prey on crabs, fish, and other mantis shrimp. They can grow up to 10 inches in length. Mantis shrimp at this size are often harvested for consumption and are considered a delicacy.
(Click on picture for larger view!!!)
Common Name: Striped Burrfish
Scientific Name:Chilomycterus schoepfi
Location: Shallows off Tom's Cove
Description: This spiky organism is another incredible organism found in Tom's Cove. This fish resembles a puffer fish, however it is not. They have spikes covering most of their body that are always erect, unlike their close cousin the porcupine fish. They have the ability to inflate with water giving them an excellent defense against predators.
They move in a very unique fashion, using their pectoral fins for locomotion, and their tail as a ruder. This is unlike most fish that ungulate their entire body for locomotion. This strategy gives them very accurate side and backwards mobility without traveling forward. In the wild they use their powerful beak-like jaws to eat small fish, barnacles, snails, crabs, and clams.
They are found in coastal waters along the entire United States eastern seaboard, but are more abundant in the southern reaches. They are commonly encountered by SCUBA divers and are a favorite for the salt water aquarium hobbyist.

***Keep posted for more amazing organisms to be posted soon...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Getting Down and Dirty...but in a good way

I think the title basically says what the rest of the fall break at Wallops Island was like. Not that I don't like that, but still, not what you expect from a fall break. In the same Saturday afternoon, we relaxed by kayaking from Chincoteague Island to Assateague Island to collect some specimen samples like hermit crabs, blue crabs, and other little critters. I've never gone kayaking before, but I really enjoyed skimming across the water...a bit different that canoeing. Oh, I also enjoyed seeing two rather soaked profs trying to run through the water and falling almost simulateously *poof poof*, only to become even more wet, haha.

On Sunday, we made our way back to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and we saw an absolutely beautiful lighthouse. We were even lucky enough to be there during the Assateague Lighthouse Recognition Day where there was a large group of people and the Marines celebrating 140 years of it standing proudly, overlooking the bay. Let me tell you...the view from the top was just breathtaking. I learned that as the years have passed, the lighthouse has been becoming more and more inland because of the shifting sands and land. It was a picture perfect moment for me because I have always, always, always, wanted to go into a lighthouse. On the clear, sunny morning at the top of the lighthouse, I had a feeling the rest of the day would just be peachy.

Well, it was less peachy and more squishy, smelly, muddy, and sandy. In fact, the exact antithesis of what a peachy would smell and look like. But.....don't get me wrong! I actually really really liked what we did. As a large group armed with nothing but yellow latex gloves, plastic bags, and our oldest pairs of shoes on, we marched into the marshes next to the refuge and the beach and set out to clean it as much as possible. At first, it wasn't too mushy and smooshy, but there was quite a bit of garbage out there which was really sad. The road alongside the beach was a bit aways from where we ventured out, and yet - somehow - we still found tattered shoes, baby mattress, cans, and a whole lot of other stuff that shouldn't be found out there. Not only that, we found a ton...a ton! ...of netting for neighboring clam beds that weren't collected from the farmers and were just left to wash up and into the marsh.

The netting was so bad and so thick, it was impossible to remove some of the netting because the plants began to grow through and around it. Removing the netting meant ripping up a large amount of vegetation and none of us could bring ourselves to do that! Some of the netting was buried so deep in big pools of mud that some people (like Dr. Cornelius) had to practically swim in the mud in order to haul large bundles of the thin netting and metal wire out of the muck. Arrrrggghhh!!! How can the farmers be so lazy? The farmers are supposed to be responsible and collect their nettings? The waters next to the protected marshes where the clams are harvested are the farmers' own private property, so don't they realize they are ruining their own property?

This should be an example of how we must take responsiblity of what we do to the environment. Isn't it a shame that the farmers are taking from the environment, but definitely not doing anything to give back? Even if they think it isn't hurting them, it's hurting something else! The next time you throw that soda can out the car window or toss the wrapper and plastic containers from Sheetz Made-To-Order, you may think, "Pft...why should it matter to me?", please think again. It's tempting because I've felt like throwing stuff out the window, but then I think that it isn't going to take me any more energy to throw it into a trash can or recycle bin.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Chesapeake Bay - Oysters = ?

Smith Island was one of our many adventures on the Alternative Fall Break that was extremely interesting. About half of the group went to Smith Island on Monday October 8, 2007. Smith Island is located in Maryland and made up of three small towns. These towns have not experienced as much growth or prosperity as seen in the rest of the United States. This Island has relied on watermen as their sole livelihood for as long as they can remember. These watermen were people who cultivated oysters from the Chesapeake Bay and sold them. However, with the massive drop in the number of oysters inhabiting the Chesapeake Bay today, Smith Island has definitely felt the effects.

Upon entering the island there was an immediate visual impact that I was not expecting. Usually when I think of an island I think of beautiful beachfront property or small well kempt houses sparingly placed throughout. This was not the case on Smith Island. As the small mail boat entered Ewell’s small harbor, the first thing I noticed was a bunch of extremely weathered and run down boat houses or what looked like sheds. After exiting the boat our group split up into groups that ventured different ways.

As we walked down the narrow one lane roads I remember thinking, ‘this must be a ghost town’. There was no one to be seen. It amazed me how mailboxes were wide open and every house looked empty. The road we were on looped around to the back sides of the houses. There was a creek that ran along the left side of the road between the backyards and the road. This poor creek was filled with beer cans, plastic bags, and all sorts of other types of trash. This was almost painful to see because the town had its own charm to it until you looked down and saw the litter everywhere.

As we entered the main part of town we say this beautiful church. The Ewell Church was a majestic building with a beautiful cemetery behind it. This looked like it was the center of town because the “Smith Island Center” and “Rukes General Store and Seafood Deck” were both across the street. At that moment is when we started to see livelihood. I talked to the cook at the general store and learned that there were about 300 people that lived on the island. Later on this fact would become blurred when we regrouped and discussed the many different answers heard by the citizens of the island.

There were many events that took place on the island that day. Some of us were invited to stay with a resident for free whenever we wanted to, some rented golf carts and explored more of the island, some got to hear small town gossip, while others got free soy smoothies from the ‘New York Experience’. All of these events that happened that day have many exciting stories attached. However, the most amazing thing was that through all of the fun and strange experiences there was an ability to learn and see, first hand, the effects of watermen loosing their jobs in a society that solely relies on their income.

poem for the ocean.

The picture of an ocean is a vision of many wonders. A picture reveals a single moment in time where its setting were once still and at peace. A moment in the present, and the past. simple observations are often over looked even in the most detailed image. The peace of the sea can be seen in all perspectives of those who are a witness to its presence. Within time this picture will remain as it is, but amongst its presence on earth it will go through a gradual change. Transformations of the ocean will evolve as it drifts off into the waves of time. Soon we all come to the conclusion of realizing our truths and values to the oceans gift. the plentiful resources and life that it has created are in connection to us all. everything flows and is created by the sea, for the sea is life and is the gift of creation. Let not our eyes decieve us with the perception of a beautiful picture, for pictures are moments entrapped within time. Let the remaniss of our beautiful enviroment carrie on in our perceptions of the ocean images we see before us everyday.
This poem is dedicated and inspired by Rachel Carson....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My interview with Shippensburg University's campus newspaper, The Slate

What was the project exactly?
The Alternative Fall Break trip to Wallops Island, Virginia was a trip sponsored by the Women's Center which included many majors. For me it fulfilled a service learning project for my Women's Studies Seminar course, but for other students it was a required field trip. The trip linked to women's studies through the focus of Rachel Carson who was a writer and biologist who focused on appreciating and preserving nature. It was the centennial year of her birth so my service learning project will deal with her book "The Sea Around Us", and will focus on her life achievements and how we, as students, got to help her conservation efforts throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

How did you get involved?
I got involved through Nicolette Yevich who works at the Women's Center on campus. She came to speak at my women's studies seminar class. I thought it sounded interesting to be able to get out in nature and explore different animals and regions all while learning to conserve the area around us, and since it fulfilled my service learning project I was getting the best of both worlds, among two different majors (Biology/Earth Science and Women's Studies).

Where did you go?
Friday Oct. 5th, we stopped in Baltimore to visit the aquarium and explore Inner Harbor, then we stayed the rest of the trip in Wallops Island, Virginia at the Marine Science Consortium. On our day trips we visited Assateague Island, Deal Island, MD, as well as spending time on the Chesapeake Bay and Tom's Cove.

How long were you there?
The trip was Friday October 5th to Tuesday October 9th.

What were the tasks you did while there?
On Saturday, the group took kayaks out from Chincoteague Memorial Park to learn about coastal exploration and environments. Once there, we explored different species of crabs, fish, and even got the chance to see a bald eagle. In the afternoon we returned as a group to be part of the Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center's exhibit on Rachel Carson as we told visitors why we were there as well as helped staff different stations and booths of activities.
On Sunday we did marsh reconstruction around Tom’s Cove and were overwhelmed by the garbage and litter the group compiled. In the beginning we were skeptical of what we would actually recover, a few soda bottles, a plastic bag, but it soon turned into hundreds of feet of netting, used by locals to keep their clam harvests under control. We also found many old shoes, paper items, and used fireworks. We even rescued a baby terrapin turtle under the netting that was tangled among vegetation. Among all the students we accumulated over 40+ bags of garbage in just a few hours.
On Monday we spent time on Deal Island and got the chance to talk to different men who all contribute to the oyster population. There was an oyster surveying boat that took students out on the bay to look at the oxidation states of the water as well as a firsthand look at how they fish for the oysters and what a "sick" oyster looks like among the rest. We learned the importance of the oysters in the Chesapeake and how fast they are declining. Oysters are filter feeders so they help in a sense to clean up the bay, with their population declining and more and more pollution and farm run off from our area going into the bay, the life of the bay is becoming overly populated with nutrients and it has become a huge problem. The problem also affects the local fisherman who make their living harvesting oysters. We got the chance to go onto their boat as well as we chatted about the harsh effects and how it is damaging their career. (Aboard these boats, we got the chance to eat raw oysters!!)...some say it was sick, but you just have to swallow it!
On Tuesday before returning back to SHIP we stopped at the Myers Brothers Dairy Farm in Franklin County. It was awarded Best Management Practices for farm runoff. We got to see how they milk the cows and how all the manure and run off from the cows is controlled and does not damage the water that eventually runs into the Chesapeake Bay. It was shocking to see the potential damage just one farm could cause, luckily we saw the good way to control runoff, however many farms throughout Pennsylvania and other states are not awarded with BMP.

I know it was community service, but for whom?
It was supposed to be community service for a business or company dealing with women or a women's issue, but for me and my roommate who partnered on this project, Dr. Horner said we did our community service through actual conservation efforts as well as learning about the groundwork that was set by writer and biologist Rachel Carson.

Are you planning on going back?
Since I am a senior, I will probably not be around for the next trip, however, the teachers and faculty were talking about another trip back to Wallops Island Virginia next year. Hopefully, I will be able to come along, it was a once in a lifetime experience to do and see all the things we got to do first hand. Not many students can say they kayaked to and from an island or went with local fisherman to eat raw oysters, or even climbed the Assateague Lighthouse (142 feet high, with even more steps!)

Or are you planning on getting involved in community service projects in the future?
Yes. I've always been interested in volunteering even throughout high school through food banks, animal shelters, rescue missions and assisted living homes. Although it is not paid work, you always get to do and see things other people are missing out on. I hope to have many more volunteering opportunities in the future, including eventually completely a 2 year term with the Peace Corps.

Had you ever done anything like this before?
Not to the extent to which we accomplished what we did. The marsh clean up as well as the combination of exploring new places, learning and finding different marine species as well as meeting some fascinating people, was definitely an experience to remember.

Thanks for reading!! Hopefully I will get the chance to scan in the actual article when it gets published in The Slate, until then I hope this either brought back some great memories for those who went on the trip, or inspired the rest of the readers to actually take time and get involved in conservation and/or volunteer opportunities.

-Holly Reynolds
Shippensburg University

Monday, October 22, 2007

Pictures are worth a 1000 words!

Please take a moment and visit the photo gallery from the field experience. The link is located to the right hand side of the blog under the link to the Rachel Carson Centennial Blog.

These photos were taken by various faculty participating in the program and represent various views and vantage points of students in action and other vignettes of inspiration encountered on the trip.

Although these represent a subset of the total number of photographs taken - their selection was based only on representative coverage of activities over the 4.5 day program. Nonetheless, it would be interesting to hear from all blog participants as to what questions, ideas, thoughts, insights these photographs bring to mind for you.

As we also had numerous contributors during the field experience (to whom we owe a great thanks), we particularly encourage all of you to comment here as well.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Beginnings of a Great Fall Break

As a student in Dr. Sara Grove's Honors Colloquium class, I was at first a little leery and just a bit apprehensive of the Wallops Island experience. Oyster census? Cleaning? No air conditioning? Bad food?!

Well, I said to myself, I can handle the lack of air conditioning and bad food...years of summer camp in cabins with the bare minimum (i.e. floors, walls, roof, bunk beds, electricity, and not much else) toughened me up, ha. Perhaps what was trying to hold me back was the fact I was "giving up" my whole fall break. No sleeping fact, every day I would have to get up early in the morning! Despite this, I still decided to go because it was something different, something I never did before. Plus, it couldn't be worse than my spring break trip to New York City during a snow/wind advisory where everything shut down...

So there I was with my luggage and sleeping bag waiting for the vans to come. I believe it was here when I started to get excited. It was something new, something good, and, yes, something educational (because I am a nerd). When we got down there, I was actually surprised because it was a little better than what I had expected. What got to me were the spiders, but they are killable, so that's ok.

Saturday was the start of our class' excursion as we presented our poster board depicting the life of Rachel Carson at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. We received much attention from those passing by and even attracted the interest of children. We wanted the public to see and understand how dedicated Rachel Carson was with the environment and in trying to shine a light on the harmful effects of the government's use of DDT. I was surprised to see how many people showed up to the refuge because before this class, I had never heard of Rachel Carson. As I talked to some of the individuals I met, it was refreshing to be reminded that there still exists people who realize the importance of maintaining our environment for the benefit of ourselves and posterity.

Rachel Carson paved the way for us to become more environmentally friendly and conscious...not just to help out nature, but to help ourselves! Chemical companies tried to hush her words concerning DDT, but did that stop her? Obviously not. She was passionate in what she not only believed, but knew. She is an example of what we should be. We know not recycling is bad. We know guzzling gasoline is bad. We know dumping toxic chemicals, including hormones like estrogen, into our waters is bad. Are we passionate enough to do something---anything---about it? Maybe we need to be more like Rachel Carson. This is what I have learned from the experience. We all need just a little bit of Rachel Carson in us.

More about the trip later!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Critters! Some large, many small.

Pictures from the field:

Date: October 6, 2007

Specimen ID:
2 specimens of Large Hermit Crab,
Pagurus pullicaris

Front specimen hermitting a medium to large Moon Snail shell (Lunatia heras)

Rear specimen hermitting a medium to small Channeled Whelk shell (Busycon canaliculatum)

Collection Location:
Specimens were collected in the shallow subtidal zone during low tide from southeast side of Assateague Channel at Assateague Point. Specimens were taken back to the laboratory where they were observed and studied in aquaria.

The large hermits are usually identified on the basis of their larger size, the dominance of the right claw (also used as the door when it retreats into the shell) and by the presence of tubercles.

Many hermits- including the one in the Channeled Whelk Shell are often encrusted by a number of different epibionts (organisms that live on top of other organisms) ranging from algae, to bryozoans, cnidarians, bivalves, barnacles, etc.

During the night after collection, the large hermit crab underwent ecdysis and shed its exoskeleton in the aquarium. The following morning the crab was pale white and by late afternoon the greenish brown color had returned to its carapace indicating that the exoskeleton had become harder. Moreover the crab was noticeably larger in size.

Specimen ID:
medium sized male Blue Crab, Callinectes sapidus

Collection Location:
This specimen was collected in the lower intertidal zone in a small pond isolated from the main channel. Locality info as above.

Along with several larger live specimens, students collected a number of dead and molted specimens ranging in size from juvenile to large adults. Most crabs were evidently males although one dead female crab was discovered.

Several specimens were collected and returned to the lab for observation. During this time, the larger crabs were isolated from other species and smaller individuals. Nonetheless, one small blue crab was put in an aquarium with several other species of aquatic crabs including a Green Crab (Carcinus maenas) and several Rock Crabs (Cancer irroratus). Even though they were about the same overall size ~ 2 inches in carapace width, after the first night, two of the Rock Crabs were found to be missing from the aquarium. Later that day a third rock crab as well as a Green Crab were found to be clutched in the claws of the Blue Crab. Although it was not expected it was evident that the crab had successfully preyed upon the other crabs. Remarkable predator indeed.

Specimen ID:
Young Diamondback Terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin

Collection Location:
This specimen was rescued by students during the cleanup of Tom's Cove Marsh. This turtle had become entangled in the commercial predator netting that had been washed into Tom's Cove.

This specimen is perhaps two years old based on its smallish size and the appearance of the growth rings on its back. It would not have lived to see another year. The turtle was already emaciated and somewhat dehydrated by being caught in the netting material obviously for some time. This specimen could have been a female as its head was fairly blunt, although as it was a younger turtle it is still not conclusive until it is of reproductive age when the body shape becomes much more pronounced between males and females.

This turtle species is making a recovery after having been significantly depleted as a food resource. Although it is still consumed in some restaurants as a delicacy, the biggest threat to terrapins is coastal development in hatching grounds, and automobile related deaths as they are run over during the migration to breeding grounds and hatching areas.

Specimen ID:
Eastern Mud Whelk aka Eastern Mud Nasa
(Ilynassa obsoleta)

Collection Location:
Tidal flat northeastern side of Assateague Point, Assateague Island.

This photograph shows large numbers of the small gastropods and their trailways as they move around on the exposed tidal flat during low tide. Classified mostly as herbivores, these snails are grazing on bacterial and algal mats which are growing on the silty sediment grains. It was also found scavenging on small pieces of organic detritus and in one case small pieces of crab.

Specimen ID:
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) sitting in the crook of a maritime pine tree Pinus serotina

Photograph Location:
North fringe of the maritime forest at Assateague Point facing Assateague Channel.

Students discovered this eagle sitting in the crook of this tree. Close inspection showed a few small bits of fish were still hanging on the branch of the tree where it was sitting. Undisturbed by the students, this Eagle was not feeding when it was first observed and it appeared to have been resting. Upon later communication with an ornithologist on the island, it appears that this bird was not one of the three pairs of eagles nesting on Assateague as they have already left for their migration. It was his speculation that mature adult bird was also in migration and stopped for a brief rest in the refuge.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Clean up... It is done.... or is it?

October 7, 2007...

Shippensburg University Rachel Carson Alternative Fall Break Service Project

Salt Marsh Cleanup at Tom's Cove, Assateague Island, Virginia.

After just 3 hours and a few lost shoes, some sticky situations, a few bug bites, and after a lot of blood, sweat, and yes some tears, as a group we had accumulated two piles of rubbish from the salt marsh including the one shown in the image.

Although we picked up the usual obnoxious suspects including plastic bottles, aluminum cans, cigarette buts, shot gun shells, styrofoam containers, plastic bags, pressure treated lumber, pvc pipes, old crab pots, sneakers and other footware, etc., we were surprised upon reaching the north edge of the marsh closest to Tom's Cove by the amount of commercial netting materials that were washed into the marsh and left to become tangled in the chord grass. Given the discovery of significant quantities of this netting, the majority of our energies became focused on removing these netting materials. It was indeed all out war... this job required more time and was energy intensive. Everyone chipped in with strong backs, great hearts, and sacrificed their nice clean clothes in an effort to remove these materials.

Given the types, colors, and overall amount of netting present, it is apparent that there have been multiple instances (seasons?) where these materials have been deposited in the marsh during high tides. After numerous trips back to the parking area, and seeing the pile grow with each contribution, it gave us renewed energy to go back out and collect more. Before long we had accumulated more than 4 truckloads full of debris and netting!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Beginnings are apt to be shadowy....

The Environmental Sociology class is anticipating the trip and wondering what adventures are before us. We hope that our field notes will be inspired by the memories of Rachel Carson and C. Wright Mills, both of whom were pioneers in their field and understood the intersection between science, the soul, and activism. Each student in the class will contribute their thoughts to this thread: their hopes for the trip and their worries - before we begin. As Carson wrote in the first page of The Sea Around Us , "Beginnings are apt to be shadowy...." And so it is with the beginning of our adventure.


This key hole sand dollar was photographed on the beach at Wallops Island. Although a recent addition to the beach (it was washed up and stranded during a storm), it has already begun to break apart as part of a series of taphonomic processes that will eventually yield particles of calcium carbonate sediment grains. The story of the irregular, infaunal urchin, has inspired me to write the following. Good, bad, or indifferent - I hope it will inspire you to take what you see for more than its face value and extend your own experiences and ideas.

Once plankton and benthon, now urchins tossed ashore
by wind and waves and tides galore
come dollars from the sea.

On the beach their time is fleeting in their best
away go their spines and tissues and then their test
away go dollars from the sea,
it is but sediment they shall be!

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Shippensburg University is located in the Cumberland Valley of the Appalachian Fold and Thrust physiographic province of the eastern United States. Situated on the drainage divide for both the headwaters of the Conodoguinet (pron. con-a-daw-gwin-it) and the Conococheague (pron. con-a-ka-jig), Shippensburg is upstream from and contributes runoff, sediment, and other materials to the Chesapeake Bay and the world's oceans. Whether through the Susquehanna or Potomac Rivers our local streams are connected to an immense watershed that encompasses everything from our region to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, but also includes what is now referred to as the Global Ocean.

The great Potomac River, the ever so critical dividing line between the north and the south, and the Susquehanna, that carves its way through the glacially scoured Appalachian Plateau, meanders through the dense stands of conifer and deciduous forests of the northern highlands, and indeed erodes down to the ancient forests of the Pennsylvanian swamps long since buried, work incessantly to uncover and undo the record of life on Earth. Whether placid and peaceful, or raging and furious, these rivers are doing the work that they have been doing for centuries upon centuries, indeed millennia upon millennia... carrying away rock from the very mountains that gave them birth. As Africa was ripped apart from North America by great tectonic forces (during the reign of the first dinosaurs), not only did the rugged journey begin for these rivers but their birth coincided with the conception of the magnificent modern Atlantic Ocean.

The great ocean basin that demarcates our eastern shore, wages its own war on the materials given up to the sea by these great rivers. Whether through redistribution of sediment along the coasts or by wholesale removal of these materials to the deep ocean floor... wind, waves, and tides have worked tirelessly along with the efforts of running water to heal the scars of the great wounds of tectonic convergence long since extinguished. Mountains, greater in size than those of the modern Himalaya, once towered proudly above the Appalachian Trail. Today they are reduced to a mere shadow of their once immense stature. Season upon season, decade upon decade, these rivers pulverized, dredged, and conveyed rock and sediment to the sea. When their great work is complete and the mountains are no more, they will expire having lived a long life and having performed their required duties. Although it is impossible to say what the future will hold, it is for certain that the Potomac, the Susquehanna, or even their cousins the Delaware, Ohio or Patuxent, will keep on at their tasks until their job is complete. Humankind on the other hand, what is our job and what will our future be?

If we have learned anything from Earth's history at all, it is that species are temporary and fleeting. Most have already come and gone with little but a trace, a bone, or a tooth - is that going to be our future? We are tied to our rivers, our bays, and our seas. Without them we have nothing, without them we are nothing.

So what is our job and what will our future be? For the first time ever on Earth, the answer is ours to determine, but no longer should we neglect the health of our rivers, our bays, and our seas. We are guests of this Earth and our time... well our time... we shall see.