Awesome Day at the Tide Pool!

I love going to the tide pool on a field trip with other students. It is a time to observe and take note of the mysteries of nature. But it is also an inspiration for me and a source of great joy, fueling my existing passion for my eventual careers. There are so many unique sea creatures in the water’s depths many of which come to the surface to greet our arrival. One of the pleasures of studying to be a marine biologist is getting out in the field. It just so happens that the “field” is a place along the shore.

When we go together, each one of us is assigned a specific piece of equipment such as a laptop, sample collection gear and an underwater camera. I like to take my business backpack along to carry as much as I am able. It is open and roomy in design and I love its general appearance. Even though it is called a business backpack, I have decorated it with images of fish and assorted sea life. The embroidery of a small seahorse is my pride and joy. I can always identify my bag from a great distance. I don’t mind getting sand in the crevasses as it is a record of where I have been.

It was an awesome day at the tide pool. I have been there before but it doesn’t mean that I have fully explored it. Each time I go I am surprised at something I find. It is an endless source of study. The other students all agree. We live in the same sphere of interest. We will all go out and make our mark in the field someday. Meanwhile, we are building memories as we advance our collective knowledge. We bring home samples for further scrutiny. We all end up in the lab with our specimens under the microscope.

I hope I never wear out this wonderful backpack decorated by me. It is a testimony to my love of the ocean environment. I want it as a souvenir of my youthful days when taking exams and memorizing species was the order of the day. If it is no longer suitable for my future jobs, I will stow it away in the closet, complete with telltale sand. There is nothing like your student days when a day at the tide pool is a routine event. I am fortunate to live near the beach. It is a place of fun and frolic and also of in-depth knowledge. The two go hand in hand. I can’t sit on the sand or surf the waves without taking time to contemplate this magnificent world. I expect to work on a boat or at an aquarium at the very least. There will be no question of a desk job for me. I chose this vast area of study for a good reason.

Less Mercury, Please!

Mercury in fish can be a serious health concern and deter people from eating such a lean and healthy protein. Why is there mercury in fish in the first place, and are there some that are worse for you than others?

For starters, mercury is a metal that exists naturally in the environment and it is toxic. We also accidentally help add it to the environment through various manufacturing processes and through burning fossil fuels. Other common sources are through forest fires, weathering of rocks containing mercury, or even volcanos! When mercury combines with water, it becomes methylmercury.

Once it is in the water, it starts negatively impacting the aquatic life. It infects everything and impacts the entire food chain. It contaminates the bacteria and other food sources that herbivorous fish eat. It also finds its way into the plankton and invertebrates that other fish eat. This, in turn, means that the food sources of piscivorous fish (the fish that eat other fish) contain methylmercury as well. And every single time a fish eats something containing methylmercury, it is absorbed into the new fish. Since methylmercury has a half life of nearly three and a half months in aquatic life, and it accumulates every single time a food source is contaminated, creatures higher up on the food chain are especially susceptible to very high levels of methylmercury – much, much higher than what is in the water around them.

And I’m not just talking fish, either. Birds absorb the methylmercury in fish and shellfish if it is part of their diet. Other sea animals like otters are exposed the same way. The same thing goes for people, too. Pretty much the only way people can be exposed to methylmercury is through eating contaminated fish or other aquatic food sources. It can cause serious kidney or cardiovascular damage, as well significant birth defects if a woman is pregnant or becomes pregnant while methylmercury is in her bloodstream – and the half-life in humans is nearly three months! In other words, it’s something you really want to avoid.

So, how do you know what fish to avoid eating? The question is how high up the food chain it is. Tilefish from Mexico, swordfish, marlin, shark, bigeye tuna, and some types of mackerel, are essentially top of the food chain and therefore very high in methylmercury.

Knowing this information shouldn’t scare you off of fish altogether, however. There are plenty of options that are OK to eat, especially if you eat them in moderation. Safer choices are scallops, clams, tilapia, salmon, and pollock. The older and larger a fish, the more methylmercury you can assume it has. Also, the higher the omega-3 fatty content in the fish, the less methylmercury it seems to have. As an added bonus, omega-3s are very good for you, too!

If you want to learn more about this, check out the Environmental Defense Fund’s Seafood Selector, which can tell you how many meals you can eat containing fish per week and remain under accepted methylmercury levels.

Beach Clean Up

Rosie here, the marine biology student. I love sea creatures all kinds. Anything that lives in the depths is my focus. They fascinate me and form the subject of my studies. Fish are my passion and I eventually hope to be an aquarist in a fabulous aquarium. More are springing up across the U.S. as interest is growing. Some are large and state of the art like Monterrey California. A new one was built recently in Scottsdale, Arizona—hardly an area related to the coast. It will make my job hunting much easier as I will have ample choices. Imagine the joy of taking care of all species and assorted marine life as a job. How did I get so lucky to select his amazing field! If any of you readers are fellow travelers, I want to know. I treasure the opportunity to share stories. I am bound and determined to save the ecosystem. Knowing how important fish are makes my career that much more rewarding. Protecting aquatic environments is mandatory.

Doing research is a way to improve matters worldwide. I hope more and more students undertake the same studies. We need all the help and expertise we can get. Sometimes, I just do small things in my area that show my concern like spending a day at the beach cleaning up. It is amazing what sunbathers and swimmers leave behind unintentionally or not. I use a metal detector from to uncover debris covered by the sand. It took me a while to get the hang of it. In fact, it took ages to find the right one. I read many reviews and was warned not to get something too basic as I would grow out of it. I knew I would be able eventually to handle more sophisticated technology. It is the difference between finding a crumpled tin can and a coin. The greater the sensitivity and frequency, the more likely you will locate items of all sizes and value. It is not about money, of course, but keeping a natural environment pristine. People do not respect nature’s playgrounds whether it be a park, forest, beach, or lake. You find trash everywhere. I wouldn’t be so irate if it were a matter of a quarter falling out of a pocket. It is aluminum soda cans, plastic water bottles, paper wrapping, and beach toys. It’s okay in my book to find keys, a money clip, a penknife, or a can opener. I can see someone forgetting this stuff.

I hope to inspire readers who live near the coast to volunteer for cleanup work. Let’s keep America beautiful. There is something magical about the coast and the creatures who are found in the environs. Don’t spoil the spell by leaving trash. Litter is the enemy of nature’s bounty. Keep it in the trash cans found on every beach. It is your responsibility as it is mine.