You’re 18 Years Old… You’re A Little Young & Naive

Today is the last day that you can register to vote if you want to vote in the upcoming August 28th Florida Primary, and the good news is that registration is super quick and easy. I know this from experience because I registered to vote yesterday online, and on an iPad, while traveling. It took less than 5 minutes so if you’ve not yet registered please do so today. You can register online at http://dos.myflorida.com/elections/for-voters/voter-registration/register-to-vote-or-update-your-information/ and, again, the deadline is today, July 30th, so if you plan to vote in the August 28th Florida Primary it’s now or never to register.

Florida has nearly 13 million registered voters of which 37% are Democrats, 35% Republicans and 28% have no party affiliation. Florida’s primary election allows either registered Republicans or Democrats to vote (those with no affiliation or a minority party affiliation can go online to the same link above, change your affiliation, vote in the primary and then go back online and change it to whatever you want for the general election).

“You’re 18 Years Old…You’re A Little Young & Naive

Scott Wagner

If you are unhappy with our political landscape and political leaders then now is the time to step up and do something to help change things. But if you need extra motivation (although I can’t imagine nearly anyone needs any given the assault being waged on decency and our environment in places like Tallahassee and Washington) then I would like to introduce you to Scott Wagner, a Republican candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, and his ever so ignorant and rude attack of 18 year old Rose Strauss who recently had the audacity to ask the candidate about our global climate change crisis.

Rose, you see, pointed out that two third’s of Pennsylvania voters believe that climate change is an issue that needs to be addressed by the government, but the esteemed Mr. Wagner shared his view that climate change is caused (as writer Dave Barry would say…”I am not making this up”) by people’s body heat and that if elected he does not plan to do anything to address climate concerns. Rose went on to ask Mr. Wagner whether his position has anything to do with his having taken $200,000 in donations from the fossil fuel industry (you go girl) and his answer illustrates most everything that we need to change about political leadership all over America:

“You’re 18 Years Old…You’re A Little Young & Naive

And what does the audience of, I would guess, mainly Scott Wagner supporters do to Rose after hearing his answer?

They laugh.

And what does Mr. Wagner do next?

He tries to change the topic, of course, by saying let’s talk about something else.”

That is until someone shouts out answer the question!”

Mr. Wagner then asks to no one in particular, Are we here to elect a governor, or are we here to elect a scientist?” (that’s similar to fellow Republican and Florida Governor Rick Scott’s “I am not a scientist” answer about climate change). Last March this same “non-scientist” addressed the natural gas industry and explained that the climate change crisis was, in his view, caused by the earth moving closer to the sun every year (science long ago proved that the sun has nothing to do with causing climate change).

Now if you still need motivation you can watch the entire exchange in a short video here: https://www.facebook.com/NowThisPolitics/videos/2177218115643000/.

Whether you are young like Rose and me (we are both 18 and 2018 will be our first time voting) or a seasoned veteran of many elections, now is the time that we can start to change things for the better. No matter if your concerns relate to immigration, global affairs, equality, our environment or something else, NOW is when we can start to elect the type of leaders that are dedicated to beginning to fix what is horrifically broken.

I hope that you will join Rose and me and other “young and naive” people all over America who believe that the “American Dream” includes every American, who believe that protecting our environment is a patriotic endeavor and who are certain that transitioning our economy from fossil fuels to sustainable energy will lead to American invention and innovation unlike anything in the history of our great country.

Yes, if you want to make things better then please be sure to register and then go out and vote in the Primary (08/28) and General Election (11/06). Rose and I are counting on you to help us defeat people like Scott Wagner and Rick Scott so that our generation can start to work on fixing what’s wrong.

The Summer of Sharks

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The SRC team releasing a nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) back into the Atlantic Ocean

As I have written here before, I love sharks.

Every size and type of shark intrigues me and the more I encounter these amazing creatures, the more I want to learn. In fact, one of my goals this summer has been to spend at least 30 days aboard research vessels catching, tagging, collecting scientific data on and releasing sharks. I am happy to report that I expect to accomplish or exceed my goal and that my summer of sharks has been incredible.

Thankfully I live in a region of the world that allows me to study these amazing creatures and that’s particularly the case because of my college. I’m fortunate to attend one of the leading marine science schools in the world, the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and am deeply honored to be part of the small team that makes up Dr. Neil Hammerschlag’s renowned Shark Research and Conversation (SRC) Lab.

From nurse sharks, like the one above, and great hammerheads to black tips and tiger sharks to just about everything in between that you can imagine, we see them all in our work with SRC. In my own work this summer, over the course of almost 30 days in the field on board research vessels, I have been fortunate to have helped catch, study and tag at least 10 different species of sharks through my internship with SRC and as a student of the Field School’s Elasmobranch Course.

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Nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

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Nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

My summer began with a week-long trip out of Key West where we traveled to the Dry Tortugas and lived aboard the Field School’s Research Vessel Garvin. I was honored to have been selected for the trip and work with the incredible people from the Field School, as well as members of the SRC team so as to study the Tortuga’s Gulf of Mexico shark population.

During our week offshore, not only were we able to dive some exquisite sunken wrecks covered in all sorts of colorful tropical fish species and sea turtles, but we also caught, tagged and collected biological samples on 27 different sharks (8 species total) before gently releasing them back into the wild. The SRC and Field School teams also spent another two weeks in the Dry Tortugas where they caught and released 51 more sharks for a total of 78 over the three weeks of research we performed there in May and June.

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SRC quickly working up a great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran)

I then spent another week on the RV Garvin with the Field School staff as we sailed the waters off the coast of Miami out in the Atlantic Ocean. Each day we performed science on the sharks that we caught and released and learned about their role and importance within our natural environment as an apex species. During that week we caught and released some very cool species including bonnethead sharks, blacknose sharks and even a smalltooth sawfish that we quickly released back into the water before reporting our sighting to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as is required due to their highly endangered status. Protecting important species like the sawfish or the great hammerhead is critical to every element of our environment and the news out of Washington, which you can read here, that the Trump Administration wants to reduce those protections is deeply disappointing.

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Drawing blood from a nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

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Processing a shark’s blood in the on-board lab to extract plasma

In the event that you are curious about such scientific work, what we do when catching and releasing sharks, I’ve included a few pictures within this blog from this summer. When ‘working up a shark’, as we call it, we carefully and gently secure most of the sharks onto a special platform off the back of the boat (the stern) and in the short time it’s there we quickly collect all sorts of data including measurements, fin clips, muscle biopsies, blood samples and then we tag each shark using either a NOAA tag, acoustic tag or satellite tag.

Some species, such as the majestic and protected Great Hammerhead, never leave the water (I’ve included some pictures of our work this summer on these incredible animals as well) and in every single case great care is taken to respect the animal in every way and to release them as quickly as possible back into their natural environment.  The process is orchestrated like a symphony, a shark science symphony I would could call it, as each member of the team has a specific role for that day’s trip, has gone through extensive training and is supervised at all times by highly knowledgeable leaders with years of hands on field experience.

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Drawing blood from a blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus)

I’ve also, of course, been aboard many trips throughout my first two semesters that SRC has conducted and it was on one of those trips that I have one of my fondest memories of my first year. It was the first time that I had ever been offshore with the team, meaning we were in 100 feet deeper water than usual and had to add extension lines to our gear. It was an amazing day where we caught two bull sharks, two great hammerheads, and one tiger shark. I should mention that it was actually my first time ever seeing a great hammerhead and a tiger shark in person. It was such an exciting (and exhausting day) that I fell asleep as I was telling my family about our adventures and good fortune!

As my Summer of Sharks continues, I want to remind everyone that Dr. Hammerschlag and the University of Miami’s Shark Research & Conservation Lab will be featured in three different Shark Week episodes this summer! Be sure to check out “Monster Tag” Monday July 23rd at 8:00pm, “Shark Tank Meets Shark Week”Wednesday July 25th at 9:00 pm, and “Tiger Shark Invasion” Thursday July 26th at 10:00 pm!

My friends at Field School will also be featured in “Alien Sharks: Greatest Hits” Sunday July 22nd at 7:00 pm and “SharkCam Stakeout” Wednesday July 25th at 10:00 pm.

You can catch these shows on The Discovery Channel so tune in or set your DVR to record all of the fun and excitement.

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Releasing a nurse shark after a work up (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

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Measuring a Great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran)

Thank you to everyone in SRC and at the Field School for making this summer so absolutely amazing and one full of sharks!

I want to especially send a shout out to Dr. Hammerschlag, Steve, Abby, Shannon, and Trish from SRC for supporting, teaching and encouraging me. I might be the youngest person in our Lab but no one is more honored to work with you and everyone at SRC. Thank you SRC.

I’d also like to very much thank Julia, Catherine, Christian, Jake, and Nick from Field School for embracing and inspiring me. My experiences offshore and on-board with you and the others on each of our trips this summer was life changing (so much so that I am now studying for my Captain’s license). Thank you Field School.

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Releasing a nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) after a quick workup

If you love sharks, or are just curious to learn more about these wondrous creatures, I have GREAT news for you. You, too, can go shark tagging or attend other educational trips with us. To learn more about Shark Research and Conservation, please click here or to learn more about Field School, please click here. I hope you will consider joining us on what I promise will be a once in a lifetime experience that you will never forget.

Okay, enough about my summer “vacation,” my summer of sharks. I am off on another two trips with the SRC team this Saturday and Sunday and hope you will tune in and learn more about sharks on TV this week or join us out on the water soon. Fins up and enjoy the rest of your summer!

Saving America From The Death Of Decency

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As I do each summer, I spent the last week on the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Although you may not be familiar with the Reservation, there is a good chance that you have heard of the Sioux Native Americans or, for that matter, one of their famous chiefs, Sitting Bull. This year, in addition to helping residents in a variety of ways, I was honored to be asked to conduct a few STEM oriented classes for the local children.

What you may not know about this remote Reservation, a place six hours from the nearest good size city (Rapid City), is that its residents are some of the most impoverished people in North America. Jobs are scarce, health hazards are high, and the suicide rate for adults and children is alarming.  Many of the ancestors of these good people were murdered by settlers intent on stealing their land and those that survived were forced from their homes, places that they owned and farmed and fished and hunted for generations, into the Reservations where they now reside. America has a long, indecent and savage, history of stealing their property, their primary food source (bison), their hope for the future and so much more.

The Cheyenne River Sioux’s poverty and desperation reminds me all too much of what we are watching in Washington today. The indecent manner in which our government is treating immigrants, our environment and all-to-often our own citizens is appalling and must stop.

One of the highlights of my trip to South Dakota each year has been spending time with a little boy that I will call “Liam” to protect his true identity. A couple of years ago when I first met him, the time that we spent together was a highlight of my trip. When I returned the following year, I was eager to see “Liam” although I could not possibly imagine he would remember me. Much to my surprise he totally remembered me, my name and even the things we did together the summer before. Our friendship picked up right where it left off a year earlier and so you can imagine my disappointment this summer, on my recent trip, when “Liam” was nowhere to be found.

Day after day passed and I neither saw nor heard about “Liam”. That is until my last night, during dinner when one of the town’s elders, his grandfather, explained that “Liam” had just returned home and was recovering from a suicide attempt. Mind you, my friend “Liam” is no older than nine.

The source of the desperation that “Liam” and the Lakota and other Native American tribes like theirs face can, of course, be traced to the indecent manner in which our forefathers treated our country’s native people. Sadly, that indecent behavior towards those who are less fortunate, who think differently and who look or speak differently is alive and well in our country today including in places such as The White House.

Which brings me to my beloved Aunt Marcie and Uncle Steve. While I was out of town this past week, my aunt and uncle had dinner with my father and later that night Dad explained how distraught Aunt Marcie was, repeatedly in tears during dinner, over what President Trump and our government are doing to immigrant families, including separating children from their parents as they try to enter the United States in search of a better life.

Now, I understand that not every single person on planet earth that wants to come to the United States can do that, for a variety of often complex reasons, but I also understand that we are a nation of immigrants; ultimately, each of us or our families came from somewhere else perhaps with the exception of my Lakota friends and other Native Americans like them. But I also understand, and would like to believe that this is the case to our core, that America is a place where our citizens treat one another with decency, respect and civility.

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https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/21/politics/melania-trump-jacket-border-visit/index.html

To separate desperate families in search of a better life is about as indecent and shameful a thing as I could possibly imagine. And to cover it up with politics, with the President beating his chest about strong borders and walls or, for that matter, his wife disrespecting pretty much everyone in our country by wearing a billboard of a jacket that shouts “I really don’t care, do u?”, is disgraceful.

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https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/homestead/article213566449.html

The question that Mrs. Trump’s jacket asked brings me back to Aunt Marcie and Uncle Steve. As distraught as she and any decent person was over what the President did, I’m proud to tell you that she took action and while I was traveling back to Miami last night, she was marching in Homestead with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other people to answer that question with a resoundingly loud “YES, we care”.

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My aunt and the people who marched in Homestead sent a loud message that, in a week filled with desperation and many stories about indecent behavior from our President, gives me hope. And most importantly, those that rode those buses and stood up for those less fortunate – the children separated from their families who are forced to live in a ‘camp’ that reminds too many of Nazi Germany – are ‘just’ normal every day American citizens. They are your friends and neighbors, not politicians in search of the limelight or trying to stroke their ego, but everyday people simply trying to do the right thing by helping others.

Those who marched made it clear that Americans care about family, including immigrant families.

They made it clear that treating others with decency, kindness and respect is important to our country despite the appalling behavior some are displaying for political gain or simply because they are evil.

Our country has many serious, and often complex and costly, challenges: immigration, race relations and our climate crisis to name just a few. But I believe those who marched made it clear that only by working together, by embracing and celebrating our differences, can we address these important issues.

And to solve such issues the politics of fear that some seem to so enjoy touting or tweeting must come to an end.  I believe that those who marched thankfully represent the vast majority of Americans, people who intend to right what is wrong and I do hope that you will join us over the next few months by helping revise and embrace decency in our country.

Fixing what is broken begins with your vote.

If restoring decency to our democracy is important then we must focus on America’s primary elections this summer and the critically important midterm election in November.

You and everyone you know must vote.  Please.

These are our chances to send a message across our country, and to the world, that America is a decent place filled with good, caring people. People who care about the “Liams” of the world, who respect even those with whom we might have a difference of opinion and, of course, that want to be good stewards of our environment in our short time living here.

It’s time to step up America and put an end to this dictatorial madness and the politics of hate. Let us all come together this year and save America from the death of decency. Before it’s too late.

        https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/homestead/article213566449.html

I’m off on another week of shark tagging adventures with the Field School, this time off the coast of South Florida in the Atlantic Ocean. We’ll be catching and releasing all sorts of different and amazing shark species and performing important science all week. I’ll look forward to sharing stories from this adventure upon my return and hope that you enjoy the rest of June and are having a wonderful summer.

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