Thursday, 24 December 2009

Me, Ed the Bear, in the news

Hi all

As I mentioned earlier I have made a detour to England from the USA to tell people about my experiences with marine litter and make sure everyone takes responsibility for disposing of all that extra packaging from Christmas presents (recycled where possible) and all those extra plastic drink bottles. My buddy Steve wrote an article for the local newspapers about my experiences, about Plastic Free Friday, about the terrible death of albatross and other marine life.

Here is the article that appeared in one of the local newspapers (Shoreham Herald). Unfortunately they did not have space for all of the article and they had to leave some of it out. We did have 12 cm of snow at the time, which is big news for us in Sussex, so we were given quite a lot of space and on page 2 as well! There was still plenty of the message to pass on and the article included my weblog address (which was also on the newspapers website) so hopefully plenty of people were able to follow this and get the full story.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Ed's Special Christmas Message

Back home in the UK and I am staying with Bella over Christmas. Its a shame I missed the snow. Bella said there were lots of birds visiting the garden for food, such as this great tit.

I had a chat with my buddy Steve and asked him if he could send some information to the local newspapers about my detour to England and my festive message. I talked about the damage to ocean wildlife I had witnessed, including the terrible death of hundreds of Fred's friends, the albatross in the Hawaiian Islands.

After Christmas Day there will be lots of unwanted packaging and so I wanted to reminder people that we need to make sure that it is disposed of properly and where possible recycled to make sure it does not find its way into the environment and to save energy. Humans also tend to produce more waste such as glass and plastic bottles, food packaging etc during the festive season and so this all needs to be recycled too!

Its great to see Bella again. I have been telling her about my travels with Ron and Fred the Monkey and my trip to Spokane with Methea. I also discussed with Bella my travel plans for next year with NOAA which will take several months. It appears while I have been away I have recieved lots of invitations for visits and I cannot possible visit them all. I have asked Bella if she would like to visit some of these places for me. Bella also loves the oceans and wildlife and I know she will have a great time. Look out for Bella's adventures next year. It looks like me and Bella have a lot to talk about so I will have to say bye for now.

We both hope you are having a great Christmas time sharing with your loved ones. We both wish you a happy and healthy 2010 wherever you are and what ever you are doing. A special new years message for my special friend Fred the Monkey. I hope you are having a great time doing what you do best. Stay safe in your travels

Your friend Ed the Bear.

P.s. Bella says she hopes that she will also get to meet you some time soon, maybe you can come and stay with us later in 2010.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

More from Spokane

Today Methea showed me some of the specimens that she uses to teach her kids about the oceans. Here I am taking a closer look.

These are preserved specimens including crab, shrimp and sea anemone.

This great horned eagle owl died after being hit by a car. It was preserved so that people could see what an owl looks like up close.

Methea said that the great horned eagle owl is one of the regions largest birds of prey. I did not tell Methea that I thought the owl was a bit scary. I don't think I would have turned my back on a live one!

I have had a really great time here with Methea and I have learned a lot about the oceans too. I hope I will be invited back again in the future, hopefully next time I will get to meet the kids too. A big thank you to Methea for looking after me so well.

Oh well, off to bed as tomorrow I will be taking a detour and travelling back to England to tell the people back home about the amazing things I have seen so far. Having seen all the harm that marine litter, especially plastics are doing to the oceans, I feel I need to get back to the UK to pass on this message - including Fred the Monkey's Plastic Free Friday decaration. See my blog entry 25th October 2009 if you missed it. It is a very important message following my work with Fred the Monkey and Ron Hirschi throughout October and November.

I learned a lot from Fred the Monkey and his buddy Ron Hirschi as well. I do miss Fred, I had a great time with him during my visit. Hopefully we will meet up again some time in the future. Fred has been a very busy monkey since we meet. You can find out more about what Fred the Monkey has been doing to save the oceans wildlife from plastic litter by going to project Soar
or by clicking the link on the side panel of this blog.

Christmas is a great time for humans and bears, but the festive season also generates a lot of litter and I need to pass on Fred and my message of Kuleana, Hawaiian word meaning responsibility.

Bye for Now
Ed  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Acid Oceans Experiment


Bella sent me another message, this time about acids and alkali, you may remember we were talking about pH yesterday. As I have talked about on several occasions already, global warming is heating up the oceans causing the polar ice caps to melt. Bella told me that global warming is also causing more carbon dioxide in the oceans which is making the water more acid and over time will dissolve the shells of any hard bodied animal such as coral and sea snails.

Bella suggested an experiment you can have a go at with the help of an adult.
All you need is some chalk and some clear vinegar and a glass.

1. Fill the glass one-half full with vinegar.

2. Add the piece of chalk to the glass.

3. Observe what happens to the chalk.

After a short time, bubbles will start rising from the chalk. If you leave it in the glass long enough, the chalk will completely break apart. The chemical name for vinegar is acetic acid and chalk is made of a mineral called limestone. The acetic acid and limestone form a chemically reaction when put together. One of the new substances that forms in this reaction is carbon dioxide gas. The bubbles rising from the chalk are the carbon dioxide gas.

This is a very speeded up version of what acid oceans will do to the shells and hard bodies of animals with a calcium shell. It will not happen so dramatically as the oceans are less acidic, but overtime the shells will weaken as they begin to dissolve.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Learning about the ocean while helping look after the marine invertebrate tank


Today, Methea asked me if I would help her check out the marine invertebrate aquarium which Methea uses to teach the kids about marine invertebrates and coral reefs. Methea told me it had been several months since she had done a water change on the aquarium which holds 180 gallon (681 litres) saltwater. The tank is home for various invertebrates ranging from tube worms to hermit crabs, and includes corals and sea anemones.

Hammerhead coral

Methea's favourite hermit crab

We began by siphoning out almost 50 gallons (189 litres) of the tanks water. That's a lot of water.

Methea put a long plastic pipe into the tank and sucked gently until water started to run out the other end. It takes a long time to siphon so I spent some time fishing in the tank while we waited for it to drain.

Me fishing

This was very relaxing, but don't worry, there were not any fish in there to catch - but I learnt from Ron Hirschi from Project Soar that fishing is great fun.

I then helped Methea to mix new seawater to replace what we had siphoned out. It does seem odd that we had to "mix" water.

I thought that sea water was like tap water with salt added, but seawater is actually made up of lots of other things too. These substances include Chloride, Sodium, Sulphate, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, Bicarbonate and Bromide which I had not heard of before. Methea said there was also small amount of other substances such as copper, iron and even gold. I asked Methea that if I was to let some seawater evaporate, would I be able to get gold from it. Sadly, Methea said this was such a tiny amount you would not even see it. Oh well, probably just as well, the oceans have enough problems without people trying to turn the ocean's water into gold! Methea told me that all of these extra substances in seawater come from rocks that are worn away by the waves and some are washed down rivers. This means each river has its own particular taste! This is why fish, such as salmon, that return to rivers from the ocean to spawn (lay eggs) can find the river where they originally hatched from a tiny egg all those years ago. They remember the taste.

Spokane is too far from the ocean for Methea to get real sea water, so we needed to put all those extra things into fresh water before we could put it into the aquarium. Luckily we did not have to add all of these different substances one at a time, we used a mixture called Instant Ocean. Just the right amount of instant ocean needs to be mixed to water so that the water is not too salty and not to dilute. It has to be the same as if it had come from the ocean.

After refilling the tank Methea gave me some extra calcium and phytoplankton (plant plankton) to put in the aquarium. The corals and other hard-shelled animals in the tank use a lot of calcium so we not only mixed it in with the new water but we also added more calcium in a liquid solution. These animals need the calcium to build their shells (just like bears and humans need calcium for strong bones).

Next I added the phytoplankton (plant plankton), which is a very important food source for many filter-feeding animals such as tube worms and corals. They catch tiny plant plankton for food. You may remember I helped my buddy Steve run a course on sharks back in September (see blog entry 20th September 2009).

We showed kids how plant plankton is important to all marine animals even big creatures such as sharks, as it is at the bottom of most marine food chains. Some sharks, such as basking sharks and whale sharks actually eat plankton too!

Here are some of the animals that feed on the phytoplankton, including the tube worms, and corals

Feather duster tube worm

Stony Coalhead Coral

 Pink Coral

Torch coral

Once we had the water chemistry in sorted out Methea showed me how to check the tanks filters, pumps and hoses. These filters and pumps keep water circulating around the tank and keep it healthy.

Without this equipment, the water would become stale and the animals would die. These animals may live underwater but they still need oxygen to survive which they get from the water. The water must also be the correct temperature all around the aquarium.

Luckily, we discovered that the filters and pumps were working just fine. Methea showed me the electronic sensors that she uses to monitor temperature and pH.

Close up of temperature graph on the monitor showing how the temperature rises and falls. As long as this stays with a certain temperature range this is fine, well quite natural really.

Water pH is a way of checking to see how acid or alkaline the water is. It’s a bit complicated to explain here everything Methea told me about it so you could Google more facts. Basically pH is an important part of the water chemistry, river fish tend to like water that is a bit acid, saltwater fish tend to like water that is a bit alkali.

Methea and I finished our maintenance of the tank by hand feeding the cleaner shrimp, and hammer head corals which was great fun. These animals not only need phytoplankton but also need these meat and vitamin supplement. The cleaner shrimp scavenges of bits of debris in the tank. The strombus snial helps keep the tank clean by eating the algae that grows on the grass tank.


Phew! That was hard work, but great fun and I learned a lot about the oceans, just as Methea said I would. It’s amazing to think how much work you have to do to keep just a small piece of ocean in an aquarium healthy. All this work the ocean does naturally everyday with the help of ocean currents. In a real coral reef the cycling of the tides and water movement, would keep water quality just right and provide the coral reef animals with a balanced diet of food. In the wild there is a delicate balance between the plankton feeders and the hunters. They all have special ways of catching food and ways to avoid being eaten. So the animals and the water chemistry are kept in a natural balance without any need for interference from humans.

Even with all this careful monitoring Methea said we still cannot keep all the corals healthy all the time. Methea said one of her favorite corals recently died off for unknown reasons.

The brown part is alive and the white part has died.

So Methea’s marine aquarium shows just how complicated the oceans are as they need no help controlling water temperature, pH, salinity (saltiness), keeping the water rich with oxygen, filtering out animal waste and natural chemicals and turning them into harmless substances and much more. All done naturally.

However, this also illustrates that this complicated habitat can be easily damaged by humans. Dumping chemicals in the ocean that should not be there and removing things that should, can only cause harm to the oceans health.

Bye for now, from a very tired little bear.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

A message from Bella Bear

I sent a mesage to Bella to tell her it was snowing here in Spokane. Guess what, she replied to say its snowing back in England too. Bella told me that everywhere looks very beautiful and festive.

She sent me a picture of herself in the snow.

Bella said there was 12cm of snow, which is a lot for southern England.

There is even snow on Shoreham Beach, my local beach back home. The pebble beach is covered with snow right down to the high tide mark. The shingle plants that live there are safely protected beneath the shingle, ready to burst into life next spring.

Bye, Ed



Well its snowing here in Spokane. It was very enjoyable watching the snow fall as us bears are well equiped with a thick layer of fur and I also have my coat. Sliding on the snow is also great fun, but it can be dangerous too.

Here I am in the snow, there is something about it that brings out the cub in you. It is quite amazing to think that snow is water, but in a different form. Flowing through Spokane is the River Spokane which flows west and eventually reaches the ocean.

Methea showed me the drain in the grounds. She explained that as the snow melts it will run down drains like these and run to the river where it will flow to the sea. So I may be many miles from the ocean but I am still linked to the ocean via the river. Unfortuantely chemicals from the land and rubbish too, may also get washed into the river and down to the ocean.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Arriving at Spokane


Well here I am in Spokane Community College in Spokane Washington State. The city, Spokane, is named after the leader of the local Indian tribe, who identified himself to fur trappers as Illim-Spokane, which means "chief of the sun people".

Due to unforseen delays in my travel plans I have missed the kids as they have now broken up for the Christmas holidays, or Christmas vacation as it is known in the US. Methea is looking after me during my stay and she says there is still a lot I can learn about the oceans from here. Methea teaches environmental and marine science at the College.

  This is the science and math building