SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
May 11, 2017
Science, Policy, & Trash…Oh my!
32° 22.7’ N x 064° 40.9’ W
Docked at Penno’s Wharf, St. George, Bermuda
overcast skies, wind F1 SSE
Although we have only been here for about 5 days now, our routine morning stroll to the courtyard in St. George’s already feels instinctive to me. This morning we started off with a special treat from our amazing steward, Sabrina, …homemade bagels! She never fails to keep us full and happy, which is definitely a priority when your daily schedules are as packed as ours are.
After meeting at the courtyard, we made our way over to Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS). Here, we received two presentations from BIOS staff members and a tour of their facilities. The first presentation was meant to introduce us to the topic of plastic debris in the ocean. On shore, we had spent a lot of time learning about this topic in class and even heard from Kara Lavender Law, whose research focuses on just this topic. The presenter left us with one really useful and easily applicable piece of advice that I want to share with you all. If you wish to reduce the amount of plastics in the ocean, you of course should reduce your consumption of plastic products and particularly single-use plastics.
If single-use plastics had a poster child, it would be the highly mobile plastic shopping bag. For some reason or another, even environmentally conscious consumers often find themselves in the position of disposing of one of these. To reduce the detrimental effect of this trash, you can simply tie the bag in a knot to prevent it from going rogue. Additionally, plastic bags that find themselves in the high seas are often confused by sea turtles for their cnidarian prey (jellyfish) due to the similarities in shape and size. The sea turtles then mistakenly ingest the plastic. Tying these bags up will prevent them from escaping from trash bins, and potentially reduce their subsequent ingestion by marine fauna. After hearing from the presenters we got to do a bit of a beach clean-up, which was appropriate since we’ve spent the past couple days enjoying the beaches here in Bermuda. The picture accompanying this blog shows the trash we ended up collecting (you may notice mixed emotions among the students pictured- we were sad to see the immense amount of debris, but happy to have helped in a small way).
The folks at BIOS were very kind to us and not only did we get to tour their facility on shore, but we also walked through their research vessel later in the day. I’m sure it was clear to them how jealous my fellow shipmates and I were of their spacious labs, as we walked around with dropped jaws and widened eyes. During molecular crunch-time (right now, for example) our tiny lab can contain 6-8 people when it is really only meant to fit about 3 people comfortably. During the on shore aspect of the tour, we met a cool research team studying how pteropods (free-swimming marine snails) move through the water. Our whole crew gasped and squealed with excitement as the researchers shared some slowed down/close-up videos of the small creatures swimming around, with their infamous butterfly-like wings (they’re SO cute). During the vessel tour, we further realized how our research operations seem small in comparison to those aboard the BIOS vessel. Of course, both of these scenarios are fitting for their relative participants. Bringing visibility to leaders in science and their daily lives, is something I feel is extremely important in allowing students to continually grow in their aspirations.
It was only fitting that with such a science-focused morning and afternoon, our dinner guest must be someone involved in policy. It was this exact intersection, science and its application through policy, that convinced me to choose this specific SEA Semester program over any other. Tammy Trott accompanied us at dinner and stayed a while after to engage with us a bit longer. Tammy started off working for BIOS and had a background in zoology, but now is heavily involved with fisheries management and policy in Bermuda.
In addition to working in a government position, Tammy also works personally with the Sargasso Sea Commission. It is always intriguing to hear from people who have a science background but do not work as typical scientists. Of course, it is often this background that leads these figures to their current positions and allows them to do what they do so well. After talking to Tammy and the folks at BIOS, I feel happy- happy to be where I am, happy to be learning what I’m learning, happy to be afforded this incredible opportunity, and happy to be meeting amazing role models that are so passionate about the work they’re involved with.
Mom & Dad: Every cent you’ve spent on my college education is appreciated and well worth it. Especially here. I feel incredibly inspired and hopeful about my future as a scientist. Love you. Thank you.