Monday, July 30, 2012

Snorkel Like You Mean It!

I don't know, I think Mondays are overall the worst day of the week. It doesn't even matter what happens on a Monday! It's like the Monday label poisons everything in that 24 hour period. All the little good things that might happen on another day (like getting lunch with a friend or finding $5 in your old pair of jeans) are somehow downplayed for the fact that it's Monday. Maybe it's just me. I'm probably sounding crazy. 
Just a question: have you ever snorkeled? If your answer is yes, you're in my good graces. If it's a no, then march right on out to the beach, young sir/madam, and get your tail into that water! Snorkeling isn't like rocket science; you don't even need a license, like scuba-diving. And should I mention, it could probably be one of the coolest things you could ever do! You can see the world in a whole different light. You're pretty much experiencing a whole new world altogether. 
The reef my dad, my brother, and I snorkeled at off Mexico.
I still consider myself a rookie, I guess. I mean, compared to some people who are certified scuba-divers who snorkel all the time and live on the beach, I'm not up to par! I think I've snorkeled 4 times (or at least in 4 different places). I've snorkeled in Australia's Great Barrier Reef, a reef off the northeast shore of the Dominican Republic, a reef near Cozumel in Mexico, and a few reefs around the island of St. Maarten. All are fantastic places to visit, trust me!
After each of my few chances to snorkel over the years, I've taken some things into mind for the next snorkel experience. 
When I experienced the Great Barrier Reef, it was my first time, so obviously I was learning every second I was in the water. The biggest thing I took away from that one was that flippers take a little bit to get used to. At least for me! If you've ever snorkeled you might know what I'm talking about! Having flippers while swimming in the water is like tacking on an automatic webbed extension of your legs.
In the Dominican Republic, I learned more of how to swim with snorkeling gear underwater. It's definitely harder to do so with flotation devices on, mind you. Duh, you're wearing a flotation device...You will float!
Brain Coral
In Mexico, I definitely experienced something different than any other snorkeling trip. To reach the reef, we had to literally swim against the current from the beach all the way out to it (maybe a little less than a mile out), swim across the reef that was parallel to the beach (maybe a mile), swim back to the beach, and then walk in the sand all the way back to the beginning point of our journey. Phew! That exhausted me just typing it! Even though I was absolutely out of it once the day was over, I loved every minute of it. Plus, the reef was one of the most abundant I've seen so far. 
Oh, snorkeling in St. Maarten...I just loved it! Probably because I had the amazing opportunity to see sea turtles, but also because of the abundant reefs there. Most of the places we snorkeled at were in nature reserves, so the nature was very pristine. I would say it's a wonderful place to visit. I learned to put on tons of sunscreen here! I already had a sunburn from the day before, so I had a double sunburn all over my back. Let's just say it was the worst sunburn I've ever had! Ugh, awful.
So, what did we learn today, folks? Snorkel like you mean it!   

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Jonah and "the Whale"

This weekend has been just so much fun! And especially busy! I can now say I've officially moved in all the big furniture to my apartment (with help from my gracious parents). Okay, not everything is moved in that my roommate and I will need for the upcoming semester, but the big things are set. I have to say, sleeping on a real bed is something I don't take for granted any more! (These past 3 weeks I've been sleeping on an air mattress!)
Jonah and the Big Fish
This morning my mom and I went to church and the sermon was really good. He spoke about the first chapter of Jonah, a small book in the Old Testament of the Bible. If you don't know the story, Jonah was a prophet of God. He was told by God in the beginning of the book that he should go preach in Ninevah, this place of violence and intolerance. Let's just say you wouldn't want to vacation there! Jonah didn't want to go, so he decided to go the exact opposite way, to another city named Tarshish. He got on a boat with other men heading toward Tarshish to run from what God had called him to do. 
A great storm came upon them in the sea and they all realized Jonah was the reason why. They ended up throwing him into the sea. And what do you know, the storm stopped. Then, my favorite part, he was swallowed by a big fish and survived in it for 3 days and 3 nights. While in the fish, Jonah prayed to God and repented from his sin of trying to run from Him. God had the fish vomit him out onto dry land. Then Jonah journeyed to Ninevah and told them to repent. And, surprisingly, they did. So God decided not to destroy their city. The book of Jonah ends on a weird note, in the middle of the story almost. Jonah was angry, sitting under a tree right outside Ninevah, and God was speaking to Jonah explaining why the city shouldn't be destroyed.
I always heard this story when I was a kid as "Jonah and the Whale" or "Jonah who was swallowed by the Whale." In the Bible, though, Jonah is swallowed by a big fish. As you all know, a whale is not a fish. It's big, but it's not biologically a fish. A whale is a mammal. A marine mammal, but a mammal nonetheless. So my childhood was a lie. 
A sperm whale.
So what could this "big fish" be? If the writer of this book of the Bible was being slightly vague, it could've been an actual whale. Like a sperm whale or a blue whale. But let me throw this wrench into the mix. What if it was a shark? Yes, like the ones with hundreds of razor sharp teeth and are known as being man-eaters (which they aren't). What if it was a whale shark? Or even a great white? 
If you really want to get into the details of the story, you might ask, "How in the world did Jonah get swallowed into a whale/big fish/whatever the heck it is, and not get digested after 3 whole days?" That's a very good question. Some people have thought about this over the years, and they might have an answer. A couple marine scientists who work in Sea World: San Francisco say it must've been a great white shark. They say a shark because their metabolism is very slow. Certain sharks, like great whites, won't usually eat every day. Something as large as a human body wouldn't even start deteriorating in 3 days time. 
Let's say it was a whale. Well, whale's stomachs are kind of like a cow's. They have multiple chambers. The first crushes the food, and the second will digest it with digestive juices. If Jonah were to have survived in the first chamber, he wouldn't have had to deal with acidic conditions. Of course, he would have to worry about being crushed, but that's not as bad as being dissolved by digestive whale juice, I think. 
Of course, the whole point of the story isn't to think about what the big fish was. Jonah was running from God, and God still wanted to use him. The big fish was used in the story like a supporting actor in a movie! It wasn't the main character, but was useful in the story line. But, I got to say, I do like thinking about what that fish was!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Just Seahorsing Around...

I'm writing to you all from the new blog-writing headquarters of my apartment! Finally, I can say that. Phew, it's been a long time coming. I have yet to purchase wifi, so I'm literally sitting in the middle of the living room floor, held captive by my finite amount of ethernet cord, typing to you out there in cyberspace. I sacrifice so much for you! All in a day's blogging.
Seahorses are probably God's cutest marine creation, I have to say. Except for maybe a bottlenose dolphin or a baby fur seal...oh my gosh, those seals are so adorable!! Getting back on track, no one really knows how many species of seahorses there are in the world. (One conservation group says they officially recognize a mere 38 species, even though over 100 species have been proposed!) Scientists have proposed many species, but usually they are mistaken for a species already known. This happens quite often since seahorses are constantly changing their appearance to blend with their surroundings.
Camouflage at its best. Can you spot the seahorse?
How big do you think they are? They look pretty small from the pictures, so small, right? The biggest (Big-bellied seahorse) can get 30 cm or more; the smallest, however, can get as tiny as under 2 cm (Pygmy seahorse). If you want to go out and look for one, bring your underwater magnifying glass! Just kidding, they might not even make those...Anywho, if someone comes across one, it's more serendipity than anything. My family and some friends had serendipity at the beach in Florida this summer!
It was right after tropical storm Debby had passed through the Gulf of Mexico and we were on the panhandle of Florida. The jellyfish were rampant; we had spotted at least 5 in a couple hours just floating into the sandbar/shoreline from the open ocean. If we kept our feet still for just a few seconds, we could feel the nipping minnows on our toes. Pelicans were diving, shark fins had been spotted, sand crabs scuttling along the sand, it was just crazy. I mean, compared to the abundance of life just the day before, which was barely anything. 
Okay, so we had this lemonade jar that we caught jellyfish with. Every 10-15 minutes we would see one and one of the boys would simply dunk the container and somehow come up with a jellyfish floating in the jar. Then the little kids around would want to see it before we set it free and so on. We repeated this set of actions multiple times. 
A short-snouted seahorse.
All of the sudden one of the boys comes up to me and my friend and shoves the lemonade jar in our faces. Guess what it is? Yes, this tiny barely a few centimeters long seahorse. Colored like a maroon or deep red. It was just floating in the middle of the ocean! I couldn't help but think of the atrocities it had been through on its journey here. We made our usual rounds to everyone on the beach who wanted to see it and then let it go. I miss that little guy!
One of the coolest things about seahorses is that the males actually give birth to their young. At some point during the mating process, the female will put her eggs into the male's pouch. From there, the male will fertilize the eggs inside the pouch. So fertilization actually occurs in the male! Weird, but amazing. I think one of the first things I learned about seahorses was the fact that the dad "did all the work" when it came to making babies. 
Maybe something else that's not as known about these guys is that they are monogamous. In other words, a boy and a girl get together, make some new seahorses, and never mate with another for the rest of their lives. In the animal kingdom, you see a lot of species that just mate with the nearest female they can impress. It's quite special to see monogamy in animals! 
Be sure to check out the Causes tab above! One of them is about saving seahorses from overfishing (yes, people overfish seahorses) and other threats. Talk to y'all later!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gentle Giants: The Basking Shark

Today was another record breaker. Total of 2 and a half hours at work today! I know, I work a lot. It's just something I've got to live with. And...get ready...I'm moving tomorrow! Yes, I'm moving into my new apartment! Actually my first apartment. I can't wait to have "my own place." Since I'm renting it's not really my own, hence the quotations. 
Anyways, let's get to the meat of the blog. Has anyone ever heard of a basking shark? Maybe a couple? Hmm. Well, if you haven't ever heard of them, they look extremely daunting but they're in reality extremely docile. The adults are huge, ranging from 20 to 30 feet in length. Like a whale. But a shark. But not a whale shark. Those are completely different! 
Fact: the basking shark is hunted for its liver oil, meat, cartilage, and of course its fins. The fins should be a no brainer because of the foul shark finning industry. If you take anything away from this blog (factually), you should take away the fact that every shark is being targeted in the ocean because of the finning industry! Shark fins are sold as souvenirs and such, but most of the fins go to Asia for shark fin soup. It doesn't sound very appetizing to me, personally. Just my thoughts. Or tastebuds. Whatever.
Other than the awful reasons why this creature is hunted, there's so much to learn about the basking shark! It is 1 of the 3 filter feeding shark species (the other 2 are the whale shark and the extremely rare deepwater megamouth shark). It basks its mouth open while swimming to get food! (See what I did there...) 
Apparently they've been spotted breaching. Yes, breaching. Like a whale. Or a shark. But not a...okay, you know where I'm getting at. They'll launch themselves completely out of the water. For what reason scientists haven't a clue. But some hunches have been explained. They may be doing this for mating. Like to show off to all the girls or something. Another hypothesis is that they might be trying to get rid of a parasite on their skin. (Scientists have kind of icksnayed that one since it's so much effort for little joy at the end of it all.) 
I actually found a website to adopt a basking shark. I'm just as surprised as you are, believe me. Adopt?! That's amazing! Super amazing! I want to adopt one! Too bad I'm a poor college student. But if I could, I would so adopt one. It's not like you literally adopt one and bring it home or something. That wouldn't be as amazing. You know how you can adopt a tiger or other wild jungle animal through WWF (World Wildlife Fund)? Just like that. 
I have to say, the basking shark isn't as "adorable" as a baby tiger advertised on your television screen, but how cool is it to say that you adopted a shark? Maybe it's just me pushing the subject. Hey, I could be a salesman for this kind of stuff. You already want to be a new adoptive parent now, don't you? You know you want to! The website that has all the information about adopting and just anything in general about these sharks is here:
You won't regret that you visited! It's full of awesome facts that you can say in random conversations. Then you can impress all your friends!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Northern Alaskan Frontier: Drill Central

Good, solid day today. Not too much excitement, but I did some grown-up stuff today! Like buying internet for my apartment! It's like grown-up Christmas! I don't know why I was so ecstatic about it. Maybe because I went and did it all by myself. Yes, thank you for your applause. 
Has everybody been hearing the news with Shell? If not, I will inform you! Well, apparently Shell has announced that they will be doing explorative drilling in the northern Alaskan seas. President Obama had given the go ahead to them kind of out of the blue, and now they're planning on starting the project this month. (It was so out of the blue that I didn't even hear about it until maybe a week ago.) Of course, since the Alaskan wilderness they are planning to drill in is considered one of the last pristine parts of the world, people went off their rockers. Activists from all over the world are in an uproar desperately fighting Shell's plans.  
Of course Shell is saying they are doing everything in their power to prevent what happened in the Gulf of Mexico not too long ago. They say they aren't going to drill in as deep of waters as they did in the Gulf. Yeah, yeah. That doesn't mean a spill won't happen period. No plan, no matter how much ground-breaking engineering work is involved, will be full-proof. Impossible. So Shell can't look those activists and those Alaskan natives in the eyes and tell them they won't kill the Arctic environment. If they do, they'll be bluffing, hoping to God that everything will be smooth sailing. Smooth sailing, pssh.
No one wants to kill off wildlife, but some people are just gambling with it a little too much (some people = U.S. gov't. and Shell). They're gambling their money and reputation, hoping the people who care about the environment won't rip their heads off. Well, bad news. People who care about the environment want to rip their heads off. I consider it good news, though. 
It just goes to show that humans actually care about this land we live in and the other creatures that live in it. It's refreshing. Obviously you can tell my side on the subject of Arctic drilling. I've been as subtle as an elephant in your kitchen. 
So, what are your thoughts on it all? Oil drilling altogether? Specifically in the Alaskan frontier? Activists being more of a nuisance than a helping hand? Bueller?  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Everyone Likes Pie!...Octopi I Mean.

Happy Tuesday! It has been a happy Tuesday, really! This morning I spent a record amount of time in the lab at work (90 minutes) and kind of knew what I was doing? I put a question mark there because I really want to say that I knew what I was doing but if I do I might curse myself. Then tomorrow and for the rest of my days in research I will forever be oblivious to anything and everything. Hence, the question mark.
In hindsight, I think I will be glad I did this whole chemistry research thing. Now, however, I don't think I have it in me to appreciate the life lessons. I'd rather be in my house, watching TV, and drinking some sweet tea. Oh, that sweet tea sounds nice...Still, I wouldn't get anything accomplished doing that. I've heard that any task worth completing must take some sort of sacrifice. The bigger the accomplishment, the bigger the sacrifice. (It's a direct proportion, even though I wish it were indirect.) 
I never talk about octopuses (I prefer to say octopi, because it's fun), so I think this is what we will talk about today! Be prepared for some cool stuff. These guys have the most amazing tactics in defense and even offense. 
First off, hopefully most everyone knows that they have 8 arms/tentacles (octopus) and suckers all throughout the bottom of these arms. Some species of octopi and squids have small razor sharp teeth on their suckers. That would definitely leave a mark...ouch. Their life spans are pretty short, but they are extremely smart. Their brains are huge, if you haven't seen the size of their head compared to their whole body. All of this is cool, but I think they have something that's even better.
They're called chromatophores. Because of chromatophores, which are all over the cephalopod's skin, they can change colors in a flash. Some scientists even think that color changing is being used by these animals for communication! In the picture on the right, this tiny octopus is using its chromatophores to camouflage itself, which is mostly what these skin pigments are used for. 
There are these other things on the octopus's skin called iridiophores. They pretty much mirror the animal's surroundings to help further camouflage themselves. It's all a very complicated and beautiful system of defense. 
And, another cool thing about them, they have a beak. Yes, like a bird's beak. No one ever sees it since said beak is underneath their tentacles on the bottom part of their head. But don't get any ideas the next time you see an octopus or squid. If you want to see that beak, you better wait until it's dead on a dissecting table. Those things are sharp! 
I hope you enjoyed the octopi! Talk later!

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23, 2012

I just love whale sharks. Like, it's kind of a problem. But a good one I want to hold onto for the rest of my days. Is it okay to be obsessed like that? Oh well.
I love this video, too! Why? Because it's about whale sharks, of course! I can't seem to get over their awesomeness. So guess what I do when I'm bored...Google search the migration patterns of whale sharks. Yes. I do. I google it to see if I might make my next trip near a hotspot so I can swim with one. But, of course, not much is known about the species in general except for general anatomy, feeding habits, and geographical hotspots. Every time I google it, it never fails. Gosh, I feel like I'm telling you guys my inner secrets. 
However, just recently I found this awesome website all about whale sharks. I know, it's such a life-changing discovery! This Whale Shark Project website has everything. History, biology, geographical hotspots, distribution, etc. Lord, thank you! 
Voila! A map of whale shark distribution! I now know where I need to go in my hunt for whale sharks! (Not a real hunt, I'm not a ghastly shark-finner) Actually, I've been around the red area in the Gulf of Mexico, but still I've not seen one. Maybe they are playing hide and seek with me. I can't tell you why, really. 
But let me tell you this: when I see one in real life in the ocean, I will be a different person. No joke! I don't know how that will happen, but it will change my life. I just know it. 
Have you ever had that feeling? Like you know something is about to happen but you don't know when it'll come about? And you know it'll change you for the better. Or for the worse. And you just want it to happen! 
I don't know any of you, but I'm going to make a guess that some of you might be wired like me. I just want to have control! Control of everything that happens! If not, then I will go insane! There's a beauty to this, though. Despite the chaos of trying to contain the chaos in my brain, there's this force other than me that can take it all away. My God. When I just can't take any more burdens (of which I usually put on myself), He can lift them off of me and I can live for Him rather than for myself or those heavisome burdens. 
I know, I'm all over the place. More later! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 22, 2012

Ahh, what a fantastic weekend it has been! I had so much fun taking a break from the usual flow of regular life visiting Gatlinburg, Tennessee with some college friends! I know, right? So awesome. Truthfully, I would have had an excessive amount of fun with them no matter where we went. Do you have that group of friends (or friend) that when you hang out, you just can't stop thinking of how grand of a time you're having? And you don't want it to end? I seriously love those girls so much. 
We went putt-putting our first night there, and I had to admit that I was a putt-putt virgin. Yes, laugh all you want. It's true! I guess I always thought the mini-golfing experience would be pretty lame. However, I have to report to you that it was actually very amusing. Okay, I may have been 11 points over par at the end of the game, but still! And no hole in one, sadly. I'm obviously not a natural-born pro at it!
Saturday we all traveled down the road to a little place called Dollywood. Maybe some of you have never heard of it, so I'll just sum up: Dollywood, a family-friendly area, is an amusement park with all sorts of rides and coasters for all ages! (Located in Pigeon Forge, TN, USA) Founded by Dolly Parton, the very famous and blonde country singer/actress. 
Also something to add to that little summary. Everyone needs to go there! Well, maybe not everyone. At once. But somehow all people should experience Dollywood at least once in their life! It's southern, clean (mostly), and just overall entertaining. Did I mention southern? Because it's southern alright. Like hillbilly. In a good way, believe me! 
Well, it's been a break this weekend, but work starts up tomorrow again! Ugh. I guess I'll just put my best foot forward and see how this thing works out. One day at a time, like they say, right? Wish me luck! Talk to y'all later!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

July 19, 2012

Ugh, another day of sitting in a meeting...and I felt like that 4 year old who is way in over their head again. Do you ever get in that rut of giving yourself pep talk after pep talk and it only sticks for maybe 5 seconds? That was today for me! Ugh. Just ugh. 
I have the urge to talk about something I actually know stuff about. The ocean! Are you surprised? (You shouldn't be, oh faithful readers.) So big. So vast. So blue. So full of life! Even in the ocean's depths where the light can't penetrate, there is life. For some reason I am just extremely fascinated by the deep ocean. If you have ever seen footage from the deep, you know what I'm talking about when I saw it's dark down there. There's absolutely no light, I mean no light, anywhere. How do things live down there? Gosh, it's so cool. 
Scientists have said the surface of the moon is more explored than the depths of the ocean. Wow. We have gone on the moon more than below the water's surface on our own planet! Personally I would love to have the experience of traveling to this alien world just below us. 
This short video is nice, right? It shows bioluminescent creatures deep down in the ocean that have been highlighted in different documentaries over the years. My personal favorite has to be Blue Planet, a BBC documentary series production. Planet Earth has a good deep ocean episode, too. But props to Blue Planet. 
There have only been a certain small number of people who have had the opportunity to actually get into a deep sea submersible and venture to the depths. Hopefully I might get the chance! Someday... 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July 18, 2012

Science. Oh, science. What pops in your head when you hear that word? An old man in a lab coat? What about your more than odd high school biology teacher? Or a set of bubbling chemicals of all colors in a chemical lab? Or maybe you just think of the word "hate!" Yeah, science isn't for everyone. But really, what is science?
I would copy and paste the definition according to some smart people who write the dictionary, but it isn't worth the number of words versus the number of readers who will actually appreciate it. Generally speaking, science is the study of things natural and physical through experimentation and/or observation. It kind of sounds boring from that dry and dull description, though. I promise, it's pretty cool. 
You know, I always heard that the creative minds weren't cut out for the science realm, but I've begun to see how that's a completely wrong statement. Creativity is something that's encouraged when researching new phenomena in the world. 
I've been reading this old book about scientific investigations, so I'm in this weird state looking at science like I've never seen before. We see scientists as always knowing what they're doing, making knowledge available to the masses, and becoming the "pioneers" of the world in a sense. And they most certainly are. Don't get me wrong. Scientists of any kind, in the world of biology, physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, etc., are well-educated and some of the smartest people out there. But, at least for what I've encountered as a young student so far in experimental science, there seems to be less structure than what I expected. Less structure of "this is black" and "this is white." Like, in research we can't rule out anything. Does that make sense?
I remember all throughout my whole academic life sitting through science lecture after science lecture. The teacher starts a new chapter. Great, that always means more memorization of formulas. Behind all those formulas, though, there had to have been so many hours of people pulling their hair out until...eureka! (Hope you enjoy the chemistry cat joke! I laughed so much at this, believe it or not. If you like it, google search more! They're hilarious!)
A lot of people might not realize how much we really don't know about the world we live in. It's kind of scary once you think about it. Are there aliens? What's down in the depths of the sea beyond the reaches of light? How long can we extend a human's life? Can we actually make a teleportation device? An infinite number of questions, but not too many answers.
Doesn't it make you want to figure it all out? Well, maybe not for some of you. But it's exciting to think about! We won't get all the answers. Ever. We as humans will never be the ultimate all-knowing gods of planet Earth. This crazy world is so complicated that after multitudes of years, its inhabitants still can't figure out it all. Well, that's just my opinion of it all.  
I hope this doesn't make you feel all sad inside. Or stupid. But don't feel that way! If you think about it, we're all stupid together! Yay!  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 17, 2012

Ahh, what a relaxing day! Just sitting here at the library, working on my research, listening to music, reading books, Facebook stalking. Don't judge; you and the rest of the Facebook world do it. And then I have my magical snack, dried pineapple. If you haven't tried dried pineapple, you haven't lived. Everyone should try it! Unless you're allergic.
I have this somewhat addiction I must tell all of you about. It's not embarrassing to me, but whenever I tell people about this addiction they act like I should be embarrassed. Hmm...still not embarrassed, though.
Hello, my name is Claire, and I'm addicted to Planet Earth. Not the actual planet (although maybe) but the television documentary series. Yes, the one that Sigourney Weaver narrates. Yes, the one that came on BBC and Animal Planet. And, yes, I will show you a clip. Because it's amazing and all people should love it just as much as I do! 
This isn't Sigourney Weaver talking, but it's still a clip that was from the "Shallow Seas" episode of the Planet Earth series from America. Still awesome. Hydroplaning dolphins?? I mean, who knew, right? I can't imagine if I were walking down a beach and all of the sudden a pod of dolphins start pumping their tails and skimming onto the shoreline right next to me. Tell me that isn't cool. 
Have you ever been up close to a dolphin before? You know, you see them in movies and other television specials but many viewers don't realize how big they are. And powerful. I got the chance to swim with a dolphin in Florida when I was a young teen. I regret it, actually, but that's a whole different story. When I went to Australia I fed some wild dolphins on the beach, and that was much cooler. 
Be sure to lurk around my site and see what you can learn about the marine world! And how you, yes, you, can help save it! Well, I better get back to my research and Facebook stalking. And dried pineapple. Yumm...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 15, 2012

What a good Sunday it's been! I hope you, my multitude of faithful readers, have also had a nice day. So today, friends, is a big day. Today is July 15th! Why is it such a big deal, you ask? Well, this calls for yet another backstory. So thanks for asking.
Five years. It's been five years since my trip to Australia. You know, that trip to Australia I talked about  some time ago? Yeah, that one. I came back on the 15th five years ago today! Every year I look back and can't believe the time that has passed. 
Five years ago today I had no idea I would be where I am. I didn't know anything, really. Just think of yourself but half a decade younger. Weird, right? Priorities have been changed. Perspectives have been flipped. New ideas, new friends, new opportunities. It's like looking back into another life before I knew, like, everything. Okay, I don't know everything. But I definitely know more than I did five years earlier. Not just academically, but spiritually and emotionally. 
It took a month to get rid of the jet lag. It probably would've gone away earlier, but I think I held onto it. I guess I wanted to hold on to as much as I could that related to my trip. I missed that foreign country halfway around the world. I missed the constant traveling. I missed what I had gotten used to for what seemed like months. Not really even the people. Yes, kind of the people, but mostly the experiences. I mean, I could give you at least 20 different stories of things I did (snorkeling, spelunking, feeding wild dolphins and birds, playing cricket, attending my first rugby game, bushwalking, etc.).
Every day was jam packed with all kinds of new adventures I will never be able to recreate. At the time I sort of knew I would never be the same, but it didn't really sink in until I got back. 
Have you had a life-changing trip happen in your life that flipped everything upside down? You know, I always like hearing other people's stories! Feel free to leave a comment and share :) Talk to y'all soon!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

July 14, 2012

So yesterday...sadness! I feel weird for putting this depressing stuff on my blog since a blog should be something fun and nice to read! But, if you think about, it's really not my fault. It's the whalers' fault! And the illegal poachers of marine animals out there! So don't blame me for the sad stuff, but just transfer all that to the real bad guys. 
Let's see...I need to pump up the mood. What about a joke! Okay, get ready for hilariousness. Why did the whale cross the road? (Imagine a whale can actually cross a road, please.) To get to the other tide! Get it? Hopefully I didn't make too much of a fool of myself. If you didn't like it, sorry, I don't have anymore fish-related jokes. For now...
While I think of more jokes, I can tell you guys another backstory! I know every one of you like those. Story time, boys and girls!
I just recently came back a couple weeks ago from my awesome vacation to St. Maarten, an island in the Lesser Antilles just north of South America. Great place to visit, definitely. I obviously had to go on a snorkeling adventure, duh. No brainer. So, my friend and I went all out, sailed for 7 hours all over the island with Alan (our guide), and snorkeled in 4 different reefs. Best idea ever! 
These reefs were some of the most abundant I've encountered. Over the 4 reefs, I observed jellyfish (fortunately, no stings), stingrays, hundreds of sea urchins (yes, literally hundreds), crabs, and even turtles. Yeah, I said it. Turtles! I think they were Green sea turtles, but not sure. Either that or Hawksbill. These were the first turtles I'd ever seen in the wild. Of course I have seen them in the aquariums and zoos and such, but never in the ocean swimming leisurely eating sea grass. The latter mentioned is so much better of an experience, if you're wondering.  
Picture this: You're slowly swimming along with your snorkel gear and you notice these bodies on the ocean floor, say 20-25 feet down. You see that they're sea turtles and freak out, literally screaming in the water of over-excitement! (At least, that's what my friend and I did. Don't judge.) You feel like a giddy little girl (or boy, whatever your preference) staring at these creatures in wonder. The urge to get as close to it as possible comes over you. Not to touch, but just close enough to see into its little black eyes. 
Unfortunately one swims away. Guess they didn't like the sea grass in that area. Or maybe it was the screaming. Not sure. The other one stays, thankfully. Then you see it ascending the water column to the surface! (Turtles breathe air, folks.) This is your chance! You tear off your flotation device in no time and throw it to your friend without even looking. Eyes on the prize. You dive down closer to the marine animal and glide with it up to the surface. You can see its features so clearly. They really are so majestic. Then it starts to go back down to its sea grass on the bottom. Those few seconds of interaction were so worth it, right?
I'm so glad you hung in with me and relived one of the coolest underwater experiences of my life! Gotta love those backstories. Well, I do. All in all, Alan guided me into a perfect day in tropical marine paradise with my two new best turtle-friends! Actually, one best turtle-friend. That other one was a little intolerant of our school children screams. 
Until next time, friends! More later!  

Friday, July 13, 2012

July 13, 2012

Nice to be back home for the weekend! Hope everyone's week went well! So let's get back to where I left off from yesterday, readers. You guys must be dying to hear what happens next, I know. The suspense is killing me, and I'm the one telling the tale! 
Okay, on a much, much more depressing note, I'd like to show you a video clip. This clip is of a whale being harpooned by a Japanese harpooning vessel, so this may be too graphic for some of you. The clip's link is below the picture.

When I saw this, I didn't want to watch. But I couldn't stop watching still. Imagine that this happens to 1,000 whales. One thousand. I don't know where you stand on this, but let me tell you, I am completely against it. Whaling shouldn't still be happening! It's just ridiculous.
These whales are intelligent beings, capable of socializing and migrating thousands of miles by memory. Shouldn't they be protected by the IWC and humans all over the world? They play an extremely significant role in the marine ecosystem.
Plus, the whales that have been killed "for research" are then cut up, packaged, shipped to Japan, and sold in markets and restaurants. That doesn't make too much sense...I didn't know research specimens could be eaten by the masses. 
Good news in this awful story of death and decline. Thank goodness, right? It was getting pretty bad there. Like there would be no hope for these creatures. On the contrary, there are people out there that are doing something about all this! People linked with GreenPeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have made it a main priority to save these whales who can't stand up for themselves.
If you would like to find out more about it or give to a cause, here are some links to do so:
Okay, there ya go. Remember kids, knowledge is power! Have fun learning! Bye!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

July 12, 2012

Not so good of a day today, guys. Have any of you ever been completely in over your head at work? Like it's so intellectually far-fetched that you feel like you're 4 years old compared to your co-workers? Well, welcome to my world. 
I just started working in the chemistry department of my university doing research in the summer. I just finished my freshman year, so it can't get more complicated than that. It's pretty hard core, I must say. I don't want to dwell on the negative aspects of the job, because believe me there are many; but I want to look on the bright side. Be positive. Be that grotesquely happy person that you know deep down they're about to burst of fakeness. Maybe being fake-happy will eventually turn into real-happy, if that makes sense...
Sorry for the sob story, y'all, but it's my blog. I gotta tell you guys what's up. Let's get back to what makes me real-happy: whales! 
Yesterday I left off with their numbers going down and such. The IWC, or International Whaling Commission, was formed to help these guys stick around and not be hunted to extinction by humans. Now, there are some laws that have been made by the IWC. One, probably the most famous, is the 1986 moratorium. It's all about stopping (or at least pausing) commercial whaling for some time. If that needs to be changed, heaven forbid, then the committee would vote and yada-yada. 
"But wait, why are there still whale hunters out there? Isn't that, like, against the IWC law?" you ask me. Two words: Commercial whaling. Let me say it again: Commercial whaling. The law prohibits commercial whaling. What about whaling for scientific research? Or whaling for sustenance of a people? Here is where the disputes and accusations start flying.
Let's give an example. The biggest drama producer. The Mac Daddy, shall we say. Japan. Researchers in Japan, funded by the government of Japan, go out annually and actively kill whales (by harpoon method) to retain samples and biological data. What do you think about that? Killing whales for the advancement of science. 
Here are some questions to mull around in your noggin. Are we getting sufficient data from these whale deaths? If you agree with killing whales for science, how many whale deaths are too many? (Most whale species are endangered.) Are these whales "killed humanely," if there is such a phrase? 
I will show you more of the drama tomorrow! Getting good, isn't it? Bye!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 11, 2012

Well, had a nice day off from working today. Got to hang out with friends and paint! Not really "a day off" if you ask me, but better than not having friends around to hang out with. As I'm typing this, I can't help but notice the hundreds of splotches of paint on my arms and legs. At least the color goes well with my skin tone! 
Now, I guess I can start talking about whales since I consider myself a girl who likes whales above any other marine creature (excluding the whale shark, which was discussed earlier). There are sperm whales, humpback whales, fin whales, blue whales, baleen whales, killer whales (AKA orcas), and many more, believe me. Most are considered either endangered or vulnerable to become endangered. It's quite sad, these huge creatures of the deep on the verge of becoming extinct. 
I had the opportunity to see a couple humpback whales once. (Humpbacks are endangered, by the way.) It was when I went to the Great Barrier Reef 5 years ago. We saw them off the boat while sailing to the reef, and it was astounding how big they were. Just breathtaking. The one thing that stands out in my mind when I think back on that moment was how all the people around me just looked at me. I was so thoroughly shocked at the whales that I neglected to hold back my "Oohs" and "Aahs" flying out of my mouth left and right. Lord, I was acting like such a geek. Glad I didn't know anyone there. Too bad y'all weren't there...
This is a humpback whale breaching. If you can imagine how much strength it takes for a 20-30 ton animal to force itself up out of the water completely...Wow, it's simply amazing. Maybe it's just me, but I'm a nerd, so yeah. 
Even though you, my multitudes of readers, may think, "Wow, that's awesome! I can't imagine any person who wouldn't think of these mammals as nothing less than a beautiful creature worthy of respect." 
Hate to burst your bubble, but, yeah, there are whale killers out there. They've been hunting whales for decades. They would hunt them for their blubber and sometimes even their meat. Just lately there have been some laws that protect the whales. Like in the past 40ish years. Even so, only so much political jargon can do something for these wild animals. 
I can go days talking about these guys and their sad situation thanks to humans. Definitely stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 10, 2012

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I am so happy it's raining!! This awful drought has dried up everything, so I'm glad to see some rain. 
Has anyone heard the story that's gone viral of the man kayaking beside a great white in Cape Cod? Well, if you haven't, I shall bring you up to date. You're welcome :)
Crazy, right? That would suck if a great white was lurking behind you on your first kayaking experience. Wow, I can't imagine the feelings he had. I like this video, too, because you're hearing all the different sides of the story from scientists and researchers. It's not just this news story that says, "Look at this menacing predator stalking one of us! We need to stay out of the water and kill every shark we come in contact with! Or else!"
Not too long ago that's actually how people would view sharks. Even now there are multitudes of fishing villages and fishermen who kill sharks for the sport of it, for profit, or just because of their bad reputation.
You might say to me, "But That Girl Who Likes Whales (and I guess sharks now, too), they look so terrifying and have bitten and killed so many people over the years! Why would you want them to be around still? Who cares if they're dead?" Good point. Well, I say to you that sharks and other top predators of the sea keep the ocean food chain going. What I mean is that these guys eat all these other species of fish who eat smaller fish who eat even smaller organisms who get where I'm going. Anyways, this would be all screwed up if any one part of this chain were to disappear (go extinct). If the oceans are out of whack, we're screwed. 
Just like Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society says, "If the oceans die, we die." Okay, that sounds like a good note to end on. Bye! 

Monday, July 9, 2012

July 9, 2012

Well, it's been a pretty decent day today! Not a great day, like finding a $10 bill on the ground outside Walmart, but an okay day, like maybe finding a lucky penny in the parking lot. Hope all of y'all out there had a good one as well.
So, back to the subject highlighted from yesterday: sharks! Gotta respect these animals of the ocean. They have been the top predators in the marine world for millions of years. Yes, they were alive when the dinos were here. So the next time you see one, be sure to show some respect for them and keep your distance. I know so many of you will be looking for a shark or two sometime this summer. I already saw mine in Florida! (Don't worry, I was far away from them, just spotting the fins.)
Since I am so interested in the marine life, including sharks, I obviously have a favorite! Wait for it...the biggest fish in the sea...the size of a school bus or bigger...weighing an average of 20 tons...the whale shark! These guys are so cool! I saw one for the first time on TV when I was watching the Crocodile Hunter swim beside one in the wild. By the way, that diver will one day be me. No joke, I will do it someday!
Some of you might say, "That Girl Who Likes Whales! The Georgia Aquarium has whale sharks you can swim with for a large price! Live your dream!" Then I will respond saying that, first off, that's a buttload of money! Second, and more importantly, swimming alongside one of these creatures or really any marine animal is never the same in a glass box as it is in the wild. Imagine it: you see this dark mass gliding right under the surface of the blue tropical waters. It is far larger than you thought it would be, and looks daunting. Anyhow, you jump in and see this alien-like creature with a mouth that can suck you into it's body in a split second. But it doesn't. Awesome stuff. 
Fact of the day with the whale shark: it's throat is the size of a quarter! So no worries about being sucked up and eaten by a whale shark. Nevertheless, that would be a pretty cool way to die if it could happen. 
Stay tuned for more! 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

July 8, 2012

Guess where I went on this glorious day today, friends?! Cummins Falls State Park about 15 minutes outside of Cookeville, TN. You know, it's such a beautiful little park, filled with great scenery and a nice waterfall and wading pool. Funny thing is, officially the paths are "moderately easy," but I beg to differ. Those trails were not for the faint hearted! Almost 2 and a half miles of hiking in all and I was about to keel over...but I didn't. 
Well, on a completely different subject, I feel the need to educate the masses on a few things going on in the marine world since I am That Girl Who Likes Whales. Let's see, there's so much to say! I'll just pick something and run with it. Bear with me :)
Ah, Shark Week. Best week of the year, kids. I look forward to it all summer sadly. This year it begins on Discovery Channel on August 12. Get ready for some fintastic action with great whites, bulls, white tips, makos, blues, and tigers...(and lions and bears, oh my). Sorry, that was kinda weird. There are no lion sharks or bear sharks, just in case you care. 
I can't tell you how many years I've watched this special week; I remember watching it as a kid on vacation once actually. Didn't want to get in the water that much on the vacation after that. 
For a while I had mixed feelings about sharks. There's been a long history full of nasty rumors about them (blood-thirsty man eaters, searching for their next meal along the beaches where you vacation mostly). But after a few years of faithfully watching Shark Week, I learned how misunderstood they really are. 
Anywho, talk about this more later! So much to talk about but I don't have the attention span to sit at this computer blubbering anymore. I know you guys are dying to hear more! Talk to y'all tomorrow!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

July 7, 2012

Welcome, friends and strangers! Loved ones and people I've never met! Ok, y'all, this is my first blog! I was so extremely bored in this apartment that I decided now must be the time to try this thing out. So, so much to say. 
I guess I'll start off with why I chose my name: That Girl Who Likes Whales. Guess what? I kinda like whales. And other things like that, too...Go figure. I actually grew up educating myself in marine biology through different types of media. Well, readers, you may ask, "Oh, That Girl Who Likes Whales, why didn't you learn from experts maybe at a local university or something?" You know, I'm glad you asked, readers. Truth is, I've lived in Tennessee all my life, which is multiple hours from the nearest beach/ocean. Isn't that grand? (Sarcasm.) 
Anyways, yeah, I have been plagued with this overwhelming desire to study and research marine life since my youth. Even though it isn't like a disease or some unfortunate handicap, life still has its challenges because of it. Wanna back story? Good, because here it is:
I was 14 and went to Australia for 20 days. Boom. Yeah, be jealous, I know. This was back in 2007 with the People to People Student Ambassador Program. It was my first time out of the country, and it was frickin Australia, halfway around the world. Awesome! I don't know how I got to be so lucky. 
One of those 20 days I was there, the group I was in went snorkeling off the coast in the Great Barrier Reef. (The GBR is one of the most famous, if not the most famous, reefs in the world. Can be seen from space. Largest living thing on earth. One of the natural wonders of the world. No big deal.) That day, specifically July 2, 2007, if you must know, was the exact day I knew I would officially be a marine biologist. It became my calling in life. This wasn't just a small hobby or interest in my life; it became a part of me. 
On that day God told me I was to be a marine biologist for His kingdom. Insane! I don't know how that's gonna work, but it'll sure be entertaining how it pans out over time, that's for sure. (That's a hint, by the way, to keep reading my blogs!) 
That's the first back story! Love it? Hate it? Actually, I don't really care, no offense. More later!

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