Wisdom the Albatross Has Hatched a New Chick!

Wisdom the Albatross
Wisdom the Laysan Albatross and her chick in 2018 photo by: USFWS

Hello, I’m Wisdom, a Laysan Albatross. I have exciting news! My chick has just hatched after about 2 months of incubation. My life partner, Akeakamai, and I have alternated sitting on the egg and feeding out at sea.

The average Laysan Albatross lives 50 years-I’m an exception as I’m at least 68 years old. I’m the oldest known wild bird! I was banded back in 1956 and estimated to be 5-6 years old since that’s when albatross start to lay eggs.

We, all 1 million albatross (of many species) lay our eggs and raise our chicks on Midway Atoll, just Northwest of Hawaii in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. It is a beautiful place that consists of two flat sandy islands of 2.5 square miles, turquoise water and a stunning coral reef. Up to 3 million seabirds lay eggs and raise their chicks there.

The biologist, Chandler Robbins, that originally banded me in 1956 later me found me in 2002, 46 years later! I have been returning to my birthplace to make a nest ever since. The biologists first noticed me making a nest with Akeakamai in 2006.

Most albatross don’t lay eggs every year– I guess that also makes me an exception as I have laid an egg every year! I may have raised up to 36 chicks in my 68 years of life, but who’s counting?

We can travel up to 10,000 miles just in search of food like squid and fish eggs, fish and crustaceans that are found on the top of the ocean.

We spend 90% of our lives at sea, only stopping to rest on the ocean waves.
I’ve clocked at least 6 million miles of flying.

Biologists found a chick I raised in 2001 nesting just feet from me in 2017. I wish I could recognize my former chicks, but they grow up so fast that I can’t recognize them as adults.

After about 5-6 months, my new chick will fledge and head out to sea to find food, living as I have for the past 68 years.

Note: Plastics and microplastics have become a huge problem in the world’s oceans. Birds like Wisdom ingest plastic and pass it on to their chicks when they feed them, but don’t know that they are doing so. Albatross like Wisdom have been found with bellies full of plastic, many dying from that. See previous post, “Alby the Albatross and Plastic, Plastic Everywhere in the Ocean”

Meet Cooper the Copepod & Learn About Microplastics

copepods & microplastics
Meet Cooper the Copepod to learn more about microplastics photo by Uwe Kils Wikimedia Commons

Hi! I’m Cooper the Copepod. What is a Copepod? Well, I am a tiny animal that is part of the plankton. Plankton are the microscopic plants and animals that make up the base of the food chain in the ocean. I have a teardrop-shaped body and long curved antennae.

I am the fastest and strongest jumper on the planet, even faster than jumping land animals like kangaroos! But while I am only 1-2 millimeters long, I reach speeds of 2-4 miles per hour (3-6.4 km/hr) while jumping. The equivalent in a human would be a 5 foot 8 inch person going a whopping 3,800 mph while jumping! (livescience’s article flea-sized creatures are the fastest jumpers)

I’m here today not to impress you with my stats, but to talk to you about garbage in our oceans, specifically microplastics. Plastic pollution in our oceans is a big deal. 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans each year. You may have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean, one of many garbage patches in our oceans. They are mainly made up of plastic waste such as soda bottles, bottlecaps, plastic flatware, plastic grocery bags, and discarded plastic fishing nets.

But more important and insidious are the microplastics. These plastic particles are less than 5 mm in size. They include microbeads from beauty products (like exfoliants for your skin), microfibers from washing synthetic clothing (polyester and nylon microfibers are not caught by lint traps nor at the filters in sewage treatment plants) and plastic fragments worn down from larger plastic products.

To tiny critters like me, the microplastic looks good enough to eat, and we do that when come across it. Animals larger than us such as fish eat us, and so on up the food chain until we get to predators such as sharks, tuna, sea turtles and humans. Did you know you contain several pounds of plastic in your body?

Up to 8 trillion microbeads enter the waterways of the United States everyday (CNN Obama bans microbeads). But fortunately in December 2015 the U.S. outlawed the use of microbeads in health and beauty products by 2017!

There is still the matter of other micro and macro plastics in the ocean—the best way to take care of them is to reduce the amount of plastic now entering our oceans. For the sake of me and my neighbors, please recycle plastics! Also take part in beach cleanups or even just clean up in your neighborhood—as Gill said in Finding Nemo, “All drains lead to the ocean, kid.”

Guest Post-9 Things You Can Do to Reduce Garbage in Our Oceans

Plastic Ahoy! Book
Plastic Ahoy! by Patricia Newman

Today’s guest post is by Patricia Newman. She is the author of Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (Millbrook Press), winner of the Green Earth Book Award, one of the Bank Street College’s Best Books for 2015, a Junior Library Guild Selection, and finalist for the AAAS/Subaru Science Books & Films Prize for Excellence in Science Books. Her goal is to help kids become ocean stewards.

9 Things You Can Do to Reduce Garbage in Our Oceans
Don’t you love the sound of waves lapping the shore? The salt breeze cooling your face. Treasures that wash ashore with the tides. But what if the tide washed in hundreds of pounds of plastic on your favorite beach?

I wrote Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch because tons of plastic float in our ocean and wash up on our beaches each year—5.25 TRILLION pieces. The book is my way of persuading you to rethink the way you use one-time plastic—things like cups, water bottles, yogurt containers, plastic bags. It’s no longer enough to simply recycle. We have to use less plastic because we’re drowning in the stuff!

Plastic Ahoy! Book
10 Plastic Waste Facts to Curl Your Hair


The news is bleak, but that’s where you come in. My challenge to you is to choose two of the following action items and pledge to reduce your one-time plastic consumption:

1. Skip the straw. Every day restaurants drop 500,000,000 straws in our drinks—enough to fill 46,400 school buses every year—and virtually none of them are recycled. REFUSE boxed drinks with plastic straws, and REFUSE the straw in every restaurant you visit. In fact, try to get the restaurant to serve straws only on request—or better yet—do away with them all together.


2. Bring your own bags. And not just to the grocery store. Everywhere. Toys R Us. Macy’s. Target. WalMart. Bed, Bath and Beyond. If you forget your bag, simply do without one.

3. Buy eco-friendly school supplies. Lunch boxes without plastic. Pencils made from recycled newspaper. Pens made from recycled water bottles. Recycled paper. You can find them online.

4. Ditch the single-use plastic water bottle. Instead of purchasing large flats of single-use water bottles for parties, school or the office, fill a big urn with water and let people refill their reusable bottles preferably made from stainless steel. If you absolutely need individual servings, consider boxed water.

5. Refuse plastic OJ bottles. Plastic manufacturers are beginning to make PlantBottles. I see them in the orange juice cooler in my grocery store. Yes, they’re an improvement over regular plastic. Yes, they come from sustainable plants. But so far, they are only 30% plant. And it’s unclear if recycling companies will accept them. I still prefer cartons.

6. Refuse plastic to-go boxes. Insist on cardboard boxes or aluminum foil for restaurant left-overs or take-out.

7. Recycle every bit of plastic you can. I recently checked the recycling rules in my hometown and we can recycle a lot of different kinds of plastic. Double-check the rules for your hometown and start filling up that recycling bin!

8. Sign up to participate in the September 19 International Coastal Cleanup.

9. Read Plastic, Ahoy! for other ideas.

The 200 year old Bowhead Whale: the Oldest Mammal on Earth

Greenland right whale
The 200 year old Bowhead Whale

I am a bowhead whale. I just celebrated my 200th birthday this year. That makes me the oldest living mammal on the planet! Sure, trees can live thousands of years, and the oldest living tree on earth is a bristlecone pine who is 4,841 years old, but look at me, I am twice as old as a tortoise!

To give you perspective, the year I was born was 1812. That year is known for the War of 1812, and it was when Francis Scott Key wrote the United States’ national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner. Also, you may think of Tchaikovsky’s famous 1812 Overture.

The most amazing aspect of my life is that I avoided being hunted and killed by any whaling boats. Most of my friends were not as lucky as me. I chalk it up to a sixth sense of knowing when humans are around and avoiding them. Thank goodness bowhead whales were banned from commercial whaling in 1943.

We are also known as Greenland right whales. We can reach lengths of 60 feet (18m) and weigh over 100 tons (89 metric tons). Bowhead whales can live so long because we live in the icy Arctic. One explanation for my longevity is having a core body temperature lower than those animals living in warmer oceans.

Whaling is now low on my list of worries, and ocean pollution is now at the top. Food tastes different now because of all the tiny plastic bits that my food, the microscopic-sized plankton, ingests. Plastic is everywhere in the ocean, and all ocean life is affected by it. See Alby the Albatross’ post for more on plastic ocean pollution.

For more on how humans figured out how old I am, click here

UPDATE: Scientists have found a 507 year old clam named Ming!

Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle Conservation Day in California

pacific leatherback sea turtle is California’s official marine reptile
Leatherback Sea Turtle (photo by Mark Cotter)

I’m Tuga, and I’m a Pacific leatherback sea turtle. Today in California (October 15) is Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle Conservation Day (note: it officially starts in 2013)! That is because I am now California’s official marine reptile! To boot, earlier this year 42,000 square miles of ocean off the West Coast of the United States (off California, Oregon, and Washington) was designated as a protected area for us leatherback sea turtles!

How appropriate California is celebrating my kind, as right now I am off the coast of California feasting on jellies (jellyfish). I just completed my annual 6,000 mile migration across the Pacific Ocean from my nesting beach in Indonesia.

I am one of seven species of sea turtles. I am the largest, at up to 7.2 feet (2.2 m) and 1,500 pounds (700 kg). I am the only sea turtle without a true shell. Instead I have thick leathery skin on my back, hence my name “leatherback!”

I am among the deepest diving marine animals, as I can reach depths of 4,200 feet (1,280 m), and hold my breath for over an hour! The deepest known diver is the Cuvier’s beaked whale, which can dive to 6,500 feet (2,000 m) deep. Elephant seals can dive to 5,000 feet (1,500 m) deep for over two hours.

I also challenge the notion that turtles are slow, as I can swim as fast as 21.92 miles per hour (35.28 kph)!

Six (of seven) species of sea turtles are threatened or endangered. There are only a few hundred of us leatherbacks off the West Coast of the United States. Sea turtles all around of the world are in peril because of:

1. destructive and wasteful fishing methods like long lining (we end up as bycatch)

2. poaching of sea turtle eggs from nesting beaches

3. loss of nesting beaches due to development

4. light pollution, which confuses hatchlings using moonlight to find the ocean

5. plastic pollution

Plastic pollution is the most insidious: a dead sea turtle was found with 74 pieces of trash in its stomach, most of it plastic. 260 million tons of plastic a year finds its way into the ocean, and many animals ingest it, especially us jelly loving sea turtles. Plastic bags suspiciously look like jellies to us, and we can’t help but eat it.

You can help by “precycling,” which means avoiding buying plastic to begin with. If you do buy something in plastic, please recycle it! Also bring your own reusable bags to the store in order to avoid using single use plastic bags that often end up in the ocean. All wildlife in the ocean thanks you for your help! You can make a difference everyday!

For more information on sea turtles, visit Sea Turtle Restoration Project.

For information on sea turtle ecotourism visit SEE turtles.

Sign petition to protect sea turtles from deadly drift gill nets