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Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...
Fin whale

From managing commercial slaughter to saving the whale – the International Whaling Commission at 75

Governments come together under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to make decisions...

Environmental Movements: Old & New

When doing outreach events we often stress there is little difference between what happens on land and what happens to the oceans. No matter where you live, your actions impact not only your local terrestrial environment but your local watershed and eventually the ocean and its inhabitants. So in honor of World Oceans Day, we asked one of this year’s amazing interns, Caitlin Karniski, to do us the honor of reminding us about one of the original environmental movements and the importance of individual actions in making a difference. We are sure that Caitlin is going to go on and make a huge difference in the marine mammal field…..

A little more than midway into my internship at WDCS, I was fortunate enough to attend a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Widely credited as the singular publication to help launch the environmental movement in 1962, Silent Spring exposes the detrimental effects on the environment of pesticides, particularly highlighting the deaths of birds due to the insecticide DDT. What most people may not know about Silent Spring however, is that it was sparked by a letter to Rachel Carson by her friend Olga Owens Huckins that chronicled the deaths of birds around her home in Duxbury, Massachusetts. As the anniversary celebrations were being held on the preserved property of Ms. Huckins’ home, I was especially excited to tour the grounds and imagine the view that sparked such an important book, and to see what had changed. I read Silent Spring in college, around the time I was changing majors from English to Biology, and was inspired by Carson’s perfect balance of sound science and impassioned urging in her writing. It’s something I continued to strive towards in my career in marine biology. 

My tour of the property grounds was joined by fellow WDCS intern Jess Simpson and Scott Leonard and Michelle Perkins of the Nantucket Marine Mammal Conservation Program, our wonderful hosts when we attended the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative (NBI) the week before. My imagination was running wild as I walked through the lush landscape and pictured how the startling disappearance of birds (which I am happy to report, appear to now be doing well) caught the attention of Rachel Carson. Our bird walk was lead by the renowned naturalist and field guide author Peter Alden, who we also had the pleasure of spending time with during the NBI.

Another draw of the event was a panel discussion of Silent Spring that included Dr. Roger Payne, the famous biologist credited along with research partner Scott McVay in discovering the song of the humpback whale. I had watched the documentary A Life Among Whales featuring Dr. Payne just a few weeks before learning I would be attending the event, and had mentally added him to my growing list of scientists who inspire me. It was very meaningful to listen to the various environmental leaders and authors describe what Silent Spring means to them and how this influential book affected each of their lives on both a professional and personal level.

I was delighted to meet Dr. Payne following the event, and hear his advice for a budding scientist such as myself. I truly appreciated his thoughtful words and clearly passionate concern for the marine environment. I was also extremely impressed with the participation of the attendees, each of whom stressed the importance of accomplishing local sustainability measures and practical ways to achieve them. This event truly encompassed what it means to “think globally, and act locally.” This maxim is at the forefront of my mind on World Oceans Day, as I am reminded of our connection and dependence upon our oceans—which I believe play a bigger part in our lives than most of us may realize.