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July/August 2023 Research Summaries and Sustainability Tips

It'd be a cruel summer if you didn't read our research summaries and sustainability tips!

A medium blue slide reads "May 2023 Research Summaries and Sustainability Tips".

JULY 26: RESEARCH SUMMARY - PLASTIC PIONEERS

Did you know that organisms that attach to rocks and other solid structures in the ocean can also attach to plastics? If this happens, these plants and animals can get caught in a gyre.


As objects float along the land boundaries in a Gyre system, they can wash up on shore in a different state or country than where they came from, or even a different continent!


An infographic illustrating the five main subtropical gyres. Gyres are large oceanic water currents that spin in circular motions, both clockwise and counterclockwise. The North Pacific Gyre & North Atlantic Gyre rotate clockwise and the South Pacific Gyre, South Atlantic Gyre, & Indian Ocean Gyre rotate counterclockwise. Gyres regulate temperatures by absorbing heat along the equator and cooling down as it circulates into colder climates. Nutrients are transported in these currents and more recently - plastic has as well.

Mghili, De-la-Torre, & Aksissou assessed the potential for marine litter to introduce and spread species, identifying a total of 67 species on marine debris in non-native environments.


Plastics are more efficient in transporting species beyond their typical ranges because of the buoyancy and durability of plastics. While floating in the ocean, plastic doesn’t quite break down, instead it breaks apart into many smaller pieces that still float and move with the ocean currents.


As the gyre currents carry species out of their natural ranges, these species can be introduced into non-native environments by settling on new structures or entering a reproduction cycle that spreads eggs, larvae, algae fragments, etc.


Sometimes these species don’t survive in the new environment or they do survive in balance with the new ecosystem, but sometimes they thrive without natural predators and can cause health, economic, and other environmental harm as an invasive species.



JULY 28: SUSTAINABILITY TIP - PLASTIC FREE JULY

Plastics serve very valuable purposes in our society. That being said, it doesn’t have to be used in every situation. There are lots of small-scale solutions that individuals can implement in daily choices that add up to make a big difference while we wait for the large-scale solutions that corporations and governing bodies can and should implement. Plastic Free July is a global movement with the mission to end plastic waste. Trying to reduce and remove at least one common single-use plastic item from your life during the month of July builds personal awareness of how plastic-dependent our society is and provides an opportunity to explore alternatives. Actions in the past have also influenced corporate and government policy by reducing the demand for single-use plastics.


You can take the challenge by visiting www.plasticfreejuly.org/take-the-challenge/ and exploring their website to find ideas of how to make a big difference with small steps throughout July and beyond.


AUGUST 7: RESEARCH SUMMARY - SHARK SENSATIONALISM

A paper published in 2021 researched people’s perceptions of sharks after reading various news headlines. They noted that shark encounter stories are popular in mass media since it “frequently covers stories that involve low-incidence, high-consequence events.” They found that headlines with more information about sharks and language showing they do not intentionally bite humans tended to influence more understanding responses in readers rather than sensationalized headlines, but previous research has shown that sensationalized headlines are most often used in the media.

This highlights how the specific language used by the media can influence how people perceive news topics. As readers, we can’t control how news is written, but we can control the type of information we intake and the amount of information we learn about a topic to ensure that our perceptions aren’t based on extremist headlines.



AUGUST 10: SUSTAINABILITY TIP - SHARK-FRIENDLY SITES

So much media coverage directed towards sharks is negative or misinformed, so at the end of Shark Week 2023 we’re here to introduce you to a few organizations sharing educational and inspiring shark content all year long!




AUGUST 17: RESEARCH SUMMARY - MITIGATING FUTURE FIRES

The fires in Maui and Hawaiʻi Island this week caused unimaginable damage to families, cultural sites, and homes. If you can help, go to our bio to find a link to a reputable relief fund from the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation. But how do we prevent these kinds of fires from happening again?



In an article published in Nature, Kanaka (Native Hawaiian) scientists noted the fire in Lahaina had many reasons for burning so large and quickly. Hotter temperatures from climate change dried out the leeward side of Maui more than normal during the dry season from May to October, introduced dry grasses caught fire easily, and increased winds from hurricanes stoked the flames. The article notes that to reduce the threat of further fires, efforts ought to focus on increasing traditional care for the land and replacing introduced grasses with native plants. Kanaka-led care for the land can help reduce the amount of dry brush that could potentially start more fires.



AUGUST 18: SUSTAINABILITY TIP - RELIEF FOR MAUI

In the wake of the fires in Maui and Hawaiʻi Island, community members and organizations are coming together to provide immediate and lasting relief to those affected.


Below is a list of reputable relief funds and organizations putting together lists of direct Venmo accounts for families who lost property in the fires:

  • Donate directly to families affected by the fires - @lahaina_ohana_venmo

  • Donate to ʻĀina Momona Maui Fund and Maui families - @ainamomona

  • Donate to Hawaiʻi Community Foundation relief fund - @hawaiicommunityfoundation

  • Learn about relief work - @mauirapidresponse

  • Donate to Lāhui Foundation fire recovery efforts - @lahuifoundation

  • Donate to Hawaiʻi People’s Fund Maui Aloha - @hawaiipeoplesfund


In this time of rebuilding, it is vitally important that we support families who want to rebuild to reduce the effects of “disaster capitalism,” where developers try to take advantage of people who lost homes to try and scoop up land. This practice is abhorrent and we need to ensure the communities of Maui and Hawaiʻi have the support they need to rebuild, especially since we know that the best way to mitigate future fires is to put care for the land in the hands of the local community.


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