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If you walk on a Florida beach or go boating near a mangrove shoreline  keep an eye for one of these:

As part of an independent oceanographic experiment (not affiliated with any institution), I released 500 thumb-sized vials from an undisclosed Florida location. Each of them carries a message: call home.

If you find them, call the phone number or email on the label. You will be asked where, when and in what condition you found the tiny messenger. Also, you will be asked to provide the code. Each one of them carries a unique code.

On December 15, 2012 all recovered codes will be entered in a raffle, for a chance to win a small reward.

Your participation will allow scientists like me to better understand oceanographic patterns in Florida’s coastal ecosystems.

Environmental impact

The vials are recycled plastic. Inside there’s a clear liquid which is double filtered freshwater, completely harmless.

Before conducting the oceanographic experiment, I made sure I minimized the environmental footprint of the experiment. Other oceanographers in the past have used glass in similar experiments. I decided glass will be too much of a hazard because it might break, and for that reason I chose plastic.

The plastic is clinical grade and recycled, so it does not release any chemicals and it’s inert (the kind of plastic used in high-precision medical tests). To account for plastic vials that won’t be recovered, I have already committed to additional coastal cleaning activities, on top of my regular beach cleaning I do on my weekends. I regularly collect plastic and other trash as I walk on the beach. I also collect trash when I go SCUBA diving: plastic, cans, fishing line, hooks, etc.

As a rule, I modify oceanographic experiments so they are either pollution-free or I can remediate whatever minimal environmental footprint they might generate.

About a year ago, I presented my research at the International Marine Conservation Congress in Victoria, Canada. This was only the second time the  international marine conservation community met to develop new strategies for marine conservation science and policy.

At the Congress, I was interviewed by the team from Mission Blue, founded by world renowned deep sea explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle. I shared my views about the importance of marine conservation and where we are in terms of marine protected areas. The entire interview and an illustration are posted at the Mission Blue Blog.

It took the talent and creativity of artist Asher Jay to find a visual home for one of my quotes from the Mission Blue interview. A few days ago, Asher Jay opened her new art exhibit in New York: Message in a Bottle. Asher hand-painted  plastic PET bottles (post-consumer waste) using them as vessels to share the voices of individuals leading scientific research, conservation and policy change to ensure ocean life continues to flourish.

My message…

“We are part of the ocean.  If the oceans die, we die with them, so marine conservation is essential for our own survival. Every second breath you take comes from the ocean, so if you are against marine conservation you are only allowed to breathe from 9 am to 9 pm and the rest of the 12 hours you have you cannot breathe at all.”

… was paired with this bottle

Message in a Bottle by Asher Jay

There are 100 Ocean Voices in the exhibit, each one with a unique message and image. Both the images and the messages are a great source of inspiration.

There’s also a dedicated image gallery, for the entire exhibit.

If you are reading this blog, it means you are breathing. Half of the oxygen you are using comes from the ocean, produced by microscopic algae in the plankton. Tiny oxygen-producing natural factories. If you plan on continuing breathing for a while, I hope you find inspiration on how to do so in Message in a Bottle.

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