SOAR has a serious side in its missions to help kids find ways of helping the ocean and watersheds throughout the world. I started on having seen hundreds of albatrosses killed by plastic debris at Pihemanu (Midway Atoll). I was inspired by the questions of young people in Ohio and by USFWS biologists working hard to protect endangered species and damaged habitats.

SOAR has a very fun and tough to define side.....thanks to FRED AND FRIENDS, Project SOAR helps with watershed and ocean workshops throughout the world, and generally makes people smile while they learn some tough stuff about how we treat our rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and the one ocean on planet earth..........


SOAR introduces young people to ways they can make a difference in their local community and the wider world.

Take advantage by:

1) Invite a SOAR learning kit or bring Ron Hirschi to your school as a guest author or speaker for your organization. Ron has many years experience as an author and as a biologist. SOAR adds another dimension to his list of hands on projects he shares in writing, art, and ecology workshops.

Many schools invite Ron for his work as author of more than 50 nonfiction books, including many with ocean themes. Others bring him to school as a scientist or artist, but the best fit is always when schools use Ron to help them integrate curriculum.

Tom Bates, Principal at Tremont Elementary in Ohio recently said in an interview following Ron's visit, "What stood out to me was how Ron was able to gear his activities and discussion and information so it was meaningful to the students, whether they were in kindergarten or fifth grade."

Be in touch at whalemail@waypoint.com for visit information.

2) SOAR now has a new kit circling the globe along with a Laysan Albatross "Friend of Fred". This duo is packaged with a box full of ideas, activities, information about Papahanaumokuakea, ocean debris, and other materials aimed at sparking new projects related to the sea. Also included is a journal chronicling Fred's adventures, all of which began when kids at Columbus School for Girls (CSG) learned how they could take action to help the ocean.

Currently, this treasured package is in the hands of The Bush School in Seattle.

NOTE: You might also be lucky to receive one of the earlier packages with a FRED and Friend, already traveling. To date, Fred has visited Australia, Switzerland, Israel, England, The Dominican Republic, and many corners of the United States.

09 January 2013

Help Restore and Increase Funding for Midway USFWS Projects

I started Project SOAR after visiting Midway Atoll in 2009. As a guest of the USFWS, NOAA, and the State of Hawaii, I learned a great deal about ocean issues and how vital it has been to have the USFWS presence out there in the middle of the Pacific.

Federal budget cuts have eliminated the kinds of programs that brought me to Midway and Papahanaumokuakea.............Sadly, there are NO volunteers allowed at the present time, volunteers who have been working with FWS staff to protect Albatross habitat in many ways and to help eliminate the tons of trash that wash onto Midway's shores each year. Visitors like me also helped to spread the word about important research findings about marine debris.

It is an eye opening and even life changing experience to visit Midway and I hope Congress will restore and, more importantly, increase funding over past amounts allocated to the Fish and Wildlife Service. I learned much of what you all have learned through SOAR by keeping in touch with Fish and Wildlife staff out there.......They are extremely dedicated, but can not function effectively without funding.

As one who has attempted to keep SOAR alive with no outside funds, I know what they face..........But, their mission and their place on the planet is far more vital than most of what any of the rest of us do...........Imagine if no one was allowed to visit Yellowstone National Park, the Redwoods, or any of the magnificent refuges and parks on the mainland!

Please write President Obama, Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, and your congressional representatives to urge more funding for Midway!

05 December 2012

Plastic Shores........The Movie

If you are looking for a video......a movie.........any compelling production that tells the story of plastics in our oceans, please watch and share PLASTIC SHORES.

Edward Scott-Clarke and LMV Productions have created the best I've seen in fun yet highly informational and inspiring footage to compliment the story line in this fantastic movie.

Show it, share it, send copies to friends and others you wish to inspire!

Downloadable copies available at www.plasticshoresmovie.com

Everything I've tried to share in SOAR is packed into this AND more.......

Much Aloha and Malama i ke Kai,

Ron Hirschi
Now at: PO Box 22
Poulsbo, Washington 98370
Still at whalemail@waypoint.com

14 June 2012

Eighth Grade Students at The Bush School Take Actions to Reduce Plastic Pollution

There are many ways everyone can help clean up the environment and reduce our consumption of plastics. Although we cannot become independent from plastics entirely, everybody should take small steps every day to help reduce plastic consumption. After Ron Hirschi’s visit to The Bush School and the Eighth Grade Science class, our class decided to take his challenge to find and use alternatives to plastic. We also conducted a beach clean up at Golden Gardens Park in Seattle, Washington to remove plastic and other trash from the beach.

Students found plastic alternatives for many products such as plastic bottles and plastic bags. Here are some of the products that the eighth graders at Bush found alternatives for.

Plastic bottles: Some students had decided to reduce the amount of plastic bottles that they use in their everyday lives. Students found some alternatives for plastic bottles such as using reusable water bottles. Students used the reusable water bottles for everyday use as their alternative. Other students used chemical free plastic water bottles so when they need to be thrown out they can be put into the recycle.

Plastic utensils: One student and his family put the time and effort into washing plastic utensils so that they would be reusable. Another student purchased inexpensive, reusable metal utensils to cut down on their family’s consumption of plastic.

Plastic Ziploc bags: When students brought lunches to school in zip lock bags they found after they had finished they would throw away the plastic bag and go on with their day. To eliminate the Ziploc bags, some students packed their lunch in Tupperware or reusable plastic containers and then reused the container. Also, on one of the Experiential Week camping trips, students reused their Ziploc bag for their lunch the entire week. These two efforts saved many plastic bags and helped our efforts to reduce plastic use.

Plastic shopping bags: Every year, Americans use approximately 1 billon shopping bags; that creates 300,000 tons of landfill waste (cleanair.org). Students in our class wanted to reduce the amount of plastic bags that they use on an everyday basis. Students found alternatives for plastic bags such as reusable fabric bags. They used the reusable fabric bags as grocery shopping bags to haul items in.

Toothbrushes: Most students at The Bush School use disposable toothbrushes for dental hygiene. These toothbrushes consist of plastic material which cannot be recycled. To reduce this consumption of plastic, some students decided to buy a reusable toothbrush handle that fits with disposable brush heads. Others decided to use an electric toothbrush where you still replace the toothbrush head, but it lasts longer than most of the inexpensive plastic toothbrush heads.

Pens: At The Bush School, students are consistently using cheap throw away pens which are not recyclable. These pens contain plastic material and ink which causes it to have to be put in the garbage. Students also lose these pens frequently and some pens may be dropped outside and become litter. Street litter often washed into storm drains and ends up in Puget Sound. To stop this students have decided to keep track of these plastic pens, and they have decided to find refillable fountain pens that can be reused and are also recycled.

Plastic BBs: Another unique way that a student was able to reduce his plastic consumption was by reducing his plastic use with a very specific item. This item would be known as an “airsoft gun”, which is a plastic toy gun that shoots plastic pellets. This student decided that his way of reducing his plastic consumption would be to start using biodegradable pellets which would take about 2 months to degrade versus the 9 months-1 year time that it would take for a non-biodegradable plastic pellet.

These are just some of the very simple and easy ways to reduce your plastic consumption. We hope that you consider using our ideas. If we can take simple and easy steps like these in our everyday lives, together we can reduce the amount of plastic that we consume. There are many more creative ways to use recyclable or compostable and re-usable items for everyday purposes. If we all try these simple steps to becoming more environmentally friendly we will have much less plastic winding up in bodies of water and on beaches. This is important because plastic pollutes these bodies of water and can kill important and endangered wildlife.

Written by Adam, Chris, Jack, Max, Leeds, and Jackson with additional input from Maya, Aubra, Yamina, and Abby in the Eighth Grade Science Class of The Bush School.

31 May 2012

Some Pictures from Ron Hirschi's Visit to The Bush School

Here three students sift the sand and find plastic pieces. 

A student examines the pieces of debris under a microscope.

Ron Hirschi talking to some students. 

Students sifting and making observations.

Looking for microplastic floating along the surface.

We want to thank him again for spending time with us.
-8th Grade Class at The Bush School

23 May 2012

8th grade students at The Bush School analyze plastic debris from beaches on and near Marrowstone Island

Quantitative analysis of small-plastic debris on beaches on Marrowstone Island and two nearby beaches in the Puget Sound waters of Washington.

Members of the Eighth Grade Science Class at The Bush School, Seattle WA 98112, USA

Nineteen samples of plastic beach debris from eight locations throughout north Puget Sound were analyzed. At each collection site, around 40 ml of debris samples and sand were collected and later sorted by categories pertaining to type and size. Although plastic debris was found on all collection sites, the most debris collected in one sample was found on Irondale beach. Microplastic (plastics smaller than 1mm), was also found in 73% of the 19 samples and a total of 42 pieces of plastic were collected from the eight beaches. 50% of plastics found were fragments (plastics greater than1mm), and 17% percent of the plastics were bottle caps. The analysis confirms the presence of plastics in Puget Sound. This debris is common in the region of Marrowstone Island and affects the environment.

Tidal currents flow from the Straight of Juan de Fuca through Admiralty Inlet and into Puget Sound bringing water, plastic, and other debris from the Pacific Ocean into Puget Sound. Similarly, an outgoing tidal current brings water, plastic, and other debris from the Tacoma/Seattle area back out to the Pacific Ocean. Since Admiralty Inlet lies to the north and to the east of Marrowstone Island, many of these tidal currents also bring plastic and other debris to the shores of Marrowstone Island (Features of Puget Sound). Plastic and debris enters the Pacific Ocean from the land of surrounding countries and states as well as from transportation from international industries. Much of this plastic and debris from the Pacific Ocean builds up on the Hawaiian islands. Similarly, plastic and debris from the Seattle/Tacoma area as well as from the Pacific Ocean builds up on Marrowstone Island beaches and on nearby beaches. The plastic pollution affects the wildlife and the surrounding environment.
 Most of the plastic items found in the nineteen samples on or near Marrowstone Island were small items such as foam pieces, pellets, push-pins, and even microplastic (plastic less than 1 mm in diameter). Most of these items are not recyclable. While some of this debris is litter left on the beach by visitors to the beach, it is likely that many of these products washed up on the beach from the Puget Sound waters. The plastic debris could have entered the water by falling off transportation ships or by being swept up by rain water and carried down storm drains.
Many of these plastic items and the smaller plastic debris can be, and are ingested by the wildlife on the islands or surrounding waterways. In Puget Sound there are whales which end up eating these plastic fragments and becoming sick from plastic intake. Research has shown that many animals that eat plastic also face nutritional loss, some internal injuries, blockage in the internal organs and starvation (Baird, R.W., Hooker, S.K and Blight, L.K., Burger, A.E and Hirschi and Mallory).  Various types of plastics were found in different types of fish and birds (Pierce). The plankton that live in the ocean can also ingest the small particles of plastic. Many of the fish and larger aquatic animals eat plankton so this could also be very unhealthy for many of the sea animals (McDermid). The prevalence of plastic in these small samples taken from beaches in Puget Sound helps us understand why plastics are affecting the health of Puget Sound ecosystems.

Materials and Methods
Nineteen samples of sand and debris were collected from Marrowstone Island and two nearby locations.  There were samples from the following locations: Point North, Mystery Bay, East Beach (8 samples), West Beach, Marrowstone Point (2 samples), Point East (3 samples), Indian Island, and Irondale Beach. (See the map below where arrows mark the locations where samples were taken.)
Samples were collected at each location by Mr. Ron Hirschi at the first spot where he saw plastic in the sand at the high tide line. The samples were taken at the high tide mark with a sideways scoop horizontally. Each sample was approximately 40 ml in volume due to the fact that some had slightly more debris than others.
Mr. Hirschi brought the samples to The Bush School where it was handed out to Eighth Grade students. The samples were sent through a series of sorting:
Visual collection: First students collected the large pieces of plastic with their hands. They counted those to see how many large pieces of plastic made it to Marrowstone Island and nearby beaches.
Sifter: Then the samples were sifted with a testing sieve that had two mm holes. This was to take out all small pieces that may be hiding in the sand and be able to identify plastics.
Wet sort: Then the remaining sand was put through a wet sort. A wet sort is where you put the sand in a plastic container that contains two inches of water. All plastic floated to the top. This also showed us the microplastic.
Microscope: Finally students took all the unusual plastics or pieces of debris and looked at them under a microscope to determine their identity.
The data table below shows the results of this sorting process for each of the nineteen samples from beaches on or near Marrowstone Island and also shows the results for the one sample from Hawaii. 

Our class found that fourteen of the nineteen samples contained microplastic (plastic smaller them 1 mm in diameter) and we found 42 pieces of plastic (significantly larger than microplastic) in the nineteen samples. Comparing this to the sample in Hawaii, we discovered that this was a small amount. The one sample from Papaa Bay, Kauai had 31 pieces of plastic in the sand and debris sample. In the nineteen samples (not counting Hawaii) we found 21 fragments and 21 pieces of larger, identifiable plastic. We identified these larger pieces of plastic and grouped them into categories including: bottle caps, pellets, pen parts, and shotgun shells. In total we found 21 fragments, 7 bottle caps, no pellets, 2 pen parts, and 1 shotgun shell. (See the data table for more details about our results.)
These nineteen samples were all gathered from different areas on Marrowstone Island (Point North, Mystery Bay, East Beach, Marrowstone Point, Point East) or nearby on Irondale Beach and Government Cut on Indian Island. Although there were a lot of pieces of debris in these small samples, there are many more in the sample from Hawaii. In the sample from Hawaii, there were 31 total plastic pieces.

In the nineteen samples that were collected at or near Marrowstone Island there was a large number of fragments. There was a large number of bottle caps found (7 caps) and there was also a large amount of microplastic found in the samples. There were many large, recognizable pieces of plastic including: a balloon, bottle caps, a lighter, toys, a pin, and a rope. Compared to Hawaii, the individual samples of approximately 40 ml of debris and sand collected on Marrowstone Island had fewer total pieces of plastic. This could be due to the location of Marrowstone Island.
Marrowstone Island is located in the Admiralty Inlet, near the straits of Juan de Fuca that run off into the Pacific Ocean. This could explain why it might get items that had fallen off shipping boats on their way from places in Asia to the U.S. and other countries with industrial needs. There also are strong currents that lead from the Pacific into Puget Sound and flow near Marrowstone Island which causes the island to collect large amounts of trash and other rubbish from overseas on its beaches. Marrowstone Island is fairly close to other land forms which causes plastic to be trapped between these land forms. This also made it useful to have samples from neighboring beaches like Irondale Beach and the Indian Island Government Cut which both presented similar features as the samples from Marrowstone Islands. Marrowstone and Indian Island have a ‘U-shape’ which causes plastic to get trapped in the long crescent shape. The plastic fragments have resulted in many harmful effects on the ecosystem.
The harmful effects include diminished food consumptions, internal injury, loss of nutrition, starvation, intestinal blockage and death of the native animals. Plastic also has a large effect on marine life and the Puget Sound as a whole. A main cause of death in marine creatures is due to this debris. An animal will consume plastic debris because the debris will appear like fish or something other that they would eat or a normal basis. This can and most likely will kill the animals as plastic can’t be digested especially in large proportions for most animals. There are many toxins in and related to plastic that will result in diseases of the animals. Animals can also become caught in larger amounts of plastic and then will not be able to consume other foods leading to starvation. There have been many cases of animals dying from plastic ingestion (Baird, R.W., Hooker, S.K and Blight, L.K., Burger, A.E and Hirschi and Mallory).    If one species becomes extinct or endangered, other creatures that live closely with that species will be affected as well.
The amount of plastic debris in the Marrowstone samples is less than the amount of debris found in the Hawaiian islands, but it is still very noticeably negative.  Our research shows that there is a significant amount of plastic pieces and microplastic on and near Marrowstone Island.
These pieces of microplastic were found in nearly all the collection sites and they help give us an understanding of the prevalence of plastic pollution in the Puget Sound and in the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific is a highway for trade, a resource, many ecosystems, and more recently in history, a dump. At the rate at which plastic is making its way into the ocean (14 billion Pounds a year) (www.whoi.edu), it shows that we must do something before all life in the ocean is hindered by pollution. This data we were given is incredibly minute in the large scale of beaches and islands in the ocean, but it serves as a representation of what is, and what will further come to be. We must act now to stop plastic pollution before it is too late.

Our class room study was made possible by samples collected by Ron Hirschi and his dedication to making the world a better place. We want to thank our teacher, Ms. Gimelli Hemme, for helping us in the study of the plastics and sands and answering our questions. Additionally, we want to thank Ron Hirschi for sending our paper to his colleagues to review and we want to thank Goffinet McLaren, George Matsumoto, Wes Nicholson, Patricia Pierce, and Jason Schmid for taking time to review our paper and give us feedback. Finally, we want to recognize Brandon, Brooke, Camille, Cole, Deahna, Ellis, Erik, Greyson, Hal, Kaeley, Kellen, Kevin, Jackson H, Isabel M, Libbie, Maddi, Matheus, Ruby, and Sophia for their work making edits to the paper.


Baird, R.W., Hooker, S.K. 2000. Ingestion of plastic and unusual prey by a juvenile harbour porpoise. Marine Pollution Bulletin 40, 719-720.

Blight, L.K., Burger, A.E.1997. Occurence of plastic particles in seabirds from the eastern North Pacific. Marine Pollution Bulletin 35, 323-325.

Hirschi, Ron. 2012. Obstruction and starvation associated with entanglement and partial ingestion in an adult harbor seal. Unpublished Field Notes, Marrowstone Island, Washington State. 

Features Of Puget Sound Region: Oceanography And Physical Processes, Chapter 3 of the State of the Nearshore Report, King County Department of Natural Resources, Seattle, Washington, 2001.

Mallory, et al., 2006. Marine plastic debris in northern fulmars from Davis Strait, Nunavut, Canada. Marine Pollution Bulleting 52, 813-815.

McDermid, K. J., & McMullen, T. L. (2004). Quantitative analysis of small-plastic debris on beaches in the Hawaiian archipelago. Retrieved April 2012, from Science Direct: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X0300482X

Pierce, et al. 2004. Obstruction and starvation associated with plastic ingestion in a northern gannet and a greater shearwater. Marine Ornithology 32: 187-189.

Plastics in Our Oceans." Home : Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Web. 04 May 2012. .

04 May 2012

Ship Pollution and A Southern Albatross, Soaring.......

It's always amazing to me, watching seabirds fly...........and what they must fly through these days must have some affect on their abilities to survive..........See for example, the following link to an image of "trails" left behind by ships off the coast of California:


Buller's Mollyhawk. A Southern Hemisphere Albatross.
Most common near New Zealand
suffering declines in recent years due to
longline fishing.

02 May 2012

Small Worlds of Seagrass Meadows

A sampling of the small world, including juvenile pink salmon
caught in our net at the Nature Conservancy Preserve last week.

Kids from Gordon Elementary began a study here on a low tide,
seining in seagrasses where we caught ONLY juvenile fish, including
many larval and just post-larval species difficult to identify.

Our list included pink salmon, three flatfish (one with dazzling blue dots),
penpoint gunnel, diamondback gunnel, staghorm sculpin, buffalo sculpin,
snailfish spp, and some of the tiniest sand dollars you can imagine (3mm).

Nice to NOT FIND much in the way of marine debris, although those pesky Penn Cove Mussel discs were present along with small amounts of other aquaculture debris.

That is Hood Head over this young naturalist's left shoulder at the north entrance
to Hood Canal. Thanks to the Nature Conservancy and their many volunteers who keep this and other beaches so free of plastics! And, thanks to TNC for helping preserve marine life by protecting areas where we take only photos.

We will return to the beach next month, hoping to monitor changes and think
more about how to help protect local waters while thinking about the bigger problems facing the ocean.

Oh! did I mention Fred came along..........He spent much of the time swinging from branches in the Madrona woods bordering this beautiful beach.

X310 Plastic Ocean Activity

It's me, Fred, the Monkey.

If you look closely, you can see I wear X310's leg band around my neck. It's to remind me of her. She was a Laysan Albatross. She was born in March 2008 and lived on Pihemanu, one of the most remote atolls on earth, now part of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

You can wonder about Pihemanu and about X310. She didn't live very long, dying in June 2008. Her parents flew thousands and thousands of miles finding food for her. But x310, like lots of baby albatrosses died before she got to soar the seas. Some albatrosses fly three million miles during their life. Like X310's parents, their sea is a new challenge in food finding because of our actions on land.

Adult albatrosses fly more than a thousand miles just to get a single meal for their babies. But the ocean is full of plastic. And if you read my buddy, Ron's blog and website, you learn about plastic in the sea. It is everywhere and babies like X310 die because they eat so much plastic, they can not get it out of their stomachs.

Where's all this plastic come from?
Where does it go?

Here is a simple activity:

Get up from your chair and walk around the classroom or wherever you are sitting.

Write down each thing around you that is made of plastic.

Everybody compare lists and make a total of the plastic products.

Now, the hard part of this activity:

Can you find alternatives for the things you use, alternatives not made of plastic?
Maybe start with drinking water from a fountain or glass or reuseable container?
Maybe start a really good recycling project?
Maybe make some art from recycled plastic?
Learn more on links here on this site and others.
Talk about times with no plastic.
X310 would have appreciated if people, just a few years ago had decided to make a plastic-free world for you....
You and X310.

Learn how you can SOAR with FRED by arranging a visit with Fred and his ocean teaching kit by emailing his banana provider at whalemail@waypoint.com


What you need:

Pint size plastic beverage container with wide mouth (about 1.5 inches) ---This approximates the size of a baby albatross stomach and esophagus.

Important to have the lid too.

Enough plastic items (bottle caps, toothbrush, legos, fishing line, small chunks of nylon rope, markers, pens, more bottle caps and even a few more bottle caps since they are pretty much the most common marine debris.

Talk with your audience of kids of any age about ocean debris and the way adult albatrosses fly out a few hundred or even a thousand miles to find flying fish eggs and squid for the little ones. They return to Pihe Manu or up on the Northeast shore of Kauai, find their young one among thousands of others and begin to feed by regurgitating "food".......

As you talk about this, have the kids place one or two pieces of the plastic into the bottle.

Replace cap with each addition of plastic. Shake gently to mimic bird moving around the nesting area a bit.

Remove cap. Shake gently to mimic the bird trying to dislodge "food" that can not be digested. In a perfect ocean, this would be squid beaks, fish bones, or other natural pieces of food.

Add more plastic, repeating above until no plastic falls out of the bottle when cap is removed (bill is opened) and the bird tries and tries, but can not toss up the mass of debris. See how much and how many different kinds of plastic can be added. Does the rope tangle with the legos and bottle caps. Do five bottle caps cause a blockage in the esophagus???

In nature, the upchucked mass is like an owl pellet and is known as a bolus. Natural foods slip freely through the esophagus and more feeding can continue. Most times, a baby albatross will toss up one bolus before leaving the nesting island. Unfortunately, thousands die because plastic blocks the stomach completely.

Your feeding the baby albatross activity can lead to a lot of discussion of plastics we use, discard, then find their way into the ocean and into the mouth of a baby albatross.

If you want to have a Baby Albatross Feeding Kit, complete with some plastic items that actually came from once living albatross at Pihe Manu, Papahanaumokuakea, be in touch.