Beach Ambassadors: A Chance to Volunteer on the Beach in Plymouth, MA

A Volunteer Opportunity. If you love the beach, wildlife, birds and sharing your enthusiasm, this is a great volunteer opportunity for you. A new volunteer corps called Beach Ambassadors is forming in Plymouth, Massachusetts to educate beach visitors about the amazing wildlife, plants, shells and more found on Plymouth Long Beach to promote the idea that beaches are for families…of all kinds!

Family of Least Terns

Family of Least Terns

For instance, these cute Least Terns nest on the beach and are so well camouflaged that most people never see them. We’ll use games, activities, and observation to teach people to spot them and learn much more. We also might set up a spotting scope on some days at a safe distance from a nest, so you can allow beach goers to get a glimpse into the family life of the Least Tern and other unique birds that travel thousands of miles to nest on our local beaches.

Attend an Informational Meeting. There will be two informational meetings to describe the program in greater detail, so you can decide if you would like to sign up. One will be on Friday, March 29th from 2 pm to 2:45 pm at the Plymouth Main Library on South Street in the Board Room. If you can’t make that one, a second will be held on Saturday, March 30th from 4 pm to 4:45 pm at the Manomet Branch Library.

Training starts the first week of April and volunteering runs from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Shifts are from 2-4 hours and transportation, teaching materials, a table, beach umbrella, binoculars, a spotting scope, field i.d. books and more are provided. The program is supported by the Goldenrod Foundation.

Young people sitting at table on beach with beach-nesting bird outreach materials

Volunteers at Cape Cod National Seashore teach about beach-nesting birds

Tentative training schedule. Depending on your experience and availability, you may not need to attend all of the sessions.

Saturday, April 6 (indoor/outdoor): Tour the Goldenrod field station, meet the other volunteers, receive your training checklist, discuss logistics and scheduling. Then, we will head out onto the beach and take a beach discovery walk (1 pm -4 pm) Meet at Long Beach parking lot at 1 p.m. to carpool to the field station, or walk there, which takes about 35 minutes. If you walk, plan on arriving at the field station by 1:15 p.m.

April 16, 18-21 (exact date and time TBD) (indoor/outdoor): Beach-nesting bird biology, behavior, conservation and identification. Special field trip/training on Long Beach led by Ellen Jedrey of Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program. . Meet at Long Beach parking lot at TBD to carpool to the field station, or walk there, which takes about 35 minutes. If you walk, plan on arriving at the field station by TBD.

Wednesday, May 1 (indoor, Goldenrod field station): Hear from a volunteer Friend of Ellisville Marsh about their successful grassroots outreach effort to protect nesting piping plover and educate beach visitors. We will also go over use and care of optics (binoculars and spotting scope). (7 pm – 8:30 pm) Meet at Long Beach parking lot at 7 p.m. to carpool to the field station, or walk there, which takes about 35 minutes. If you walk, plan on arriving at the field station by 7:15 p.m.

Wednesday, May 15 (mostly outdoor): We will learn fun beach games and activities by doing them! Cassie Lawson of the Buzzard’s Bay Coalition will show us the beach memory game, the habitat hunt and more. Bring lunch for a (no crumbs left behind) beach picnic (9 am to 12:30 p.m.). Meet at Long Beach parking lot at 9 a.m. to carpool to the field station, or walk there, which takes about 35 minutes. If you walk, plan on arriving at the field station by 9:15 p.m.*This will be repeated a second time (by Dorie) for those that cannot attend on a weekday.

Friday, May 24 (outdoor): This is an optional field trip that should be really fun. We’ll carpool to Cape Cod National Seashore where Park Service naturalists will take our group to the beach to experience their programs and activities. This is a unique opportunity as they rarely do this for non-school groups! (9:30 am – 2:30 pm)

If you haven’t yet signed up, or have questions, email to do so. See you on the beach!


Local Premiere of Bag It, the Movie


Too many of my dirty deeds have involved trash. I’ve picked up trash in local parks and in many national wildlife refuges from Texas to Virginia and on to Rhode Island. And, I have seen a lot of plastic items like bags, bottles, buckets, and balloons. Over the years, I have learned that plastic can be deadly in a variety of ways for albatross chicks, sea turtles and even humans. But, there are effort we can take and make to reduce plastic in our lives.  A wonderful movie, Bag It, shows us how….

bag it promoPlymouth, MA:  The nationally acclaimed movie, Bag It, makes its local premiere at Plimoth Plantation on April 11, 2013 at 7 p.m. It will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Bruce Gellerman, well-known environmental journalist and former Senior Correspondent and Host at National Public Radio’s Living on Earth.

This 65-minute film follows Jeb, an average guy, as he tries to make sense of our dependence on single use plastic bags. This quest leads him to grocery stores, recycling centers, petroleum producers, and a remote Pacific island.  Jeb investigates what effective plastic recycling really entails and what happens to bags and other plastics after we discard them. While much of what he discovers is unappealing and downright scary, especially the negative effects on human health, Jeb gives us ideas about how we can reduce our use of plastic. This amusing and fast-paced movie is revealing and educational without being preachy.

Following the film, there will be a panel discussion where audience members will have an opportunity to interact with several notable panelists.  Each person will leave this event, after seeing, listening and sharing, with a heightened understanding of plastic pollution and how to reduce their “plastic footprint.”

The panelists include Betsy DeWitt, Selectman, Town of Brookline; Jesse Mechling, Education Director of the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies; and Betsy Wild, Blogger and Green Business Owner.

Bag It is presented in conjunction with the League of Women Voters, Plymouth Network of Open Space Friends, Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, Wildlands Trust, Plymouth Farmers’ Market and Goldenrod Foundation. Plymouth Girl Scout troops will make and sell reusable cloth bags as alternatives to single-use plastic bags. These will be available at the screening and at the Plymouth Farmers’ Market at Plimoth Plantation earlier in the day.  Tickets are $7.50 and can be purchased by calling (508) 746-1622 ext. 8346 or through



Yoga at the Beach: Sunday, January 27

Okay, okay, it’s definitely not a messy activity and doesn’t involve animals, at least not directly. However, you will be able to gaze at a gorgeous, mostly undeveloped beach and its feathered inhabitants while engaging in a relaxing and renewing yoga retreat. Afterward, you can take a stroll on the beach, if you like, and we’ll set up the spotting scope to look at sea ducks and possibly a right whale mother and calf that have been sighted off of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Email instructor Gail Belaief at or phone 508-736-8682 to sign up or for more information.

Yoga Retreat


Kicking Trash Outta Center Hill Preserve

Join Goldenrod Foundation and friends on Hometown Clean Up Day in Plymouth, Massachusetts to kick trash outta Center Hill Preserve. That’s Saturday, November 3rd (rain date Nov. 4) and we will start at 8:30 a.m., which is low tide. We will fan out over the cobblestone beach and leafy trails to keep this natural preserve beautiful!

This gem of a preserve is owned and managed by the town of Plymouth, MA. Most of the trash is stuff that washed in from the ocean like old traps and line, lumber and plastic. There is always plastic.

We will meet at the parking lot by the beach trail. See below for a map. It’s located north of Ellisville Harbor State Park on Center Hill Road. To sign up or for more information, email or just fill out this form

A few hours of work will make this place even more beautiful. Hope you can join us there.

Just look at this place! Gorgeous.

Bring leather gloves to help haul away these old traps.

More Fun with DDT

What does a wildlife biologist do for fun in a multimedia class? Here’s what: I created a video montage to demonstrate the perils of accepting the use of pesticides, or any chemical solution to a challenge presented by Mother Nature, without considering the side effects. Of course, we now know the consequences to the natural world caused by DDT and how it bio-accumulates in the food chain. What new surprises do modern chemicals and pharmaceuticals hold for us?

The film footage came from Internet Archive ( The video was recently shot by me and features two long suffering and patient members of my household.

Fun with Pixelmator

For class today I had fun playing around with Pixelmator, an image editing program, like Photoshop, only a lot less expensive and supposedly more user-friendly. Here are my admittedly basic manipulated images. I just touched the surface of what is possible.


Image 1: Three or more different layers


Image 2: Fifty percent of the image with levels adjusted


Image 3: Using paintbrush tools on top of photo

The Story of Dog Poo

What happens to that dog poo you don’t want to pick up? Follow its trip into water supplies in your community!

Lots of people means lots of dogs. And, just like people, dogs have to poo. Human poo generally goes into a treatment system by way of the toilet and a septic system or city water treatment plant. Dog droppings, on the other hand, are either put in the trash or left in place in yards, parks, forests and fields. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t disappear. Here is what happens to it…

There are other myths about dog feces, such as it acts like a fertilizer…

Fertilizer for lawn?

However, this is not true. Doggie doo generally contains meat and meat byproducts, not the plant material that makes the best fertilizer. Plus, it is filled with bacteria and parasites that can make you or your kids sick. Also, dog urine, because of the concentrated salts and nitrogen-based chemicals in it, can cause brown spots in your yard. But, back to the bacteria and parasites…

Gross facts: your dog’s doodoo contains fecal coliform bacteria, salmonella and giardia, most likely. An average-size dog dropping contains 3 billion fecal coliform bacteria. And, it’s been found in the AIR! That’s right, there are tiny pieces of dog poo floating through the air in your town, especially if you live in Chicago or Detroit. Fortunately, the parasites, like roundworm and hookworm aren’t in the air, but if you walk barefoot in dog doo, hookworms can get into your body. You can only get roundworm by eating dog feces, which you won’t do, but your toddler might. A small bit of poo on the hand while playing could be transferred to the mouth without anyone the wiser.

So, now that you are sufficiently disgusted and alarmed, you may want to know the best way to pick up poop. You can try this method…

And, there are lots of other cool poop-scooping gadgets and poop accessories…

However, the ole plastic bag over the hand does the job just fine. If you join the legions of patriotic, clean water loving Americans and clean up after your dog you will be just as happy as this fellow!

One Good Tern

The birds terned my head!

Who do you think wanted to visit a tern colony with expectations of enraged screeching birds bombing her with loads of excrement? Right you are! I did, Dorie Stolley, a wildlife biologist with a passion for birds and a penchant for adventure.

And, what could be more adventurous than joining other biologists and boating to a tiny offshore island teeming with terns, to count their nests and spy on their private lives? While being pooped upon, pecked, and noisily scolded? I couldn’t refuse the opportunity to join the dedicated and hard-working tern team on Ram Island in Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts. It seems very appropriate to report on this volunteer work as the first post in my new blog, Dirty Deeds.

Owned by the state of Massachusetts, Ram Island protects a critical nesting area of the federal and state endangered roseate tern and its cousin, the common tern. Packed on its 2.5 acres are thousands of these agile flyers, their nests, eggs and fluffy chicks. Biologists visit to keep track of the reproductive success of the birds, counting nests and banding chicks and adults.

A common tern by its nest with two camouflaged eggs.

Both tern species were killed in great numbers for their beautiful plumes, which were used to decorate women’s hats in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The decline continued with the development of garbage dumps that fed their nemeses – the gulls– which grew abundant and took over many of the terns’ nesting islands. Intensive management began at Ram Island in 1990 and has resulted in a grand increase in the number of terns nesting and raising their chicks on the tiny island.

I personally experienced the increase during my visit. The screeching, plummeting, aggressive common terns tried fiercely and angrily to drive us away, but we succeeded in our quest to count nests and band the few early-hatching chicks.  There were numerous wounds – one strategy drawing blood and the other,  more fragrant and warm, wounding the pride. Despite this, I yearn to re-tern (couldn’t resist that one!) and watch the terns squabble, court, and protect and nurture their own future…with a little help from us humans.

For more on the Buzzard’s Bay Tern Restoration Program, click here.

Biologist getting the say-so from terns.