Monday, June 25, 2012


Hi Sea Fans!

I've been rushing around California, trying to visit everyone and it's been crazy ...but so much fun!  I got to go back to the California Science Centre (CSS) seeing as I only got to meet the divers last time and this time, I felt like a CSI (Crime Scene Investigator) because I got to look for parasites on fish with the vet staff!

If a fish starts to act funny (like not eating or swimming weirdly) the aquarists alert the veterinary staff and everybody keeps a close eye on it.  If necessary, they take the fish out and do a skin scraping (this doesn't hurt the fish, it just takes a bit of slime off their body) to check if there is a parasite that might be making the fish sick.  Luckily, we found that the fish is healthy and when I left, it was swimming around just fine.

I also got to check out the quarantine facility where new fish are kept.  These fish are kept here for a while, away from display animals to make sure that they don't bring any diseases into the aquarium.  This is where I got to see my first California Sheephead:

Yup, a Sheephead is a fish!
Here's a full body shot so that you can see what he looks like.  Photo: M Kjaergaard
They also asked me to have a look at their Northern Kelp Crab so I did a visual inspection and didn't find anything wrong with it - a happy crab!

Such a good looking crab!
The staff then decided to have a laugh and make it look like I was going to have an operation (I was quite glad that the scalpel/knife didn't get any closer! : )):
The cone over my head is how they give anaesthetic (make them go to sleep for a while) to animals like otters.
I then quickly got to check out the Hornsharks 

and the Kelp Tank before I had to rush off to my next destination on my global travels.

Fascinating stuff once again and next I get to see the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium so keep your eyes peeled for the next blog Sea Fans!

Chat soon.
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Friday, June 22, 2012

Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies

Hi Sea Fans!

Wow, I’m having such fun here in California!  I got to go to the California Science Centre as well as the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles to meet more people.  Everyone's been so nice and shown me so much, keeping me really busy! Now I know what it feels like to be a graduate student working in a science laboratory!  It is really challenging. 

While I was at the university, I got my picture taken with a statue of George TireBiter, a local stray dog that became USC's most adored mascot in the 1940’s, and is still a legend today. 

Next, I visited a USC science laboratory in the Department of Biological Sciences where Patrick Sun and his graduate students are studying algae.  I really liked seeing how the different species of algae grow. 

Another student, Nathan Walworth, was also in the middle of a very important experiment about ocean acidification (remember the acidification experiments I got to see in Alaska?  Have a look in the blog archives to find out more!).  The programs at USC focus on the study of marine organisms and how they interact with each other and the environment, as well as the details of complex marine ecosystems (lots of big words, but what this basically means is that they look at how the living things in the sea live where they do (ecosystem = The plants and animals that are found in a particular location).  If you are interested in marine biology or oceanography, you should visit their website:  and watch a movie about USC students. 

Afterward, I took a boat to this amazing island called Catalina off the coast of California.  This peaceful island was once on the bottom of the ocean floor and is a protected marine reserve.  The USC laboratory there is called the Wrigley Marine Science Center (WMSC). You can visit the website at and see all the great activities they offer researchers and educators from all over the world. 

On the island, I joined the QuikSCience Challenge winning teams.  The QuikSCience Challenge is a programme where students from all over the world prepare and present a project about the ocean or any water-related topic.  Each team submits their project and then they get to go kayaking and hiking on the island for a day - really cool, I thought!  The grand prize is a week long expedition for their entire team.  

You can follow my adventures with the two winning teams, SMASH (Santa Monica Alternative School House) and St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, as we travel all over the island collecting sand samples, bugs, kayaking, viewing wild animals, and snorkeling new places. You can check out all the activities we did during the week by checking out the students' daily blog on this website: 
(Have a look at the photo of a flying fish being eaten - amazing!) 

And, guess what?!  I met a boy named ADDY (no kidding!) and I think he likes me. We dared each other to kiss a sea cumber for good luck!  

Addy didn’t like it very much, but I did. 

Well, this was very exciting…. And the sunrises on Catalina are the best, 

but now I’m back on the mainland and off to San Pedro, California to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium!

Have a great weekend Sea Fans!
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Monday, June 18, 2012

SEA Lab in Redondo Beach

Hi Sea Fans!

I've got more interesting stuff to show you!  I also got to go to the SEA Lab in California. SEA Lab is a hands-on science centre that runs marine education programmes.  The SEA Lab is part of the Los Angeles Conservation Corps.  The Conservation Corps provides job skills training, education and work experience with an emphasis on conservation and service projects that benefit the community.

I just loved this mural outside the SEA Lab.
Seeing as I was an invited guest, one of the corps members, Chris, offered to take me to King Harbour to show me how to collect a sample with a plankton net...
A close-up of what the net looks like.

See the cup at the bottom?  That's what collects the plankton from the water and any extra water can just flow straight through the cone net.
Dragging the net through the water to collect a sample.
and then we went and checked the sample out under the microscope.  I'm starting to like the microscope more and never know what you're going to find in what seems like clear sea water!  (I also tried something different and put a strand of my hair under the microscope.  You HAVE to try this!!!  You won't believe how thick one strand can look.  I know this is disgusting, but a scab under the microscope is also really cool to look at!).

If you'd like to find out more about the corps or the SEA Lab, check out their website:

So Sea Fans, go and find the microscope at school and ask your teacher if you can look at a few things.  How about making your own plankton net and getting a sample from your local river or dam if you're not close to the sea?!  Have fun with it and we'll chat soon.  (Send me photos if you do go out with a net and do some sampling!

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

University Discoveries

Hi Sea Fans!

Man, I've been having problems posting on my blog!  Let's hope this works...

So now that I've managed to sort through some of my photos, I can tell you more.  I got to visit Dr David Caron in his lab at the University of Southern California.  He studies harmful algae!

Dr Caron showed me some of the weird and wonderful things he looks ta every day under the microscope.
Here are some of the interesting organisms that Dr Caron gets to study:

The green picture is a picture of the organisms found in a red tide and the orange picture at the bottom is a mix of phytoplankton.  (Remember: Plankton is a huge number of small plants and animals that float in a big group in salt or fresh water.  The plant plankton is called phytoplankton and the animal plankton is called zooplankton).

Dr Caron and his students are figuring out what increases algal blooms (massive growth of tiny plant life) and the impacts of the blooms along the coast of Southern California.  11 science centres and aquariums are helping Dr Caron to monitor the algae.  Sounds odd, but check out the website to find out more:

Enjoy poking around the algae world Sea Fans, it's amazing what beautiful things can be found in the sea and you can only see them when you look through a microscope!

Chat soon.
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Want to have fun on Father's Day?

Hi Sea Fans!

Whilst I wade through the photos I've been taking over the last few weeks in California and decide which the best ones are to show you, here's something I've been promising for a long time...the Abby Geocache!  For those of you who don't know what a geocache is, it's like a treasure hunt.

Get your dad (or the whole family) and a GPS, pack a picnic and a camera and get ready for some outdoor fun.  All you need to do is get your dad to show you how to work the GPS and you're "A for away".  I'll give GPS points and you need to find your way to them to discover the answers to the clues that I give. We'll start with the Cape Peninsula and then see how we go from there.  Here are your "In and around Cape Town" GPS points and clues:

S 34°02’57.0”
E 018°20’46.8”
Who are the world leading grazers?
Name 3 types of mussels found off this coastline.
Name the 5 West Coast Intertidal zones.

S 34°03’33.5”
E 018°22’04.2”
What kind of whale can you see here?
What kind of shape is it's blow and how high can it blow?
What does IWC stand for?

S 34°10’38.2”
E 018°20’40.0”
What number do you call to report poachers?
What are "no take areas"?
What does TMNP MPA stand for?

S 34°13’58.8”
E 018°28’26.6”
Is a permit needed to collect seaweed?
Who are the filter feeders in the infratidal zone?
What do MPA's protect?

S 34°11’45.0”
E 018°26’58.0”
Which penguin species are found here?
Where do you find Chinstrap Penguins?
Which penguins come from South America?

S 34°11’15.7”
E 018°25’34.7”
What kind of plants are used to create new foredunes?
Which 2 factors continually reshape the dunes? 
How is pollution monitored on sandy beaches?

S 34°09’24.3”
E 018°26’06.4”
Name 3 things baleen was used for in the past?
Name 3 fossil oil products that have replaced most whale products.
Name 2 predators of the baleen whale.

S 34°08’20.0”
E 018°25’55.4”
Which shark is protected in SA waters? 
Which shark can sense electrical signals better than all other sharks?
Explain the colours of the shark spotting flags:
Green flag 
-      Black flag 
-       Red flag
-    White flag 

S 34°07’45.0”
E 018°26’52.7”
Which fish species are threatened and why?
Name 3 deep sea fish found off this coastline.
Name 3 beach and estuarine fish found off this coastline.

S 34°06’29.5”
E 018°28’13.3”
How often does high tide occur in 1 day?
What causes tides?
When is the best time to explore the rock pools?

So come on Sea Fans, get Dad out and about for Father's Day and see what you can find.  Send your pics of each location and the answers to (before 17 July) and stand a chance to win an Abby hamper that includes the first two books of her adventures.

Enjoy it and chat soon.
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