Katelyn Cucinotta: Conservation biologist tackling marine debris

Podcast Episode #2

Katelyn is a Conservation Biologist in South Florida determined to rid the oceans of marine debris. She currently runs the Healthy Habitats and Oceans (H2O) Program at Sea to Shore Alliance. Hear how Katelyn’s passion for science, education, and communication allows her to create positive change for the ocean through social media campaigns, beach cleanup events, and classroom visits.

Connect with Katelyn via the Sea to Shore website, Facebook page, and Instagram.
Help support her Healthy Habitats and Oceans (H2O) mobile classroom crowdfunding campaign!

Chris Cilfone: Award winning ocean filmmaker

Podcast Episode #1

Chris is an award winning ocean film maker, founder of Be Blue, and a whale naturalist currently living in Hawaii. His film “One Voice” won Best Short Film in the 2015 BLUE Ocean Film Festival. Chris is an inspiration in using what you have to create positive change for the oceans. With only a GoPro and a custom made rigging, he was able to create a moving film that has been recognized internationally.

Watch Chris’s award winning ocean conservation film “One Voice” and follow Be Blue on Facebook and Instagram!

Podcast Release

Posted by in Podcast

I’ve officially launched my podcast: Ocean Allison!

Through this podcast I bring listeners the best in ocean science, education, and conservation through conversations between me and people who are creating positive change for the ocean.

Over time, I have had the opportunity to meet so many incredible individuals working to make the ocean, and the planet, better.  By highlighting them on my podcast, I can help expand the reach of their ocean passion and knowledge, while hopefully inspiring listeners to be ocean advocates at the same time.

The first episode of Ocean Allison features ocean advocate Chris Cilfone.  Chris is an award winning ocean conservation filmmaker, a whale naturalist in Hawaii with Pacific Whale Foundation, and the founder of the Be Blue movement.

Chris’s film “One Voice” won Best Short Film in the 2015 BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit.  He is an inspiration in using what you have to create positive change for the oceans.  With only a GoPro and a custom made rigging, he was able to create a moving film that has been recognized internationally.

You can listen to weekly Ocean Allison episodes on:

If you are inspired by Chris and his amazing work, and want to contact him, you can send him a message through his Be Blue Facebook page.

An Unexpected Victim of Bycatch

Posted by in Bycatch


Bycatch is the accidental entanglement or capture of an animal that was not the intentionally targeted species of a fisherman.

Large scale bycatch is the result of fisherman using less selective fishing gear, such as long lines, which attract anything that swims by, or bottom trawls, which scrape everything in their path off of the seafloor.  In some fisheries, the percentage of bycatch will even outweigh the percentage of targeted catch.

Thus, bycatch is one of the principal threats to the biodiversity and health of our ocean.

Marine animals that are often caught as bycatch are:

  • Turtles
  • Sharks
  • Marine Birds
  • Dolphins

Today, however, I saw first-hand a very different species fall victim to bycatch.

A human.

While my boyfriend and I were out surfing this morning, he was hooked by a fisherman on the beach.  The fisherman was casting his line out into the waves where we and several other people were surfing.  After catching a wave, my boyfriend jumped off of his board and felt a sudden pull on his ankle.  After a moment of confusion as to what was happening, he looked up to see that there was a fisherman reeling in his line, pole bent, thinking he had caught a big fish.

But it wasn’t a big fish.  It was a man.

Luckily, my boyfriend has only a small little puncture wound, and is completely fine.

Beyond the fact that he could have potentially been badly injured, or the fact that fishermen shouldn’t be fishing where people are swimming and surfing, this incident has really made me think about bycatch in a whole new light.

As the fisherman was trying to reel him in, my boyfriend felt immense confusion and fear and yelled out screams for the fisherman to stop.  And in fact, the fisherman didn’t actually want to catch a human, so he stopped and “let my boyfriend go”.

Millions of marine animals experience those same feelings for the same reason: no reason.

Animals that are victims of bycatch are injured and killed for no reason other than the fact that they were swimming in the ocean, just like my boyfriend was.

Fortunately, fishing regulations, such as mandatory gear modifications and Marine Protected Areas can help reduce this waste, and are being implemented as much as possible by agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

To learn more about bycatch visit:

World Wildlife Fund
Shark Savers

The Incredible Leopard Shark

Commonly known as leopard sharks, Triakis semifasciata are an incredible species of shark.

Easily identified by the dark spots and saddles that cover their bodies, they are an absolutely beautiful sight when one swims by you.

Whether your first reaction to the thought of a shark swimming by you is positive or negative, it doesn’t much matter since leopard sharks are extremely docile, and actually a bit skittish when you get too close.  Leopard sharks in fact serve as both predator and prey in marine ecosystems.  They fall prey to larger species of shark and male sea lions, while their diet is made up mostly of squid, small fish, and crustaceans.

Now, you might think that a leopard shark swimming by you wouldn’t be a very common occurrence, but that is certainly not the case if you go swimming at La Jolla Shores Beach in San Diego, CA.  Every year, between early Summer and late Fall, hundreds of leopard sharks make the shallow waters of La Jolla Shores their home.  At any given time, you can wade out into the shallows, snorkel, or kayak and see the hundreds of leopard sharks swimming calmly below you in the clear water.

This might lead you to wonder, what are they all doing there?

That is exactly what Dr. Andy Nosal, a post-doctoral researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, wondered too.  So, in 2009, Andy started researching this unique population of leopard sharks.  And in 2012, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to assist him in doing so.

From Andy’s research, it was discovered that 97% of the leopard sharks at La Jolla Shores are actually pregnant females.  And the main reason why they “hang out” in this very specific location is because the water is in fact a few degrees warmer here than anywhere else along the coastline.  This warmer water helps them to incubate their developing pups and make their gestation period as short as possible.

So now you might wonder, why is the water warmer there?

In La Jolla, there is a deep underwater canyon that comes close to the shore.  The depth of this canyon causes there to be decreased wave action on the shore in front of it.  And when shallow water is calm, and not being stirred up by waves, it warms in the sun, thus making it a bit warmer than areas with more wave action.

This underwater canyon not only causes the water at it’s head to be an ideal place for these leopard shark moms to incubate their pups, but it also provides an amazing food source.  At night, when the shallow waters are no longer being warmed by the sun, the leopard sharks go into the underwater canyon to feed on market squid.  The market squid are coming up from the depths to spawn, and thus provide an enormous squid buffet for the leopard sharks.

Being able to study these sharks in the field with Andy was an incredible experience.  In learning more and more about these leopard sharks, I became more and more inspired by them, and the impact that they have.

I see leopard sharks as more than just another interesting shark species.  I see them as sort of a “poster child” for all sharks.  Because they are beautiful, because they are very docile, because people can easily interact with them, they serve as a perfect gateway into changing many peoples negative perceptions and fears of sharks.  People from all over the world come to La Jolla, and often end up snorkeling or kayaking with the leopard sharks.  When a person can have a positive personal experience with a shark it is definitely a good thing.

Sharks are highly endangered throughout the world due mostly to commercial fishing practices.  The more people like sharks, the more apt they will be to want to protect and conserve sharks.

So, without even knowing it, leopard sharks are changing the world’s perception of sharks, and ultimately helping to make the world a better place for all sharks.