5 Gyres Expedition Video Contest

On January 30th, I wrote a blog piece entitled, “Do You Dream of Your Next Goal?” Well, I am dreaming and trying to fulfill it by entering a video contest sponsored by the 5 Gyres Institute to be a crew member and help them conduct research about plastic pollution on their next expedition into the North Atlantic gyre.

Here’s the video I made about why I want to join this expedition.

I need your help – VOTE for ME. You can vote daily.



Please share! Thank you for voting for me and my aspirations to teach, lead and inspire the next generation of Earth’s stewards.

Dear Calleva …


Thank you for reminding me about my love and passion for nature and the outdoors this weekend. I am often frustrated by my fellow humans who don’t respect the earth we live on, take it for granted that Mother Nature will always be present and constant and choose behaviors that dominate nature instead of live in harmony with it. This weekend though I am grateful for thirteen people, your employees, who share the same passions and love for the outdoors and mores and ethics to live and recreate as equal partners with our natural environment as I do.

IMG_5369The Calleva philosophy and mission shone like the north star on Saturday and Sunday with each member’s unique personality contributing to its community through passion, dedication to their sport and the Calleva mission, tons of laughter and a genuine respect and care for each member of the family. During each instructors teaching of a Leave No Trace principle, their creative preparation displayed forethought from a catchy rap on dispose of waste properly to philosophical discussions on “what if” to building a habitat castle and a mating dance on respect wildlife. There was hardly a moment that I was not smiling or laughing due to their creativity with the training or as an extension of their relationships with each other. The Calleva mission and community has IMG_5372established a sense of pride, purpose and passion in each individual and as a collective family.

Each year, you lead and engage with thousands of people, many who are children, to help them experience the wonders of the outdoors; however, with that comes a huge responsibility to lessen your impact on the natural resources in our region. This weekend’s opportunity to train eleven of your instructors demonstrates Calleva’s commitment as a community but also with each of these individuals to model and teach stewardship by lessening our footprints on nature. I am appreciative that Calleva leadership has taken on this responsibility to train its camp and school instructors to model and teach the seven principles of Leave No Trace. As leaders in the outdoor industry, we have no greater responsibility than to help people build a relationship with nature to enable them to become stewards of our earth. Thank you for 20 plus years of commitment and dedication to creating a community of passionate outdoors men and women.

Jennifer Chambers, MD State Advocate for Leave No TraceIMG_5378

Amplifying Community Among Women While in the Outdoors


After most outdoor adventures with my family, friends or by myself, I often reflect upon its themes(s) and meaning in my life. This past weekend was no exception. I organized a group of my friends from my neighborhood to go on a women’s hiking retreat in the Shenandoah mountains. I wanted the weekend to be a mixture of adventure but also relaxation because we all lead busy lives with careers and families. Therefore, we stayed at a B&B called Belle Meade outside of Sperryville, VA but I lead them on a difficult nine mile hike up the Whiteoak Canyon trail and back down the Cedar Run trail.

Both trails fool you into submission as they begin with a gentle ascent or descent but the true meaning of stamina, body and mind, grabs you at midpoint on each trail. While the Whiteoak Canyon trail was mainly snow free, the connecting fire road and the upper section of Cedar Run still had a layer of slush that acted like sand; therefore, foot placement on the downhill was conscious and important. The elevation gain from the lower falls to the upper ones on the Whiteoak Canyon made our hearts pump heavy and fast, requiring an occasional rest to breathe in some extra oxygen and slow our hearts. After our legs were tired from climbing and hiking on slush, the Cedar Run took us through a steep ravine on wet trails.

This trek left one friend in our group questioning her presence on this hike with some self-doubt about her ability to finish. Self-doubt is that negative conversation one has inside their head when they have hit a wall, whatever the wall symbolizes. Negative in-your-head conversations are easy to have but hard to overcome with positive ones. It is rewarding to set ambitious goals and experience their accomplishment but part of this achievement is overcoming the self-doubt on the journey to the reward of exhilaration upon finishing. People have different strategies for wrestling with doubt. Mine is to chunk reaching the finish line into small obtainable goals where each milepost erases a bit of the self-doubt to where it is replaced with the cheerleader inside of me. I am not sure what my friend’s strategy is when she is on her own but she had a community of women who chipped away at her self-doubt to replace it with external rallies of support and encouragment.

We hiked on International Women’s Day. While this was not intentional, it is symbolic. Women create powerful communities (sometimes though we can be our own worst enemy) and have been for millennial. Women have a keen sense of creating community because it takes a village and we know our collective bodies, minds and spirits provide a powerful force of support and strength not only for ourselves but for our families and communities. Communities of women throughout history from the first pioneers to suffragettes to women working in factories during WWII to those who burned bras during the feminist movement created strong communities to weather the hardships, celebrate the victories and pave the road for future communities of women. Our hike on International Women’s Day symbolized our collective strength to overcome one friend’s self-doubt to reach the end but a greater community strength of women resides in our neighborhood who share life’s failures, triumphs, laughter, life, friendship and love together. Together.


Trail Discovery for Kids: Lower Magruder Trail

IMG_5238Lower Magruder Trail

Magruder Stream Valley Park

Damascus, MD


Hike Information

  • 3.2 mile out-and-back hike.
  • The trailhead is at the parking lot on Log House Road to its turn around at Watkins Road.
  • Mostly level with one rise above the stream valley near the turn-around.
  • Follow blue blazes.
  • Jogging stroller passable.
  • Link to the trail map.

Age Appropriateness

  • 5+ years old

What is fun for kids?

  • Multiple places to access the stream for water play.
  • Vernal pools in the flood plain where many tadpoles can be found during spring.
  • Spring flowers to photograph.
  • Multiple, large stags (down trees) where kids can test their gross motor skills.


  • No restrooms or trash cans available (pack-in, pack-out).
  • Multi-use trail – may encounter mountain bikers and horseback riders.

Do You Dream of Your Next Goal?

Have you ever looked at something and instantaneously realized that was your next goal in life? I did when I saw and read this website from a link shared with me. My eyes popped out of my head and my mind took me on a movie-like tour of the possibilities: spend time on the ocean, conduct research on a topic (litter and its impact on ecosystems) I am passionate about and share this research and education with my students and others in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Image 1-30-14 at 6.00 PM

My husband would say “I am a dreamer”. Yes, I freely admit it. Sometimes he brings me back to earth but not often as I have achieved many goals in my life: starting my own business, writing two books, doing a marathon and half-ironman and biking the C&O Canal in a weekend. Having goals in life is very important for my personal growth, living life to its fullest and being a good role model for my children (and students).

While reaching this goal in 2014 will be difficult due to my current teaching schedule, I am determined to make this goal a reality in 2015. What goals, life-long or 2014, do you have? Share them in the comments.

Giving Back to Nature on #MLKDay


2013 June family clean up

A few times a year, there is an effort to organize Americans to volunteer their time to give back to their communities, whether that community is local or global. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is one of those days where many people come together to feed the homeless, make cards for service members deployed or participate in a stream clean up. Every year since my kids have been toddlers, I have organized litter clean ups in my community of Silver Spring. My friends and neighbors began our yearly MLK day clean ups on playgrounds. As they grew older, we moved them to a local stream in the Anacostia watershed, Sligo Creek. Now, friends, neighbors and community members gather to spend 90 minutes in the crisp winter air removing trash from the stream, playgrounds and roads in Sligo Creek Park. We celebrate our work with a cup of hot coco afterwards. Come join us on MLK Day this year.

If you can’t join us, then here are some ideas to do with your kids to help the environment:

  1. Grab some friends, gloves and garbage bags and clean up litter in your neighborhood park or closest stream. Put recyclables, such as plastic bottles, in one bag and other non-recyclable trash in a separate bag. Lay a tarp in your car and bring the bags home.
  2. Go for a hike on a trail. Give them a bag and play “I Spy Litter” with your kids to clean it up on the trail.
  3. Find an environmental volunteer project:

No matter what type of service you participate in with your kids, just do it. Do it in the spirit of a visionary man, Martin Luther King, Jr., whose public service inspired a nation of people of all races to imagine and realize a more just America. After your shared time of service, visit a national park for a hike. All national parks on MLK day, January 20th, are waiving their entrance fees. Use your presence in nature to reflect with your children your gift of time and work and discuss the legacy left by Martin Luther King, Jr. Make service to your community a regular experience for your family in 2014.

2013 #WatershedHeroes: Recapping Their Service

“It’s not where you start but how high you aim that matters for success.” Nelson Mandela

Today, the world celebrates the life of Nelson Mandela and the legacy of service he leaves in his wake. I am inspired by his passion, perseverance, leadership, courage, determination and service to make South Africa and the world a better place.

This year, I profiled five people or programs that embody determination and passion to make tomorrow better for all living things that inhabit Earth. Below is a brief recap of the 2013 watershed heroes (please click on their names to read their full stories).

Chad Pregracke, 2013 CNN Hero of the Year – Chad started an organization Living Lands & Waters 15 years ago. He and 70,000 volunteers have removed 7 million pounds of trash from the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Davey Rogner

Davey Rogner, Pick Up America  - Davey and all the volunteers of Pick Up America removed 201,678 pounds of garbage from American roads as they drove 3,762 miles across the United States in three years.

Image 5READY Program, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay - The READY program, Restoring the Environment and Developing Youth, is a partnership between the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Howard County, and People Acting Together in Howard (PATH) to provide green jobs for youth, ages 16-25, during the summer who work to build conservation landscapes and rain gardens.

IMG_1104Julie Lawson, Trash Free Maryland Alliance – Julie started the Trash Free Maryland Alliance, a group of environmental organizations, community groups and individuals committed to reducing trash in Maryland’s environment and waterways.

Nathan Harrington, DC Teacher and Community Activist – Nathan leads Shepherd Parkway’s efforts to clean-up National Park land in the Congress Heights neighborhood. Since 2010, hundreds of volunteers have removed litter and invasive plants from 30 acres of forested land.

In the spirit of Alima, the watershed hero in Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle, each of the 2013 watershed heroes are making a difference to improve the health of local and national watersheds. One voice, activism and motivation can inspire us all to make a positive impact in our local and global world, just like Nelson Mandela who leaves an indelible footprint on humankind.book cover high resolution

Thankful for People Who Believe…

Everyday we hear sad stories about people or situations around the world but for the last eight Thanksgivings, CNN has honored ten people who BELIEVE in a better tomorrow. They epitome Mahatma Gandhi’s quote of “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

As we sit around the Thanksgiving table expressing our gratitude for family, friends and positive experiences in our lives, I give thanks for this year’s and past CNN Heroes and all individuals who give their time and energy to make life better for others and improve the planet for all living creatures who inhabit it.

For the first time, CNN’s Hero of the Year, Chad Pregracke, is a watershed hero, a “defender of the planet.” He started an organization Living Lands & Waters 15 years ago. He and 70,000 volunteers have removed 7 million pounds of trash from the Mississippi River and its tributaries. In 1997, he began cleaning the river’s banks himself having spent his childhood playing along and working in the Mississippi. Today, he employs twelve people who live and work on a barge cleaning garbage from the Mississippi watershed and educating students through experiential learning about watershed science.

book cover high resolutionIn the spirit of Alima, the watershed hero in Watershed Adventures of a Water Bottle, Chad’s dedication to conserving the environment, making it a better place for people to recreate and experience and for animals to inhabit is heroic. His voice, activism and motivation inspires us all to make a positive impact in our local and global world. Thank you Chad for being a watershed hero and helping us all BELIEVE a vision is possible . Congratulations on being this year’s CNN Hero.

Top 5 Family-friendly Fall #Hikes in DC

IMG_2879Fall is a perfect time to celebrate trees and their glorious colors. Trees are a vital component to a healthy local and global environment. Taking your family for a hike is a great way to experience the reds, yellows and oranges of trees, to smell the musty, crisp air and hear the crunch and swish of fallen leaves on a trail. Furthermore, a hike may stimulate inquisitive questions about trees from your kids. What better way to invite science into your child’s life than adventuring down a trail.

You ask, where is a great place to hike in the DC region where a family can experience the splendor of trees? Right now in mid-October, the fall foliage is peaking in the Shenandoah Mountains; here are two great hikes in the central region of Shenandoah National Park.

  • Bearfence Trail. This is a short, 1.2 mile, but difficult hike along the spine of Bearfence Mountain. To get to a spectacular 360-degree view of the surrounding peaks, you must rock scramble along a narrow ridge. The trailhead parking lot is on Skyline Drive between mile marker 55 and 56.
  • Graves Mill Trail. This out-and-back, 4-mile hike gains gentle elevation along the Rapidan River at the base of Shenandoah National Park. The Rapidan flows both fast and slow between ridges of dense forest that rise above the river. The trailhead parking is at the end of Graves Rd., which is off VA-615 and Rt-230.

Close to metropolitan DC, the fall foliage peaks around Halloween. Therefore, if you don’t want to venture two hours to the Shenandoahs, then there are some great hikes around DC that showcase our tree’s beautiful colors.

  • Scotts Run Nature Preserve. This 336-acre preserve just outside the VA beltway on Georgetown Pike is an amazing place to walk under an old growth forest (old growth for DC!). The trees tower here. There are many trails that cross-cross each other in this preserve providing families many short or longer hiking options. Furthermore, families can hike along Scott Run as it cascades into the Potomac River.
  • Blockhouse Point Conservation Park. This gem is located on River Rd. in Darnstown, MD. Ferns carpet the ground under large oaks, beech and hickory. On the bluff, families can take snapshots of the fall foliage along the Potomac River. The park offers seven miles of trails of which families have a few 3-mile, loop and spur options to hike.
  • Patuxent River Park at Jug Bay. This park sits on the Patuxent River at Jug Bay in Southeastern Prince Georges County. This peaceful park offers many different combinations of trail loops. The best for families is the brown and green trails looped together. On the brown trail, families hike through the wetland along the river. The green trail sits on the bluff overlooking the river providing families a hiking experience through an upland forest. Look for the 100+ year old maple tree on the green trail.

No matter whether you decide to visit one of these trails with your family this fall, just get out on a trail close to your home to spend some time with your kids. Let them climb a tree or throw leaves at each other while on your hike. Or better yet, hug a tree; they give so much sustenance to our lives. Happy hiking!

#Camping’s Breakfast of Champions


IMG_4872After a great night sleep under the stars with the large canopy trees swaying their branches providing a gentle breeze through the mesh of my tent, I woke to streams of sunlight and the birds happily singing to each other. My body creaked and cracked getting out of my two-person tent but I could hardly wait for a freshly brewed cup of coffee. I was the early riser and am often the first and only person awake when camping. I love coffee in general but there is something magical about the warm, aroma of coffee sipped while experiencing nature’s sites and sounds early in the morning. After making a giant mug of coffee, I head to the dock on the Patuxent River where I had a great view of the river to observe the hustle and bustle of animal activity.

IMG_4861Annually for the last four years, our family has been camping with three others on the Patuxent River. We share meals together with each family being responsible for bringing and cooking one meal. Some of us prefer to make dinner while others prefer breakfast. I like to make dinner and usually cook all the fixing for burritos; a crowd pleaser for picky eaters and those with a specific diet. One family took breakfast very seriously this year and made a feast that any king or queen would be proud to eat – mind you we are camping and there is one Coleman stove. Here was the menu that fueled our hike for that day:IMG_4871

Banana bread

Bacon cooked on the campfire

  • Pancakes and syrup
  • Scrambled egg, cheese and bacon english muffin sandwiches

It was a three course breakfast, which left me in awe!

IMG_4867What do you think the kids ate? Yup, you guessed it, the pancakes and syrup; oh and the bacon too. They did leave some for the parents though. And yes, parents opted for the protein enriched egg sandwiches to fuel their bodies. With our bellies full of carbohydrates and protein, we set off for a kid-friendly hike through the wetlands and the upland forests along the river. A royal-sized breakfast enabled the kids to be full of energy to run, drag downed tree branches and sing the national anthem with gusto, proving that this breakfast was a breakfast of champions.IMG_4864