Orange and Every Other Color


May is coming to a close and I'm reflecting on a very memorable month, full of both long days at the office as well as springtime revelry. One of the highlights was a two-week stint volunteering in the Amsterdam headquarters of The Black Fish.

The Black Fish is a non-profit ocean conservation organization focused on ending illegal and destructive overfishing. I had first heard of them while I was still working at the One World One Ocean Campaign and, since they're based in the Netherlands, I had hoped my relocation would bring a chance to work with them.

Joining the fight against illegal and destructive fishing at The Black Fish headquarters.

During my time with The Black Fish, I had the opportunity to do a wide range of tasks to help prepare for the upcoming launch of a brand new program: the Citizen Inspector Network.  Through this initiative, ordinary people eager to make a tangible contribution to conservation can dedicate two weeks to receive training and then visit European ports to collect fishery data. Where Citizen Inspectors encounter illegal activities, the evidence they gather can be used to advocate for better policy and enforcement and to prosecute those violating the law, filling in a major gap in fishing industry oversight.

My little venture outside of academia, working with the inspiring team at The Black Fish, was energizing. It left me with a refreshed appreciation for innovative environmental activism, and was a perfect reminder of just why I've spent so much time working to become an effective ocean advocate.

It wouldn't be a Dutch spring without blooming tulips.

Leave it to the Dutch to build a float of flowers featuring a large cow's behind on a motorbike.

Spring in the Netherlands is full of holidays and cultural activities. Of course, the country is abloom with tulips of all colors, the flower markets are bustling, and floats decorated in blossoms parade down the streets. In the aftermath of the unusually warm winter, the tulips came very early this year and floats were filled with other flower types - but that didn't stop the season from being vividly colorful nonetheless! 

There's much more to Dutch springtime festivities than flowers, such as the celebration of the monarch's birthday. Since the Queen recently passed the crown to her son, I joined the nation in celebrating the first King's Day in living memory! I got to see the festivities in their full Amsterdam splendor. People pour into the streets, parks, and canals to set up market stalls, buy second-hand treasures from one another, play games, and engage in general merrymaking. The sea of orange, everywhere you look, completes the effect.

In Amsterdam, celebrating my first King's Day! Also, everyone else's first King's Day!

You would be forgiven for mistaking this for the world's greatest clownfish convention.

As if that isn't enough, we also had Memorial Day followed by the big Liberation Festival, to honor all the lives lost in war and to celebrate the country's release from German occupation after World War II. Free concerts are hosted in all the big cities and people head out to enjoy a day of music and sunshine. 

Somehow, in between all of these nation-wide parties, I also had to prepare for a big move. I've now officially left Groningen to spend six months conducting research on the island of Texel. I've joined a team of researchers studying parasites (yum!) and I will investigate the effects of an invasive foreign species that has infected the local mussels.

Texel is no tropical island but with a backyard view like this I think I'll manage just fine.

So, while my diatom days are now behind me, the time for mudflat walking is about to resume. That means that soon I'll be joining Melissa again in the Galoshes Club (which is totally a thing). This summer, expect new stories of me falling in the mud!

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