EcoHealth Matrix Songbook

Bill Dennison ·
28 March 2016
Science Communication | Applying Science | 

As a participant of the EcoHealth Matrix workshop held at the Harte Research Institute in Corpus Christi, Texas on 9-11 March 2016, I found myself in the unusual position of not being one of the organizers or facilitators. With all this extra time on my hands, I wrote a series of songs throughout the workshop. On the first day of the workshop, I couldn't help but reflect that this was the first time that the three pairs of amigos had gathered together since we rolled out the Vision for the Gulf of Mexico Report Card in 2011. The three pairs of amigos are the following: Larry McKinney and Wes Tunnel from Harte Research Institute, Mark Harwell and Jack Gentile from Harwell, Gentile & Associates and Heath Kelsey and me from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. I provided the analogy that if we were sailing on the yacht, Larry and Wes were the captains and boat owners, Mark and Jack were the thoughtful navigators and Heath and I were the foredeck crew (strong backs and weak minds). So I celebrated the gang getting together with the following:

Hail, Hail, The Gang's All Here
by
William C. Dennison
9 March 2016

The Six Amigos - Jane Thomas is Missing in Action
The Six Amigos - Jane Thomas is Missing in Action

A gang of good fellows, are we, are we
Putting together a Gulf report card you see, you see
We laugh and joke, we drink and sing

And live life merrily
No matter the weather
When we get together
We have a jubilee!

We love one another, we do, we do
With brotherly love and it's true, it's true
It is one for all, the big and small
It's always me for you
No matter the weather
When we get together
We drink a toast or two.

Hail, hail, the gang's all here
Never mind the weather
Here we are together
Hail, hail, the gang's all here
Sure glad you're all here too.

It rained continuously upon arrival in Corpus Christi, so I thought that I would start the second day off with a call to end the rain. Since Larry McKinney was the closest thing we had to God, I called on him to stop the rain. And since Mark Harwell had been criticizing my song writing at the group dinner the night before ("Keep your day job, Bill"), I exacted my revenge in the song, even though Jack Gentile got caught in the crossfire. This song did indeed have the desired effect and the rain eventually did stop. I suspect it was due to the following song:

Larry'll Stop the Rain
by
Gulf Clearwater Revival
10 Mar 2016

larry1

Long as I remember the rain been comin' down
Workshop participants pourin' confusion on the ground.
Good people around the Gulf tryin' to find the sun.
And I wonder still I wonder Larry'll stop the rain.

Mark and Jack's DPSCR4 Framework

I went down to Corpus seekin' shelter from the storm
Caught up into EcoHealth I watched the matrix grow
Drivers, pressures and stressors with indicators and responses.
And I wonder still I wonder Larry'll stop the rain.

larry3

Heard Mark & Jack talkin', how we suffered so
The crowd had split in workgroups tryin' to keep warm
Still the rain kept pourin', fallin' on my ears
And I wonder, still I wonder Larry'll stop the rain.

Larry stopped the rain!
Larry stopped the rain!

In the seagrass group breakout, chaired by Patrick Biber, Holly Greening who runs the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, told us about how the amazing seagrass recovery in Tampa Bay was accompanied by an increase in seawater pH. Holly and her colleagues are attributing this pH increase to the absorption of carbon dioxide to support seagrass photosynthesis. This has the net effect of buffering against the growing problem of ocean acidification due to the increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide. It made me think of the Seagrass Blue Carbon Blues, a song I wrote about the need to preserve seagrasses so that they can sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide, mitigating against increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide. So I wrote the following addendum verse:

Ocean Acidification Addendum
to
Seagrass Blue Carbon Blues
10 March 2016
by
William C. Dennison
inspired by
Holly Greening

Seagrasses sucked up CO2
As Tampa Bay seagrasses grew
They made the pH higher
Which makes ocean acidification less dire
Or you're gonna get the ocean acidification blues.

On the final day of the workshop, I reflected on how impressed I was to learn about Laguna Madre which contains 80% of the Texas seagrass biomass. This long, thin and shallow lagoon supports extensive Thalassia, Syringodium, Halodule and Halophila seagrass meadows. Ken Dunton, once a fellow graduate student at the University of Alaska, attended the beginning of the workshop, but had to leave due to a family emergency. He left his assistant Victoria Congdon in his place and she provided us with maps and first hand information about the Laguna Madre seagrasses. I thought that it was funny that every time we asked her about the water depths that the seagrasses grew throughout the Texas lagoons, she would respond by pointing to her neck (Lower Laguna Madre), her waist (Upper Laguna Madre) or elsewhere on her body to denote the water depth. Do we developed the VCSDU (Victoria Congdon Seagrass Depth Unit), which was 5'3" long. The average depth the Laguna Madre is only 1.5 m (X'). I adapted the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" for the following song:

VCSDU: Victoria Congdon seagrass depth unit
VCSDU: Victoria Congdon seagrass depth unit

The Shallow Lagoon of Texas
by
William C. Dennison
11 March 2016

shallowlagoonThere's a shallow lagoon in Texas it's as long as you can see
It stretches along the coastline not half as deep as me
Even Victoria can stand up in the Laguna Madre
And if she finds some seagrass it really makes her day.

When the salinity gets too high those seagrasses they burn out
whensalinitytohighOr along comes the brown tide and shades them without a doubt
We learned about these things when we talked in Corpus Christi
I promise to return and not to sing unless you agree.

Laguna Madre is the sweetest lagoon that Texas ever knew
Her oysters are delicious black drum and redfish are yummy too
You may talk of your Mission Aransas and sing of Galveston Baylmsweetestlagoon
But Laguna Madre is the really the place to play.

Now we're gonna make a matrix and rank it high to low
We'll make our report card we started long ago
We'll pull together scores like we've done before
And the shallow lagoon of Texas shall be graded forever more.lglsweetestlast

Laguna Madre is the sweetest lagoon that Texas ever knew
Her oysters are delicious the black drum and redfish are yummy too
You may talk of your Mission Aransas and sing of Galveston Bay
But Laguna Madre is the really the place to play.

Workshop participants and organizers
Workshop participants and organizers

About the author

Bill Dennison

Dr. Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr. Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.



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