#GivingTuesday 2014: Celebrate All Things Winged with The Raptor Trust


Scoured the shelves for deals on Black Friday? Gearing up for gadget buying on Cyber Monday? Don’t forget to honor the most important day of this week (after Thanksgiving, of course), Giving Tuesday.

Giving Tuesday is a call to action, a national day of giving around the annual shopping and spending season. The third annual #GivingTuesday will take place on this coming Tuesday December 2, 2014.

GT_Street-wall_2014#GivingTuesday is a day for giving back, to write a check to a worthwhile cause or to donate your time and expertise to charity. #GivingTuesday, where global charities, families, businesses, community centers, students and more have come together to shape a new movement. A movement so compelling that the White House has taken notice.

A day that inspires personal philanthropy and encourages bigger, better and smarter charitable giving during the holiday season. A day that proves that the holidays can be about both giving and giving back.

Show your support for Giving Tuesday by taking a photo and uploading it to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #UNselfie. For more information, check out the short YouTube video below or visit #GivingTuesday on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

On Giving Tuesday 2014, I have decided to give back to the birds in my home state. One of my favorite organizations working specifically on avian rehabilitation and education is The Raptor Trust. My sister and I visited the Trust back in May of this year and had an incredible day. Everyone on staff was extremely friendly and enthusiastically answered our questions about the birds of prey in their care. Even the volunteer working the at gift shop was proud to discuss the history of the Trust and their birds with us.  For those birds that would not survive if they were released, The Raptor Trust property has become their home. We were able to see these residents up close and personal. The birds were so beautiful that we walked through the Trust twice to be sure we didn’t miss anybody!

Vilma, The Raptor Trust's Barred Owl plays a key role in the organization's educational programs. Photo by Joy Yagid.

Vilma, The Raptor Trust’s Barred Owl plays a key role in the organization’s educational programs. Photo by Joy Yagid.

Officially founded in 1983, The Raptor Trust is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and one of the premier wild bird rehabilitation centers in the United States.

Located in Millington, NJ, the Trust property includes a hospital with state-of-the-art medical facilities, quality exterior housing for several hundred birds, and an education building. For three decades, the Trust has worked tirelessly to fulfill it’s mission:

  • To provide free care and assistance to injured, sick, or orphaned wild birds.
  • To educate people about wild birds, especially birds of prey.
  • To provide a humane example for others.
The Raptor Trust Director Chris Soucy. Photo Credit: NewJerseyHills.com.

The Raptor Trust Director Chris Soucy. Photo Credit: NewJerseyHills.com.

20-something Environmentalist sat down with Director of The Raptor Trust, Chris Soucy, and asked what continues to motivate and inspire the work that he is doing.

Chris explained, “One of the greatest rewards in our work is to be able to release a bird back into the wild after we have cared for it. The birds come to us sick, injured or orphaned bird in great numbers – as many as 4,000 each year.  It takes a huge team of dedicated volunteers, along with a medical staff, veterinarians, educators and administrative help to run the center. These caring people put their hearts and souls into the work we do. Because we are successful more often than not in releasing our patients back into the wild where they belong, the rewarding feeling that comes from it happens all the time – for our staff and volunteers, for the people who find injured birds and bring them to us, and no doubt for the birds themselves.”

Red-Tailed Hawk Release. Photo from The Raptor Trust's Facebook page.

Red-Tailed Hawk Release. Photo from The Raptor Trust’s Facebook page.

Chris went on to explain, “In our 32+ year history we have cared for over 90,000 wild birds and released more than half of them back into the wild. On site, we have a full-service medical center and a education center where we present programs to thousands of visitors each year about birds, wildlife and conservation.  Our center is open to the public year round, and visitors here can see hawks, falcons, eagles and vultures up close and learn about what amazing and ecologically important creatures they are.”

Please consider The Raptor Trust when making your year-end gifts this #GivingTuesday and throughout the holiday season. Help them help all things winged.

To learn how to get involved with The Raptor Trust, and for more amazing photographs of birds of prey, like them on Facebook.

Here are a few other excellent New Jersey organizations working on
wildlife issues:

This #GivingTuesday, Tuesday, December 2, 2014, consider making an impact on the world. Choose an issue that you are passionate and donate your time or funds to organizations that are part of the solution. Be a force for good.



This #GivingTuesday ‘Color The World’ with The Pulsera Project


#GivingTuesday is a day for giving back, to write a check to a worthwhile cause or to donate your time and expertise to charity. Today, Tuesday, December 3, 2013, is the second annual #GivingTuesday, where global charities, families, businesses, community centers, students and more have come together to shape a new movement. Join the national celebration and learn more here.

This #GivingTuesday, consider making a global impact with The Pulsera Project.

In 2009, a group of friends traveling in Nicaragua discovered a shelter for ex-street kids in Managua.  The young adults made beautiful woven pulseras (Spanish for bracelets), but had no market to sell their artwork in Nicaragua.  Some of the friends went home, spread the word about the bracelets, sold them at two US schools, and soon The Pulsera Project was born.

Since that fateful trip, US college students are helping to brighten the future of Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, without leaving campus.  Students are selling pulseras made by young adults in Nicaragua to support The Pulsera Project’s community empowerment programs.

Photo Credit: The Pulsera Project

Photo Credit: The Pulsera Project

The Pulsera Project is now a registered 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization that educates, empowers, and connects Nicaraguan and US youth.  To date, volunteers at more than 450 US schools have sold colorful, hand-woven bracelets made by community members in Nicaragua.

These Pulsera Project volunteers have raised over $700,000 to help create a ‘more just and colorful world’ by supporting programs in the fields of education, micro-loans, shelter support, fair trade, workers rights, and environment.

20-something Environmentalist was blown away by The Pulsera Project’s incredible mission and history, but was particularly interested in their partnership with environmental programs.

The Pulsera Project financially supports The Solar Women of Totogalpa, a cooperative of 19 women and two men that work to bring renewable energy to Nicaraguan communities.

Photo Credit: The Pulsera Project

Photo Credit: The Pulsera Project

The group seeks to develop their community sustainably, so that they can “generate dignified employment that promotes renewable energy and protects the environment.”

They “strengthen the self-esteem of female members and create professional development opportunities to encourage leadership and community participation, as well as to raise awareness of the benefits of renewable energy and sustainable life within national and international communities.”

The Solar Women of Totogalpa is a small “off-the-grid” mountain community that is powered entirely by solar energy. Sources like the solar cookers pictured above are the heart and soul of a small restaurant managed by the women in the community. To learn more about this project, click here.

20-something Environmentalist had the privilege of speaking with Colin Crane, Co-Founder of The Pulsera Project, about what continues to motivate him and inspire him four years after deciding to ‘color the world’ for a living.

The Pulsera Project Co-Founder Colin Crane Photo Credit: The Pulsera Project

The Pulsera Project Co-Founder Colin Crane Photo Credit: The Pulsera Project

Mr. Crane said, “It’s been extremely rewarding for us to see not only the impact that pulsera sales have on people in Nicaragua, but on people here in the U.S. as well. The Pulsera Project has shared with tens of thousands of students the idea that people with less money than us can have incredible spiritual and cultural riches to share—things that we don’t normally take into account when using the word “poverty” in a purely economic sense.

“Through the uplifting stories and art of this project, we’ve been able to open students’ eyes to a new way of thinking about poverty and service, one that recognizes that we have just as much to learn from people in other areas of the world as we have to offer them.

“Seeing that idea spread over the last four years has really been one of the most important things for us, and really keeps us motivated to keep working on coloring the world both in Nicaragua and here at home.”


Please consider The Pulsera Project when making your year-end gifts this #GivingTuesday and throughout the holiday season. Help them Color The World.

To learn how to get involved with The Pulsera Project, click here. Follow The Pulsera Project on social media.  Connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest.

Filling an Empty Page


“A writer is a person with the courage to fill an empty page,” Chris Satullo told a group of concerned citizens, including myself, in one of the conference rooms at Ocean County College a few Saturdays ago.  I had found myself in a breakout session at the first of three events in a series organized by The Citizens Campaign called Citizen Journalism: How the Internet Will Cover the Next Superstorm.  Mr. Satullo, vice president for news at WHYY/NewsWorks had me hanging on his every word.

The first event in the series entitled Information Matters: Getting the Real Story took place a few Saturdays ago and featured expert presenters leading sessions on Newswriting 101, Factfinding and Reporting, Photojournalism and Engaging the Community.

Photo Credit: The Citizens Campaign

Photo Credit: The Citizens Campaign

One of my favorite sessions was Newswriting 101 with Chris Satullo.  He encouraged us to not only fill an empty page but to fill it with well-written language that will command attention.  He explained that in his field—radio—he is constantly looking for ‘the driveway moment.’ The driveway moment is when a listener has pulled into their driveway, but is in park with the radio on because the content is too compelling to be turned off.

He taught us to paint a vivid mental picture with our writing and told us to “make him feel how the weather was.”  As a blogger, I found this session extremely helpful and have tried to incorporate Satullo’s “Seven Tips on Writing Well” into my work.

Here are his tips:

  1. Writing is scary; never forget that, but never let that scare you.
  2. Don’t let anybody else see it until you’ve read it aloud to yourself.
  3. Show, don’t tell.
  4. Use simple, powerful words, and respect their power.
  5. Kill the little darlings.
  6. Don’t be “passive” – get active.
  7. To write well, read, read, read people who write well.

Mr. Satullo said that sometimes the best question to ask as a citizen journalist in an interview is simply “tell me what happened.”  In another session, I was privileged to meet someone who has done just that, over and over again, until he cultivated his own audience of over 200,000 readers.

Photo Credit: Lindsay McNamara

Photo Credit: Lindsay McNamara

Justin Auciello, editor and founder of Jersey Shore Hurricane News, a bottom-up, two-way news outlet, led a session on Factfinding and Reporting, where he spoke specifically about covering the recent Seaside boardwalk fire.  A lifelong resident of South Seaside Park, Mr. Auciello tried to explain how it felt watching his “childhood literally go up in flames” while he was reporting.  He said that despite all of his feelings, he had to remind himself of his responsibility as a citizen journalist and an objective observer.  Even when he could see with his own eyes that the fire appeared to be spreading, he waited until he received confirmation from local officials to post an update.  Mr. Auciello spoke about his passion for reporting the facts and his desire to not create added fear or panic among the people.

Despite not having a formal background in journalism, he told all of us who attended the session about how is passion for reporting started at a young age.  He used to jump on his bike whenever he heard the sirens as a child to go see what was happening.   Mr. Auciello spoke with humility about the 200,000+ followers of Jersey Shore Hurricane News and said that “all of the sudden everyone is listening to me.”  He was funny, relatable and knew his stuff, and showed us the tools he used to successfully report on breaking news, traffic and weather at the Jersey Shore.

One of the handouts from Information Matters: Getting the Real Story had a quote about citizen journalism that stuck with me.  Jay Rosen said, “When the people, formerly known as the audience, employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform one another,” that’s citizen journalism.

All of us are an expert of something!  Pick your topic and start writing!

The goal of the series Citizen Journalism: How the Internet Will Cover the Next Superstorm is to prepare people to become community reporters.

To learn more about Citizen Journalism, attend the next event Its Takes a Village: Working Together Online on Saturday, November 2nd from 8:30 am – 1:00 pm at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ.  For more information and to RSVP, click here.

If you choose to attend, you will be given more information and resources for:

  • Where can to post your news and pictures
  • Key questions to ask local officials, nonprofit groups and citizens
  • Tips for better visuals
  • How to cover a breaking news event as a citizen journalist
  • Basic tools for real-time reporting

The final event in the series Eyewitness Reports: Are We Ready or Not? will be held on Saturday, November 16th from 8:30 am – 1:00 pm at Middlesex County College in Edison, NJ.  For more information and to RSVP, click here.

Photo Credit: The Citizens Campaign

Photo Credit: The Citizens Campaign

Sea Bright Rising: We Take Care of Our Own


I was so excited to move back into my apartment in Sea Bright on Thursday night.  As I pulled into the driveway, I noticed a few things along the curb, but didn’t think too much of it. When I woke up on Friday morning, I took a drive through town before work and was amazed by what I saw.  All of Ocean Avenue, yard after yard, had entire households ruined out on the curb for pick-up.  Downtown looked like a ghost town, with all of the small businesses boarded up.  The National Guard set up “Tent City” with supplies, food and tools for residents and business owners at the town firehouse.  The firehouse has become a mess hall, filled with people waiting in line for a hot meal.

Despite the devastation, the energy is incredible.  Residents are sad, but the sense of community is amazing.  Everyone is helping one another; we are all neighbors.  Like the Bruce Springsteen song, we “take care of our own.”

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In that spirit, a well-organized volunteer effort has been established.  Home and business owners come down to Borough Hall to fill out Task Request forms, so that volunteers can be sent to their homes to help with clean up. Then, when volunteers come down, they are given an assignment by one of the volunteer coordinators who has reviewed the requests.  The organic, grassroots volunteer movement is definitely the best way to go.  As Bunker Roy says, “listen to the people on the ground. They have all the solutions in the world.”  I helped out this past weekend and look forward to going back every weekend for a long time, to help Sea Bright rise from the storm.

To volunteer in Sea Bright:

  • Come to Borough Hall, 1167 Ocean Avenue, Sea Bright
  • Volunteer coordinators are there every day from 9 AM – 5 PM
  • Parking in town is limited, but available at Holy Cross School in Rumson (corner of Rumson Road and Ward Avenue)
  • Be prepared for both indoor and outdoor work; wear gloves, dress for the weather

For Residents/Business Owners in Need of Help:

  • Fill out a Task Request Form at Borough Hall, Rumson Post Office, or Bingham Hall
  • Or send an e-mail to seabrightvolunteer@gmail.com with name, address, phone, task needed, time frame for when you need assistance; please put “resident” in the subject line
  • Residents must be present with volunteers at home/business

To Donate to Help Sea Bright:

  • Not accepting clothing at this time.
  • Make a donation to the grassroots nonprofit Sea Bright Rising. Sea Bright Rising is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) Part III: Ecology


According to the Hidden Risk Report, a publication from the Biodiversity Research Institute in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, “invertivores” are greatly affected by mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.  Songbirds and bats are referred to as invertivores because they eat a variety of invertebrate species like spiders, snails and worms; not just insects.  Invertivores are an integral part of healthy ecosystems, functioning as seed dispersers and insect controllers.  Mercury emissions are threatening their chances for survival and therefore the health of ecosystems throughout the nation.  There are large declines in reproductive success and developmental issues in some species.  For example, Common Loons have to spend roughly 98% of their time on their nest incubating eggs in order for the eggs to successfully hatch.  After over 5,000 hours of observation, it has been determined that Loons with high mercury levels spend only 85% of their time incubating eggs.  The eggs do not hatch and the species reproductive success decreases (Evers, et al.).

Early research on mercury and wildlife focused primarily on fish-eating birds and mammals, but now it is clear that mercury affects a wider range of species at varying trophic levels.  A simple food chain: a spider eats a fly, and a bird like a Northern Water Thrush or sparrow eats the spider, the song bird will have more mercury in its blood than a Bald Eagle.  While blood samples are taken from humans to determine mercury exposure, feather samples are taken from birds.  The average level of mercury for all sampled individuals was 20 ppm, while the maximum level detected was 40 ppm.  Mercury exposure is dependent on species characteristics, like trophic level, and habitat.  Wetlands, especially estuaries, bogs and beaver ponds, allow for a high rate of methylation, producing high mercury levels in organisms that live there (Evers, et al.).

While wetlands are mostly threatened by mercury pollution, point-source mercury has been shown to persist in rivers more than 80 miles from its original source.  This makes mercury a danger to species far beyond wetland areas.  Methylmercury has been connected with organic soil and leaf litter, so even forest species are at risk of exposure.  Songbirds that feed primarily on forest floor by moving around leaf are affected, as are the invertebrates on the forest floor (Evers, et al.).

Mercury exposure also causes physiological rarities in songbirds, impacting their migration patterns.  If a bird’s left wing is five percent different in shape than its right wing, the bird has to fly in an odd way to compensate for the difference.  This requires more energy and affects survival rates of song bird species when migration already accounts for 75% of all annual mortality rates in some songbirds.  Mercury exposure becomes an added burden on the species (Evers, et al.).

Saltmarsh Sparrow

Many invertivores are already at risk because of pollution, loss of habitat and invasive species.  In combination with environmental stressors like acid rain and climate change, wildlife species are suffering from a synergistic reaction of all of these threats acting together.  Mercury exposure adds another “ecological burden” on songbird and bat populations.  Bats with high levels of mercury often experience compromised immune systems, making it difficult to fight infections like White-Nose Syndrome.  The saltmarsh sparrow has a “very high mercury risk,” according to The Hidden Report, because it is endemic to estuaries, spends its entire life cycle in saltmarsh habitats, and eats high in the food chain.  The saltmarsh sparrow is also especially vulnerable to sea level rise as a result of climate changes, piling one “ecological burden” on top of another (Evers, et al.).

Standardized monitoring of invertivores is needed to show how the new MATS affect changes in mercury emissions because these species offer valuable ecosystems services.  A single colony of big brown bats eats nearly 1.3 million pest insects each year. Pest suppression services provided by native bats in US agricultural landscapes is valued at $22.9 billion per year.  A bluebird family of two parents and five nestlings requires 124 g of insects per day.  The presence of nesting birds in vineyards reduces the amount of pesticides that are required to maintain healthy crops (Evers, et al.).

While standardized monitoring of wildlife, laws and regulations like Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), and scientific health studies help to address some environmental problems, other means could be used.  Social media has played a large role in the environmental movement in 2012.  Facebook and Twitter has helped to spread the word about fracking throughout the United States and the development of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in the Great Plains.  Greenpeace used Facebook as part of their clean energy campaign.  The organization urged citizens to “defriend coal.”  The Unfriend Coal campaign showed Facebook’s new data centers that draw energy from coal-powered plants.  After this blitz, Facebook announced that finding renewable energy sources would a priority in future data centers and agreed to lobby utilities powering their existing centers to increase their reliance renewable energy.  Facebook also allows organizations to expand their membership into new countries (Kaufman).

Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are similar to other environmental policies in many ways.  There has been criticism from economists, claiming that MATS will contribute to unemployment and negatively affect the economy of the United States.  MATS will be subjected to gutting by conservation politicians and vague language and claims protecting the privileged few.  The risk of mercury emissions to wildlife, such as invertivores like bats and songbirds, will be examined at length by wildlife conservationists.  New age environmentalists will stay informed and advocate for MATS through social media.  MATS, however, will stand out among other environmental policies because of its clear, scientific connection to public health and the strong lobby of mothers that will fight for their children’s health.


Evers, D.C., A.K. Jackson, T.H. Tear and C.E. Osborne. 2012. Hidden Risk: Mercury in Terrestrial Ecosystems of the Northeast. Biodiversity Research Institute. Gorham, Maine. BRI Report 2012-07. 33 pages.

Kaufman, Leslie. “For Green Groups, a Shift in Tactics.” Green Blog. New York Times, 19 Dec. 2011. Web. 15 May 2012. <http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/for-green-groups-a-shift-in-tactics/?src=tp&gt;.