(CNN) Millions of Americans are flocking to the shore this summer, seeking stunning seascapes and beaches to refresh their hearts and minds. For most, the sea will be a beautiful backdrop.
But for scientists and conservationists, the view of the water brings hope and a reason to feel patriotic. Protections that America has put in place in past decades are a commitment to hope and bearing fruit. Here are some things to look for at the shore on your next trip. We’ll start at the surface and go down:
On the beach and in the sea air, what may simply look like “seagulls” is a wide palette of birds, each with its own story. Scurrying sandpipers 4 inches in length are in the midst of some of the longest migrations in the world, traveling as much as 9,000 miles each year from high Arctic to Patagonia and back. Ospreys — the giant fish-hawks on 6-foot wings — were almost erased by DDT-type pesticides in my youth, but since the pesticides were banned, these birds have recovered and are now quite abundant.
At the surface, seals and whales — whose populations were at serious lows a few decades ago — have made major recoveries, thanks in part to the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the whaling ban. Intellectually, these animals range from being as smart as dogs to possessing the most massive minds on Earth. They strive to stay alive as much as we do.