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Have You Thanked the Ocean Today?

By Laura Sams

When you woke up this morning, did you breathe? If so, you can thank all the little phytoplankton, the tiny marine plants in the ocean, for creating over 50% of the world’s oxygen. The ocean touches us in unexpected ways, no matter where we live. Even now as you stare at your computer at work, or your phone at the post office, or hold some other glowing rectangular tablet in your hand with this little article, the great blue sea is not far from you.

We live on a blue planet, which covers most of the earth. If you fell from space (in a hypothetically safe and hilariously fun way) and randomly landed on the earth, you would end up in the ocean about 7 out of 10 times. The ocean covers about 71% of the earth’s surface, and it holds about 97% of all the world’s water. But hey, you probably knew that.

When we created the Get Your Feet Wet interstitials for Splash and Bubbles, we wanted to highlight lesser-known ways our ocean benefits us, the air-breathers on land. Here are some reasons to thank the ocean!

Parrotfish Poops.jpg

White Sand
The next time you dip your toes in a tropical sandy beach, just remember that a lot of sand comes from an unlikely source: parrotfish. Parrotfish eat coral and excrete sand, which washes up to the shore. For Get Your Feet Wet, we spent many hours following parrotfish underwater, to film the exact moment when we could see sand forming. You can watch that footage in The Parrotfish Song, and feel free to sing along with the chorus, “I want to thank you, for pooping out sandy beaches.”

Oyster Filtration
Have you ever thought about what oysters actually do for the ocean? In Get Your Feet Wet, we did an experiment with a group of third graders. They put oysters in an aquarium dirty with phytoplankton, and then we filmed a time lapse of what happened. The oysters cleaned the water!  Oysters are filter feeders, and a single oyster can filter 30 to 50 gallons of water in a day. That means oysters are really good at filtering pollutants from our waterways.

Seasonal Ponds
The ocean is responsible for the planet’s climate, as well as regulating weather patterns. Most of the time, the rain that falls on land was evaporated from the ocean’s surface. (Just think, those inconvenient droplets on your car’s windshield could have been on a whale’s back.) One episode of Get Your Feet Wet highlights how a seasonal pond, which fills with water every spring, and dries up in the summer, is connected to the ocean through rain and snow. Every time you hear a frog calling, you can thank the ocean.

A Blue Playground
In Get Your Feet Wet, we wrote a song called Judy’s Playground, featuring Judy, a six year old girl who already snorkels and swims with turtles. For Judy, the ocean is her playground, full of fun and unexpected surprises every day. As the great ocean explorer Sylvia Earle told us, “Being in the ocean feels good, you know it’s just the joy of being weightless. It’s a freedom that all by itself is unlike anything you can do on the land, but, the greatest joy, for me, is getting to know the creatures who live there.” 

Laura Sams is a writer, songwriter and producer for Get Your Feet Wet, the interstitial segments that accompany the PBS KIDS series Splash and Bubbles. She and her brother own Sisbro Studios, which creates incredible media that truly inspires people, specializing in children's entertainment, science programming and comedy. Their clients include The Smithsonian Channel, The Jim Henson Company, Animal Planet, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and they have won Parents' Choice GOLD, the Wildscreen Panda Award (often called the Green Oscars®) and the Midwest Book Award for Best Children's Picture Book. Laura has performed for over 150,000 children through live educational assemblies around the country, from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to hundreds of schools and libraries.