The End of The Line

According to NOAA, over half of the population of the United States lives within 50 miles of the coastline.  This trend holds up over the vast majority of the world, and many countries in East Asia show an even greater build up along coastlines.  Humans have, and continue to rely heavily on ocean resources for their livelihood.  The continued concentration of human life in these areas creates great stress on marine ecosystems.  This fact alone is enough to suggest imminent and increased stress on the natural workings of the world ocean.  However, what about the other ~50%?

If you live in, oh…  Saint Joseph, Missouri… what effect can you possibly have on ocean resources?  For folks who have lived out their lives from the center of a continent, issues such as this tend to pass by without even a glance.  And yet, certain actions we take on a regular basis directly affect marine ecosystems hundreds of miles away.

Middle Bight Sunset


No ocean in Missouri

As an educator who hails from dry land in relatively rocky Missouri…  I have long struggled to help these concepts move beyond the abstract and into the concrete lives of my students.  From the start, the Marine Biology program in my district was built around a rich field study set truly in the middle of nowhere on the Andros reef in the Bahamas…  aboard sailboats for a week in April.  If you haven’t seen them, sets from our most recent two field studies in 2009, and 2008 can be found on my Flickr page.  From the images alone, I think you’ll instantly see the educational value of this experience.

From the start, leaning my curriculum against such a rich experience has done wonders for establishing relevance in this course.  However, in my opinion, there is still value in being able to understand our effects on ocean resources…  even when we are hundreds of miles from water.  Of course, there are many ways in which we on dry land are still intimately tied to the ocean.  However, over the years it seems the direct connection from plate to mouth is the one that establishes a real connection with my students.

perfect UW photography posture


Challenge-based learning

I’ve written before about projects concerning seafood resources.  Working up to last year, these challenges have moved from the classroom alone toward true social action.  It seems pretty easy for students to buy into the idea that teaching not only helps one to learn something, but it can also affect change in the world.  Working up to last year’s challenge based on ocean resources, students were encouraged to take on their own project.  There were given the challenge of being creatively independent in reaching a wide audience of local folk with information related to smart uses of seafood resources.

While certain successes were had with this approach, a rather novel set of occurrences this year has pulled us back together as a whole class to take up this challenge in our community.

The End of The Line


The End of The Line

Imagine a world without fish” is the tagline that follows the title of this new full-length film.  The End of The Line made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January.  The film had its North American premiere on July 19, 2009, and continues to play in theaters, communities, and campuses across North America.  Screenings this month are scheduled in cities like Anchorage, Alaska, and Kamuela, Hawaii.  The film shows most often on college campuses and at film festivals.  In Saint Joseph…  far from the sea…  it will play free to the public in the Benton High School auditorium.  Here’s betting that this public screening of the film will be the only one for hundreds of miles.

On October 26th, from 6 to 9pm, Benton High will be a hub of discussion about ocean resources, especially smart and sustainable attitudes toward our ocean.  Fr0m 6 to 7pm, a gallery walk will take place in the hallway leading to the theater.  Marine Biology students who have been studying these issues will present displays and talk with guests informally about topics that bring these issues directly to the “table-level” in our own community.  Our guests will also leave with practical tools in hand to make smart decisions about seafood.  Pamphlets, pocket guides, bumper stickers will serve to remind well after the film ends.  The End of The Line has a runtime of 82 minutes and will begin at 7pm.  After the film, students will again be available to discuss individual topics in the gallery way until 9pm.  Concessions will be available.  Hey, it’s a movie.  Movies require popcorn, right?

The screening of the film is sponsored by the Saint Joseph Marine Institute (Marine Biology program) and the Saint Joseph School District.  Thanks to district officials who have long sponsored innovation in the classroom, this community event will be offered free of charge.  Thanks, Dr. Dial.  My students thank you, as will any members of our community who are touched by this experience.

To help spread the word about this free community event, feel free to download a copy of the full-size poster here and display it in your school or place of business.

Sean Nash

Biology teacher in the great state of Kansas. Back at it in the classroom after a 30-year career in Missouri. Former District Curriculum Administrator, Instructional Technology Coordinator, and Instructional Coach. Biology instructor since 1993. Find more about my passions and my work at


  1. I am one of the water people–I am banging away on the keyboard less than a mile away from the Delaware Bay. My wife is out walking, she’ll find the edge tonight.

    Anyone who’s lived more than a few decades along the shore can see the changes. It’s complicated, though, by the wide variations in local populations, but not so complicated that imminent collapse is invisible.

    I have neighbors who farm the sea. At least one other in our town is a scientist who helps set limits on those who make a living on the waters around us (we live on a cape).

    The scientist does not know the waters as well as my scalloper friend, though both recognize the problem.

    I will not be able to attend your event, but urge all who read your words to visit your websites–you have created a marvelous program about, well, our world.

    I fear we may be well past a tipping point, but I find hope in my night walks. A comb jelly glows its electric blue when caught in the tiny curl of a bay wave, a ghost crab freezes in front of me, then runs into the water, seemingly defying physics as it treats seawater like air.

    Life is here, it is happening, and it will keep happening. 3 billion plus years is a long time–the media is excited by the recent unveiling of Ardipithecus ramidus (“Ardi”), but my faith rests in the critters that have found their niches independent of the nonsense we’ve created.

    Contrast 4.4 million years (Happy Birthday, Ardi) with the 3.5 billion years or so life’s been around on this planet. Do the math. Really, do the math.

    We are not special, though we are part of something truly special. It’s enough for some of us to be bit players in a larger scheme of, well, awesomeness.

    (These words make more sense when sitting on a jetty watching the tide rise and fall. They make no sense sitting in a building. Guess where I prefer to be?0

    Descent with modification will trump “evolution.” Evolution is a human conceit–revel in the moment of life.

    • Goodness. Punya Mishra commented on my blog just this morning and mentioned being too busy to visit as of late. And yet, how swamped is waiting ten days to reply to a beautiful comment on your own blog? Wow. As a general rule I tend to let yours roll around in my skull a bit before getting back, but this was a bit ridiculous.

      Actually, I remember getting the notification of this one via email as I was plugging away at a presentation for a state conference. I read it to Erin across the room, prefaced with: “check this out, Doyle pretty much just worked his magic right in the comments section of my blog.” I told her that your comment was essentially a post all it’s own. Sure enough, the pingback came in just a few minutes later that let me know a new post also appeared on yours. Good stuff for sure.

      I too, am afraid that a very crucial tipping point has passed quietly. Anyone keeping a watch on the population explosion (with even a clue of ecology) probably realized the seeming inevitability of this one. Whatever it is that “bumps” the peak in our population growth curve back down to a manageable level for the planet will be a significant thing. Here’s hoping for future generations that our impact here is humanly rebound-able in some way. I suppose we’ll see.

      As always, thanks for adding to the growing pile of words here. As per usual, yours are wonderfully poetic. I think this was the perfect place for beautiful imagery. It needed a warm ending.

      We all do.

  2. I live within 50 miles of the coast of Lake Ontario. I wonder if that counts in their numbers – does it matter that it’s the closest Great Lake to the ocean? Anyway I wish I was close enough to attend this event but will check for local showings.

    Thanks for writing such a great blog!

    • Yep, I’m pretty certain that you “count” in this one. Looking at the screenings page… I don’t see and in your area of the country listed. However, it is also not updated to include our screening either. It is more than possible that there are others to come.

      And thanks much for the kind words. They are especially friendly on a 40 degree day with monotone steel gray skies. 😉

  3. Me, again.

    One serious objection to the trailer: it’s using a humane practice (clubbing fish before bleeding them) for shock value.

    We are all practicing heterotrophs, though most Americans remain firmly in the closet.

    We all eat. If you eat fish, or market fish to be eaten, clubbing is a desirable practice. I keep a priest (an angler’s term for his club) with my fishing gear.

    Even if you choose not to eat meat, a lot of critters get killed in the process of farming.

    If you live like John and Helen Nearing, well, you have a point, and I’m jealous.

    • I couldn’t agree more. Actually, I was really… really hoping that this quick piece of imagery was repeated over and over within the film. I’m all for raising awareness. However, wedging in fresh misconceptions is not a way I prefer to do it.

      That slice of film bothered me as well. I cannot even imagine trying to subdue such a magnificent beast in a humane way. I’ve been a wrestler for half my life and I still think I’d need more help than a club when trying to bring aboard a 200lb. chunk of thrashing muscle.

      I have now received the actual film and I am happy to report that it does not go to that well too often (not again to tell the truth) in conveying its message. That did worry me. I think Erin and I watched it with white knuckles hoping we’d find those 82 minutes of film something we were both comfortable unveiling.

      On the whole, the film is less “energetic” than I thought it would be. It really is a pretty typical documentary. Don’t get me wrong… it is fantastic. The examination of fisheries data is exactly the kind of thinking you’d want students of science doing on a regular basis. It is a far more beautiful film than the “science flicks” I was subjected to in high school. However, the under 15 crowd will get bored at some point.

      Younger than that… and you are a ways away from making a meal choice yourself. And yet, at what age should we let kids in on such details?

      After a really amazing set of field studies last week in my dual-credit biology class… where three or four of my 20 students had never (NEVER) spent time playing around at a pond. The shared “Midwestern upbringing” that includes catching tadpoles and racing water striders… well, it just isn’t necessarily so “shared” any longer.

      College credit or no, it is designing those exposures to the natural world that keep me in the classroom today. For most of the kids in that class, this will be their last taste of formal science instruction. That fact drives me toward significantly different goals than the typical “accelerated” course.

      Yikes- thanks for making me ramble. Your fault.

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