Florida Marine Ecology Expedition, June 21-July 1, 2020: a joint project of Ocean Matters & the Clearwater Marine Aquarium

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PLEASE NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 crisis, we have postponed this program to summer 2021.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. – Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Join other teens from Florida and other states above the watershed for the Florida Marine Ecology Expedition and learn how you can be part of the solution to the many problems facing our oceans. The Expedition combines a survey of challenges to the marine ecosystem through five days with the iconic Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) in Clearwater on the west coast of Florida and then a shift to a focus on practical solutions to these problems for five days in Key Largo on the east coast with the Coral Restoration Foundation (TM). Earn PADI open water scuba certification; do a coral restoration project on scuba; learn about manatee, turtle and dolphin conservation from top researchers in the field; and more (June 21-July 1, 2020)

During the expedition we will work with media professionals to create a short, ocean advocacy film so that you can engage others in solutions, too. Participants in this program will also be trained as leaders to become part of the Ocean Matters Team Ocean Teen Leader (TOTL) project, a group of teens that work in Florida, Hawai’i and Honduras to make a difference.

“Amazing trip! So thankful for everything—the experiences, scuba certification, the friends I’ve made. This has honestly been the best thing I’ve ever done in my life—will never foget it! I’m so sad that it’s come to an end.” — Ellie Siney, Florida Marine Ecology Expedition 2019.

“I got to help fix what was falling apart.” — Josh Fields, Florida Marine Ecology Expedition 2019

“This program has been the most impactful week of my life. Thank you so much!” — Sophie Sharp, Florida Marine Ecology Expedition 2019

What Do We Study?

  • PADI scuba certification
  • Coral reef restoration on scuba
  • Manatee conservation and encounter at the Crystal River on snorkel with Dr. Powell
  • Nesting turtle tagging with researchers
  • Dolphin identification
  • Sea bird and grassland ecology
  • Everglades ecology with the Miccosukee Indian Tribe
  • Behind-the-scenes engagement with CMA’s rescue, rehabilitation and release program, including meeting the veterinarian staff, a surgical suite tour, and information about clinical research.

Manatee in fresh water spring; Florida. Photo by Brian Skerry. Used with permission.

We are partnering with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) for this project. CMA is a world-class institution in Clearwater, Florida whose mission is to preserve the environment while inspiring the human spirit through leadership in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of marine life; environmental education; research; and conservation. CMA is the inspiration behind the blockbuster film “A Dolphin’s Tale” that tells the true story of the rescue and rehabilitation of an injured dolphin named Winter, who was fitted with a prosthetic after losing her tail in an entanglement with a crab pot. The CMA is now a pilgrimage for wounded warriors and children with disabilities. A leader in turtle and manatee rehabilitation, their work is on the forefront of issues impacting Florida’s marine ecosystem.

Coral reefs globally are threatened by warming waters, ocean acidification, plastic pollution, overfishing and other chronic stressors. We have lost 50% of our coral reefs in the past twenty years, with more loss predicted as waters continue to warm. Coral reef restoration is a relatively new science where substrates (surfaces) are lain and coral fragments or coral colonies from land-based nurseries are attached in order to replace coral that has bleached or died. Students will be doing this important service work on scuba.

Dr. James (Buddy) Powell, Executive Director of the CMA Research Institute and a world-renowned manatee and turtle researcher working jointly with CMA and Mote Marine Lab is our supervising scientist for this project.

What is the West Coast Component?

For the first five days of the expedition at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium scientists and marine educators will engage you in hands-on inquiry and activities related to understanding the marine ecosystem and current threats to it. Turtle tagging, dolphin identification and manatee conservation will be featured, along with other important components of understanding the land/sea connection within the ecosystem such as sea birds and grasslands. Our director of dive education Laura McCallion and her staff will complete the pool training component towards PADI scuba certification while on the west coast.

 

What is the East Cost Component?

After five days at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, students will travel to the east coast for an additional five days in Key Largo, stopping to learn more about the Everglades and its ecology on the way with the Miccosukee Indians on their tribal lands. In Key Largo, Director of Dive Education Laura McCallion and her staff will be focused on Open Water training for PADI scuba certification. The Coral Restoration Foundation will provide training both on coral reef ecology and coral restoration techniques to prepare students to participate on a coral restoration project on scuba on the coral reef.

What is Coral Reef Restoration?

Coral reefs globally are threatened by warming waters, ocean acidification, plastic pollution, overfishing and other chronic stressors. We have lost 50% of our coral reefs in the past twenty years, with more loss predicted as waters continue to warm. Coral reef restoration is a relatively new science where substrates (surfaces) are lain and coral fragments or coral colonies from land-based nurseries are attached in order to replace coral that has bleached or died. Students will be doing this important service work on scuba.

To learn more about the Coral Restoration Foundation’s important work in the Florida Keys see this report from the Nature Conservancy.

 

What Is the Scuba Instruction and Certification Component?

Students need no prior experience to receive PADI open water scuba certification as part of this program, but must be able to swim 200 yards comfortably and tread water for 10 minutes. All scuba instruction will be supervised by our director of dive education Laura McCallion, who has the highest level of professional certification available. She is a PADI Course Director and has decades of teaching scuba, as well as a special talent for working with young people. Laura will be joined by Peter Lewandowski, assistant director of dive education; dive master Ari Luizzi and Ocean Matters director Cassandra Bergeron, providing dive supervision and support.  For more information see our scuba program page. .

For additional information about this program, please email info@oceanmatters.org or call Laura McCallion, our director of dive education and a leader for this trip at 508-320-5087.

 

What Does it Cost?

This 10-day program is $3,500.00 including all scuba equipment and certification, instruction, food, lodging and materials. Airfare is not included, but can be planned through our travel agent Atlas travel and should be planned to arrive at Tampa, Florida and depart from Miami, Fl.

Where Will We Be Staying?

Hotel accommodations on both the west coast and east coast will be arranged and announced shortly. Most likely, they will be the same accommodations as last year (or similar): the Holiday Inn Express ICOT Clearwater and the Marine Del Mar in Key Largo. Three meals a day and snacks provided. We are able to accommodate dietary restrictions with notice (generally provided at time of deposit for the program).

Is There Scholarship?

Ocean Matters is proud to announce a partnership with the prestigious Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, which is generously providing one full scholarship ($3,500 value) to an Ocean Awareness Contest applicant from Florida to participate in our Ocean Matters’ Florida Marine Ecology Expedition, June 19-29, 2020!

The applicant must apply to both the Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest with a piece of art (visual art, film, music, poetry, prose, or interactive & multimedia) that addresses this year’s theme of “Climate Hope: Transforming Crisis” and to the Ocean Matters Florida Marine Ecology Expedition to be considered. You need not win an award in the Ocean Awareness Contest, however, to be awarded this need-based scholarship for the Ocean Matters expedition.

 

Artwork by Sydney Prescott, 14, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest participant.

About Bow Seat
Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs is a Boston-based nonprofit that provides a global platform for teens to create and communicate for the blue planet. Bow Seat’s programming engages youth in learning about ocean issues through art-making; amplifies their voices to advance environmental awareness and action; and empowers them to become cultural changemakers.

How to Apply to the Scholarship & Deadlines
To be eligible for this need-based scholarship, students must submit to the Ocean Awareness Contest with a piece of original art and opt-in to the award on the submission form by March 1, 2020, AND apply separately to Ocean Matters by March 15, 2020.

The Ocean Matters Award recipient will be notified by April 1, 2020.

Rules & Eligibility

  • Students must be a resident of Florida, currently enrolled in high school, and at least 15 years old by the start of the program.
  • Students must be able to swim 200 yards comfortably and tread water for 10 minutes to be able to participate in the Florida Marine Ecology Expedition.
  • Students must submit to Bow Seat’s Ocean Awareness Contest and opt-in to the Ocean Matters Award on the submission form by March 1, 2020.
  • Students must apply separately, and be admitted, to the Ocean Matters Florida Marine Ecology Expedition program by March 15, 2020. Eligible students must demonstrate merit and need on the Ocean Matters application to be considered for the scholarship.
  • While it is our policy not to share email addresses with third parties, students who opt in to this award agree to have their email address shared with the Ocean Matters team solely for the purposes of this scholarship.
  • Student submissions (Visual Art, Film, Interactive & Multimedia, Music, Poetry, or Prose) to the Ocean Awareness Contest will be reviewed by the Ocean Matters Award selection committee. Students who do not receive the Ocean Matters Award are still eligible to earn a prize in the Ocean Awareness Contest.
  • The award winner will be required to complete Bow Seat’s Affidavit of Eligibility/Liability Release.
  • The full program scholarship includes all scuba equipment and certification, instruction, food, lodging, and materials. Travel to and from home to Clearwater, FL is not included.
  • The award winner agrees to write a blog post about their Ocean Matters experience for publication on the Bow Seat blog.

Questions & Contact
For questions about applying for this scholarship, please contact alyssa@bowseat.org. For more information about the Ocean Matters Florida Marine Ecology Expedition, visit oceanmatters.org, or contact cbergeron@oceanmatters.org. All scuba related questions should be directed to lmccallion@oceanmatters.org

Please help us spread the word about this amazing opportunity for a Florida teen! Sharing is caring.

To Apply to the Florida Marine Ecology Expedition

Students must have the following prerequisites:
– be a high school student (rising freshman through graduating senior)
– be able to swim 200 yards comfortably and tread water for 10 minutes

See the apply tab on our website to apply online to this program. Deadline for application is March 15, 2020.

Help Us Include More Deserving Students

We are currently raising money to support this project. Ocean Matters is 501(3)c nonprofit corporation and donations are tax-deductible as outlined by law.

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