Florida Marine Ecology Expedition, June 13-June 23, 2022: in partnership with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium

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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 all over the world 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 13-July 23, 2022).

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 seeding projects to make a difference to our world’s oceans.

“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 Openwater Scuba certification
  • Coral reef restoration on scuba
  • Manatee conservation and encounter at the Crystal River on snorkel with world-renowned manatee scientist Dr. James (Buddy) Powell
  • Watershed and grassland ecology
  • Everglades ecology with the Miccosukee Indian Tribe
  • Behind-the-scenes engagement with CMA’s rescue, rehabilitation and release program, including hands-on labs and experiences in Tampa Bay.

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 and right whale conservation, 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, President of CMA, 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, dolphin and manatee conservation will be featured, along with other important components of understanding the land/sea connection within the ecosystem such as grasslands and estuaries. 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 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 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. Laura 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 and dive master Joe McCallion, 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 $4,400.00 including all scuba equipment and certification, instruction, food, lodging and materials (students must provide their own mask, fin, and snorkel). Airfare is not included, but should be planned to arrive at Tampa, Florida and depart from Miami, Fl. Ocean Matters will provide all transfers in Florida from the airport for students on the schedule provided by your individual flight plans.

Where Will We Be Staying?

We will be staying in a block of rooms in hotels on both the west coast and east coast with three meals a day and snacks provided.

Our accommodations from June 13-16 while in Clearwater, FL will be the Fairfield Inn.  June 17 we will stay in Crystal River, FL at the Best Western and June 18-22 at the Marina Del Mar in Key Largo, FL.

We are able to accommodate dietary restrictions with notice (generally provided at time of deposit for the program).

What is the Leadership Component?

Ocean Matters Founder and Executive Director Laura Parker Roerden will be working with youth in the development of leadership skills. For interested teens, there is the opportunity to serve on the Ocean Matters youth leadership council Team Ocean Teen Leaders (TOTL), a group of teens who seed ocean conservation projects where they live and elsewhere. These projects continue on into the following school year.

Team Ocean Teen Leaders (TOTL) who attended the Florida expedition in the past created an ocean advocacy film, which was released virtually World Oceans Day and seen by tens of thousands of people around the world.

Participation in this extended teen leader project is fully voluntary and included with your tuition, but can be a meaningful way to continue learning about the marine environment well beyond the time in Florida.

Teens will furthermore have the opportunity to explore further study and potential careers in marine science or conservation.

What Are the Goals of the Project?

  • To deepen knowledge and understanding of Florida’s watershed ecology.
  • To become PADI open-water scuba certified.
  • To explore a career in marine science or conservation.
  • To understand challenges facing the marine environment through the lens of evidence-based solutions.
  • To build grit, self-efficacy, teamwork and leadership skills through rising to together successfully meet challenges and solve problems.

Please help us spread the word about this amazing opportunity for  teens to make a difference to the ocean and the world they will inherit!

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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 15 years old by the start of the program
– be able to swim 200 yards comfortably and tread water for 10 minutes (please be certain you can do this in a pool without touching the bottom, as it is a pre-requisite for scuba training.)
– be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 by the start of the program

See the apply tab on our website to apply online to this program. Deadline for application is April 29, 2022 with admissions decisions granted on a rolling admissions basis.

Help Us Support Teens and their Important Service

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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