Connecting People and the Oceans
April 10, 2019
Oceans Research has had a few opportunities for community outreach over the last two months. From starting their own outreach program to individual field specialists connecting to the surrounding communities. I have been able to participate in a few of these and they have drastically changed what I want to do in the future. The first opportunity I had was helping Acheley, one of the field specialists, with teaching a local preschool about the tidal pools and the ocean.
One of Mossel Bays preschools, Little Lighthouse, reached out to Acheley and asked if he would like to organize a day trip for the kids. He accepted and brought a few of the interns and another field specialist to help. Acheley told us we were going to lead the kids on a beach cleanup, give them tours of the local aquarium, and show them how tidal pools support life. We got to the point, an area of Mossel Bay that has an amazing tidal pool ecosystem, and started to set up. We gathered a number of tidal pool organisms, from starfish and mussel crackers to sea squirts, and placed them in a touch tank. The kids got split into three groups and were assigned one of the three activities.
My group was assigned the aquarium, a small establishment that houses some smooth hound sharks and local reef fish. I told the kids about the the sharks, the fish, and what we can do to help save the oceans. They were little kids and didn’t ask to many questions and most of what I said probably went over their heads, but they seemed to enjoy seeing the sharks and the colorful fish. We did the beach cleanup next and it went by uneventfully. I had to stop one of the kids from diving in head-first into three inches of water, but that was the only problem we had. The preschoolers liked picking up different items and showing me what they found. My group finished on the touch tank. This was mainly Acheleys’ area of expertise, but he allowed me to help him teach. We showed how all of the creatures live together and how they survived. We had also placed a few pieces of trash to show one of the effects humans have on the environment. I had a great time working with these kids and teaching them about the different marine creatures in their area.
The other outreach project we were able to help with was a new program from Oceans Research. The program, Sea-the-Change, helps local high school students get jobs by giving them different skills needed for ocean based work. The high school we work at was inland, so most of the students didn’t know how to swim and were scared of the ocean itself. Over the two months, we evaluated the students based off of interest, passion, and leadership. Since this was the first year of the program, only four students were chosen. After the students were chosen, they went about learning how to swim and get over their fear of the ocean. I was able to help with this process by helping their swim instructor and helping them to swim. The students were also put on the sea fishing shifts we had. This was a great opportunity to show them a lot of different fish that can found in the bay, along with the different shark species. Acheley and I also got the students down the tidal pools and showed them star fish, octopi, and even a very lost penguin.
At the end of the week, we saw our first white shark of March! We were all unsure if we would see any, but we had gone to a new location were some had been spotted. After about hours, we finally had a white shark come to our boat. She was about 3.5 meters, but she didn’t stay for long. A 4.5 meter white shark came and pushed the smaller shark out. We were able to determine the larger shark was also a female. She stayed at our boat for over 30 minutes and took a few of our tuna heads. It was an amazing end to the 7th week and we got some great data from her.
Camden is an environmental studies major and biology minor from Naples, Florida.