MassBays is hiring!

EPA recently awarded funding to MassBays under the Exchange Network Grant Program to provide tools, training, and services to citizen groups conducting water quality monitoring in the Bays. The project will result in the following products:

1.    AquaQAPP, an online application facilitating preparation of Sampling and Analysis Plans/Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPPs) for marine and freshwater water quality and benthic monitoring programs.

2.    Data management archiving for groups conducting monitoring, through EPA’s Water Quality eXchange (WQX) platform.

3.    Training workshops and one-on-one assistance to monitoring program coordinators for monitoring program design, scoping for volunteer training, utilization of AquaQAPP and WQX, and data analysis.

4.    A web-based reporting tool (EcoHealth Report Card) to present and interpret results of monitoring in the Bays for multiple audiences.

MassBays seeks applicants for the position of Dependent Contractor, a “Circuit Rider” to lead work on program component number 3 above, to be based in Boston but serve all of MassBays’ planning area. This person will provide outreach, training, and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations and their staff on components of quality-assured monitoring programs in near-shore areas. Topics may include: developing monitoring program objectives, selecting suitable sampling sites and water quality parameters, suitable training for volunteers, identifying certified laboratories for sample analysis, statistical data analysis, and data interpretation with reference to program objectives. The Circuit Rider will also organize and recruit attendees to regional training workshops for program coordinators focused on the online AquaQAPP application in October 2019, as well as a second set of workshops (March 2020) to introduce utilization of WQX.

We currently have funding for 20h/wk, from June 2019 through June 2021. Keep an eye out for the official posting on the MassCareers website, or subscribe to MassBays’ newsletter.

The Great Green Crab Hunt… and hunt for a new fishery

Dr. Gabriela Bradt (PI)

NH Sea Grant Fisheries Extension Specialist

Seacoast Science Center began working with Dr. Gabriela Bradt, NH Sea Grant Fisheries Extension Specialist, in 2018 to collect intertidal data on the nefarious invasive Carcinus maenus. The NH Green Crab Project began as a pilot project in 2015 to determine whether soft-shell green crabs could be a viable seafood product in the state. The European green crab (Carcinas maenas) is a non-native crustacean that invaded the US Northeast region from Europe in the early 1800’s. Since then, these invasive crabs have firmly established themselves and have spread from Cape Cod to Prince Edward Island, Canada, destroying economically important wild harvest fisheries (soft-shell clams) and vitally important coastal and estuarine ecosystems. The initial goals of the NH Green Crab Project was to detect a visible morphological molting sign that would help fishers identify crabs that were about to ‘bust’ out of their old shell and become temporarily soft -which was the desired edible product- similar to the popular and  lucrative soft-shell blue crab industry in the southern United States. While researching molting cues, it became clear that in order to develop a market, there also needed to be a potential fishery for these crabs and the idea for finding large aggregations of pre-molt crabs spatially and temporally in New Hampshire gave rise to the citizen science monitoring component of this endeavor. The Great Green Crab Hunt is a multi-faceted approach to engage citizens through interactive field data collection to better understand when and where these crabs begin the molting season and in large numbers. The data collected by participating citizens then gets uploaded to an online map that updates in real time and shows where potential green crab ‘hotspots’ are located. Other data collected such as sex, shell hardness, color and size also contribute to a better understanding of the seasonal molting patterns and overall green crab population ecology. The NH Green Crab Project has successfully molted and produced soft-shell crabs and provided them to local restaurants to begin market development, and the Great Green Crab Hunts, which began in 2018, have already engaged 150 citizens (all ages) and several  ‘hotspots’ are beginning to emerge- Peirce Island (Portsmouth), Goat Island (New Castle), Drowned Forest Beach (Odiorne) and Cedar Point (Dover).

For more information please visit the project website or Online Map

Have you wondered about Seek? A Review of the Seek App

by Aimee Bonanno

Seek by iNaturalist is a fun, safe way to engage kids and beginners in exploring local biodiversity with an interface half way between game and citizen science. Seek does not collect, use, or disclose personal information. Geo location is blurred so exact location of street name, even city is not identifiable. It also does not generate or share information with iNaturalist, but it does get information from iNaturalist. If you merely want to explore biodiversity nearby, it is a great way to learn about what you are seeing or what others have seen nearby.

To use the app, you simply take photos of the plants, animals, and fungi you encounter. When starting there is a friendly reminder to be safe while gathering your photos. To reward you and make it fun, there are many badges to earn. There is a series of badges for number of observations, and then badges for your first, fifth, and twenty-fifth observation of 9 different taxa. The app keeps count of what you’ve seen, how many species, and how many badges you have. The badges are the game part of it and encourage users to look for a variety of life.

The app uses the image recognition technology of iNaturalist. Once you take a picture, the app recognizes the species and adds it to your collection. A big drawback is that if the picture you take is not recognized, there is no way for you to enter it. Each species that is in your collection or that has been seen nearby will show up as a tile. Clicking on the tile will open more information on the species: common and scientific name, taxon, map, a graph of when sightings have been recorded, a blurb from wikipedia, and an observation count from iNaturalist. For example, I’ve shown below the Eastern Gray Squirrel information.

This app seems to be a way for iNaturalist to improve its image recognition capability and a way for novices and students to have fun learning about what else is living around them. It is currently only available on iOS devices, hopefully beta tests will soon be complete for Android.

   

2018 Ocean Literacy Summit Report

by Jordan Marino and Val Perini, Northeastern University Marine Science Center

On November 15th & 16th the New England Ocean Science Collaborative (NEOSEC) hosted the seventh biennial Ocean Literacy Summit, at Northeastern University and UMass Boston. The Summit planning team, composed of marine scientists, educators, and ocean literacy leaders in New England, put together a two-day program that followed the theme of Ocean Literacy Principle 2: the ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of Earth. Through presentations, lightning talks, and demonstrations, people came together to share best practices to promote ocean literacy by making marine science more accessible to public audiences. This year also included a special focus on creativity and science and using art and other non-traditional methods of science communication.

The event started with a splash on Thursday with morning workshops at Northeastern University in Boston, afternoon field trips hosted by local NEOSEC partner organizations, and an evening Science Café at the Boston Winery. The four workshops included topics of advancing ocean literacy with technology, using creativity and art to promote science communication, using citizen science to engage the public in ocean research, and an introduction to the Ocean Literacy Framework and its development. Each workshop started with presentations and introductions from a panel of presenters, followed by time for participants to ask questions, try out activities, and explore resources related to each topic. Workshop spaces were a buzz as attendees met presenters and colleagues, brainstorming about how to apply these resources to their work.

Diana Payne from Connecticut Sea Grant, and Sarah Schoedinger from NOAA Office of Education, led the workshop titled, “Ocean Literacy 101: How the Concept of What Everyone Should Know About the Ocean Changed the World”. Diana and Sarah, who contributed to the development of the Ocean Literacy Principles, discussed their conception, and how they have evolved to be included in education standards across the world. The National Science Education Standards have little content on marine science and with this void in mind, the goal of the Ocean Literacy Principles was to provide a framework for integrating ocean literacy into science education.

Sara Williams (left/above) and Dr. Joe Ayers (right/below), from Northeastern University Marine Science Center, give a tour of their labs.

After these workshops, participants were able to choose a field trip to attend. Conference attendees toured labs, met researchers, and enjoyed spectacular ocean views at the Northeastern University Marine Science Center, met cuttlefish, sharks, and penguins at the New England Aquarium, visited Courageous Sailing and the USS Constitution in Charlestown Navy Yard, and learned about one of the country’s first metropolitan water systems at the Waterworks Museum.

Dr. Joe Ayers from Northeastern University Marine Science Center gave a tour of his lab.

After field trips, participants made their way to the Boston Winery, for some evening libations, pizza, and conversation. After an entertaining and informative tour by the grandson of the Winery’s founder, participants were treated to three short talks on living shorelines and coastal resilience in Boston. Local scientists, engineers, and landscape architects gave an overview of local work they are doing to prepare Massachusetts for sea level rise. Three chapters of NMEA sponsored the science café: Southeastern New England Marine
Educators (SENEME), Massachusetts Marine Educators (MME), and Gulf of Maine Marine Education Association (GOMMEA). Each brought materials to share with attendees. Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management also shared valuable resources they’ve developed to help youth and the public better understand threats facing coastal habitats, and the path towards a more resilient coastline.

On day two of the Summit at UMass Boston, Jeff Donnelly, Senior Scientist and Director at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, kicked off the morning with the Keynote Address discussing his research on hurricane effects on coastal landforms and ecosystems. He shared how hurricanes have evolved over time, and what changes may come in the future. The keynote address was followed by a panel on Sea Level Rise, with a diverse group of panelists who fielded questions from education and outreach, to weather and climate change action plans. They provided several ways to educate the public on sea level rise, and how to stay optimistic about the future. There was a great conversation amongst audience members on successes and challenges of communicating climate change with the public.

Jeff Donnelly, from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, delivers the Keynote Address at UMass Boston.

The rest of the day included a science and education fair with hands-on demonstrations and activities, exhibitors of various organizations, lightning talks, and concurrent sessions.

At the science and education fair, a diversity of presenters showcased hands-on classroom activities, from oceanographic monitoring with drifters, to exploring erosion with model “coastlines” in paint trays.  The concurrent sessions paired a scientist and educator to share their expertise on a variety of topics from earth’s recent geologic history, to the influence of ocean life on landforms, to seaweed art.

Just when folks might be feeling an afternoon slump, the learning and fun continued with a marine trivia hour over drinks and snacks, hosted by Edgar B. Herwick III from the WGBH Curiosity Desk. Teams wracked their brains through several rounds of tough questions and after an extremely close competition, team Nudi but Nice clinched the win by only ½ a point!

The Summit concluded with a marine art show: educators and artists showed and sold their art, inspired by their work with the ocean. Artwork ranged from photography, paintings, knit marine animals, algae pressings, and even pottery made with the shimmering purple sands found on local beaches.

Aimee Bonanno, NEOSEC Program Manager, shows off the beautifully made marine animals at the Art Show.

Overall the 2018 Ocean Literacy Summit was a great success. Special thanks to the Summit Steering Committee, including Aimee Bonanno NEOSEC Program Manager, Heather Deschenes Summit Steering Committee Chair, and Val Perini NEOSEC Chair and to all summit sponsors, especially our ocean sustainers and explorers: The New England Aquarium, Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Program, Maine Coastal Program, and NERACOOS.

 

Spotlight on NEOSEC Ocean Literacy Summit Planners – Corrine Steever and the New England Aquarium

Corrine Steever is a NEOSEC representative from the New England Aquarium and is serving on this year’s Ocean Literacy Summit Planning Committee. Corrine describes her NEOSEC role, “Because of the New England Aquarium’s role as the NEOSEC host institution, we always take a role in Summit planning. I am excited to be more involved with NEOSEC. I am energized by other NEOSEC members at our meetings. They made me want to be part of having a great Summit in Boston. Bringing together science and education is my world. We showcase teachers as scientists.”

Corrine is the Teacher Services Supervisor at the New England Aquarium Teacher Resource Center (TRC.) TRC supports teachers for grades pre-K to 12 as well as out-of-school instructors and informal educators. TRC offers a meeting place, free consultation appointments, research assistance, and access to a large collection of loan materials. TRC provides theme-based kits on a variety of topics to make ocean education engaging, inspiring, and informative. Most visitors are from New England, but they also come from around the world. 

Growing up in Minnesota, Corrine did not originally dream of being a marine science educator. “Originally I was interested in the arts. But in my third year of college, I decided to major in biology with a minor in psychology. I was interested in animal behavior. I thought I would be a field researcher. Then I got a phone call from the Student Conservation Association and AmeriCorps. My friend had recommended me for a job in western Massachusetts teaching in a K-6 school along with doing trail work in the summer. Two things were new to me: teaching and eating vegetarian!”

Corrine discovered a love for education and wanted to balance that with her love for animals. “Next I took on an outdoor education role in Georgia. I also took care of their small animal collection, including a herp lab.” That gave her the hands-on animal experience for her next job at Zoo New England. She then moved into professional development programs at the zoo. “I helped educators enhance their lessons with an inquiry style of teaching. I felt impactful doing the professional development work. The ripple effect was much bigger than a single hour in a classroom.” Corrine was doing less direct animal care which had been her strong interest. She moved to the Denver Zoological Foundation where animal husbandry was a big part of her role, although she still worked in the education department alongside education staff. “I missed teaching and providing professional development. I was looking to get back to that when someone forwarded me the New England Aquarium position. I’m learning a lot on the job. I show teachers that it’s okay to not know everything. It’s more the style of teaching, not knowing every fact. Teachers can build context with students.”  

Corrine addresses the occasional negative connotations some people may have about zoos and aquariums. “People may think ‘They’re caging animals. They’re out of their natural environment.’ There’s so much more to it. We help engage a connection with visitors. The animals act as ambassadors so that people want to protect, appreciate, and understand diverse life. The staff have a dedication to the work.” 

 

Corrine is concerned that people are not having constructive communication. “It’s hard right now. There’s a divide that’s growing more. People share strong opinions on social media but don’t have a conversation. I think most of us aren’t at extreme ends. We can have productive dialogues. We need to understand why people feel the way they do. We need to work to help people understand the science of climate change. We need to address basic human needs: food, water, shelter, safe spaces.”  

Corrine is proud of her adventurous spirit. “I’ve had a lot of different experiences. My past has given me a lot of confidence. I left Minnesota and just went for it. I became willing to move, be adventurous, and have curiosity. It was okay to not know people. Instead, I thought ‘Who am I going to meet? Who will give me insight into the world?’”

Thank you Corrine for bringing your can-do spirit to the New England Aquarium and NEOSEC!

Spotlight on NEOSEC Ocean Literacy Summit Planners – Kate Leavitt and the Seacoast Science Center

Kate Leavitt is the NEOSEC representative from the Seacoast Science Center and is serving on this year’s Ocean Literacy Summit Planning Committee. Kate has been involved with NEOSEC since 2010. Her initial involvement was as project manager for a 17-partner grant Families By the Seaside. When she completed that project, Kate wanted to continue engaging with NEOSEC and joined the Planning Committee. Kate is deepening her commitment to NEOSEC as chair-elect on the Executive Committee.

The Seacoast Science Center and NEOSEC have a common mission. The Center advocates for ocean health through educational experiences and exhibits to spark curiosity, enhance understanding, and inspire ocean conservation. In addition to live animal exhibits, engaging programs, environmental day camps, and special events, the Seacoast Science Center also operates the marine mammal rescue program with a 24-hour hotline. The Marine Mammal Rescue Team responds to reports of stranding and beaching from Essex, Massachusetts to the Maine border. This team is one of one hundred federally authorized response programs. 

Kate is Director of Mission at the Seacoast Science Center. She oversees educational programs including visitor services and school and group programs, marine mammal rescue, grants, and external partnerships. Kate’s role has grown and changed over the years. “I started in 2002 as a part-time naturalist and since then my work has really evolved. The Families grant was a big part of that. It was my first substantial full-time position here at the Center.” Kate knew she wanted to work in marine science from a young age. “In 5th grade reading class, I read a wonderful story about a woman who was a marine biologist. It opened my eyes to the possibility, and I haven’t looked back!” After getting her bachelor’s degree, Kate landed her dream job conducting sea turtle field research for the National Park Service in the Gulf of Mexico. “Besides the scientific field work, I did a lot of interpretation and education at the beach. It was here that I discovered my love for marine science education.” She particularly enjoys the type of learning that happens at museums, aquariums and science centers. “We inspire students and visitors and if we do it right, ignite passion and stewardship. Facilitating hands on personal connections to nature and the ocean can have great power to excite and motivate. That is our goal.” 

Kate is concerned about the rapid pace of change in our ocean. “The Gulf of Maine is the second-fastest warming body of water on the planet. Organisms can’t keep pace. The chemistry of the ocean is changing, which is frightening. The changing chemistry makes it harder to build and strengthen shells. Marine creatures need energy for this which takes away energy from other vital processes.” Despite these concerns, Kate wants students to be positive. “We try to empower our students and visitors to all the things they can do for positive change. We focus on action, not despair. It’s vital they have the information to understand what’s going on. We help them come up with conservation campaigns for their schools and brainstorm ways they can educate friends and peers.” 

Kate believes there is hope for the future of our ocean and for ocean science. “Our youth are passionate and engaged. They have so many more resources than previous generations. Ocean science is now part of their curriculum and embedded in NGSS standards, which is wonderful.” In her student programs, “the ocean literacy principles are really the foundational bedrock of all of our programming. And when a concept isn’t explicitly tied in, we still sneak them in by using the ocean as the lens through which to teach those other topics. I really believe that together we can inspire conservation of our Blue Planet!”

Thank you Kate for your commitment to marine science education and NEOSEC!

Spotlight on NEOSEC Ocean Literacy Summit Planners – Pam DiBona and MassBays National Estuary Program

Pam DiBona is the Executive Director of MassBays National Estuary Program and is serving on the Ocean Literacy Summit Planning Committee. Pam is not just a long-time supporter of NEOSEC; she helped develop NEOSEC while working at the New England Aquarium as program manager for the Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence – New England (COSEE NE). “My first day at work in November 2005, I attended a planning meeting focused on launching NEOSEC as a COSEE NE project. Ocean Literacy principles had just been finalized, and the group at that meeting decided that we could structure the Collaborative around those principles and a Summit to bring them to New England educators. I had helped build collaborative groups at previous jobs, and knew that we could build something that would be better than the sum of the parts.”

After 7 years as NEOSEC Program Manager, Pam became ’MassBays’ Executive Director in January 2013. “Being part of NEOSEC had been personally and professionally gratifying, so when I moved to MassBays, I signed us up right away.” The mission of MassBays ties in with that of NEOSEC. “We spend a lot of time talking with municipalities, spreading ocean literacy to decision makers and residents in coastal towns.” With its Healthy Estuaries Grant Program, MassBays serves as the catalyst for projects that test out new ways of gathering information to fill in data gaps. “We are at the nexis between research and practical action. With each proposal we fund, we ask ‘What problem are we trying to address and how will this lead to some practical action?’”

 Review Strategic Actions Mind Map

MassBays is one of 28 National Estuary Programs around the country established under section 320 of the Clean Water Act, and administered by EPA to protect and restore water quality and ecological integrity of estuaries of national significance. MassBays is dedicated to protecting, restoring, and enhancing the estuarine resources of Ipswich Bay, Massachusetts Bay, and Cape Cod Bay. This region covers more than 1,000 miles of coastline and serves 50 coastal communities. With such a large area, MassBays has teamed up with partnering organizations to host regional coordinators in five coastal subregions: upper north shore, lower north shore, metro Boston, south shore, and Cape Cod. “The regional coordinators convene stakeholders to find out things like ‘What are the issues we should deal with? What are the priorities?’”

Pam has a strong science background. After getting a BA in Biochemistry from Connecticut College, Pam briefly worked at a research lab. Deciding to change her direction, she then worked at an environmental consulting firm, Eastern Research Group. She was privy to political conversations in Washington D.C. about drinking water legislation. “Scientists were talking to policymakers and not speaking the same language.” She returned to graduate school to “position myself as a translator between science and policy.” While studying for her MS in Environmental Science at UMass Boston, Pam interned with the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force, which is a cross-divisional group between the Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General’s office. This confirmed her strong interest in environmental policy. After completing her MS, she coordinated environmental affairs for Charles River Watershed Association, was VP of Policy for Environmental League of Massachusetts and a registered lobbyist at the Massachusetts State House, and then was Chief of Staff at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. These roles had something in common: “I enjoy pulling together complex partnerships to get good work done.” 

Pam describes one initiative when she knew her work made a difference. “I was working at the Environmental League of Massachusetts. I led the charge to pass the MA Beach Act that requires monitoring of water quality at public and semi-public beaches. This was in 2003. I wrote the bill, led testimony hearings, and organized rallies on the State House steps. I teamed up with  MassPIRG (now Environment Massachusetts) to do a door-to-door postcard campaign. When the bill passed, I got to fly to Nantucket to see Governor Celluci sign it into law!”

Pam is saddened by the recent revelations that people knew about impacts of climate change decades ago [referencing 8/31/18 New York Times Sunday Magazine article https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/31/podcasts/the-daily/climate-change-losing-earth.html.] “People were looking at climate change and deciding not to do anything. It was the next person’s problem. It’s been 30 years, and we could have avoided so much pain for so many communities.”

Thank you Pam for committing your career to helping our environment and for your work with NEOSEC!

Spotlight on NEOSEC Ocean Literacy Summit Planners – Mark Wiley and UNH Sea Grant

Mark Wiley is the NEOSEC representative from UNH Sea Grant and is serving on this year’s Ocean Literacy Summit Planning Committee. Mark volunteered to be on the committee saying, “The summit is always a great event, a valuable event.” Mark has been part of NEOSEC since the beginning. He says, “I was at the first pre-NEOSEC meeting, which was part of a COSEE grant. I sat on a panel and we talked about standards. A bunch of us met to talk more about the need for an umbrella organization for collaboration. NEOSEC has been a remarkably successful model. A lot of us make a priority to be involved.”

UNH Sea Grant and NEOSEC have common goals to support ocean literacy, incorporating OL with NGSS. UNH Sea Grant benefits from its close ties with NEOSEC. Mark elaborates, “NEOSEC is made up of a lot of people and organizations. I’ve always thought of NEOSEC as a wonderful resource for collaborators, to partner and network with people who do what we do. NEOSEC has been effective for us in that way.” 

Sea Grant is a federal/university partnership with a mission mandated by the US Congress to foster sustainable development of the nation’s coastal resources. Operating through a university-based network, Sea Grant colleges balance the conservation of coastal and marine resources with a sustainable economy and environment. Examples of this work are aquaculture, marine biotechnology, and fisheries recruitment and conservation. UNH was designated a Sea Grant College in 1991 based on its record of superior performance.

Being an informal educator is a big part of Mark’s job. He markets the UNH marine education programs to New Hampshire teachers and schools. He is seeing a resurgence of interest in the UNH programs. “The move to standards-based learning had reduced experiential learning. Professional development was tied to performance to test standards. The base of NGSS is to do science to learn science.” That is the type of education UNH Sea Grant provides.

In addition to being the Assistant Director for Marine Education, Mark also is the director of the UNH Sea Grant Marine Docent Program. Mark describes, “This is a multiplier of my capacity to do marine education programming. We have 200 trained volunteers that do school events. This program started 45 years ago as a tour group for one of the labs and it has grown to so much more. We give the docents significant training, two sessions a week from September to April. They need that much training because they don’t work from scripts. They need to be able to respond on the fly. Everything is very interactive. They do hands on group activities.”  

Prior to working at UNH, Mark was a high school teacher. Mark recalls one of his students, “In my very first marine science class, we did a lot of field trips. It was a small class and there was a high level of engagement. One of my first students is now a teacher. He got in touch with me through Facebook. He messaged, ‘You were my role model. I have a realization of the impact I’m having on my students like you had on me.’” Mark continues, “Sharing as a teacher ripples through your students.”

Mark is concerned about the impact of a lack of scientific knowledge. He says, “We suffer from a public that doesn’t have a lot of science literacy. We are seeing the result of that ignorance. I don’t think it’s willful. People don’t know enough science to believe what scientists say. They think scientists are making things up. We all have to make decisions about energy and climate change, but you need to understand it first. Our role is to reach younger students and the general public. We want to help them understand how the world works. That’s a challenge.”

Mark, thank you for your work educating the public and with supporting NEOSEC!

Spotlight on NEOSEC Ocean Literacy Summit Planners – Megan Strand and NESS and SENEME

Megan Strand is the NEOSEC representative from both New England Science & Sailing (NESS) and Southeastern New England Marine Educators (SENEME) and is serving on this year’s Ocean Literacy Summit Planning Committee. “I’m proud of being part of an awesome team at both places. We are passionate about what we do. We couldn’t do what we do without that passion.” When Megan first joined NESS, the NEOSEC representative was leaving and the 2016 summit planning was underway. Megan took on the role. “I never left the Planning Committee. It’s good to have people with different ideas – teamwork!” Both NESS and SENEME tie in with the NEOSEC mission. “You want to push the ocean literacy principles because everyone should have knowledge of the ocean. We are trying to keep ocean resources as healthy as possible.”

NESS is an ocean adventure non-profit that provides STEM-based education on and off the water. NESS operates year-round with families, schools, and organizations, including team-building programs for teachers and corporate groups. Megan is enthusiastic about her role as education specialist at NESS. “NESS provides a unique learning environment on the water. In one of my courses, I teach physics on a kayak. We can teach about physics by focusing on forces because while the water pushes the kayak up, gravity pushes the kayak down. Buoyancy comes into the equation and based on the surface area of the kayak, you have a floating boat. Add in the forces created when using a paddle and it’s a real-life physics lab! It’s fun – science learning as an adventure sport.” Megan sees that some students aren’t engaged at first. “It really, really bothers me when I get a student or group of students who have been told they can’t do something. They’ve lost self-worth. This leads to apathy towards education and our environment. I sometimes see this at the beginning of our program but then we get them outside and it doesn’t last long.”

NESS links all their plans to ocean literacy standards. “We are constantly building what schools don’t have the ability to do. They can come to us. We have programs that teachers can’t replicate.” Megan is currently learning how to program Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) so she can teach how to use computers to get real-time data. In addition to supporting traditional schools, NESS provides programs for home schooling, summer camp, and AmeriCorps at the New London middle school. Inclusiveness is one of the core values of NESS along with experiential learning, personal growth, and stewardship. Megan describes how NESS fulfills its values. “Sailing tends to be a money sport. Our president was concerned about that. He wanted to offer sailing to everyone. Our New London initiative is an inner-city program. Many of the students have never been on the water, even though the live on the coast. We really try to get everyone on the water, regardless of ability to pay.”

The SENEME regional chapter is a professional association of individuals and organizations devoted to the cause of marine education in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Megan serves as President. “I facilitate all the wonderful talents of other board members.” SENEME promotes marine education in many ways including publishing teaching aids, classroom resource lists, and a newsletter featuring bulletins about conferences and workshops. SENEME provides scholarships and mini grants for teachers. They also offer workshops, an annual conference, and field trips to diverse marine ecosystems throughout the region.   

Megan, thank you for your energy supporting the oceans and NEOSEC!

Spotlight on NEOSEC Ocean Literacy Summit Planners – Elaine Brewer and Mass Division of Fisheries & Wildlife

Elaine Brewer is the NEOSEC representative from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and is serving on this year’s Ocean Literacy Summit Planning Committee. “I like helping. It’s fun!”

Elaine’s long experience with NEOSEC is valuable to the committee. In her previous role at another Massachusetts agency, Elaine was the NEOSEC representative and was in the midst of her year as NEOSEC chair. When she moved to her current agency, she advocated that they join NEOSEC. How does the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife tie to NEOSEC’s vision? “It sounds kind of odd. It’s an inland agency. But all watersheds lead to the ocean.” She went on to speak about NEOSEC’s involvement with citizen science. “Learning how to incorporate citizen science more in what our agency does is a huge benefit to us. In return, we can make that connection of watersheds to the ocean, expanding NEOSEC’s goal of increasing ocean literacy to more inland areas.”

The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife is responsible for terrestrial and aquatic species which entails managing, protecting, and regulating harvest. Elaine is responsible for the communications highlighting species of greatest conservation need within Massachusetts, including those protected under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. “Massachusetts has its own Endangered Species Act, which protects species within the state on top of the federal Act. For example, leatherback sea turtles are listed as endangered on both the federal and state lists. Bald eagles, however, are not listed federally, but are listed in Massachusetts because their population numbers aren’t as high as our experts would like them to be.”

Elaine’s background isn’t in communications though, it’s in the sciences. She knew she wanted to be a marine biologist since she was three years old. “We took a family vacation to the Cape. It was the first time I saw a shark, and it was just on the beach, thrashing about. I couldn’t understand why people weren’t trying to push it back into the water, since it obviously wasn’t comfortable on land. Since then I have wanted to learn more and conserve.” Elaine admits it took awhile to determine her area of focus but a part-time job spurred her interest in science communication. “I went to grad school at night and worked at a nonprofit museum during the day, doing information education. I taught all sorts of marine science to kids of all ages during the school year. In the summer I ran a fishing camp where I taught anglers to not just fish, but to really be connected with the outside world, to experience it fully and understand their impacts on the environment.” Elaine finds joy in her work, transforming sometimes heavy scientific information into something that people can relate to and get excited about. “People sometimes write to me or visit the office to show off a project they worked on to help an area near them or start a coastal cleanup. It’s rewarding to see what I do actually makes a difference at some level.”

Elaine is concerned about the growing difficulty of educating people about the environment. “You’d think it would be easier with electronic newsletters and social media and things like YouTube. But we’re still battling with all of the other information out there. There are algorithms and statistics, and newer and newer methods of communication that we are constantly trying to keep up with. Sometimes you hit a wall and can’t think up any other creative ways to get your information out there. But then you find that crack in the wall and break through. It’s challenging and frustrating, but still worth every second put in.”

Elaine is proud that she never lost sight of what she wanted to do. “The species might have changed from oceanic to inland, but I am still focused on learning and conservation. I get to do really exciting things for my job. I’m glad I didn’t stray from that.” Elaine, thank you for your science communication role in NEOSEC and the Massachusetts Divisions of Fisheries and Wildlife!