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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 – 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!

Today: Gulf of Maine King Tides Photo Contest

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Today’s the day: go take a photo at high tide!

Join in the second Gulf of Maine King Tides Photo Contest, taking images of the extreme high tide around midday on October 28, 2015. For more details on submitting photos, see their Participate page.

In conjunction with the Contest, communities are encouraged to organize their own King Tides events—helping people envision future changes. These could include photographic excursions, signs marking future sea levels, street theater, and gallery exhibits.

More information at http://gulfofmaine.kingtides.net/

Internship – Wells Research Reserve, NH

Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve seeks an Environmental Education Camp Assistant to assist in facilitating a series of half-day and full-day environmental education programs for children ages 6-9, weeklong sessions of Junior Researchers summer day camps for ages 9-12, and half-day camp sessions for ages 4-5. Programs include outdoor hands-on exploratory components, science experiments, games, and crafts.  Deadline for applications 3/21/10.  The intern will commit 175 hours between June 21 and August 20, 2010.  For more information, contact Suzanne Kahn Eder, Education Director (suzanne@wellsnerr.org)/207-646-1555 x 116.