Welcome, students! This is your portal to marine science and conservation, giving kids around the world tools and knowledge to help the oceans. It’s important to keep the learning process going, so explore our website and tell us what you learn on the Message Board below. The best comments may win a conservation prize! Thanks for visiting and come back again soon for the latest photos and conservation tips.
Avoid single-use plastic
Plastic bags are commonly swallowed by many types of marine life, including sea turtles. The turtles mistake the floating plastic bags for jellyfish, a source of prey. But how do bags get into the ocean?
The lightweight plastic material falls out of trash trucks and garbage cans, and into creeks, rivers, and storm drains that lead to the ocean. Ingestion of trash is documented in six of the seven species of sea turtles, around a third of all sea bird species, and 26 species of marine mammals (U.S. Marine Mammal Commission). Check out this fact sheet from our good friend at Texas A&M University. You can help solve this serious problem by avoiding single-use plastics altogether. When shopping, just bring your own reusable bag! Check out ChicoBag for a stylish and environmentally-friendly way to bring a bag from home. Don’t miss the Learn The Facts Page, which describes the problems resulting from plastic pollution in the environment. Try your best to purchase reusable and recycled materials, and just say NO to plastic bags and straws!
Choose Safe Seafood
Bycatch is the incidental capture of non-target species – meaning that in order to catch your seafood, fishers may trap many other animals in their fishing nets and lines. These animals usually drown or die from capture-related injuries, even if they are thrown back into the ocean. Bycatch is happening every day, and it has even been estimated that for every one pound of shrimp caught, there are ten pounds of bycatch, such as sea turtles, dolphins, and sharks.
There are fishers who are doing their part to prevent bycatch by using special fishing gear (like Turtle Excluder Devices, TEDs), obeying fishing and boating rules, and checking their nets often. We should support the fishers who protect the health of our oceans. You can figure out which seafood is “safe” in your area by checking the Seafood Watch Guide from Monterey Bay Aquarium. In addition to bycatch, eating some types of seafood may lead to concerns over food safety, health, and origin.
All plants and trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air, which helps reduce the impacts of climate change. Native plants and trees are good for local ecosystems and can help trap and store carbon, reduce erosion, and prevent watershed pollution by absorbing chemicals and nutrients. That includes marine plants like kelp and seagrasses, which are responsible for 11% of the organic carbon buried in the ocean. In California, many native plants have adapted to survive in dry conditions, helping us to conserve our most precious natural resource: water. However many of the plants growing around us today are considered invasive, meaning they did not originate in this area and may adversely affect natural habitats and wildlife. Check out the California Native Plant Society for information about how to plant responsibly.
Pick it up
We can all help the planet by picking up one piece of trash from our community each day. Remember that coastal watersheds lead to the ocean, so if you see a piece of trash lying on the ground it’s already on its way out to sea. When trash reaches the ocean it can have a negative impact on marine life such as sea turtles, whales, and sea birds. One way to combat pollution is for you and your friends to participate in an organized beach cleanup, like California Coastal Cleanup Day. This single event removes over 100,000 pounds of litter across the state each year! And remember that “poop pollutes” – pet waste carries germs and bacteria that attack our clean water supply. Always pick up after your dog, no matter what size.
Learn About Climate Change
The planet and its climate are changing, which has a big impact on the ocean and all marine life. For example, sea turtle hatchlings depend on the temperature of beach sand, which determines whether they are male or female. Sea turtle nesting beaches are also effected by sea level rise. Gray whales, sea birds, polar bears, and other animals are being impacted by changing conditions in the Arctic. We should try to reduce our carbon emissions by walking, biking, and taking public transportation whenever possible.
Another idea is to try participating in Meatless Mondays. Going meatless just one day per week can fight climate change worldwide – the meat industry generates nearly one fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions (U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization). Learn more about how climate change is impacting the planet. Visit the NASA Climate Kids website and the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange.
Reduce, Reuse, then Recycle
Try to follow the three R’s, in order of importance!
Consider how much trash is produced in your home each day – now remember that the planet has over 7 billion people living on it…that’s a lot of trash! Check out The Story of Stuff to watch an informative video and learn why trash is a big problem.
It’s time to get out of the single-use-disposable mindset! There are plenty of convenient reusable options available today, beginning with your packed lunch and drink. Start by “banning” plastic water bottles from your home, and then read this article at www.GreatSchools.org, which lists sustainable lunch boxes, silverware, and other fun reusable products.
A big part of recycling is being informed about what you can and cannot recycle in your area. Just because you put something into the curbside recycle bin does not necessarily mean that the item can be melted down and recycled. That’s why it’s so important to Reduce and Reuse before recycling! Get educated about what’s recyclable in your city – visit your local waste management website for a list, such as SanDiego.gov. Electronics and plastic bags need to be taken elsewhere – take your plastic bags back to the local grocery store, and take old electronics to an E-Waste facility.
One of the easiest ways to make a difference is to influence someone else to take positive action, whether in your community or across the globe. Tell a friend or family member what you’ve learned about protecting the environment and why it’s important. Remind others that we are all connected to the ocean and that we have a responsibility to protect it for the future. If you know someone who cares deeply for the ocean and helps to protect it daily, show gratitude for their efforts by giving them a Blue Marble.
When visiting the outdoors, you can contribute real data through citizen science projects like ReefCheck and the Audubon Society. It’s important to tell someone if you are ever at the beach and encounter a marine animal in distress. Visit the National Marine Fisheries Service Stranding Network for contact info.
Kickstart Your Career
There are so many different opportunities for increasing your environmental knowledge and many people who will help you along on this journey. Great careers in environmental science, service, research, education, and more can all begin with internships. As you enter middle and high school and beyond, many of our partner organizations would love to work with you and help equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to make a career out of environmental studies. Check out our Opportunities for Ocean Connectors Graduates list for information about organizations that offer internships around San Diego County to help you take the next step in your learning process – environmental internships, and eventually careers!
Children are most influenced by the opinions, actions, and values of other children. Thus a fundamental teaching aide is creating a constructive dialogue between children over environmental issues. Ocean Connectors creates this meaningful dialogue by using migratory marine life to connect youth living over 1,000 miles apart on the Pacific migratory corridor. The Knowledge Exchange allows students to visualize the vast and profound interconnectivity of the Pacific Ocean, migratory sea life, and ocean currents, leading to enhanced global awareness.
Following the routes of sea turtles, whales, and birds, children exchange artwork (grade four), letters (grade five), and videos (grade six) expressing their concern for protecting migratory sea life. The Ocean Connectors Knowledge Exchange is bilingual, encouraging our multicultural audience to practice communicating in English and Spanish.
We are currently targeting public schools in the communities of National City, in South San Diego County, California, and throughout the southern half of the state of Nayarit in Mexico. These communities share similarities, challenges, and differences that make for a valuable peer-to-peer discussion. Migratory animals pass through National City en route to nesting, feeding, and breeding grounds in Nayarit, a biodiversity hotspot. We work with nonprofit partners, volunteers, and teachers in both communities to accomplish our goals and reach as many children as possible.