Welcome all students! This is your portal to marine science and conservation, giving individuals around the world the 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 our 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, caps, and straws are commonly swallowed by many types of marine life, including sea turtles, which mistake floating plastic bags for jellyfish, one of their main sources of prey. But how do plastics get into the ocean?
The lightweight plastic material falls out of cars, trash trucks, and garbage cans, and blows into creeks, rivers, and storm drains that lead to the ocean. Ingestion of trash has been documented in sea turtles, fish and bird species, marine mammals, and even plankton. Check out this fact sheet from our good friend at Texas A&M University to learn more.
You can help solve this serious problem by avoiding single-use plastics altogether. When shopping, just bring your own reusable bag, which is now the law statewide in California! 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. Remember to bring a reusable water bottle with you each day, like the ones from Klean Kanteen. Try your best to purchase reusable and recycled materials, and just say NO to plastic bags, bottles, and straws!
Choose Safe Seafood
Bycatch is the incidental capture of non-target species – meaning that in order to catch seafood, fishers may trap 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 around the world each day; it has been estimated that for every one pound of shrimp caught, there are ten pounds of bycatch, such as sea turtles, dolphins, and sharks.
However 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 regulations, 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 also lead to concerns over food safety, health, and origin, so always do your research.
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. California’s native plants have adapted to survive in dry conditions, helping us to conserve earth’s most precious natural resource: water.
Unfortunately, many of the plants growing around us today are considered invasive, meaning they did not originate in this area and may overgrow and 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 all 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 has a negative impact on marine life, as well as on the quality and beauty of our beaches. One way to combat pollution is 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 of California 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 or cat!
Fight Climate Change
Our planet and climate are changing, which is having a big impact on the ocean and all life on earth. Climate change is causing a number of major issues such as sea level rise, increasing storm intensity, drought and heat days, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, melting ice sheets, and more. Sea turtle nesting beaches are threatened by sea level rise, and gray whales, sea birds, and polar bears are threatened by changing conditions in the Arctic.
We must reduce our carbon footprint by walking, biking, and taking public transportation. Another idea is to try participating in Meatless Mondays. Going meatless just one day per week can fight climate change worldwide, because the meat industry generates one fifth of 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
Consider how much trash is produced in your own home each day – now remember that the planet has over 7 billion people living on it! Check out The Story of Stuff to watch an informative video and learn why all this 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. Start by “banning” plastic water bottles and bags from your home, then get your own reusable lunch box, bag, silverware, and water bottle.
A big part of recycling involves being informed about what you can and cannot recycle in your area. Get educated about what’s recyclable in your community – visit your local waste management website for a list, such as SanDiego.gov. Electronics and plastic bags don’t belong in the curbside bin and need to be taken elsewhere. Take your plastic bags back to the local grocery store, and take old electronics to an E-Waste recycling facility.
You can also seek out products that are made from recycled materials, like the adorable plush toys from Shore Buddies, which are made out of recycled plastic water bottles. Companies like Sand Cloud, Patagonia, Columbia Sportswear, and REI are leading the way by adopting corporate sustainability policies, supporting environmental organizations, and incorporating recycled materials into their products.
One of the easiest ways to make a difference is to influence someone else to take positive environmental actions, 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 we have a responsibility to protect it for future generations. If you know someone who cares deeply for the ocean and helps to protect it daily, show appreciation for their efforts by giving them a Blue Marble, and become a part of this global movement to spread “an attitude of gratitude”.
When visiting the outdoors, you can contribute real data through citizen science projects like ReefCheck and the Audubon Society. It’s also important to tell someone if you ever encounter a marine animal that is stranded or in distress. Contact the National Marine Fisheries Service Stranding Network or SeaWorld Cares to make a report.
Kick-Start Your Career
Loved participating in Ocean Connectors but not sure what to do next? There are many different opportunities available 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 volunteering and internships. As you enter the next phase of your education, many of our partner organizations would love to work with you and help equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to make a career out of conservation. Check out our list of Opportunities for Ocean Connectors Graduates for information about organizations that offer opportunities in San Diego County and around the world, to help you take the next step in your learning process – environmental internships, degrees, and careers! You can also read the online guide to “careers in the great outdoors” from LearnHowToBecome.org.
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 about environmental issues. We foster this meaningful dialogue by using migratory marine life to connect youth living over 1,000 miles apart on the Pacific migratory corridor through the Ocean Connectors Knowledge Exchange. 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 by National City en route to nesting, feeding, and breeding areas in Nayarit, a marine biodiversity hotspot. We work with nonprofit partners, volunteers, and teachers in both communities to accomplish our goals and reach as many children as possible.
This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)