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Photo story: Aquarium partners engage the public in creating healthy ecosystems and healthy communities

Here at NOAA Education, we believe that creating healthy ecosystems is a community effort—and our aquarium partners agree! Last month, aquariums and science centers from across North America worked together through the Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center (CELC) Network to engage the public in issues of local and global ecosystem health. Here are a few of the exciting events that resulted, each paired with resources to help you keep the momentum going and make a difference in your community.

Volunteers worked with Waikiki Aquarium to clear the beach of litter in 2017.

 

Watershed stewardship

At the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquariumoffsite link on September 13 and 14, forty-five high school students gathered for the Student Environmental Conference to learn about pressing management challenges in their community of Dubuque, Iowa. Student attendees from Western Dubuque High School decided to put this conference knowledge toward a good cause: keeping their local Whitewater Creek clean. After monitoring the river, investigating surrounding land use, and surveying farmers, they will create a creek management plan to present to their elected government officials.

During the Student Environmental Conference on September 13 and 14, high school students from Dubuque, Iowa, learned about the conservation challenges facing their local community. They then used that information to create their own stewardship projects.
During the Student Environmental Conference on September 13 and 14, high school students from Dubuque, Iowa, learned about the conservation challenges facing their local community. They then used that information to create their own stewardship projects. (National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium)

Learn more about watershed health and management through our watersheds, flooding, and pollution resource collection.

Take action by applying to be a part of NOAA’s Planet Stewards Stewardship Community, where you can receive funding to carry out your own ocean conservation projects. Educators in California, Oregon, and Washington can also apply to the Ocean Guardians program.


Marine mammal conservation

Shedd Aquariumoffsite link extended Sea Otter Awareness Week into a month-long opportunity for public engagement, teaching 4,879 Chicago guests about sea otter diets, sustainable seafood, and species conservation. Aquarium visitors got up close and personal with a sea otter food tray—complete with squid, shrimp, clams, and fish—while learning about how to improve their own seafood habits to keep themselves and our oceans healthy.

A Shedd Aquarium volunteer lets a guest touch a section of sea otter fur. Throughout the month of September, aquarium visitors learned about otter food, habitat, and conservation as well as about how their own actions can impact the species.
A Shedd Aquarium volunteer lets a guest touch a section of sea otter fur. Throughout the month of September, aquarium visitors learned about otter food, habitat, and conservation as well as about how their own actions can impact the species. (Shedd Aquarium)

Learn more about sea otters and other marine mammals through our marine mammals resource collection.

Take action by viewing marine mammals responsibly when you see them in the wild.


Estuary education

Two science centers held events to get the public excited about and connected to their local estuary. The Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquariumoffsite link worked with local partners to put on the Delaware River Festival in Philadelphia on September 15. This festival attracted 5,000 attendees, engaging them in estuary-themed games, crafts, and boat rides to foster a sense of connection with the waterway. On September 29, the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserveoffsite link held a similar event, called National Estuaries Day, to celebrate the importance of estuaries and the reserve’s 40th year of existence. A record-breaking 668 individuals came for this free day of educational marine exhibits, junior scientist activities, staff-led boat tours, and kayak trips on the beautiful Florida estuary.

Children interact with some of Florida’s local marine life through a touch tank. The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve celebrated National Estuaries Day on September 29 by inviting the public to experience the estuary through crafts, exhibits, kayaks, boat rides, and more—all free of charge.
Children interact with some of Florida’s local marine life through a touch tank. The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve celebrated National Estuaries Day on September 29 by inviting the public to experience the estuary through crafts, exhibits, kayaks, boat rides, and more—all free of charge. (Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve)
On September 15, the Delaware River Festival brought 5,000 members of the public together to learn about and connect with their local estuary watershed. This event was jointly run by the Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium, the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, and the Alliance for Watershed Education.
On September 15, the Delaware River Festival brought 5,000 members of the public together to learn about and connect with their local estuary watershed. This event was jointly run by the Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium, the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, and the Alliance for Watershed Education. (Center for Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium)

Learn more about estuaries through NOAA’s Estuaries 101 curriculum.

Take action by visiting your own local estuary through the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.


Marine debris

Four of NOAA’s aquarium partners participated in the International Coastal Cleanup on September 15. In Hawaii, over 200 volunteers came together to clean up Ala Moana Beach Park with Waikiki Aquariumoffsite link, working to clear litter before it made its way into the ocean. Back on the mainland, more than 100 volunteers helped the Aquarium of the Pacificoffsite link pick up 376 pounds of trash from the Long Beach shores. On the other side of the country, Mystic Aquariumoffsite link led a team of over 100 volunteers to remove 444 pounds of debris from the surrounding area of Connecticut. And finally, down in Florida, coastal stewards worked both above the water on kayaks and below the water in SCUBA gear to clear trash from the Tampa beach alongside The Florida Aquariumoffsite link staff. These four events together mobilized nearly 500 volunteers in removing over 800 pounds of trash, working towards healthy communities and healthy ecosystems.

Approximately 250 volunteers worked with Waikiki Aquarium on September 16 to clear Ala Moana Beach Park of litter before it washed into the ocean.
Approximately 250 volunteers worked with Waikiki Aquarium on September 16 to clear Ala Moana Beach Park of litter before it washed into the ocean. (Waikiki Aquarium)
Aquarium of the Pacific staff and volunteers removed hundreds of pounds of trash from Long Beach, California, on September 15.
Aquarium of the Pacific staff and volunteers removed hundreds of pounds of trash from Long Beach, California, on September 15. (Aquarium of the Pacific)
On September 22, Mystic Aquarium and volunteers joined together for the Mystic Wide Clean-Up—a town-wide, large-scale debris removal event. The event took place over an 8 hour period at different locations around Mystic. During the event, 444 pounds of debris were collected by over 100 volunteers.
On September 22, Mystic Aquarium and volunteers joined together for the Mystic Wide Clean-Up—a town-wide, large-scale debris removal event. The event took place over an 8 hour period at different locations around Mystic. During the event, 444 pounds of debris were collected by over 100 volunteers. (Mystic Aquarium)
On September 15, The Florida Aquarium staff and volunteers took to the land and the water to clean up the Tampa shores.
On September 15, The Florida Aquarium staff and volunteers took to the land and the water to clean up the Tampa shores. (The Florida Aquarium)

Learn more about marine debris on our ocean pollution resource collection.

Take action by reporting ocean pollution you find in your local community using the marine debris trackeroffsite link.

 


 

Aquariums collaborated on and coordinated these events through the Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center (CELC) Network, a consortium of 27 leading aquariums and marine science centers across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. NOAA’s Office of Education manages this network, bringing institutions together to learn from each other and from the latest in NOAA science. Want to visit? Find your local CELC institution here.

October 31, 2018