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Education and Outreach

Changing Demographics Call for MERITO Expansion

meritoThe Multicultural Education for Resource Issues Threatening Oceans (MERITO) program is a marine conservation education effort designed to reach diverse ethnic groups. Its goals are to build community stewardship for national marine sanctuaries, increase understanding of ocean-related threats, and motivate culturally diverse students to pursue careers in marine sciences and/or resource protection. In 2007, MERITO taught 48 Hispanic educators through its annual educator workshops, led more than 80 field trips, and created many new partnerships. Among other highlights, 30 minority college students received training to be environmental leaders and nearly 300 people participated in five MERITO-sponsored beach cleanups.

New Visitor Centers Open in 2007

One of the best ways to help people form a connection with their marine environment is through visitor centers, aquaria and museums. In 2007, NOAA opened two centers that offer the public opportunities to connect with sanctuaries. The 6,400 square-foot Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center in Key West opened in January, offering visitors an exciting array of interactive exhibits highlighting the rich natural environment of the Florida Keys. In March, The Mariners’ Museum and NOAA opened the doors to the USS Monitor Center, one of America’s premier maritime Civil War attractions, in Newport News, Va. The 63,500 square-foot center is home to numerous original documents, paintings, personal accounts, the science and technology behind the historic ironclad,  and numerous Monitor artifacts undergoing careful conservation. Both centers are shining examples of NOAA’s dedication to educating the public about the nation’s precious marine resources and maritime history.

‘If Reefs Could Talk’: Undersea Research in Real-Time

Scientists and educators hunkered down for nine days in NOAA’s Aquarius Undersea Laboratory — America’s only underwater research facility — in September for “If Reefs Could Talk”, a high-profile mission to study coral reefs in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Scientists looked at changes in corals and other marine life in the sanctuary, gathered data at monitoring stations originally established in 1994, and measured the effects of sponge metabolism on reef water quality. Preliminary findings suggest that sponges play an important role in filtering and converting particulate matter, and releasing dissolved inorganic nitrogen that could enhance algae growth on reefs. Scientists also looked at changes on the reef that may have occurred due to human activities, climate change and other variables. During the mission, the team broadcast live educational science programs to students across the country through underwater classroom sessions via the OceansLive.org Web portal. Media for the mission included 140 national and international radio, TV, and online outlets as well as a visit from National Geographic Wild Chronicles, and a Fox News Channel broadcast.













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