title gif


MERITO is an emerging multicultural education and outreach initiative aiming to enhance the contribution of NOAA's office of national marine sanctuaries to build and engage a conscious and culturally inclusive constituency for ocean protection nationwide.

MERITO (Multicultural Education for Resource Issues Threatening Oceans) currently operates at Monterey Bay and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuaries, offering adult and youth education programs, family field experiences, professional development for teachers and youth leaders, teaching resources, bilingual outreach, internships, and career mentoring, all geared for diverse multicultural communities. The program has been designed to encourage better public understanding of specific ocean-related issues within sanctuaries, and their connections to inland human activities. It promotes community participation to address these issues, and motivates culturally diverse students to pursue careers in marine sciences and resource protection.

activity montage


MERITO's mission is to help advance ocean literacy development among culturally diverse residents, and promote a culturally inclusive ocean stewardship ethic, engaging diverse communities to protect coastal and marine ecosystems.

Current Goals:

  1. Foster multicultural participation and stewardship to protect marine and coastal resources in central and southern California.
  2. Increase general understanding of specific ocean-related issues, the ocean's influence on people, and people's influence on the ocean, among culturally diverse communities in the central and southern coast of California.
  3. Provide a forum for schools, universities, marine education organizations, and government agencies to advance multicultural ocean literacy outreach in the central and southern coast of California.
  4. Motivate culturally diverse students to pursue careers in sciences.

Broader vision:

MERITO is a mediator or facilitator of cross-cultural communication, whose primary role is to ensure mutual understanding between the mission, goals and activities of the national marine sanctuary program, and the views, interests, priorities, needs, and values of the diverse communities with which it interacts. In fulfilling its role, MERITO can guide the office of national marine sanctuaries on how to improve community outreach, across all its programs, in an increasingly multicultural context nationwide.

MERITO's unique strength is to provide a forum where multiple forms of knowing and sources of knowledge (coming from diverse cultural backgrounds) are carefully listened to, recognized as equally legitimate, and shared to complement each other, in a collective construction of understanding and agreement, all of which is essential to develop a culturally inclusive constituency for ocean stewardship.


The MERITO program was born in March 2001 after a community needs assessment, conducted in response to changing demographics in central California. Staff from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary developed the initial plan after consulting with a variety of community members and stakeholders in the Monterey Bay region, in order to determine how to better serve its increasingly diverse constituency. Thirty individual meetings with community leaders representing local community groups, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, city, state and federal agencies, and the farming community, provided valuable information resulting in a list of critical needs and guidelines for a multicultural education program. Multicultural education and outreach was also identified as a priority for southern California in 1999 during the management plan review process for the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS). In 2005, MBNMS assisted CINMS to expand and adapt the successful MERITO program to the Santa Barbara Channel region with the support of Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. For the expansion, a new needs assessment was conducted to determine the needs in marine and environmental education among culturally diverse audience in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. This information was used to define the CINMS MERITO program strategic plan. The needs at each sanctuary were evaluated and grouped into step themes, which guided the MERITO program design. The program now consists of four major components: 1) Community-based ocean outreach; 2) Site-based ocean outreach; 3) Teacher training and internship program; and 4) Bilingual outreach products and media.

sand crab monitoring
Watershed Academy Workshop participants learn sand crab monitoring

Thanks to effective partnerships and collaboration with a variety of organizations and agencies, MERITO has had a very positive impact and response, particularly among Hispanic communities in Central and Southern California. After five years of implementation (2002-2007) MERITO has reached out to over 1,000,000 multicultural residents in Central and Southern California. 35,000 of these residents have been directly contacted through: 1) After School programs for 5th - 8th grade students; 2) Formal in-class education for 4th - 8th grade level; 3) Adult Education programming for English learners (ESL); 4) Professional trainings for teachers and community leaders serving multicultural communities; 5) Paid internships for college students; 6) Family field experiences; 7) Community events; and 8) Bilingual outreach products and media.

With limited resources, MERITO has initially focused on developing partnerships and programs serving Spanish-speaking residents and visitors, as they represent the largest and fastest growing constituency in the central and southern California coast region. With full funding and implementation MERITO would strive for interacting with a broader diversity of constituents, who may or may not speak different languages but represent different cultural contexts.


MERITO education and outreach efforts are supported by collaborations and partnerships with non-profit organizations, government agencies, private youth programs, schools and academic institutions, and our local and national foundations to provide quality bilingual marine education experiences and materials inspiring understanding and stewardship.

MERITO Partnership strategies include:

  1. Collaborating with other natural resource management agencies such as California State Parks, National Parks, National Estuarine and Natural Research Reserves to provide site-based outreach for culturally diverse youth and families
  2. Collaborating with public and charter schools, after school programs, and community-centered education groups to build upon and foster new community-based education and outreach for culturally diverse youth, adults and migrant families
  3. Collaborating with minority-serving institutions to develop and provide teacher trainings and internships for minority-serving teachers and undergraduate and graduate level students.


Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary MERITO Program
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary MERITO Program

leaving site indicates a link leaves the site. Please view our Link Disclaimer for more information.
Revised September 12, 2023 by Sanctuaries Web Team | Contact Us | Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service
National Ocean Service | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Privacy Policy | For Employees | User Survey