By: Asma Mahdi
Solutions. That’s what the next wave of future ocean scientists will come up with. For this generation, it’s not about just mitigating the problems our oceans face, but rather preventing and solving them altogether. At the Teen Marine Debris Summit in Connecticut last weekend, high school students from around New England had to find ways to educate Mystic Aquarium visitors about one of the most pervasive problems that our oceans face today – marine debris. Needless to say: Game. On.
After immersing in “trash talking” about the impacts of derelict fishing gear on fragile habitats, such as coral reefs, and the pervasive use of plastics in our everyday lives, the students engaged in hands-on learning. They cleaned up a local shoreline and hunted for debris using an underwater ROV. Afterward, the students put their experience and knowledge to test. Four student-led teams brainstormed outreach activities, focusing on impacts, sources, types, and solutions all getting to one common goal – prevention.
Organized by Mystic Aquarium’s own Youth Conservation Corps, the workshop culminated with students creating interactive demonstrations. The activities focused on actions we can take at the top of watershed in our communities to stop debris from heading downstream, including making smart consumer choices. One group focused on plastic microbeads in face wash and the importance of choosing bead-free products – a source of microplastics that often goes unnoticed.
Throughout this summer, students will continue to refine, re-frame, and rework their projects into final marine debris interpretative guides to share at Mystic and Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Connecticut. These activities will engage and educate the public on the vital role the world’s oceans have in sustaining our planet.
The NOAA Marine Debris Program is excited to partner with Mystic Aquarium on the Teen Marine Debris Initiative, which will help raise awareness about the topic and help shape the minds of young marine scientists to start focusing on future solutions.