San Diego Middle Schoolers Become Coral Reef Ambassadors
Scientists say coral reefs are among the most valuable ecosystems on earth, but we are losing them fast. More than a quarter of the world's reefs have already been destroyed. That's why Scripps scientists in La Jolla are trying to preserve them for future generations.
About 45,000 school children visit the Birch Aquarium every year. This is the public face of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
When it comes to size, Birch is a boutique aquarium with lots of cool educational exhibits and hands-on activities. "So if you're interested in oceanography and what's going on in ocean exploration this is the place to come to learn about that."
Catie Fife has been with the aquarium six years and recently got a grant to connect San Diego middle school kids with students in Pingtung,Taiwan. Fife said the idea is to inspire global interest in coral reef science.
"We're an ocean community, but a lot of kids nowadays don't have that connection to the coast, a lot of them don't even get down to the coast, even though they live within 20 miles of it," she said.
A healthy corral reef looks, light and bright with plenty of life. While a bleached reef lacks oxygen and looks dim, and almost lifeless in comparison. Although San Diego is best known for its kelp forest, coral reefs are found in much warmer waters like Hawaii and the Caribbean.
"If we are talking about solving some of these conservation issues, the next generation is going to have to work internationally," Fife said.
Just like Scripps scientists have been doing for decades to preserve a way of life few people ever see, unless they explore the ocean bottom.
The Corral Reef Ambassadors program starts in September. Birch Aquarium and Scripps scientists will be working with students from High Tech Middle School. The $65,000 grant will fund the program for one-year.