600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-109
April 27, 2016
New collaboration gives local students inside view of marine science
Note to editors: Meet students Thursday, April 28, after they return from their underwater research trip at 2 p.m. at Shilshole Marina at Golden Gardens Park.
The Seattle King County chapter of the NAACP is joining the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and NOAA Fisheries to provide opportunities for minority high school students to participate in underwater research on rockfish in Puget Sound.
The students will board a research vessel along with WDFW-NOAA survey teams to explore the sea floor for rockfish and other marine life down to 1,000 feet below sea level using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The trips will provide the students first-hand insight into the marine science field and how biologists gather data on long-lived rockfish – some of them endangered species – to inform decisions on their protection and management.
"This partnership will allow local African American students the chance to participate in hands-on, experiential learning," said Carolyn Riley-Payne, the Vice President of the Seattle King County NAACP and chair of the NAACP's Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) program. "Our goal is to encourage more students of color to participate in STEM programs helping diversify the field and create opportunities for our community."
The program will draw students from the local ACT-SO program, which is designed to promote and encourage high academic and cultural achievement among African-American high school students. The students will accompany WDFW and NOAA Fisheries scientists on research trips utilizing the ROV, which sends live video to the surface so students and scientists can see what it sees in real time.
"The science of undersea research is a rapidly expanding field, and we want to bring that world alive for these students," said Jim Unsworth, WDFW director. "Through this new collaboration with the NAACP, we hope to help build the next generation of scientists dedicated to this important work."
NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan has challenged NOAA agencies to address an underrepresentation of minorities in the natural resources and atmospheric research fields in part by pursuing outreach and education strategies to underserved communities.
"Students today are the future of marine science, and we need their interest and their brainpower to help make sure that we're protecting and sustaining these species for years to come," said Will Stelle, Regional Administrator of NOAA Fisheries' West Coast Region. "We're excited to give these students a glimpse of what we do and why it's so interesting and important."
The collaboration will start in 2016 with a few trips for students on rockfish research surveys. Students from NAACP's ACT-SO will be paired with mentors who will help guide their experiences. The agencies anticipate eventually expanding the program to include students from additional minority communities.
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