Ocean conservation leaders are working across the globe to take on the most challenging problems facing the ocean, starting at a local level. Through its Fellows program, the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life’s Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF) brings some of these conservation leaders to the New England Aquarium to build connections and share their stories.

Since 2015, 10 MCAF Fellows have visited Central Wharf to exchange ideas with Aquarium educators and Anderson Cabot Center researchers, share their work with the public, and inspire and empower the next generation of ocean protectors. Part of that next generation is the students of the New England Aquarium’s Marine Biologist in Training (MBiT) program.

MCAF Fellow Andres Lopez during an MBiT activity.
MCAF Fellow Andres Lopez during an MBiT activity.

The MBiTs are a group of students in grades 7 to 11 who have an interest in ocean science. From presentations and demonstrations to lab work and research boats, the MBiT courses combine classroom time with hands-on experience, providing a unique experience to students who want to help protect our blue planet.

The Fellows’ visits to Central Wharf are the perfect opportunity to show the MBiTs that a few people can make a big difference in ocean conservation. After all, who better to inspire the next generation of ocean protectors than the conservation leaders who are actually on the ground (or in the water) doing this great work?

MCAF Fellow John Flynn teaches the MBiTs about sea turtles.
MCAF Fellow John Flynn teaches the MBiTs about sea turtles.

“Many Fellows note that working with youth is the key to creating lasting positive change,” said Elizabeth Stephenson, MCAF Program Chair. “They see their time with MBiT students as an opportunity to inspire the next generation of ocean leaders.”

That’s how it felt to MCAF Fellow John Flynn, who spoke to the MBiTs during his time on Central Wharf in March. Flynn is the co-founder and director of Wildseas, an organization dedicated to saving sea turtles in Ghana from fishing nets and poachers. Under Flynn’s direction, the teens roleplayed a local dispute between fishermen and law enforcement and even learned how to measure and tag a turtle (thanks to some stuffed volunteers).

“Working with the MBiT group during the Fellowship week was a real highlight,” said Flynn. “Teaching them about what we do in Ghana and watching them working together to find practical solutions to the real-world conservation challenges we face was inspiring. For the whole group knowledge shared on the day was definitely knowledge doubled!”

Stephenson said Flynn’s comments are often echoed by the other Fellows, who say one of the things that makes the partnership with MBiT so rewarding is the teens’ curiosity and excitement for the work.

After Flynn’s visit, the MBiT staff provided a survey to the class, asking them what they liked and what they learned during the experience. In that survey, 94 percent of the students either agreed or strongly agreed that after hearing Flynn’s presentation they felt like they had the power to help save the oceans.

“It’s cool to see what everyday people can do to help oceans. It is not just scientists who can do it,” said a student.

MCAF and the MBiTs will keep working together to promote ocean conservation here at home and around the globe. Together, we can protect the blue planet.