May 01, 2018

Boulder, Colorado.

When you think about the ocean, or scuba diving, you very rarely connect it with Boulder, Colorado. Why would you? In fact, I moved here three years ago from Florida, and people still ask me what a marine scientist is doing here?! While my primary role is curriculum development for Ocean First Education, I have expanded my horizons and earned my SSI Open Water Scuba Instructor certification last year. Part of what I do now includes teaching middle school students how to scuba dive, as well as participate in field work as an introduction to marine science, through the TIDES program. It’s a lot of work, but pretty amazing to see the faces of Colorado natives after their first dive outside of the pool.

In education, my philosophy has always been, the more a person knows about a subject the more they will care about it and the more motivated they’ll be to do something about it. Perhaps wishful thinking, but it’s hard not to get excited when I see tomorrow’s leaders and decision-makers trying lionfish tacos for the first time and chatting about how they’re helping the ecosystem one taco at a time! (FYI, lionfish are a terrible invasive species to the Caribbean and Atlantic and we were in Grand Cayman. #eatmoreinvasives.) It puts a smile on my face when I see how thrilled a group of 12-13 year olds become when descending through a school of sergeant majors or floating above a southern stingray for the first time.Southern Stingray It’s the little things like that which will keep me smiling when there is so much in the world to worry about.

While I work with a collection of schools throughout the Denver/Boulder area with the TIDES program, there is one project I am involved with that brings together students from a variety of academic backgrounds. A Rising Tide is a version of the TIDES program comprised of eight students from several different public high schools in Denver and Boulder as well as a few homeschooled students. We meet once a month on a weekend at Ocean First to review open water dive skills and participate in marine science seminars. Each of these eight students had to apply, via video, to participate in the program and three of them are on a full scholarship; the remaining five are on partial scholarships. Big shout out to all of our sponsors!

As a TIDES dive instructor, I couldn’t be more proud of each and every one of the students I work with. They are eager to be in the water and have excelled at all of their dive skills and classroom material. Their enthusiasm to learn keeps me coming back for more; if only I could bottle it for those days when I need a little boost.

As an inhabitant of this planet and lifelong crusader for the environment, these students make me feel like the work I’m doing has purpose and will be carried through- probably in a better and more efficient way than we’ve even imagined! A Rising Tide students in the pool.They want to know more about the problems the ocean is facing, the current solutions, and then they want to figure out a better way to make progress. In the era of social media and 140 characters (I know. I know it’s something more than that), we tend to think today’s youth has forgotten how to communicate. They haven’t; they just do it a bit differently. They communicate in shorter, more effective bursts using hieroglyphics to emphasize a point rather than adjectives. My thesis advisor would appreciate their conciseness. He used to give us a small box in which we could write our essay responses…

My point in all of this is that I am excited about what the future will bring and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work so closely with the movers and shakers of tomorrow. Knowing they’re there to take up the reins when the time comes helps put some of my worry to rest.

The next time someone asks about marine science in landlocked Colorado, send them to any one of my TIDES students and they’ll share a few good reasons why everyone can and should be a steward of the ocean.

TIDES is a program available to middle through high school students nationwide. If you’d like more information, please email us. If you’re in the Denver/Boulder area and would like to participate in our summer TIDES I program, please check out the current program information.

A Rising Tide is a web series airing weekly on YouTube. Follow along as our adventure takes us from Boulder, CO to Key Largo, FL.

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