Jon White – From the President’s Office: The Ocean Springs Eternal Hope (08-26-2019)

2020-02-10T15:37:47+00:00 August 26, 2019|

The Ocean Springs Eternal Hope

Last week, I happened to engage in an unanticipated conversation with a member of the clergy regarding the hopelessness and anxiety the vast majority of his parishioners feel around the future of our environment, specifically the ocean. As I often do in this type of discussion, I described the amazing scientific research and technological developments occurring throughout our consortium and the promise today’s researchers and students bring to solve so many of the challenges we face. While the threats are significant, I suggest even more so are the opportunities for profound positive change and technological advancement to really know and sustain a healthy ocean and planet.

To support this premise, one has only to look at the Doodle for Google competition this year, where K-12 artists from across the United States, including the territories, submitted doodles blending Google’s iconic logo with what they hope for when they grow up. Although the winning design, created by Arantza Peña Popo from Georgia, was not ocean related, we should all be inspired that so many of the doodles from other finalists drew inspiration from nature, science, technology, and most importantly, the ocean, to envision a brighter future for themselves and our planet. Some of the young artists even came up with their own solutions to decrease carbon emissions (e.g., magnetically levitating cars), while others hoped for more women in STEM.

Many of the finalists took on the growing issue of marine debris. One student’s piece depicts a person picking up trash in what looks like a deep-diving submersible, while another drew a vision for what a healthy, garbage-free ocean could look like when they grow up. By my count, five of the finalists’ doodles focused solely on marine debris — more than any other topic — and many more highlighted the importance of recycling, practicing resource stewardship, and protecting the environment. Most surprising and exciting of all was that four out of the five marine debris doodles were drawn by students from the landlocked states of Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, and Utah. This indicates that our long-standing efforts to increase ocean literacy across interior states and nations are working and that a rapidly growing number of people (and especially future leaders) feel connected to the ocean and understand its health and prosperity are inherently tied to our own.

It is also evident that many of these “Doodlers” and their cohorts understand that positive change requires collaboration and teamwork on a global scale, with increased partnerships around common goals. I believe that hope and optimism are much stronger motivators over time than fear and anxiety, and as I read the descriptions that go along with their art, I thank these young people for sharing that same belief. If even a fraction of our global youth take the perspective of “hope” as articulated by these wonderful competitors, there is no limit to the good the future holds for our precious ocean and planet.

$20 Million Grant For DNA-Based Ocean Monitoring
A $20 million grant announced today from the National Science Foundation will fund a five-year initiative by Maine science institutes to revolutionize the understanding and management of coastal ocean ecosystems. This is the first large-scale effort to develop a cutting-edge, DNA-based toolset for states to monitor aquatic life in their coastal waters. Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and the University of Maine will lead the project in conjunction with collaborators in education, government agencies, citizens’ groups and local industry.

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