Ocean Science Meeting (OSM) is one of the largest conferences of Marine Biologists and Geophysicist that occurs in the United States. This year Scientists from all over the world came to Honolulu, Hawaii for this gathering and sharing of knowledge. I remember finding out about it in August of 2013. I was in it the middle of applying for a job at the University of Hawaii when my good friend Phil Dustan sent me a link for this conference. I briefly looked it over and thought, “what would I have to say to a bunch of scientists?” Next thing knew, I was writing an abstract for one of the sessions in the conference called “Breaking Boundaries”.
Breaking Boundaries was all about how to outreach to communities and communicate to the public complicated scientific findings that are pertinent to protecting the environment. I realized that Trees To
Seas was trying to connect both science and community into a participatory learning environment. This session was a perfect topic for us to present on.
When I wrote my abstract I focused on Trees To Seas Mission of “Teaching Conservation Through Participation” and my own creed “Dive with a Purpose”. With Phil’s help we turned in the abstract. It was accepted by Christine O’Connell, who was organizing our session. After our acceptance Phil and I offered to host a clean up dive under the auspices of Trees To Seas. She was enthusiastic about creating an opportunity for the attendees to participate in local conservation efforts. This was really exciting for me and my co-founder Gracie Clark. We wanted to
The day finally came, I was a little intimidated when I entered the convention center for the first time. There were so many people walking around looking very professional. After listening to the Key Note speaker on the first night something became apparent to me. We aren’t here to impress, or show off how successful we are. We, the scientists of the world, are here to learn from each other and collaborate. With all the capabilities of communication and science, we must find ways to better educate the public and make changes that will improve our ability to protect the environment. After that, I wasn’t really nervous.
When Gracie and I gave our talk, we started with this video. As we continued, the audience was able to enjoy our story through our words and our pictures of groups cleaning up reefs, children getting involved, and the cornucopia of debris found.This was a big change from the typical Power Points that had preceded us. Afterwards, we had a lot of interest and people who wanted to collaborate with us and get involved. It was more than I could ask for.
The next day was our OSM clean up dive. I was excited to work alongside these renowned scientists. We had 15 volunteers show up at Magic Island that day. We all geared up and paired off into buddy teams and set out with our mesh bags to see what we could find on the reef. We were in the water for about an hour. I had found a quarry of plastic bottles that had become apart of the reef. Lots of little wrappers and unidentified pieces of plastic floated and got stuck under rocks and in corals. Larger items that had some how accumulated on the reef were less abundant but took a lot of effort to remove. When I had exited the water a good friend of mine Christy Comfort (veteran Volunteer and accomplished Scientific diver) told me Hawaii News Now had shown up and wanted an interview. I had just enough time to set my tank down and wipe the salt from my face before Chris Tanaka was asking me questions about Trees To Seas and who all these people were.
The success was in the volunteers, the debris they had found and the publicity we all got. I had never been on a clean up where the divers worked so hard to bring up such difficult items, 2 car tiers, 1 boat battery and 1 out board motor. The rest of the debris we categorized and calculated it’s percentage of total weight of trash (39 lb).
That night I called my family and asked them to watch the news. We went to our local pub and they put the broadcast up on screen (video). The whole bar cheered when they saw what we had done. The energy was amazing, and the support overwhelming. We had come all this way, when at first I thought I had nothing to contribute to this scientific community, they had embraced my Non- Profit and participated in it’s mission.
So here I am, relaxing for the first time in 3 weeks. wondering what next? I think that the the most challenging thing will be to maintain the momentum, follow up on the contacts, and create more opportunities for us to reach out to large communities
and collaborate with them. The biggest thing I learned was that if you are passionate about something and you want to communicate, no crowd is to prestigious to listen to you, because truth penetrates all levels of class race and status.