Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New Florida Center for Ocean Education to be based at Indian River State College

Recently Indian River State College announced a new Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) that will be based at the college in Fort Pierce. This is very exciting news for the coastal and ocean science and education communities. Below is the press release. 

FORT PIERCE, FL -- With environmental crises like the Gulf oil spill impacting marine life and coastal systems, scientists and citizens are increasingly aware of the importance of clean and flourishing marine ecosystems.  Florida is taking a major step toward public understanding of the ocean with the new Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) to be based at Indian River State College (IRSC) in Fort Pierce in collaboration with the Smithsonian Marine Station, Florida Institute of Technology, and the Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA). 
The University of Florida Sea Grant Extension Program will be involved in community outreach across the state and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute/Florida Atlantic University will provide scientific expertise and mentoring on Florida’s Treasure Coast.
COSEE Florida will help students, educators and people of all ages develop a better understanding of how ocean and coastal systems work.  The Center will be funded by prestigious National Science Foundation grants totaling $2.8 million to IRSC and its partners over a five year period.
As a state with approximately 1,400 miles of saltwater coastline, Florida’s lack of a COSEE Center has been a major gap in coverage of East Coast ocean research.
                “Understanding and maintaining the ocean and coastal regions of Florida is vitally important to the environmental and economic well-being of our State,” said Dr. Edwin R. Massey, IRSC President. “The COSEE Center based at IRSC will ensure that Florida’s scientists, educators, students and citizens are well-prepared to work together to address the challenges of our marine ecosystem and foster a healthy environment for those who live in Florida or visit our state.” 
                Dr. Massey, who holds a Ph.D. in Zoology with emphasis in Marine Biology, will serve as Lead Principal Investigator for the project. Dr. Susan B. Cook, Harbor Branch’s former Education Director, has joined IRSC as the COSEE Florida Project Director and Co-Principal Investigator for the grant.
COSEE Florida will take a three-pronged approach: 
·         Offering workshops across the state to engage ocean scientists and help them effectively communicate their discoveries and the relevance of their ground-breaking research to non-scientific audiences 
·         Designing and disseminating a new ocean-based curriculum for college students planning to teach middle school science 
·         Creating an eight-region Florida Ocean Science Learning Network offering public programs that focus on regional and statewide challenges such as pollution in the Indian River Lagoon or the impact of ocean processes on dolphins, turtles and other animals.
                According to Dr. Cook, “COSEE Florida’s work will give Floridians a much better understanding of the discoveries that ocean scientists are making every day and why that knowledge is relevant to their daily lives and the environmental challenges facing the state. Ocean researchers, higher education faculty and graduate students who participate in the extensive workshop series will become more skilled at explaining their work to a range of audiences. They will become more knowledgeable about engaging nonscientists in research and better prepared to make mutually beneficial connections with teachers, school districts and education centers.”
At IRSC, education majors will develop a deeper understanding of the ocean system, biodiversity and methods used to foster critical thinking among their students. Ocean science content will be added to the IRSC Bachelor’s degree program in middle school science, and, starting in May, IRSC education students will intern with research scientists on the Treasure Coast.  
“Through their collaboration with ocean scientists, these future teachers will gain a better appreciation for the scientific process and will learn how to translate their experience and new knowledge into classroom activities,” said Dr. Richard Tankersley, Professor of Biological Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology and a Principal Investigator for the project.
Dr. Valerie Paul, Director and Chief Scientist, Smithsonian Marine Station, and Dr, Edith Widder, CEO/President/Senior Scientist for ORCA, will also serve as Principal Investigators.
                Reaching out to the public, COSEE Florida will bring scientists, educators and people of all ages together under the theme Water as Habitat. Ocean-based presentations and workshops will generate interest in the marine ecosystem, stimulate community discussion and increase awareness of the value of scientific knowledge in environmental decision making.  
COSEE Florida will be based at the IRSC Science Center at the Main Campus in Fort Pierce, Florida  and will join the national network of 12 centers and a Central Coordinating Office funded by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences. 
                For more information, call IRSC at (772) 462-7503.