Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Inspiring the next generation of marine biologists

Last week the teens in the Aquarium’s Marine Biologist in-Training (MBIT) course tackled real-life conservation problems from across the world with visiting Peruvian scientist, Kerstin Forsberg. Forsberg, who is the co-founder and director of Planeta Oceano (Planet Ocean), is a passionate, dedicated and highly accomplished young conservation biologist. She traveled to the Aquarium to give a public lecture about her study of the manta and mobula ray fishery in Peru, work that has been supported by the Aquarium’s Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF).

Kerstin Forsberg (at center) and the MBIT class

In addition to giving her lecture, touring the Aquarium and meeting with Aquarium staff, Kerstin also conducted a workshop for the MBIT students. As the teens introduced themselves at the start of the class, it was clear that they shared her excitement about the ocean and the desire to protect it. Kerstin was eager to engage this highly motivated group in addressing real-world problems gleaned from her experiences. She had the students review and analyze sea turtle strandings data from Peru, make their own hypotheses about potential causes, and suggest ways to test those theories. Forsberg also presented a recent news story on the troubling use of dolphin meat as bait for shark fishing in Peru and asked the teens to think about how they would address this problem.

Kerstin (at left) leads the students in an analysis of sea turtle stranding data.

At the close of the workshop, Kerstin directed the students to reflect on the value of environmental education. The teens noted that educating and inspiring others was a crucial first step in protecting the environment. Certainly Kerstin has embodied this ideal herself. When starting her own grassroots conservation organization in Peru at the age of 22, she managed to recruit over 100 volunteers in the first month. 

During the workshop, Kerstin asked the students to reflect on their role in environmental education.

In the few years since this time, Kerstin has continued to engage communities, fishermen and school children in local research and conservation projects. Her leadership and skill as a social entrepreneur have been recognized with prestigious awards, including, the 2013 World Wildlife Fund International President’s Award. 

Although she is now internationally known, Kerstin noted that her journey started with the same passion for the ocean that led the teens to pursue the MBIT class. Kerstin encouraged the students to bring their excitement and knowledge of marine science out into their communities where it can help effect meaningful change for the ocean. 

Learn about Kerstin’s Aquarium-supported manta and mobula ray study and other inspiring MCAF projects in our latest newsletter. And be sure to check out the Marine Biologist in-Training. This program offers challenging opportunities for students in ages 13 – 17 to learn about marine science here at the Aquarium and build skills for problem solving, leadership and environmental stewardship. 

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