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NOAA Launches Ocean for Life 2009

As they document the beauty of National Marine Sanctuaries, 60 students from across the globe will discover how the ocean connects us all

Students work on afiel assignment

Ocean for Life brings together high-school students from Western and Greater Middle Eastern nations to promote cultural understanding through ocean science.

Check any globe of Planet Earth and you can see that “Planet Ocean” would be just as appropriate a name for the spinning elliptical rock on which we dwell. On July 15, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries will launch the 2009 Ocean for Life program at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in Key Largo, where students representing Western and Greater Middle Eastern nations will discover that fact for themselves.

Thirty students, half from the United States, Canada, France, Norway, Denmark, Armenia, and Australia, and half from Lebanon, Morocco, and Pakistan, will participate in field studies and activities for two weeks in Florida. In August, a second group of 30 students, representing the USA, Canada, and the Middle Eastern nations of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and Jordan, will pursue similar adventures at California’s Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones, and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries.

Discovering One’s Role as Part of the Whole

The themes of Ocean for Life are a sense of place, interconnectedness, and ocean conservation and stewardship. As the students explore the sanctuaries together, they will learn about these intriguing marine environments while learning about one another. Bound together in these beautiful natural settings, they are bound to discover mutual interests and goals while sharing about their lives, countries, and cultures.

Student at a microscope

NOAA supports Ocean for Life because it gives young people the freedom to explore "Planet Ocean" and draw their own conclusions about its people, places, and resources.

The students will also get to know ocean researchers, sanctuary staff members, volunteers, and college filmmakers. These personal connections, and increasing awareness of the connections between oceans, Earth, and people, will reveal how their actions make a difference, and how they can strive together to affect change, regardless of who they are as individuals.

The participants will document their experiences through video and photographic essays, under the guidance of staff from the National Geographic Photo Camp and graduate students from American University’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking in Washington, DC. The entire group will also gather in the nation’s capital, where they will visit the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and the Smithsonian’s new Sant Ocean Hall.

‘Let the Sea and All of its Mysteries Speak’

The National Marine Sanctuaries are thriving, organic examples of our nation’s commitment to ocean and coastal conservation. The students will learn about the issues that threaten ocean health worldwide and what is being done to address them. They will contribute to these efforts by sharing their projects here on the NOS Web site and on the Ocean for Life site.

Dan Basta, director of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, worked hard to bring Ocean for Life to the National Marine Sanctuaries. “The ocean connects us all in more ways than most of us realize,” he says. “All life in the sea is connected. Studying the ocean allows us to see how we are connected to those rhythms, too.”

The mission of Ocean for Life – to increase cross-cultural understanding through ocean science -- aligns perfectly with NOAA’s and the National Marine Sanctuaries’ educational mandate. “This program lets the sea and all of its mysteries speak to our young people about how much they share in common,” Basta continues. “It reaches across cultures, across ignorance, and across misunderstanding to help us find common ground. It helps develop strong, compassionate leaders for tomorrow – who may create new paradigms for how we live together and share our ocean planet.”


The Ocean for Life program is a partnership between NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, the GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) Program, and Scubanauts International.  It is presented in collaboration with the National Geographic Society, American University’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking, the Meridian International Center, and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. Supporters include the Ell Mar Foundation, Inc., and Able Body Labor, Inc.