RECONNECTING WITH OUR PAST
Every intern who comes through CRF™ has an individual story and brings a unique background to the team. Whether it be traveling a few hundred miles down to Key Largo for a summer internship or moving across the country to pursue their dream, everyone has an interesting story as to how they ended up at CRF™. Every intern’s story and passion for marine conservation stems from experiences ranging from early childhood to college years. No matter where their inspiration is rooted, everyone can trace their path back to one experience or person that motivated them to pursue their marine conservation dreams.
Past CRF™ Intern, Shane Gallimore, outplants coral onto the Florida Reef Tract. © Coral Restoration Foundation™
As interns, we are incredibly grateful for the people and experiences that led us to CRF™. We are excited for the opportunity to give back to the communities that inspired and supported our marine conservation dreams while hopefully influencing the next generation of ocean stewards. One of the ways we can do this is by reconnecting with past teachers or schools and offering to give a virtual presentation about the importance of coral reefs, the restoration work we do, and what it’s like to be an intern at CRF™.
“It was really nice reaching out to my high school. Many of my past teachers, including my wrestling coach, tuned in just to hear about what I’m doing in my life right now. They're very proud of me, and I'm grateful to have had the chance to reconnect with them,” said Jim Brittsan, CRF™ Lead Intern.
Jim Brittsan is currently a lead intern here at CRF™ and has been a part of the intern team for almost nine months. Originally from Delaware, Ohio, he recently reconnected with his old high school, Buckeye Valley. When Jim contacted one of his old teachers, he was eager to have Jim present to his class. He had about 40 participants in his Zoom presentation, and the outcome was amazing!
Here's what Jim said about his presentation:
“The kids were very engaged and intrigued by the work that CRF™ does. They asked countless questions and inquired about how they could get involved in the mission to help our oceans. One student liked the presentation so much, that I ended up having a separate chat with him and his family about marine biology, and how I ended up where I am today.”
Opportunities such as these can really have an impact on others' stories, and it's been fulfilling for our interns to reconnect with people who have had strong influences in their lives.
PILATES? SCUBA? WHY NOT BOTH!
When it comes to educational outreach here at CRF™, we work hard to convey our mission in a way that all audiences can understand and connect with. These communications include our Annual Report, educational workshops at schools, outreach booths at events, and now, during the pandemic, virtual presentations. Krista Laforest, our Science Program Intern, reached out to her middle school to share about the work we do at CRF™ and bring a piece of the Florida Reef Tract to her hometown in Massachusetts.
Examples of exercises to target different muscle groups and improve fitness for diving. © Coral Restoration Foundation™
Krista’s virtual presentation was more unique than your average Zoom PowerPoint lecture. She gave the CRF™ General Presentation to both a science and a gym class. They started out by learning the history of the Florida Reef Tract and the impacts that humans have had on the ecosystem. Then, Krista connected the past to our mission and goals at CRF™, what our everyday restoration work looks like, as well as what they can do to protect and preserve our coral reefs for generations to come.
“This was a really meaningful presentation for me because I would have loved to learn more about marine science at that age. For kids living in cities, our Zoom presentations gives them exposure to the underwater world that they may not have had otherwise. Seeing how students lit up when I showed them the work we're doing really validates the long boat days and countless hours put in by the team to protect our reefs!” said Krista Laforest, CRF™ Science Program Intern.
Master instructor and author Karena Thek takes viewers through a pilates routine designed to improve fitness while also reducing the risk of dive-related injuries.
The kids that participated in the Zoom call with Krista were very engaged and asked great questions about CRF™ and how they can help make a difference in the future of our oceans. Because she was presenting to a physical education class, Krista also included a video about scuba pilates. The video discussed the importance of incorporating specific core strength and flexibility exercises to maximize efficiency and enjoyment while scuba diving. The class even followed along with the video so the presentation could count as a physical education credit!
On July 2, several of our interns had the opportunity to take part in SeaSmart’s Ocean Conservation Online Intensive, presenting to a group of middle and high school students during their summer camp program. We took some time to talk to one of those presenters, Bailey Thomasson, about the SeaSmart program she participated in and how her presentations went.
Can you begin by telling us a little bit about what SeaSmart is?
SeaSmart is an amazing nonprofit organization that aims at inspiring the next generation of ocean stewards. Their summer programs are for students who are interested in learning more about the state of our oceans and scuba diving. Though they could not hold the normal in-person summer camp this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they offered a week-long virtual camp for their participants and highlighted a new topic about ocean conservation each day. CRF™ Intern Bailey Thomasson.
And what did you present about?
We presented to 25 super smart middle and high school students! We spoke with them about what corals are, why they are important to our oceans, what challenges they are facing, and how Coral Restoration Foundation™ is helping restore reef ecosystems. We even did several edutainment workshops with them, including one where they made their own coral polyps out of marshmallows and Twizzlers! I was also able to test drive my stereoscope with them to show them an ultra zoomed-in view of coral anatomy.
The stereoscope is actually a personal internship project of yours, isn’t it? What sparked that idea, and what direction do you plan to take it?
Yes! My intern project is dedicated to creating slides and samples that can be looked at under the scope. I want to highlight the tiny parts of corals that people often can’t see with the naked eye, including corallites and zooxanthellae. Corals are such delicate animals, and I believe that understanding their intricacies will help us preserve and protect them! I hope to continue creating samples and to have it stationed in our public Exploration Center for guests to use.
Do you believe that reaching out to younger generations to talk about ocean conservation is important?
Absolutely. The work that we do here at Coral Restoration Foundation™ is amazing, but we must inspire the next generation to take action and make changes in order for our reefs to begin healing on their own. Speaking to groups like SeaSmart’s summer camp is an incredible way to inspire that change and get them involved in marine conservation efforts from home.
Bailey and the team did an outstanding job educating and engaging with a new wave of up and coming ocean conservationists. Our education program at CRF™ is essential to inspiring and educating others to protect our oceans and the critical marine ecosystems within them like coral reefs.
KEEP CELEBRATING WITH US!
Did you miss Coralpalooza™ on June 6? Fret not! All of the exciting interviews, videos, and activities will be available through August 25, 2020! Register to access exclusive content from CRF™ and our event partners.
If you participated live and just couldn't get enough, click here to revisit Coralpalooza™ any time until August 25, 2020.
"Heads Up" Editorial Interns
Alec is from Long Island, New York, and is a recent graduate of Roger Williams University. There, he received his B.S. in Marine Biology and specialization in Spanish. From his earliest memory, he was completely fascinated with sharks, and developed a growing interest in science throughout his years while kayaking and volunteering on the South Bay of Long Island. He took to the water naturally with snorkeling, free diving and 11 years of swim team. Throughout his young journey, he has had the fortunate opportunity to be able to immerse himself within the tropical waters of the Cayman Islands, Florida and Bermuda. In 2017, Alec became an Open Water certified scuba diver, and from there, his interest in marine biology and scuba diving grew exponentially. He became NAUI Advanced Open Water certified in 2019, and upon entering his senior year of college, he studied abroad in Bermuda for four months at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS). Having completed his studies abroad in Bermuda, he wishes to continue his passion for learning new skills within the marine biology field, and looks forward to expanding his scientific knowledge and experience throughout his internship with Coral Restoration Foundation™!
Chris is from Wilmington, North Carolina and is currently pursuing a B.A. in International Studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He began SCUBA diving while stationed in Georgia for the United States Marine Corps, and was immediately hooked on seeking new adventures under the surface and exploring the unique watery landscapes and ecosystems that the ocean has to offer. Chris has always been passionate about giving back to nature and the community, so when he heard about Coral
Restoration Foundation's internship, he knew that this was his opportunity to dive with a purpose and give back to the incredible coral reefs that he has come to love and admire. Chris hopes to gain new perspectives and hands-on experience in underwater conservation that he can carry with him beyond CRF™ and continue to make a positive impact on the oceans and coral reefs around the world.