What You Can Expect

In order to familiarize students with each expedition we hold a one day orientation.  At the end of this session students have the opportunity to opt out of the program. Once expedition participants are finalized, students meet with expedition scientists, educators, filmmakers and crew for an extended and comprehensive orientation which includes classroom training that will prepare them for the rigors of the expedition. Instructors will outline the training schedule and the anticipated outcomes of the expedition.

Morning Star Full Sail IIClassroom sessions are designed for close interactions between participants and group leaders. Students will develop their project plans in alignment with expedition goals. Participants will have the opportunity to learn techniques that will guide and help them succeed. There will be instruction on but not limited to: seamanship, navigation, the hazards of the expedition, science instruction related to expedition outcomes, what to expect with indigenous populations, international travel requirements, working with wildlife, survival skills, instruction on scientific instrumentation, ROV operations, and scientific diver classroom training (American Academy of Underwater Sciences-AAUS).

Filmmakers will instruct students on photography and cinematography. Students will learn techniques that will help them safely work around wildlife and the environment. They will learn the various types of terrestrial and underwater camera equipment and their usage. Instructors will demonstrate how to compose film into a cohesive story.

Orientation will also offer critiques and ideas that inform students about resources available through regional experts, scientists, institutions and organizations. Expedition orientation gives participants a first-hand understanding and appreciation for the role that scientists and filmmakers play in conveying the conditions of global ecosystems.

Once orientation is complete, it’s time to join the crew and set sail. The shipboard period will last two weeks or longer depending on the expedition. During this time, students will prepare their research project(s) and complete seamanship and AAUS training. Students will participate in night watches, daily ship maintenance and operations including navigation. Scientists will demonstrate to students how to use and deploy scientific instrumentation. Guest speakers will provide evening lectures and inspiration.

Filmmakers and students will begin filming daily activities. Crew will provide guidance and activities that help the students determine their continued education and planned career choices. Rigorous hands-on lesson plans will ensure the students are receiving the best possible instructions. Life aboard The Science Ship™ will be a cohesive learning paradigm that augments the skill sets demanded by STEAM and NGSS.

Sample Itinerary: Youth Ocean Summit Expedition

Once orientation is complete students, scientists, educators and film crews will board the RV Morning Star Explorer and set sail.

The first leg of the journey will begin by sailing to the Cayman Islands to visit the Central Caribbean Marine Institute. We will examine the efforts the scientists at the Institute are making to help solve the worldwide problem of coral bleaching. Coral bleaching happens when coral polyps eject the colorful algae that lives within their tissue causing the polyps to turn white and then die. The algae provides food for the polyps through a process called photosynthesis. The bleaching phenomenon is thought to be caused by rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification and pollution.

The crew will also investigate the impact of an invasive species of venomous fish that is plaguing Caribbean Reefs. The fish is from the Indo-pacific Ocean and is commonly known as the Lionfish. The fish was introduced into the Atlantic waters sometime in the mid 1980’s. How this happened is still under investigation. Lionfish have no natural predators in the Caribbean and has a voracious appetite for small reef fishes. Virtually every Caribbean Reef has been impacted. Scientists are seeking solutions to stopping the Lionfish epidemic before it is too late for the remaining reef fishes.

The RV Morning Star Explorer will leave the Cayman Islands on the second leg of the expedition to arrive at Cayo Cochinos, Honduras. Cayo Cochinos is a small barrier island that is a southern gateway to the second largest coral reef in the world. Once there students will assist scientists in reef surveys. The surveys will gauge the health of the reef, distribution of species, population numbers, water quality assessments, coral distribution and condition. The area is also known as a hot bed of activity for Whale Sharks. The Whale Shark is the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate on our planet. They are filter feeders, pelagic and often exceed lengths of 40 feet. They are found in all tropical seas. Very little is known about their life history. Students will have an opportunity to assist scientists as they conduct research on these enigmatic creatures.

On the last leg of the expedition the RV Morning Star Explorer will turn homeward to Florida where we will investigate the efforts that are being made to save and restock sea horse populations in the bays and estuaries of Florida. Sea horses worldwide have been devastated by habitat destruction and over harvesting. In many places they face extinction. Countries around the globe are quickly enacting legislation that provides protection to native sea horse populations. Scientists at the University of Florida have come up with some unique solutions. Among them is placing sea horses in aquaculture. The University of Florida is providing valuable information to the aquaculture industry in hopes of attracting sea horse ranchers. The crew will visit the Tropical Aquaculture Lab near Tampa and will learn from scientists how these unique ranches work.