March for Science and Earth Day

O'Neill Sea Odyssey supports Two amazing events happening tomorrow in Santa Cruz.

MARCH FOR SCIENCE SANTA CRUZ will begin with a rally at Santa Cruz City Hall courtyard starting at 10:00 am and will feature some great speakers. The march will step off at 10:30 am, winding through downtown Santa Cruz, along the Riverwalk, over to San Lorenzo Park and ending at the community’s Earth Day festival.

The March for Science is a global gathering of people standing together to acknowledge the critical role that science plays in our world and our daily lives; a call for science-based policies and a voice for the integrity of scientific inquiry. It unites more than one million individual advocates, thousands of community organizers, and hundreds of partner organizations in a diverse and powerful coalition that advocates for equitable, evidence-based policies for the common good. Santa Cruz County is proud to be one of the over 175 communities with satellite marches across the nation and around the world. The main March for Science in 2018 was held in Washington, DC on April 14th but here in Santa Cruz it was decided to hold the march on April 21 to join with Earth Day Santa Cruz events.

Learn more about the National March for Science.


Earth Day Santa Cruz is an annual event to raise environmental awareness; address concerns; showcase solutions; and present balanced modes of living for the wellbeing of each individual, the community, and the planet. It is a day to celebrate our natural resources and to network with the community for profit and nonprofit organizations, schools, and government agencies who come to share their environmental message, cause, or product. This day is to educate, motivate and activate everyone that attends. Earth Day Santa Cruz is an exciting community event offering educational information, activities for kids including an arts and crafts tent, live music and a focus on green businesses. Come and enjoy this fun environmental celebration for the whole family tomorrow from 11 am – 4 pm in San Lorenzo Park!


The City of Santa Cruz, the County of Santa Cruz, Ecology Action, local non-profits, including O'Neill Sea Odyssey, and concerned citizens are working together to make Earth Day the premier environmental event for the greater Santa Cruz community.

The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the landmark Clean Air ActClean Water ActEndangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed.  More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

Microscopic Ocean Life Revealed
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Life in the sea depends upon its smallest organisms. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is one of the richest, most diverse marine environments in the world, largely because of unique underwater features and wind conditions that produce upwelled nutrient rich water. In surface waters, plankton use these nutrients to increase in numbers and form the base of the food web supporting thousands of species in the sanctuary, from krill to whales.

The on-board marine biology lesson provides O'Neill Sea Odyssey students the opportunity to not only learn about and observe sea life at or above the surface, but also catch and study plankton from beneath the surface. This up-close look and classroom discussion helps our Ocean Stewards better understand how these microscopic organisms are specially adapted to life in the sea and are the primary producers on which oceanic food webs are dependent.

Adam Steckley
Alumni Spotlight

TK Kim & Kaila Pearson

"It feels really cool to have come full circle and be an instructor for OSO aboard the Team O'Neill, while also able to remember being in the kid's place."

We’ve asked TK Kim and Kaila Pearson, two of O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s past students and current instructors, to share their thoughts about their unique connection to, and teaching experience with, the OSO program. Here’s what they had to say….
 Kaila Pearson

Kaila Pearson

When I was nine years old, and a student at Natural Bridges Elementary, my class attended the O'Neill Sea Odyssey program. It was the best field trip ever! My favorite enthusiastic teacher, Mrs. Kostelec, organized the trip. I remember especially how cool and different it was to crawl around on the black netting in the middle of the catamaran with the ocean water flowing underneath. I also remember the marine biology lesson where I was first introduced to the two types of plankton - zooplankton and phytoplankton. This experience of fun and learning most definitely aided in my curiosity with, and interest in, the ocean.

I went on to study ocean science at UC San Diego (Scripps) where I recently graduated with a BS in Marine Biology. Now back in Santa Cruz, I work aboard that very same catamaran as an OSO instructor, teaching kids the fun and importance of marine and environmental science, something I feel is so important in school curriculum, especially with what is going on in the world today. The OSO program teaches kids the consequences of our actions on the earth and what preventative steps we can take to aid in conservation. Like the experience was for me, it's also an opportunity where kids can be inspired by how rad and cool and exciting marine biology and marine ecology are. I feel blessed to be able to share my stoke with future generations through the Sea Odyssey program.

What does the ocean mean to you?

The ocean is 100% a part of who I am. The ocean gives me inspiration that I use for art, science and other fun hobbies. Growing up in Santa Cruz has made me have a strong rapport with the ocean. Daily interactions made me feel like the ocean was really a part of who I am. My dad had me on a surfboard before I could walk. I learned to swim, fish, dive and appreciate the ocean at a very young age. 

 TK Kim

TK Kim

My first OSO experience was in 2004, when I was a fifth grader at DeLaveaga Elementary School. There are several memories I recall from that one day with my classmates. I remember being absolutely terrified of the open ocean (it was my first time after all, on a boat on the ocean) so it took me a while before I could muster up the courage to crawl onto the net. Even then, I was paranoid I was going to fall through the holes into the turquoise blue abyss beneath. I remember eating a small piece of kelp at the encouragement of the ecology instructor. We were all curious but I didn’t like the slimy texture. I also remember tasting the plankton water sample in the biology station. Even though I was probably shaking with fear almost the entire time, I really enjoyed myself. It was an experience I'll never forget.

I am so grateful that I now get to serve on the Sea Odyssey team, alongside phenomenal instructors like those I met 14 years ago. As someone who has a passion for teaching and working with kids, I know how much of an impact we are all capable of making in their lives. Whether it has been as a counselor or a surf instructor, I have greatly valued being a part of our younger generations' lives, and now that I work for O'Neill Sea Odyssey, I am able to help that generation understand the importance of our environment and ocean.

What does the ocean mean to you?

It's crazy how much my attitude toward the ocean has changed over the course of my life but for me, the ocean means sanity. Even though I grew up in Santa Cruz and spent much of my time outdoors, I chose to stay on land due to an irrational fear of the ocean. Today, I spend almost all of my free time surfing and now teach aboard the very sailboat that marked my first experience on the ocean. And now, whether it is floating face up in the ocean getting lost in the sky, enjoying party waves on ankle biters with friends, surfing incredible overhead waves with just a few out, just simply staring out at the endless cerulean blue we call our ocean, or eating sushi (can't leave out sushi), all of this IS my therapy. All of this helps me retain my sanity in the midst of the chaos and busy-ness that too often conquers our lives. I understand that not everybody feels the same way but the more we realize that the environment and ocean can benefit us, and take actions in order to spread that knowledge, the better the world will be.

Thank you, Kaila and TK, for coming full circle and joining the Sea Odyssey team. You each share a valuable perspective that we and our Ocean Stewards truly appreciate.

Adam Steckley
Sights and Smiles for OSO's Ocean Stewards

Life in Monterey Bay is everywhere you look. It's visible beneath the surface (of course), on the surface, and often flying (or breaching) above. For OSO's Ocean Stewards, it's very likely their first experience observing and learning about marine life up close. Their exuberant smiles say it all but more importantly, that first impression has a lasting impact. One with the power to shape and change behaviors.

Do you remember your first experience on Monterey Bay? How did you feel while witnessing migrating whales, sea otters grooming, or sea lions thermoregulating? Like our Ocean Stewards, you too, may have gained a better understanding of ocean life and recognized the personal responsibility we all have to protect it. And don't forget that smile!

Photos courtesy of Jasper Lyons, Cindy Tucey, Nikki Brooks, Steve Lawson, and Adam Steckley

Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary
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O'Neill Sea Odyssey Executive Director, Dan Haifley, will make a presentation entitled "How Monterey Bay Sanctuary was protected and Chumash Heritage could be next" which will discuss the creation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, designated on September 18, 1992, and the lessons that can be applied to the current effort to establish a Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary off San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara County. The presentation will occur at the Chumash Auditorium at California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo on Saturday, March 17. As the Executive Director of Save Our Shores from 1986-1993, Haifley was a leader in the fight against offshore oil, including promoting laws in 26 communities governing onshore facilities for offshore oil, and in the creation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

The event, "Now More Than Ever: the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary" is an afternoon of information and undersea wonders as marine biologists, elected officials and conservation advocates come together to discuss the protections that national marine sanctuary status has brought to treasures of marine habitat and wildlife along the California coast, and how it can happen for SLO and Santa Barbara via designation of the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. Included will be a special video presentation by Holly Lohuis of Jean-Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society.


Click here for the event video. For those who couldn’t make it, it’s the next best thing.

Perspective: OSO Executive Director

Dan Haifley

"A recent study found that 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic inhabit the ocean."

O’Neill Sea Odyssey Executive Director, Dan Haifley, will make a presentation entitled “O’Neill Sea Odyssey:  Marine debris stewardship for lower income youth” which will discuss the measurement of outcomes of O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s free, ocean-going science and environmental program for 4th – 6th grade youth. The presentation will occur at the Sixth International Marine Debris Conference (6IMDC) sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, on Tuesday, March 13, in San Diego, California. Haifley’s presentation was selected by the conference team for an oral presentation as part of the “Equipping the Outreach Toolbox:  Experts Share Their Most Successful Activities, Tips and Tricks” session, within the “Education & Communication” track, which can be found in the conference program.

The following is an excerpt from Fleur Williams's interview with Dan published in on February 9, 2018.

The award-winning [O'Neill Sea Odyssey] program has had a remarkably positive impact on youth and is steering towards reaching 100,000 students in 2018. At the helm is Executive Director, Dan Haifley, a recipient of the 2011 Ocean Hero Award from Save Our Shores, and a dynamic advocate for ocean conservation and environmental education throughout California. In addition to leading the OSO team, he is recognized for his work in establishing the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, promoting 26 California local ordinances regarding offshore oil, and publishing a weekly ocean column in the Santa Cruz Sentinel. In the following interview, Dan shares his perspective about the value of OSO, and how it benefits the community, surrounding ocean and beyond.

Why is this environmental program important now more than ever?

O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s program uses math and science lessons to result in environmental stewardship outcomes. The ocean covers 72% of earth’s surface, supplies half its oxygen, creates weather and is a major food source and economic engine, yet it is a sensitive, living habitat vulnerable to pollution. A recent study found that 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic inhabit the ocean. It is under greater stress as it absorbs excess carbon from the atmosphere, increasing sediment loads from rivers that flow to the ocean worldwide, and as we turn to it to help feed a growing population. Giving students the tools to think critically and solve problems such as these is a key component of what O’Neill Sea Odyssey does.

What makes traveling and learning on the Team O’Neill catamaran such a unique experience?


Most students who attend our program have never been on the ocean before. Being in an exciting new environment to teach students science concepts rooted in that environment has a lasting impact, which our annual outcomes analysis and a long-term study of our program confirms. Now that the program is more than 20 years old, I’m hearing from people who attended in elementary school and remember it vividly and talk about how it informs their daily professional, family, and social lives.

What are some of the positive ways you’ve seen the O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s program impacting youth?

Beyond our annual evaluation and the long-term study of our program, which measured its impact 5-7 years after the experience, there are stories. Here is one. Andres Salgado, a former OSO Amesti student returned 14 years later now as a 6th-grade teacher to bring his own class: “Well it’s the first time on a boat for many, some of them haven’t even been to the beach! The kids remember these lessons better because it’s a different environment, they get to see things in person, not in front of textbook or computer screen.”

What are a few of your favorite facts about the Monterey Bay and marine life?

I love the fact that California sea otters look like they have an easy life but, in fact, they work 24 hours a day managing the kelp forest habitat, which in turn protects our coast from erosion and absorbs excess carbon, to prevent further acidification of ocean water. So, in fact, they are working hard for us. And oh, by the way, female sea otters do raise young ones, a big job in and of itself.

How do you see the Sea Odyssey program evolving in the future?

We will continue to improve the curriculum, especially now since we distribute it as classroom curriculum nationally, and we get feedback from schools around the country. We’ll continue to find ways to engage inland schools, right now we have a virtual program, and we can do more. After all, all rivers and creeks and storm drains flow to the ocean, including those in Oklahoma.