Investigations in a National Marine Sanctuary
(Excerpt from OSO's curriculum booklet)
We are fortunate to be living near a national treasure, one that has restrictions on it so it will never have oil platforms, and where fish and mammals can thrive. What is a sanctuary? A sanctuary can be a number of things; a place of refuge, shelter, a safe haven for all who visit.
The oceans bordering our nation are under the protection of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program seeks to increase public awareness of America’s marine resources through scientific research, monitoring, exploration, and education programs. The sanctuary system was started in 1972 and now includes 14 sanctuaries on the east and west coasts, Hawaii, and American Samoa. These sanctuaries protect habitats as diverse as coral reefs, kelp forests, and underwater shipwrecks. Today you’ll be venturing into the largest marine sanctuary, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary—it’s one of the largest protected marine areas in the world. It contains the coast and offshore area from San Francisco down to Cambria, near Hearst’s Castle, and covers 5,300 square miles. From the moment you enter the water here, you are in the sanctuary—it is all around you, there is no door or gate, no admission fee. Take a good look around you—all you can see is a sanctuary for marine life, and for you!
We’ll see a lot of life, but what we see on the surface is a tiny slice of what’s there. Most life in the sea lives underwater, where sea lions and seals chase teeming schools of fish, killer whales stalk migrating gray whale mothers and their calves, coral reefs spawn and release clouds of eggs and sperm, majestic forests of kelp plants sway as tiny crabs and invertebrates scatter over undulating fronds, and fish hide in rocky crevasses to escape predators.
Unless you put on scuba gear or climb into a submarine, these alien worlds are inaccessible to landlubbers, and can be easy to overlook. In fact, for many years we’ve taken for granted the oceans are an indestructible resource that will continue to support us no matter how we treat them. We’re learning differently now, as fisheries decline and coral reefs disappear. We depend upon the oceans for food, recreation, and commerce, and it is important to understand how they work. Every living thing on Earth exists for a purpose, some that we don’t even know about yet. We need to support natural systems so they may sustain themselves while taking care of our many needs, not to mention the needs of the organisms that live in them. Tinkering with the system without knowing the nuances of how it works can spell trouble for our oceans and our planet.
Investigations in a National Marine Sanctuary was a Toyota USA Foundation-funded effort to distribute OSO's curriculum nationwide, in collaboration with the National Marine Sanctuary Program, in 2004. The second edition of this book was made possible by a grant from the Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation (FFFF). We are most grateful to the FFFF, who has supported OSO’s revision of this curriculum to include and align with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Literacy Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts. Dawn Hayes of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary worked with OSO Education Coordinator, Laura Walker, and Julia Davenport, a curriculum writer, to do the first formal upgrade of our standards-based curriculum. Cheryl Thompson and Laura Walker even traveled to a conference in Alaska to promote the curriculum. Since then, the curriculum has been upgraded twice more, most recently with the Pepper College Readiness Network to formalize our alignment with Next Generation Science Standards for our watershed-to-the-sea lessons.
Through it's curriculum, organizational partnerships, public outreach, and advocacy, O’Neill Sea Odyssey supports efforts to protect our oceans and the National Marine Sanctuary Program. OSO Executive Director, Dan Haifley, can be heard here on NPR’s KQED discussing his past experience opposing offshore oil drilling along coastal California. He also participated in a related protest march and rally hosted by Save Our Shores this past weekend. Media coverage and photography of the protest was provided by KSBW 8 News and OSO Instructor, Nikki Brooks, respectively.