Florida Marine Science Educators Association (FMSEA) Conference 2023
New Smyrna Beach, Florida
April 27-30, 2023
From April 27-30th, 2023, The International SeaKeepers Society's Education Manager, Toni Lohroff, attended the Florida Marine Science Educators Association (FMSEA) 2023 Conference in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. This professional association of individuals and organizations is devoted to enhancing marine science education in the state of Florida and has been offering annual educator conferences since 1968 throughout the state, with this year’s theme being “Riding the waves of interdisciplinary education.” As a part of the conference, Toni was able to network with other formal and informal Florida educators, including many non-profits from other parts of Florida with similar educational missions to SeaKeepers, as well as attend workshops, presentations, and field trips.
Some highlights from the weekend include:
An opening half-day field trip to the Ponce Inlet Marine Science Center which is dedicated to educating locals and visitors on the importance of aquatic and marine ecosystems of Volusia County. The MSC operates a small aquarium based on rescued and rehabilitated local species of rays and fish, as well as hospital and rehabilitation centers for both marine and terrestrial turtle and bird species. As a fellow non-profit, the MSC operates completely on public and private donations to further their facility operations, as well as for summer camp and other educational programs. Tickets range from free-$8 depending on your age, and the center also offers private tours, activities, and guided beach walks during turtle nesting season.
The President’s Circle SciCafe closed out day one at the Marine Discovery Center in New Smyrna Beach. At this event, we heard from Tess Sailor-Tynes, who works at MDC with a focus on conservation efforts in the Indian River Lagoon, including the Shuck & Share oyster recycling program that works to use spent oyster shells from local restaurants to rebuild local oyster bed habitats and improve bay health. We also heard from Aubrey Garcia of Florida Gulf Coast University, who works with the Rookery Bay National Estuary in ecotour education while conducting her own research on Florida Horse Conch biology and conservation.
Day two was packed with informational presentations and workshops, starting off with a plenary speech from Sean Russell and Madison Toonder of Earth Echo International, who discussed strategies for engaging youth in marine conservation advocacy and research. Following that, Toni attended workshops from organizations like the Everglades Foundation, FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, the Guy Harvey Foundation, and Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center, amongst others. These organizations, along with South Florida educators, presented strategies, information, and activities that they have success using to educate and inspire students of all ages to engage in marine science. Toni also spoke to more organizations, like OctoNation, Reef Relief, and others at exhibition tables where they could display educational activities, merchandise, and documentation of their activities.
Day two ended with a FMSEA annual member meeting, followed by a silent auction, banquet, and entertainment where attendees were able to network and support FMSEA’s educator scholarship fund.
By attending workshops and events like FMSEA’s annual educator conference, our education department is able to stay in touch with current South Florida marine science education strategies, challenges, and partnerships. In doing so, we hope to maximize our collective impact in marine conservation education and outreach for students and educators locally, but also globally. We are proud members of the Florida Marine Science Educators Association and we look forward to attending next year’s conference!