A National Focus

The United States has made advancement of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) a national priority. Experts say that technological innovation accounted for almost half of U.S. economic growth over the past 50 years, and almost all of the 30 fastest-growing occupations in the next decade will require at least some background in STEM. However, the U.S. proficiency in STEM skills is rapidly deteriorating. In 2009, just 34 percent of U.S. 8th graders were rated proficient or higher in a national math assessment, and more than one in four scored below the basic level. In an international exam given to 15-year-olds in 2009, U.S. high school students ranked significantly behind 12 industrialized nations in science and 17 in math. Students in only 4 industrialized nations scored lower in math. Only 45 percent of U.S. high school graduates in 2011 were ready for college work in math and 30 percent were ready in science. This educational problem has been attributed to a lack of engaging science education opportunities that inspire youth to learn and retain STEM skills.

Experts have found that
engaging students in STEM requires educators to
connect learning with real-life experiences
To motivate youth to learn and retain STEM skills,
SRC is inspiring the next generation of environmentally conscious scientists
through practical hands-on experiential learning in marine conservation research

SRC Embodies STEM Education

Since its inauguration in 2009, SRC has supported student education in STEM, citizen science and outreach. For example, between 2009 and 2015 alone, SRC brought over 6,000 high school students from 40 countries into the field to participate in shark research, including top ranked private schools, those in low income neighborhoods and even “last chance” alternative learning facilities for juvenile offenders. In the coming years, SRC plans to bring high school students by boat to the University’s field station located on Broad Key (a 62-acre remote, private island). From here, students will be taught about marine conservation issues from the station’s in house classrooms. Moreover, the station will serve as the base for students to join scientists in data collection and analyses, including shark abundance surveys, stable isotope analysis, under-water visual surveys, acoustic telemetry, and blood hormone analysis. In doing so, students will be trained in the scientific method, data collection, synthesis and reporting and be required to conduct independent research projects.

To impact an even larger audience from across the globe, SRC continues to use a variety of online education tools, including virtual expeditions, webinars, pod-casts, blogs, Twitter teach-ins, online curricula and social media. We have already been successful using these tools as part of our broader impacts and outreach activities. For example, we currently offer a virtual expedition, much like a video game, whereby students become fully immersed in online interactive shark tagging excursions. Students are lead through a series of field research activities and assignments that give the feeling of actually being in the field, studying sharks. Additionally, our website currently offers a marine conservation biology blog written by students, which was awarded Best Conservation Blog of 2011 by TripBase. Our Facebook page was recently featured by Mashable.com (the largest online news site dedicated to digital culture and social media, with over 20 million unique visitors monthly) as one of the five most effective ways to use Facebook in the classroom. We also currently provide innovative “Twitter Teach-Ins” every month where we hold an information session via Twitter about timely issues in marine conservation, followed by a live question and answer session. Other online learning tools we currently provide include webinars, pod-casts and a freely downloadable high school curriculum in marine conservation science and policy. The proposed work will continue building on this content with a strong focus on the ecosystem role of marine predators. Newly crafted material will include infographics, photo essays, live Skype lectures from the field, and TV documentaries. This will be accomplished in partnership with National Geographic to reach a global audience.