NOAA webcasts corals research to nation's classrooms live from undersea lab

October 12, 2010

The wonders of coral reefs and life thriving below the sea will be broadcast live on the Web to classrooms and communities nationwide during a NOAA science and education mission at Aquarius Reef Base, the world's only undersea research station, located within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The 10-day mission starts today.

The mission, "Aquarius 2010: If Reefs Could Talk," is structured to help students and the public better understand their connection to the ocean and their role in helping to sustain it. During daily live webcasts from the research station, a team of scientists and educators will feature live video streams, showcase specimens, and discuss topics common to many of our national marine sanctuaries and highlight the importance of conserving our nation's underwater resources. Science program themes during this mission will include biodiversity, climate change, field science technology, and careers.

Web programs will be broadcast daily, one in English and one in Spanish, via the OceansLive.org education Web Portal. Additionally, the mission includes outreach to students in underrepresented communities as part of a NOAA and National Association of Black Scuba Divers partnership effort to increase knowledge and stewardship of the ocean, and ensure that all students have the opportunity to explore the wonders of science, technology, engineering and mathematics relevant to NOAA's mission.

"People protect what they understand and love, so our goal during this mission is to help the public understand that a healthy ocean matters to all of us," said NOAA's Kate Thompson, the mission's education coordinator. "The more people we introduce to the ocean, the more we will empower citizens with the knowledge to support responsible stewardship of our ocean resources."

The Aquarius Reef Base is anchored on a sand patch 60 feet below the surface within a coral reef in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Aquarius is owned by NOAA and operated by the University of North Carolina Wilmington. The facility enables divers to "saturate," meaning they stay undersea and have extended bottom time for diving and research by going through 17 hours of decompression at the end of a mission instead of going to the surface each day.

"Scientists and educators will live and work in Aquarius studying the health of the nearby Conch Reef research area and how changes in the abundance and diversity of animals and plants affect it," said Steve Gittings, national science coordinator for NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and one of the lead scientists for the mission. "The findings will help us all better manage human activities so we can protect these struggling marine ecosystems for future generations."
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"Aquarius 2010: If Reefs Could Talk," is result of collaboration between academic, federal, industry, and private partners, including NOAA, UNCW, California State University Monterey, Morgan State University, AT&T, and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at http://www.noaa.gov or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sunoaa.gov.

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