Back in my high school biology class, one of our terms was focused on marine biology. The test scores for our class typically ranged between 50-88 per cent, not bad, but also not extraordinary.
One day I arrived to class to find a rough-and-tumble-looking gentleman who was replacing our regular teacher for a couple of weeks. Mr. B, as I will call him, was a commercial fisherman with a PhD in marine biology. As it turns out ‘crustaceans’ were on the academic menu, but we had no way of predicting what was to come our way. For two weeks, Mr. B regaled us with his commercial fishing stories, weaving a fabric of adventure, hard work, challenges, successes and sometimes failures.
We would dissect, cook and then eat our subjects. Marine biology became the best part of our days at school and something we looked forward to. Quite unbeknownst to us, he managed to cover the curriculum entirely through his stories. When the marks came in for the exam at the end of the two weeks, they ranged from 74-95 per cent. Of all the years I spent in school this remains my most memorable time, thanks to Mr. B’s stories.
Scientific facts, although relevant and important, are not always effective in engaging people in a manner that creates lasting change or the motivation to live in a better balance with the planet we inhabit. Stories however, can be one of the most effective ways to engage and inspire people. They are a great way to share interesting scientific facts, and that is precisely what the the ocean conservation NPO The Watermen Project is dedicated to. It uses science as a rich soil from which the stories can grow.
Its most recent expedition at sea, in December 2016, was to study specific species of sharks and rays from the UNESCO World Heritage site Revillagigedo Archipelago (ca. 240 nautical miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico) to gather information on their migratory patterns.
The primary scientific objectives were to place satellite tags on female scalloped hammerhead sharks, take biopsy samples of oceanic manta rays as well as taking photographs for specimen identification, as part of the protection and management objectives of the site.
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