Connecting Students to Nature

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The sun is blazing intensely in a cloudless sky, and the lack of a breeze makes the sulfur, rotten egg-like smell even more intense. It feels like 95°F (35°C) and I am sweating profusely as I trudge through the mangroves, one of my favorite marine ecosystems. It feels like home to me.

After two and a half years of putting the J.A.M.I.N. program on hold, I am quickly reminded how much I missed not only teaching and interacting with students face-to-face, but also being in the mangroves. The same feelings happen to me every time I venture into this amazing ecosystem: feelings of curiosity, awe, and respect, mixed with a sense of calm tranquility. And it is these same kinds of feelings we hope to foster in our students while they participate in our program…

Welcome, Saskia! KSLOF welcomes a master’s student to study our Mangrove Education & Restoration Program

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Six months ago, I was certain that I would be travelling to Indonesia to research mangrove crabs for my master’s thesis. The project was funded, and I was prepared to leave for Indonesia when suddenly, I received information that local fishermen could not catch enough crabs for me to conduct research. At such a late date, this was incredibly stressful news!

Around this time, I began to wonder if I could picture myself in the biological sciences or if I should make a step towards the field of social science. During my travels around the world, I was always interested (and often shocked) to observe the interaction between humans and nature. A few years ago, I travelled to southeast Asia to study whale shark populations. While studying these majestic creatures, I noticed the interactions occurring between tourists and the whale sharks. I had moments where I was frustrated, angry, and emotional, seeing whale sharks startle tourists who would fearfully kick and hit the whale sharks. Not only did I get angry at the tourists but at the local people working in this industry; however, after getting to know the locals and seeing their dismal economic situation, I began to think differently. I wanted to understand local people and their problems. I realized that in order to make a difference, you need to incorporate social sciences into environmental science, so that both can find a way to live in harmony.

We be J.A.M.I.N. Again!

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I see the twinkle of anticipation in my colleagues’ eyes as they hold up their phones waiting to record me filling my lungs to say, “Gooooood moooorning, Port Antonio High School!” My colleagues at Alligator Head Foundation beam and I grin back at them and wink. We have all waited two and a half years for this moment. This long-awaited welcome officially marks the start of the Jamaica Awareness of Mangroves in Nature (J.A.M.I.N.) and it feels good to be J.A.M.I.N. again.

The last time I was in Jamaica implementing J.A.M.I.N. was in early February 2020, before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. When the pandemic hit, none of us imagined that it would be years until we could implement the program again. It crushed me when we had to cancel the remainder of the 2020-21 academic year and then again, the following year. Now, we renew program again with more enthusiasm than ever.

Our partners at the Alligator Head Foundation and the University of the West Indies Discovery Bay Marine Lab are by my side aiding me in implementing the program. I couldn’t be more overjoyed to be working with them again. We fell right back into routine with each other as if no time had passed at all.

Science Without Borders®: Conserving the Tropics

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The Science Without Borders®: Conserving the Tropics project was proposed to help address the United Nations Ocean Decade Challenge to “understand the effects of multiple stressors on ocean ecosystems, and develop solutions to monitor, protect, manage and restore ecosystems and their biodiversity under changing environmental, social and climate conditions.” Our project focuses primarily on conserving tropical marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, seagrasses, and mangroves, as well as incorporating measurable actions that communities can use to reach their conservation goals.

On the Global Reef Expedition, we saw that, particularly in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDC), there was not only a lack of scientific information, but also a lack of ocean literacy, particularly regarding local ecosystems. The Science Without Borders®: Conserving the Tropics project will leverage our existing scientific data and outreach programs, partnering with universities, non-profit organizations, governments, and communities to help raise awareness and improve conservation of these fragile marine ecosystems. We will be addressing not only the lack of scientific knowledge, but also use outreach programs to improve community wide ocean literacy to help influence behavior change…

The Blue & Green Security Forum

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Earlier this month, H.R.H. Princess Hala bint Khaled bin Sultan spoke about the importance of marine conservation for sustainable development at The Global Diwan’s Blue & Green Security Forum in Nice, France.

This high-level event brought together business leaders, experts, and decision makers from Europe and the Middle East to tackle some of tomorrow’s most important challenges: the environment and food security. Designed to inspire a renewed dialogue between Europe and the Arab world, the Forum covered many topics related to sustainable economic and human development in the MENA region. It also highlighted women and young leaders who are committed to providing solutions.

As a Director of the Living Oceans Foundation, Princess Hala spoke eloquently about her own journey into marine conservation and the Foundation’s work to preserve healthy oceans for current and future generations. She also called upon the global community to support efforts to conserve coral reefs and other coastal marine ecosystems—before it is too late.

See what she said in her speech from the opening session…

Surveying Coral Reefs in Hawaii with ACES

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Earlier this year, the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation joined Dr. Ved Chirayath on a research mission to survey and map coral reefs in Lana’i, Hawaii. Chirayath leads the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science’s Aircraft Center for Earth Studies (ACES), and has pioneered a new approach to mapping reefs using drones equipped with fluid lensing technology.

Fluid lensing harnesses the unique power of waves to magnify and concentrate light on the seafloor, essentially allowing users to see through the water and map the seafloor in stunning detail…

Coral Reefs in the South Pacific: A Webinar with SPREP

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation recently hosted a webinar with our partners at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP). SPREP is an organization established by the governments of Pacific Island nations to protect and manage the environment and natural resources of the Pacific. Their 21 member states (including many we studied on the Global Reef Expedition) work together to achieve healthy and resilient ecosystems and support sustainable development for Pacific communities. Our webinar with SPREP allowed us to share our research findings from the South Pacific directly with people who are actively working to conserve coral reefs and coastal marine ecosystems in the region. This is one of the many ways we are sharing our knowledge and findings from the Global Reef Expedition with the countries and communities in which we worked.

During the webinar, we were able to share information about the work the Foundation completed on the Expedition, including our extensive outreach and education initatives, as well as our scientific findings. We highlighted the programs our education team developed over the course of the Expedition, the many outreach events we held, and provided a comprehensive discussion of the results of our research in the South Pacific as well as our work in the Indian Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

At the end of the presentation, we were able to share our ongoing partnerships and upcoming projects, including our ongoing partnership with the University of Miami to develop a reef resilience model, our partnership with NASA to map the world’s reefs, as well as our numerous education programs such as the Mangrove Education & Restoration Program, Coral Reef Ecology Curriculum, and Science Without Borders® Challenge. Lastly, we shared information about our endorsed UN Ocean Decade Project, Science Without Borders®: Conserving the Tropics, which will use science, outreach, and education to engage local communities to protect their coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass meadows. This project will allow us to build off of our work on the Global Reef Expedition using a co-designed approach to further conservation of tropical coastal marine ecosystems, such as those in the South Pacific.

The webinar was attended by numerous government officials, marine managers, and stakeholders from throughout the South Pacific. Some of the attendees were people we had worked with on the Global Reef Expedition, but many were new and this webinar was a great introduction to the Foundation and our work. There was a great Q&A session at the end where we were able to discuss the findings and share more information about future partnerships.

As we take the work from the Global Reef Expedition to the next level, we are always looking to develop new partnerships to help bring the UN endorsed Science Without Borders® project to communities worldwide. Webinars like this, and partnering with SPREP, are important first steps in the implementation of the Science Without Borders® project and connect us with a network of people who are also working to protect, conserve, and restore ocean health.

Findings from the World’s Largest Coral Reef Expedition Showcased at International Coral Reef Conference

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation is sharing its findings from the Global Reef Expedition (GRE) at the 15th  International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) this week in Bremen, Germany. This international coral reef conference brings together experts in coral reef …

Sharing our findings at the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS)

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation will be attending the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) this week to share our findings from the Global Reef Expedition.  The 15th International Coral Reef Symposium is the primary international conference for coral …

The Bouknadel Statement

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation was one of 17 philanthropic foundations that have signed on to The Bouknadel Statement. This joint statement was launched on the occasion of the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, to raise awareness for the need to increase investment in ocean science to support sustainable development.

The Foundations Dialogue of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development — an informal, global network of community, corporate, and private foundations that have chosen to work together to support the vision of the Ocean Decade — today launched The Bouknadel Statement affirming their commitment to investing in transformative ocean science. The Statement was launched during an event celebrating the Ocean Decade during the 2022 UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon.