UNCW’s MarineQuest 3T Program Receives NOAA Funding

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The University of North Carolina Wilmington's MarineQuest Traveling Through Trash (3T) program has received $29,615 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to help educate elementary and middle school students on the origins of ocean debris and how these objects affect marine life like whales, dolphins and sea turtles. 

“Because MarineQuest operates as a receipt-supported small business, we usually have to charge a fee when providing educational outreach to schools,” said Sue Kezios, director of youth programs at MarineQuest. “Securing grant funding from NOAA makes it possible for us to provide programs free-of-charge to rural, underserved schools in our region.”

This is the first time NOAA has granted money to UNCW's MarineQuest, which will use the funds to help with travel expenses to and from rural, eastern North Carolina K-8 schools. The grant will also help MarineQuest create teaching kits that can be used in schools to educate children about marine life and ocean debris. 

“Education and outreach are important pillars of our program and we look forward to working with the recipients to help reach even more people,” said Nancy Wallace, the NOAA program director. “Marine debris is preventable and, by raising awareness and learning how to stop it at the source, we can help solve this problem.”

To help achieve their goal, MarineQuest has created a massive, inflatable right whale "classroom" named Watson. The classroom will travel with project staff from school to school in hopes of inspiring children to become young ocean stewards. Equipped with life-size organs that can simulate what happens when whales come in contact with ocean debris, Watson allows children to dissect and diagnose sick whales from the inside out. The aim is to inspire change at a young age that will lead to a more ocean-friendly future. 

Because right whales regularly travel, feed and breed along our Carolina coast, MarineQuest is building a small calf whale to accompany Watson to schools. They plan to name the calf Noah in recognition of and gratitude for the service and funding provided by NOAA. 

--Kamerin Roth