Research vessel shows amazing ocean life

March 3, 2008 9:04:10 PM PST
Students around the country are diving into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary without even getting wet. A live broadcast is teaching a new generation about the importance of protecting their environment.

R/V Fulmar is a research vessel and now for the first time it is also an impressive floating studio with underwater cameras and live interactive broadcasts.

"It is a gorgeous day in Monterey Bay and it's really great to be part of this innovative program," says education and outreach coordinator Dawn Hayes..

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Marine Sanctuary Program believes it can help protect a precious ecosystem by bringing the underwater world to life.

"We really want to make sure that people understand that not only do they have a personal connection to the sea, but everything that they do has an affect on the ocean," says Hayes.

The key was teaming up with Dr. Robert Ballard's education program, Immersion Presents, and putting a high-tech system in place to take advantage of live cameras on the Fulmar and under the water.

"Those are then beamed through what we call Internet 2 and via satellite across the country to the East Coast and then that is sent out to all the different pin sites across the United States," says Kate Thompson, national outreach coordinator.

This is not just one live broadcast. NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program and Immersion Presents are coordinating 30 half-hour live broadcasts over a six-day period.

Scientific divers say the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was an ideal location to kick off this extraordinary venture.

"It has the submarine canyon just offshore... It provides a diversity of habitats and lots of really interesting animals come here," says senior scientist, Steve Lonhart, Ph.D.

Kim Pratt's students in Union City will be among the classrooms across the county watching and learning.

"We've actually adopted a creek that we've cleaned up and we've learned about garbage that goes out into the bay. By enlightening students, they will respect and they'll want to take care of the natural world that's around them," says Kim Pratt, a 5th grade teacher.

In November, the innovative program will broadcast again from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.