A Partnership Program with Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS)
What is the “Stream to Sanctuary” Certificate of Watershed Stewardship? It’s a prestigious award earned by students who have engaged in more than 108 hours of CSCR research. The “stream to sanctuary” term implies that students understand the connection between the fresh water systems that quench our thirst and the open ocean that sustains life on the planet. The “stream to sanctuary” program, therefore, is for the student who understands how his or her research fits into this image below:
Students preparing for recognition from Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) are those who have experience sharing, or publishing their findings with community stakeholders. Students preparing for recognition are those who have attended public meetings, conferences, science fairs, and symposiums- and have kept notes about these meetings!
Students preparing for the “Stream to Sanctuary” Certificate have completed their 54 hour portfolio and have successfully petitioned their school for course recognition.
Students preparing for the “Stream to Sanctuary” Certificate have engaged in sustained inquiry with CSCR (and sister institutions) for a minimum of two years.
Students preparing for the “Stream to Sanctuary” Certificate document their understanding about how “the ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected.” This is a fundamental idea expressed in NOAA’s Principles of Ocean Literacy.
The Certificate requirements are structured around 4 “watershed-to-ocean ecosystems.” Students are expected to have significant research experience in several of the systems:
The Built Environment, the “impervious surface” environments of our cities and towns, and our evolving green infrastructures and best practices;
The River Systems, the waterways that are the arteries in our watersheds;
The Estuaries that nourish life where ocean waters meet our rivers, streams and brooks; and The Bays, Gulfs, and Ocean, the saltwater system that covers 70% of the planet and directly affects life on earth in myriad ways.
Why is it needed? What does it accomplish? The Certificate is needed because there are no mechanisms currently in place in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that conceptually unite student and citizen science research under one, interconnected “watershed-to ocean” structure. Furthermore, there are no recognition programs currently in place that use this structure to energize and incentivize students to sustain thoughtful watershed inquiry throughout high school. Given that 52 percent of the nation’s population live in coastal counties with 39 percent of the nation’s population living directly on shoreline counties, it is imperative that more students demonstrate a capacity to articulate the importance of preserving the ecosystems that inextricably link humans with the ocean. Climate change and sea level rise are now part of our cultural language, but “watershed to ocean” connectivity, understanding, and engagement are not. We need to develop these habits of mind in our students today. “As our nation’s coastal watershed population continues to grow, it is imperative to understand, manage, and protect the bounty and beauty that have drawn so many Americans to our coasts” (NOAA’s State of the Coast).
Why Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary? Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary encompasses an ecosystem that supports giant bluefin tuna, endangered humpback, right, and fin whales, and a multitude of seabirds. Half the population of North Atlantic right whales, one of the most endangered animals in the ocean, visit the sanctuary every year to feed and nurse their young. Yet, nutrient runoff from the land is known to exacerbate eutrophication in estuaries. Associated harmful algal blooms and disruption of plankton populations impact sanctuary wildlife. Furthermore, effluents of treated human waste may contain chemical compounds that affect sensitive physiological pathways in marine animals. The sanctuary, therefore, is keenly invested in student-centered research that nurtures citizens who understand, among other complex relationships, that we can’t very well save the whales if we don’t know how to save our watershed systems that “feed” the whales.