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Coastal Ocean Explorers

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We’re inspiring the next generation of scientists and conservationists through an innovative hands-on marine science program. Coastal Ocean Explorers is an applied science research experience, including expeditions on the water, that allows participants to work directly with scientists studying our oceans and their inhabitants.

Program Details

This program immerses youth and educators in hands-on marine science and features full-day expeditions offshore along Palm Beach County aboard our 65-foot vessel, R/V ANGARI. Program participants receive introductory instruction on relevant marine ecological concepts and methods before gaining firsthand experience on the water, working side-by-side with professional scientists and vessel crew to collect valuable data that supports ocean research and conservation.

Coastal Ocean Explorers learn and perform established scientific methods, including:

  • Shark fishing via drum line and safe and efficient scientific workup of sharks prior to release;
  • Plankton tows and identification of plankton using a microscope;
  • Deployment of and data collection from baited remote underwater video (BRUV) equipment.

To further enrich their experience, participating youth and educators can take part in follow up educational programming, delving into the data collected during expeditions in even more detail.

Note: Scientific activities subject to change based on weather and working conditions on day of expedition.

Science Party

Mike Heithaus professional photo
Dr. Mike Heithaus

Dr. Heithaus is the Dean of the FIU College of Arts, Sciences & Education and a marine ecologist specializing in predator-prey interactions and the ecological importance of sharks.

Dr. Demian Chapman

Dr. Chapman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at FIU. A molecular ecologist by training, he leads the Global FinPrint project and studies the Asian shark fin trade.


EXP 17: Chief Scientist - Laura Garcia
Laura Garcia

Laura’s shark conservation biology research focuses on the level of pollutants found in different shark tissues and how this varies with species, trophic level, and region of origin.

Kirk Gastrich
Kirk Gastrich

Kirk’s work takes him around the globe to study community ecology and predator/prey interactions of marine and estuarine megafauna, including elasmobranchs, marine mammals, and aquatic reptiles.

Nicholas Ogle

Nick is the Education Outreach Program Manager at Florida International University’s College of Arts, Sciences & Education.

Gina Clementi

Gina’s research focuses on how anthropogenic and environmental factors impact elasmobranch abundance and diversity by using baited remote underwater video surveys (BRUVS) to analyze marine predator distributions.

Jessica Quinlan

Jessie’s research takes place in Belize where she works with the Belize Department of Fisheries to determine which shark species are overexploited and help create a management plan that can aid in the recovery of these sharks.

Coastal Ocean Explorers in the News

FAQs ▾

What academic topics are addressed during this program that might relate to what I’m teaching in school?

Topics addressed during the expeditions are varied and range from the nature of science and the scientific method, to marine biology, biodiversity, food web dynamics, bio-accumulation, human impacts on the environment, and fisheries. The instructional method is informal, flexible, and hands-on. Students will work alongside scientists to apply and advance their own science knowledge and skills in the field.

What are you looking for in program applicants?

The application is designed to allow applicants to tell their youth group’s story and explain what an experience of this nature would mean to them. For some, this might be the first time they are on the water; for others, the experience may enhance the subjects they are studying in school. For others still, this may be an opportunity to explore ocean-oriented careers and develop mentors, from scientists and educators, to underwater photographers, vessel captain, and crew.

What if my group has more than 14 students?

For groups larger than 14 students, you may wish to divide your group into two and submit two separate applications (one for each group).

How much does this program cost?

Sponsorship allows us to offer this program free of charge to highly qualified participants, as determined by the application process. If your organization has an available sponsor to ensure your participation, please state this in your application materials.

What is included in the day expedition?

We recommend participants have breakfast prior to boarding the vessel. Lunch will be provided for all participants while onboard. Cold water will also be available throughout the day (participants should bring their own refillable water bottles to use). Please note that while expedition costs are covered, all expedition participants will need to arrange their own transportation to/from the marina in downtown West Palm Beach.

What should we bring on our expedition?

Detailed instructions will be sent prior to your expedition, however we request participants bring the following items:

  • Reusable water bottle (can be refilled onboard)
  • Hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc. to protect from sun
  • Rubber soled, closed toe shoes
  • Appropriate clothing including any necessary outerwear (e.g. sweater, windbreaker, raincoat)
  • Small bag or backpack for all your gear
  • Any medications you may need (please only take sea sickness medication if you are prescribed or have taken it before)
  • Copies of signed forms with Emergency Contact Information
What forms will be required to participate in an expedition?

If selected for an expedition, you will be asked to submit a final passenger list with copies of all signed forms 7 days prior to the expedition. Each participant (and a parent or guardian for those under 18) will need to sign off on our Expedition Code of Conduct, as well as Appearance and Liability Releases. Failure to submit completed forms by the stated deadline may result in forfeit of the expedition.

Can I create a waiting list to ensure that we do not leave any open spots if someone has to cancel?

Yes, we encourage you to create a wait list so that another youth (with completed paperwork) is ready to take the place of one who may be unable to make it due to unforeseen circumstances. The final passenger list must be submitted no later than 7 days prior to expedition. Failure to submit your final passenger list by the deadline may result in forfeit of the expedition.

What will happen with our expedition in the event of bad weather?

Expeditions will be canceled in cases of severe weather or sea conditions deemed unsafe for conducting fieldwork. Cancelation decisions will be made a minimum of 36 hours in advance and the group leader (primary contact) will be notified. If possible, the group will be rescheduled for a future available date. In certain cases, an expedition may be delayed or end early due to developing unsafe weather conditions, and these calls will be made day of as necessary for safety. There will be no rescheduling in the event of an expedition that is cut short due to weather.

Program Support

Interested in supporting this program?

Please contact Angela Rosenberg at or 561-370-7370 for sponsorship opportunities.

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