ANGARI Foundation brought coral reef research to the Marine Conservation Club at Wellington Landings Middle School (WLMS). The visit was arranged by WLMS teacher and club leader, Mary Jackson, and aimed to introduce the club members to corals, reefs and the methods scientists use to study and conserve them in preparation for their visit to the Florida Keys later in the semester. Two faculty and 22 students participated in the interactive session.
Led by ANGARI’s Director of Science Education & Advancement, Dr. Amanda Waite, the program began with an overview of coral biology and morphology, reef formation and threats to reefs like coral bleaching. Students then split into teams to participate in two immersive activities using educational technology. By viewing ANGARI’s Generation Ocean: Coral Reefs 360 film in virtual reality headsets, they were able to join a reef research expedition aboard R/V ANGARI to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The club members also used smart boards to examine photomosaic imagery from the Cheeca Rocks reef visited in the film over time. This imagery was collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and their Coral Reef Conservation Program as part of long-term monitoring at Cheeca. The students not only observed numerous reef species, but also seasonal changes in reef health related to coral bleaching. The session concluded with a follow-up discussion to answer remaining questions and encourage the students to pursue their own inquiries into coral health while in the field.