Learn more about the RJD Program model: science + education + conservation + technology
An Overview: What is the RJD Program?
The RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program (RJD) is a joint initiative of the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science and Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. The mission of RJD is to advance ocean conservation and scientific literacy by conducting cutting edge scientific research and providing innovative and meaningful outreach opportunities for students through exhilarating hands-on research and virtual learning experiences in marine biology. Opportunities are especially made available for students from land-locked communities and under-served populations in the sciences. Focusing primarily on the study and conservation of sharks, the Program’s full-immersion approach allows students to actively grow as future scientists.
From a broader educational perspective, the RJD Program address two major needs in the United States and abroad: (1) a lack of engaging science education opportunities that inspire youth to learn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills and adopt conservation attitudes and behaviors, and (2) a lack of knowledge and awareness about marine ecology and conservation, particularly in relation to shark species. To meet these challenges and bring about the desired change, RJD engages in numerous activities including community outreach, marine-based field, lab, and virtual research experiences and online educational activities.
The program enables the University of Miami (UM) to build upon its internationally recognized programs in marine and ecosystem science and foster innovative interdisciplinary approaches to emerging environmental issues. The Rosenstiel School offers one of the largest, most dynamic marine and atmospheric programs in the nation that will offer cutting-edge scientific support for the new program. The Abess Center, led by University of Miami Professor and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Kenny Broad, provide support in the form of innovative initiatives that bridge the gap between hard science and environmental policy.
Today, the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, in partnership with the National Geographic Society, is creating a new “Exploration Science™” Program at the University based on the success of the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program.
Using the RJD program as model, the new Exploration Science™ program will combine scientific research with an outreach and educational platform that allows ordinary people, young and old, to join University of Miami researchers for experiential and virtual expeditions in ecological, oceanographic, aviation and diving research expeditions.
Exploration Science™ Program opportunities will include:
- Shark satellite tagging and ecological research in Florida, Bahamas, and S. Africa
- Helicopter-based research to collect environmental info
- Underwater aquatic surveys
- Gamefish tagging expeditions
- Coral reef restoration projects
- Sustainable aquaculture technology deployment in Bahamas
- Underwater archaeology
- Research with submersibles and remotely operated vehicles
- Research vessel expeditions for oceanographic and
- Biological sampling
- High altitude hurricane reconnaissance aircraft research flights
- River and underwater cave expeditions for biodiversity and geological surveys
A Proven Model
Since its inauguration in 2009, RJD has supported student education in STEM, citizen science and outreach. For example, between 2009 and 2011 alone, RJD brought over 2,000 high school students from 40 countries into the field to participate in shark research, including top ranked private schools, those in low income neighborhoods and even “last chance” alternative learning facilities for juvenile offenders. In the coming years, RJD plans to bring high school students by boat to the University’s field station located on Broad Key (a 62-acre remote, private island). From here, students will be taught about marine conservation issues from the station’s in house classrooms. Moreover, the station will serve as the base for students to join scientists in data collection and analyses, including shark abundance surveys, stable isotope analysis, under-water visual surveys, acoustic telemetry, and blood hormone analysis. In doing so, students will be trained in the scientific method, data collection, synthesis and reporting and be required to conduct independent research projects.
To impact an even larger audience from across the globe, RJD continues to use a variety of online education tools, including virtual expeditions, webinars, pod-casts, blogs, online curricula and social media. We have already been successful using these tools as part of our broader impacts and outreach activities. For example, we currently offer a virtual expedition, much like a video game, whereby students become fully immersed in online interactive shark tagging excursions. Students are lead through a series of field research activities and assignments that give the feeling of actually being in the field, studying sharks. Additionally, our website currently offers a marine conservation biology blog written by students, which was awarded Best Conservation Blog of 2011 by TripBase. Our Facebook page was recently featured by Mashable.com (the largest online news site dedicated to digital culture and social media, with over 20 million unique visitors monthly) as one of the five most effective ways to use Facebook in the classroom. We also currently provide innovative “Twitter Teach-Ins” every month where we hold an information session via Twitter about timely issues in marine conservation, followed by a live question and answer session. Other online learning tools we currently provide include webinars, pod-casts and a freely downloadable high school curriculum in marine conservation science and policy. The proposed work will continue building on this content with a strong focus on the ecosystem role of marine predators. Newly crafted material will include infographics, photo essays, live Skype lectures from the field, and TV documentaries. This will be accomplished in partnership with National Geographic to reach a global audience.
The RJD Research Team is currently investigating 11 primary research areas, which continue to generate publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Strong collaborative efforts continue to be made across the disciplines to advance marine conservation.
UM President Shalala
“Because the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program lies squarely in the intersection between science and policy, it will provide students across the University of Miami, and high school students, including those in underserved populations, with access to field experiences that will foster intellectual curiosity and help to position them as effective environmental leaders for the future.”— Donna Shalala
President, University of Miami
“There is nothing more satisfying than helping to create positive change, whether it is through science or inspiring the next generation ocean ambassadors.”- Dr. Neil Hammerschlag
Director, RJ Dunlap
Marine Conservation Program
RJD In Focus
Between 2009 and 2011 alone, RJD brought over 2,000 high school students from 40 countries into the field to participate in shark research.