Revisit the first chapters of RJD.
In the Beginning
The RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program (RJD) evolved from modest beginnings. As a Masters Student back in 2003, Neil Hammerschlag (Director of RJD), volunteered at South Broward High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he helped teach high school students how to create maps based on real data he had collected on the behaviors of great white shark in South Africa that was part of his graduate research. It wasn’t long before Hammerschlag and the school’s visionary Magnet Coordinator, Ted Davis, dreamed up the crazy idea to try and send these young students to South Africa with Hammerschlag, to be a part of the actual data collection and research. Luckily, Davis and Hammerschlag were able to obtain a special grant to do just that. So, In June 2004, Hammerschlag lead a group of students to South Africa. For most of the kids it was their first time on an airplane, let alone an expedition to South Africa to study great white sharks! The trip was a great success. It made headline news, and the data generated produced three scientific publications.
Energized from the success of the expedition, Hammerschlag began crafting an outreach program based out of the University of Miami (UM) where he had just started to pursue his Ph.D. in marine biology. Through great fortune, Hammerschlag gained the support of several great organizations and individuals, who helped make the dream a reality by creating the South Florida Student Shark Program (SFSSP). This included the Batchelor Foundation (BF), Herbert W. Hoover Foundation (HWH), and Explorers Club (EC), Sandy and Jon Batchelor (BF), Rose Mann (UM), David Die (UM, SFSSP Co-Director), Joe Serafy (UM), Lacey Hoover (HWH), Stan Spielman (EC), Hank Luria (EC), Rosemarie Twinam (EC), as well as teachers from South Broward High School (SBHS), Mast Academy (MAST) and Palmer Trinity School (PTS), particularly Deb Hixon (SBHS), Mark Tohulka (MAST), Robert Mcglynn (PTS) and Leann Winn (PTS).
Over the next 3 years, SFSSP conducted over 200 field trips, laboratory sessions and workshops, exposing more than 1000 students to field research. The data collected produced 5 scientific publications and generated international media attention including CNN, Discovery Channel, and Animal Planet to name just a few.
The RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program (RJD)
In 2009, as Hammerschlag was finishing up his studies, his work caught the eye of Marian Dunlap, a brilliant business woman from Minnesota who lived half the year in the Florida Keys. The Dunlap family had witnessed the Keys degrade over the decades and wanted to do something about it. Amazingly, she approached Hammerschlag about expanding his program though a donation in honor of her husband, the late Richard J. Dunlap; he was an avid fisherman that wanted to conserve the waters of the Florida Keys for sport, food and recreation.
Finally, through the combined efforts of UM’s Roni Avissar, Kenny Broad, Rose Mann and members of the Dunlap family, a unique program was born on 18 January 2010, with Hammerschlag at the helm. Operating at the intersection of science, education and outreach, RJD enables UM to build upon its internationally recognized programs in marine and ecosystem science and foster innovative interdisciplinary approaches to emerging environmental issues. RJD is a joint initiative of the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science and the Leonard and Jayne Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy at the University of Miami. Since then, the Program continues to grow with the generous support of its staff, students, volunteers, partners and sponsors.
Who was Richard James Dunlap?
Born in Wilmette, Illinois, Richard James Dunlap was an avid fisherman and outdoorsman. As a boy he learned how to fish and appreciate nature – a love that would expand to all outdoor activities and would persist throughout his life. R.J. spent many family vacations and hosted business conferences at Rainbow Bend in the FL Keys. It is here that he and his four children, Christopher, Kim, Leslie and Melinda, would explore the marine environment. He was also influential in inspiring the love of the ocean to his grandchildren through fishing, boating, snorkeling and diving. In 1986, at the age of 60, R.J. passed away. But he left a strong legacy. Not only did he leave behind a cadre of profitable companies, but he left his imprint in terms of helping to create a more sustainable environment. Most importantly, however, his wife Marian, and four children, ten grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren are a testament to his successful life, and they continue to carry out his dreams. Established through a founding donation from Marian Dunlap in honor of her late husband, the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at the University of Miami now provides exciting opportunities for students to advance ocean conservation and participate in cutting-edge hands-on projects.
Click HERE to learn read more about Richard James Dunlap.