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MSC Outreach Coordinator leads regional science group

This summer, when high school students at the Marine Science Center’s Coastal Ocean Science Academy, or COSA, gather research, their data will become part of a citizen-science project. Summer Science in New England is one of a number of regional projects the New England Ocean Science Education Collaborative (NEOSEC) has started.

NEOSEC was formed in 2005 as a collaborative continuation of regional partners involved with the Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence, or COSEE. The organization is made up of 55 member institutions from around New England, including Northeastern University and a number of other science centers, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and research institutions. NEOSEC is currently hosted by the New England Aquarium, where the Collaborative’s Program Manager resides.

Starting July 1, Carole McCauley, the Outreach Program Coordinator at Northeastern’s Marine Science Center, is beginning her term as NEOSEC’s chairperson.

“I get so much, personally and professionally, from working with this organization of amazing peers,” said McCauley. “When asked to serve, I feel that the responsible thing to do was to step up and take a turn..”

McCauley was elected, essentially, to a three-year term, which started last year when she was Chair-Elect, and next year she will serve as Past-Chair. While Chair-Elect, McCauley focused on membership. In that time, 12 new member institutions came on board.

She also worked on the Ocean Literacy Summit, which NEOSEC hosts every two years. It’s an opportunity for educators, scientists, and policymakers to get together and talk with and learn from each other. In November 2012, at the University of Rhode Island, Robert Ballard was the keynote speaker. McCauley gave the closing remarks at the Summit, which nearly 200 people attended.

As Chair, McCauley said she will focus on planning the next Summit, which is scheduled to take place in 2014. She will also work with the organization’s members to review the current strategic plan, which expires next year, and formulate a new one.

“We are really working on building bridges between scientists and educators to promote ocean science,” she said.

At the same time, McCauley is supremely proud of the work Northeastern has done as part of NEOSEC. Summer Science in New England pairs high school students with scientists who are conducting rocky shore research. Together they are mapping out what lives along the New England coast. Some of the data that the students collect have already become part of papers published by scientists. McCauley describes it as “citizen science.”

In addition to the Summer Science project, which has at least 14 partners and has been funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, Northeastern, and more directly the Marine Science Center, has also participated in Families by the Seaside.

Families by the Seaside is supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It helps team science education centers with community partners that represent underserved or underrepresented families. The MSC has partnered with Girls Inc. of Lynn. Initially, they host two events a year, one in June for World Oceans Day, and one in September for a beach clean up day. Out of this partnership, the Beach Sister program evolved, and now there are approximately 200 girls in Lynn who are benefitting from marine education programs year-round.

McCauley says her colleagues at NEOSEC are constantly identifying and securing funding for collaborative projects. She says with the MSC part of this group, the benefits are immeasurable.

“We try not to reinvent the wheel and to learn from each other. There are so many opportunities.”

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