BIOS Supports Bermuda’s Next Generation of Environmental Stewards

In October, BIOS collaborated with community partners to support two ocean-focused initiatives designed to educate Bermuda’s young people about ocean science and engage them in conversations about climate change and local environmental policy and decision-making processes.

Alongside more than a century of research in ocean and atmospheric science, BIOS has a rich history of education programs that foster an understanding of the island’s marine resources and promote stewardship of the ocean environment among Bermuda’s youth. In addition to school-based programs offered throughout the year, BIOS also collaborates with local organizations to support their ocean-focused education initiatives.

“There are a wealth of organizations championing our ocean,” said Kaitlin Noyes, BIOS director of education and community engagement. “At BIOS, we are proud to be able to share with various groups how long-term rigorous research about our ocean can support decision-making processes.”

In October 2022, two such initiatives took place: the Young Leaders Engagement Session, held in partnership between the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme (BOPP) and the Bermuda Zoological Society (BZS); and a visit to BIOS from the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute’s (BUEI’s) Youth Climate Leaders. Both events were designed to engage and educate the next generation about topics relating to climate and the ocean.

The Young Leaders Engagement Sesssion, held in partnership between the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme and the Bermuda Zoological Society, gave participants the opportunity to critically discuss components of the Draft Blue Prosperity Plan and share feedback on its design and how it might impact their futures. “The Draft Blue Prosperity Plan will shape economic and environmental issues impacting Bermuda’s youth. As such, we must take the time to ensure they understand the importance of protecting the island’s waters and how we can mitigate and provide solutions to long-term challenges, such as climate change,” said Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs, the Hon. Walter Roban, JP, MP.

Young Leaders Engagement Session

On Friday, October 14, the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo hosted a three-hour event designed to engage Bermuda’s young people in conversations about the Draft Blue Prosperity Plan, which is currently open to public comment. BIOS (a principal of BOPP), BUEI, BZS, and many other local organizations submitted nominations for Young Leader Session participants, aged 14 to 25.

Following presentations on highlights of the Draft Plan from representatives of BOPP and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, BZS educators facilitated participant-led discussions in breakout groups. This structure allowed participants to critically discuss the components of the Draft Plan and share their feedback on its design, intended outcomes, and how they feel it might impact their futures.

“This event really inspired and motivated me to engage in this process,” said Kesay Bell, 17, a student at CedarBridge Academy. “I already knew I wanted to be an oceanographer, but this showed me how important the work is, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to discuss these issues with my peers.”

The Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute brought students participating in its Youth Climate Summit to BIOS to learn more about how the ocean relates to climate. During a half-day program, Summit students learned from BIOS faculty and scientific staff about global ocean processes and how plankton, despite their small size, play a large role in mediating Earth’s climate through the ocean’s biological carbon pump.

BUEI Youth Climate Summit Students

BUEI plays a leading role in educating Bermuda’s youth about climate, ocean conservation, and sustainability. In addition to the annual weeklong Youth Climate Summit (YCS), which provides attendees with information and opportunities to engage in action-based community projects, BUEI also holds a variety of climate-related fact-finding trips throughout the year.

“We are very fortunate in Bermuda to have access to incredible scientists at BIOS, who have enriched BUEI’s yearlong YCS program and moreover, facilitated a greater understanding of the interplay between our oceans and the atmosphere in climate science,” said Rosemarie McMahon, consulting director to the Youth Climate initiative at BUEI. “The students in the YCS initiative have a clearer understanding of the vulnerabilities of our oceans, thanks to a series of interactions with BIOS experts, and with this acquired knowledge are more eager to find ways to protect this vital carbon sink.”

On Saturday, October 15, a group of BUEI Youth Climate Summit students visited BIOS for a half-day program focused on the role of plankton in Earth’s climate cycles. Participants met with comparative physiologist and biological oceanographer Amy Maas, who explained the “biological carbon pump.” In its simplest form, this process is driven by organisms in the ocean, including phytoplankton, which remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and can transport it into deep ocean waters and sediments. The ocean currently takes up about 30% of the “extra” CO2 that is produced by humans, so understanding this removal of CO2 is important for understanding the future of climate change.

Afterward, the Youth Climate Summit students toured the Zooplankton Ecology Lab with research technician Hannah Gossner and conducted a plankton tow on a BIOS small research vessel. The last activity of the day was a hands-on investigative lab, in which participants viewed samples collected during the plankton tow under dissecting microscopes.