Image credit: Steve Benjamin
Connecting all people to the ocean. This is the vision of the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation. Many of us have lost connection to the natural world, ironically because we are so connected elsewhere, on our phones and TVs. Nature has stopped playing an integral part of our lives even though it is scientifically proven that being in nature is one of the best things you can do for yourself, mentally and physically. The Japanese practice Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) and studies have shown that a few hours spent in a forest reduced both the blood pressure and pulse rate, and improved the mood and memory of forest bathers.
The health benefits of being connected to nature are evident, however what will happen when a whole generation is more and more disconnected from it. Richard Louv writes in his book ‘Last child in the woods’: “How the young respond to nature, and how they raise their own children, will shape the configurations and conditions of our cities, homes – our daily lives.”. Greta Thunberg, young climate activist, further said: “We aren’t destroying the biosphere because we are selfish. We are doing it simply because we are unaware.”
Image credit: Jean Tresfon
It is this disconnect that drives the work we do at the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation, or Aquarium Foundation for short. We are the creation of the Two Oceans Aquarium, an Aquarium that is world-renowned for its conservation and education work. The Aquarium Foundation continues this 24- year legacy focussing on four main focus areas: conservation, awareness, research and education. In 2019 alone, we reached 110 000 children in the Western Cape of South Africa through our on site and outreach educational programmes. Our awareness programme ensured that almost 20 000 people now have a better understanding about the impacts of plastic pollution on our ocean. We rescued, rehabilitated and released more than 200 sea turtles and assisted with the disentanglement of more than 40 Cape fur seals.
Our mission: Informing and inspiring all to connect with and protect our ocean, our natural world, through conservation, awareness, research and education. With this ethos, our team of educators, researchers, conservationists and overall awesome individuals strive to bring nature back into the everyday lives of children and adults alike, by showing them the wonders and excitement that the ocean ecosystem holds within.
Hoodwinker sunfish were only recently discovered in 2017, after hiding in plain sight amongst the more commonly known 𝘔𝘰𝘭𝘢 𝘮𝘰𝘭𝘢. So, when one of these rare animals was found washed up near Gansbaai, scientists from Dyer Island Conservation Trust and the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation were alerted and eager to work together to learn more about one of our ocean’s most unusual creatures.
The Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation runs several holiday enrichment courses (known as ‘The Marine Science Academy courses’) for young natural historians with a particular interest in marine topics.
As they progress through the courses and climb the grades, many of them express an interest in pursuing a marine related career. This generally starts off as wanting to be a ‘Marine Biologist’, but further research and guidance through our courses makes them aware of the huge variety of careers on offer. Our courses for Grades 6 to 9 provide a general insight into marine sciences, building up to our Grade Ten ‘Young Biologist’ Course, which provides a good combination of experiential learning as well as the opportunity to volunteer in the aquarium, if they want to.
The Marine Science Academy courses culminate in two five-day academic courses offered to Grade Elevens and Twelves (the latter on special request) who are considering studying Marine Sciences at a tertiary level, one on aspects of Biology and the second on Oceanography.
This year’s Turtle Road Trip was different from past ones, as the team of the Turtle Rescue Programme used the opportunity to conduct in-depth field training with the people and organisations working on the ground monitoring and patrolling our coastline – we might be the people that rehabilitate turtles, but the men and women patrolling the hundreds of kilometers of coastline are the first line in saving a turtle’s life.