National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Announces Ocean Exploration Education Grants to Advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Silver Spring, Md. – January 19, 2022 – The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and NOAA Ocean Exploration awarded seven mini-grants to engage and inspire the next generation of ocean explorers by supporting Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility efforts related to ocean literacy, stewardship, and workforce development. 

The Ocean Exploration Education Mini-Grants project engages underserved and underrepresented communities in ocean exploration career pathways.  Grant recipients include Black in Marine Science, Mystic Aquarium, Na Wa’a Mauo Marine Stewardship Program, University of Delaware, State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo, University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and the University of Southern California.  

“Ocean science and exploration will help us unlock solutions to the challenges facing ocean and Great Lakes,” said Kris Sarri, president and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. “The projects funded by the Ocean Exploration Education grants will foster new stewards who engage in protecting our blue planet. We are grateful to NOAA Ocean Exploration for supporting these projects. “ 

Genene Fisher, Director (Acting) of NOAA Ocean Exploration, said, “I am proud that NOAA Ocean Exploration and the Foundation are able to fund these very beneficial projects and advance diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility efforts that support the next generation of ocean explorers and stewards.” 

The Ocean Exploration Education Mini-Grants promote Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) education for students from underserved and underrepresented communities and builds the capacity for STEAM educators to bring ocean science and exploration alive in the classroom and beyond. To increase inclusivity and build diversity in ocean science and exploration, STEAM education programs need to intentionally engage with student groups underrepresented in these fields. A 2016 report by the National Science Foundation shows that underrepresented minority students received less than a quarter of all science and engineering bachelor’s degrees and less than 10 percent of doctorate degrees. This project aims to build partnerships to target these gaps and scale-up ideas promoting stronger connections between diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility and ocean exploration as it relates to ocean literacy, stewardship, or workforce development. 

The projects will take place through the Spring of 2022. 

Black in Marine Science (FL) 

This project will offer a week-long South Florida marine science immersion experience to provide Black undergraduate students with opportunities to engage in hands-on learning, research, restoration, and conservation activities in various ocean science disciplines with the overarching goal of recruiting and retaining Black scientists and leaders in the field. 

Mystic Aquarium (CT/RI) 

Ocean Exploration Adventure will advance ocean exploration educational opportunities for 200 underserved 8th grade students and educators from two majority-minority middle schools in Cranston, RI. Educators will participate in online and in-person professional development in partnership with NOAA Ocean Exploration Education and implement ocean exploration activities with their students. Live events with diverse career role models and field trips to explore Narragansett Bay, University of Rhode Island’s Inner Space Center and Mystic Aquarium’s Marine National Monument exhibit will round out the student experience. 

Na Wa’a Mauo Marine Stewardship Program (HI) 

Native Hawaiian students are underrepresented in STEAM and ocean sciences. Educators in Hawaiian language immersion programs severely lack STEAM education resources to train future scientists. This project aims to address these issues by creating a Hawaiian language and culture-based STEAM educational package and bringing this content to classrooms through teacher connections. It will integrate Native Hawaiian worldviews on ocean literacy, stewardship, and kuleana (responsibility) to develop the future workforce. 

SUNY Geneseo (NY) 

This project supports efforts to increase diverse representation in the STEAM workforce. Project funds will provide three undergraduate students from historically underrepresented groups in ocean exploration with an experiential learning opportunity to study deep-sea fish populations with remotely operated vehicle (ROV) data from NOAA Ocean Exploration.  The project team will also increase the accessibility of ocean exploration education content for both undergraduate educators and students by publishing a pedagogy manuscript on how to build undergraduate research experiences that integrate NOAA data into biology lab courses. Professional development workshops targeting students from diverse backgrounds will provide resources and strategies for entering marine science and/or STEAM workforce, further strengthening connections between diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility efforts and STEAM opportunities.   

University of Delaware 

Delaware Sea Grant will host a series of teacher professional development opportunities, including a conference session, webinar, and one-day in-person workshop. Underserved students from Wilmington, Delaware will explore the ocean through sampling water quality and otter trawling. All project activities will focus on Ocean Literacy, ocean exploration, and marine careers. Teachers from around the state will build confidence in teaching marine science content through hands-on experiences, including a research cruise aboard the University of Delaware’s R/V Joanne Daiber. Students will expand their environmental skills and gain exposure to the marine world. Both teachers and students will increase their awareness and appreciation of the ocean and build a stronger environmental stewardship ethic. 

University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (FL) 

Ocean Explorers is an immersive field trip hosted at University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science for middle and high school students from under-resourced schools in Miami, FL. There will be fifteen engaging stations to excite students about ocean exploration science and conservation. Students will learn how to become stewards for their local marine environment and envision their path to an advanced degree by interacting with university students and faculty volunteers. 

University of Southern California 

This project will create an American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) dive training program to certify six students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Hispanic-serving Universities. The class will target students who have no prior SCUBA training and result in them obtaining AAUS certification and professional development.  



The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, established in 2000, is the official non-profit partner of the National Marine Sanctuary System. The Foundation directly supports America’s national marine sanctuaries through our mission to protect species, conserve ecosystems and preserve cultural and maritime heritage. We accomplish our mission through community stewardship and engagement programs, on-the-water conservation projects, public education and outreach programs, and scientific research and exploration. The Foundation fosters innovative projects that are solution-oriented, scalable and transferable, and develop strategic partnerships that promote the conservation and recovery of species and their habitats. Learn more at 


Contact: Chip Weiskotten 

Director of Strategic Communications