One Spark Creator: Marine Science Educational Cruises

There’s no better way to learn about the ocean, river, or the water cycle than being directly on the water. The idea to bring a marine science educational vessel to Jacksonville might seem superfluous, but we don’t actually have anything like this in our city. We could benefit vastly. While Jacksonville University recently launched its “Larkin R/V” in the St. Johns River for graduate students from the Marine Science Research Institute, this One Spark project would likely give the opportunity to kids of all ages and students from local public and private schools.

Captain Don Wicklund is not only Captain of the St. Johns River Ferry in Mayport, but he is a former Captain of the “Challenger” Oceanographic Research Vessel from Sandy Hook, New Jersey, where, for more than a decade, he ran an established program to help students understand the ocean ecosystem through direct access to and involvement in the marine environment. “The value of the program was in the excitement of the children. They were doing real science in a hands-on, Coast Guard designated, Oceanographic Research Vessel. Not all these children grew up to be Marine Biologists, but certainly they are more aware of our complex marine environment as an adult,” says Captain Wicklund. We are lucky to have an experienced Captain that knows our river and knows what it takes to make this project happen here in our city.

During a time when funding for basic science, monitoring, and data are lacking on the St. Johns River, using data from students could work to teach and also provide valuable scientific research. While proposals to deepen the river, withdraw millions of gallons per day and add agricultural grass fed cattle farms are all on the table, aligning some new, younger crusaders for water quality might be exactly what we need.

About Shannon Blankinship

Shannon Blankinship is the Outreach Director for St. Johns Riverkeeper and contributes regularly via the “On The River” column building awareness for the many issues that impact the St. Johns River. Shannon received her B.S. from Purdue University in Natural Resources Economics and Policy and her J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville. She is currently an elected official in Duval County serving on the Soil and Water Conservation District. She is a board member for the local nonprofit The Girls Gone Green and regularly contributes articles affecting animals and health. She is a Springfield resident and works to promote all things great in the urban core neighborhoods.