Ocean Sustainability through Ecotourism in the Keys

This summer, I am working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to help support their Blue Star program. Blue Star is a voluntary recognition program that partners with local charter boat operators throughout the Florida Keys. Through offerings such as scuba diving, snorkeling, and fishing, Blue Star partnered operators promote responsible and safe practices for both their customers and the ecosystems within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Blue Star provides a yearly training to its partners, as well as resources, materials, and community events.

A logo of a Red flag with a diagional white stripe behin a large blue star and 3 waves vertically placed on the bottom half of the star.  The words "Blue Star Operator' is above the flag  and "Committed to Coral Conservation" is below.

My primary task this summer is to facilitate a Needs Based Assessment of Blue Star through surveying and/or interviewing all staff and participants of the program, and then develop and execute recommendations to strengthen the overall effectiveness of the program. In these first few weeks, I have gone through all of the trainings myself, as well as dove into supportive literature that support the Blue Star program. Through guidance from my mentors, I am currently developing survey and interview materials that will be conducted throughout July. By the end of July, I will be analyzing my findings and presenting recommendations to my mentors on how to best address the needs of our partnering businesses.

I will then conclude my fellowship by executing a couple of the priority recommendations, which comes at a great time as we are currently transitioning to a new platform for our trainings. I hope to use my previous experience in educational resources and community engagement to make the best trainings we can for our partners. I will also be developing new avenues to promote Blue Star as we aspire to expand our influence throughout the Florida Keys.

A woman sits at a table behind a laptop holding a mug and smiling.
Though I’m grateful to be able to execute this fellowship remotely, I can’t wait to visit Florida in July!

I am primarily doing this fellowship remotely, at home, but I have the opportunity to visit in-person during July! I will be working from the office, conducting in-person interviews, traveling up and down the Keys, and ending the trip at an Advisory Council Townhall where they will be presenting a new framework for working groups of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. I am very much looking forward to this visit, and I will be glad to report back.

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