Oracle Commitment Grant Funds an Oceanic Effort

by Tony Kontzer, August 2010

Scientists suggest that 20 percent of the Earth’s oceans should be protected. Yet we currently preserve just 1 percent.

To help address this issue, Oracle has joined the National Geographic Society in a global push to promote ocean conservation—part of a five-year, US$70 million National Geographic initiative aimed at reversing the current trajectory of ocean degradation.

Oracle is helping to spearhead the educational component of that initiative with a US$1 million Commitment Grant from Oracle Giving. Commitment Grants focus on three areas—education, environmental conservation, and enrichment of community life—making National Geographic’s ocean conservation initiative an ideal recipient.

“It’s a three-fer in terms of touching all those categories,” says Colleen Cassity, executive director of Oracle Giving and Volunteers and the Oracle Education Foundation. “It’s exactly the kind of partnership we’re interested in building.”

The ocean initiative, launching in September 2010, is a sweeping effort to tackle the issue with a combination of research, publicity, and education.

Research teams, led by noted marine ecologist Dr. Enric Sala, will collect data on the ocean ecology and help establish baseline reduction targets for the catching and consumption of marine wildlife. Meanwhile, Dr. Sylvia Earle, an accomplished oceanographer and the former chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will also be researching, documenting, and publicizing the current state of the oceans.

Oracle’s grant will fund much of the education effort, including professional development sessions for teachers at several major education conferences; distribution of educational videos to hotels and cruise lines; circulation of education materials to youth groups, zoos, and museums; and workshops for scuba diving instructors, sailing organizations, and fishing and tourism charters.

Oracle is also funding a hands-on component in which 60 teachers, or Ocean Ambassadors, will receive intensive ocean conservation training from National Geographic via an eight-day course at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California. These teachers will return home and train other teachers. Collectively, they will educate tens of thousands of students about ocean health.

Oracle’s contribution goes beyond the grant: the Oracle Education Foundation is also linking National Geographic with its online learning community, ThinkQuest Projects, which engages more than 500,000 students and educators in 43 countries.

“We had 2,600 participants in 19 countries following Dr. Sala’s expedition to Cocos Island, off the coast of Costa Rica, and the learning they experienced was extraordinary,” says Cassity. “Those kids will never look at the sea the same way again. They’re ocean stewards now.”

“Oracle’s early support for this initiative allowed us to get a great head start on developing materials and getting our teacher leaders ready,” says Kathleen Schwille, director of program development for the National Geographic education programs. “There’s no way for us to reach thousands of teachers and students one on one. We have to get that multiplier effect, and both Oracle and the Oracle Education Foundation are helping to deliver that.”

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Tony Kontzer is a freelance writer based in Albany, California.


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