MIT Sea Grant Announces 11 STREAM Projects Selected for Funding
Now in its third year, the STREAM Grant program (Solutions Through Research, Education, and Art in Massachusetts) has awarded a total of 21 grants to a diversity of individuals and organizations. STREAM Grants support short, innovative projects under $10,000 that engage local communities and partners in new ways, and align with MIT Sea Grant’s coastal and ocean-related goals. Through these community-focused projects, MIT Sea Grant aims to cultivate new partnerships and support initiatives that help bridge art, environmental literacy, and science.
MIT Sea Grant has selected nine new projects for funding in 2024:
- Catch of the Day Youth Environmental Education (Save the Harbor/Save the Bay)
Save the Harbor/Save the Bay will further develop their Catch of the Day Youth Program curriculum, led by Deputy Executive Director and Director of Programs, Kristen Barry. Barry works with partners at MIT Sea Grant, the National Park Service, the Boston Children’s Museum, and other groups to create impactful curriculum units. The program will connect youth from coastal communities with Boston Harbor through hands-on activities, including collecting shellfish data and studying marsh ecosystems. Save the Harbor/Save the Bay will employ 42 high school and college students from the Greater Boston area and engage nearly 5,000 youth and families, educating the next generation of marine scientists and positively affecting fisheries and public health by promoting sustainable seafood.
- Community Science on the North Shore: A New Coastal Volunteer Program (Massachusetts Audubon Society)
Mass Audubon plans to create a coastal volunteer program with the goal of gathering data and fostering environmental literacy in local communities. The project, led by Community Science and Coastal Resilience Manager David Moon, will bring together conveners of community science and outreach from across the Great Marsh area, which stretches from the Farm Creek estuary and salt marsh in West Gloucester, Massachusetts, up to the New Hampshire border. Mass Audubon will then recruit and train volunteers who will be part of a core group of monitors, as well as community partners that will support participants who are underrepresented in the environmental sciences. With all participants, Mass Audubon will conduct fieldwork and collect data to better understand environmental conditions and factors impacting the Great Marsh, and share findings, analysis, and implications with stakeholders and the public.
- Crafting a Vessel for Tomorrow’s Environmental Guardians (Hull Lifesaving Museum)
The Hull Lifesaving Museum is partnering with Hull High School to design and build two boats with the goal of expanding the Museum’s maritime programs for the entire community. The boats will serve as a platform to educate the community about marine ecosystems, engaging a diversity of participants, including veterans and individuals with developmental disabilities. The project, led by the Museum’s Executive Director Michael McGurl, will serve to heighten awareness about marine life, facilitate experiential environmental learning, and broaden the accessibility of marine-focused activities within the community. The boats will support activities from salinity and water quality testing, to plankton tows and bottom sampling. The project will culminate in a boat launch event to showcase the work and foster environmental stewardship in the community.
- Empowering Student Citizen Scientists: Miniboat Program for Global Ocean Stewardship (Dudley Middle School)
This project, led by Dudley Middle School science teacher Stacy Lynch, will launch an after school program utilizing the Educational Passages Miniboat Program, creating inclusive learning experiences for the Dudley Middle School community. Through building, deploying, and tracking a Miniboat at sea, students will connect with their local environment and community, as well as with communities around the world. Organized into teams (Launch, Cargo, Deck, Hull & Keel, Sail, Media & Tech), 5th and 6th grade students will help build, manage tasks, and track progress, while the 7th and 8th grade students equip the boat with satellite transmitters and sensors for data collection. The project aims to foster ocean literacy and engagement, and promote understanding of ocean currents, climate change impacts, and global cultural connections.
- Examining Percent Coverage of Ammophila Breviligulata Using Ground Truthing, UAVs, and Machine Learning (Cohasset Center for Student Coastal Research)
The Cohasset Center for Student Coastal Research (CCSCR), including Ecology Facilitator Susan Bryant and a team of eight students from Cohasset High School, will examine the coverage of dune grass (Ammophila breviligulata) on Bassing Beach Island. This species is essential to preserving the habitats and local ecology on the island, which acts as a barrier that helps protect close to 200 acres of the surrounding ecosystem and community from storm surges, high winds, and rising water levels in Cohasset Harbor. The student researchers will collect data on coverage density using both ground truthing and overhead drone surveys, and then estimate percent coverage using machine learning techniques. In line with MIT Sea Grant’s vision of healthy coastal ecosystems and resilient communities, the CCSCR team aims to assess and protect dune grass populations, and provide data to local communities.
- Expanding Understanding of Ocean Acidification to Elementary Schools – Video and Material Kits (Science & Engineering Education Development, Inc.)
Science & Engineering Education Development (SEED), Inc. will create hands-on educational resources focusing on ocean acidification. The goal of the project, led by Sandra Pearl and Elizabeth Bless, is to educate elementary students about why oceans are becoming more acidic, and how marine species are affected. The team will create a video that guides educators through a series of hands-on classroom activities and experiments, and will provide reusable kits to Massachusetts schools, with materials including worksheets and scientific instruments. SEED anticipates reaching about 4,000 students and 125 educators through the program. Students will practice experimental procedures (hypothesis, data collection, and analysis) and gain an understanding of the impacts of human activities and possible consequences on shellfish biodiversity.
- Exploring Tag-Derived Whale Locomotion and Behavioral Sequence Data with the General Public, Children, and the Blind and Visually-Impaired through Music and 3-D Sculpture Multi-modal Models (Sound Explorations)
This project, led by Sound Explorations Education Director Terry Wolkowicz and NOAA Research Ecologist Dr. David Wiley, will build on a NOAA-funded educational effort with the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. In 2022-2023, they created educational resources including 3-D sculpture models of humpback whale foraging behavior using the Sanctuary’s tag-derived data. Now, they will create a new sculpture model demonstrating the behaviors and movements of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale through a combination of tactile, haptic, visual, and musical representations. The 3-D models are designed for students who are blind or have vision impairment, and are accompanied by music composed specifically for the project, mimicking the actual motions of the students’ hands as they traverse the sculptures. The team will engage a diversity of communities, including students with visual impairment and blindness from the Sight Loss Services in South Dennis and Youth Opportunities Unlimited in New Bedford.
- Exploring the Unique History and Ecology of Penikese Island (Falmouth Public Schools)
This effort, led by Carmela Mayeski, Learning Partnerships Specialist for the Falmouth Public Schools, will connect students with educational experiences through the Penikese Island School, which hosts programs using the island as nature’s classroom. Students will learn the basics of marine travel by plotting their course on nautical charts and helping to navigate in and out of local harbors. On the island, students will take a walking tour to observe flora and fauna and learn about the geological and social history of the island. They will also investigate and explore a wildlife sanctuary and ocean coastline to observe indicators of ecosystem health and hypothesize how rising sea levels might affect the island. In the classroom, students will continue to build upon these discoveries through lessons and activities, with the overall goal of deepening environmental literacy and fostering a relationship of respect, responsibility and stewardship.
- WHALE ID: Increasing Accessibility in Marine Science and Conservation through Pattern Recognition (Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Inc.)
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Inc. (WDC) will create an inclusive educational program called Whale ID, led by Education Department Chair Jennifer Kelly. The program is designed to introduce students to humpback whales that seasonally feed off the coast of Massachusetts. Students will learn whale identification, undertake data-driven exercises about their ecology, and participate in a multi-decade humpback whale naming tradition. The WDC will engage seven 5th grade classes from two elementary schools in the Boston Public School system. Through this program, approximately 170 students and 10 teachers will explore the marine environment and species through hands-on curriculum and a whale watch expedition, providing students the opportunity to envision themselves as future professionals in research and conservation.
Since the last funded projects announcement, MIT Sea Grant was also able to fund two additional STREAM initiatives in 2023, focusing on fisheries and microplastics:
- FTIR-Microscopy for Characterization of Microplastics in Seawater (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth)
UMass Dartmouth Biology Professor Pia Moisander is working to develop new methodologies for chemical characterization of microplastics, a priority area of emerging concern for MIT Sea Grant. Professor Moisander is using Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy coupled with microscopy. Understanding the influence of human activities and microplastics on the health of coastal ecosystems is critical for key Massachusetts economies and fisheries. This project aims to establish new strategies to implement in future studies and improve local capacity for detection and analysis of marine microplastics.
- Extracting Value from Crustacean Processing Waste: An Economic Solution to an Environmental Problem (University of Massachusetts Boston)
Alan Abend, Assistant Dean and PhD student at the UMass Boston School for the Environment, is working to develop a prototype crustacean meal bait. Abend will dry and grind shell waste from East Coast Seafood, a New Bedford lobster processor, and formulate a bait recipe with the crustacean meal as the main ingredient. He will then test the prototype bait for its disintegration rate in salt water, ensuring that it holds shape for at least seven days. Then, he will test to see how well the bait attracts lobsters in the lab, and finally in commercial lobster and crab pots. Through the project, Abend aims to help increase the economic and environmental circularity of the New Bedford fishery.
MIT Sea Grant anticipates opening the next STREAM Grant cycle in fall 2024, welcoming educational initiatives, research projects, seed funding and art explorations, and rapid response projects addressing a current coastal or marine challenge.