The Humpback Whale Field Intensive research team of interns, research assistants, and senior scientists onboard “Capi” Michael Lopez’s vessel. Behavioral observations and acoustic capture of humpback whale song are among the data collected during this excursion.

The Marine and Coastal Ecology Research Center (MCERC) is a non-profit (501c3) organization dedicated to supporting healthy and sustainable marine and coastal ecosystems through interactive research and education programs.

Marine and Coastal Biodiversity is the focal point of all MCERC activities. Programs and research projects are developed by qualified and experienced scientists and educators with an aim at creating dynamic opportunities for citizens and professionals with a commitment to conservation. The MCERC Education Hub is the portal for distance learning, experimential field intensive programs, internships, day excursions, and outreach programs. Interns and research assistants  are mentored by senior scientists as they are guided through developing tools essential for future careers research, education, and management by participating in data collection and analysis, regulations and policy, outreach events, and mentoring students.

The MCERC Board of Directors include experts in marine science, information technology, marine policy, marine resources management, and business administration. All members of the Board of Directors volunteer their time and expertise in support of MCERC’s mission to promote healthy ecosystems through education and research.¬† Members of the Board of Directors review the organizational operations and collaborate with faculty and staff. This team approach assures a strong infrastructure and solid foundation for MCERC activities. The science team distributes information gleaned from research projects via peer reviewed publications, professional conferences, and outreach opportunities.

MCERC operations are based in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, USA. Programs and activities are conducted within the USA and internationally. Faculty members include scientists and educators who teach programs during a break from their full time positions in academia and industry. Staff are senior scientists and professionals accomplished in their field. The websites and social media pages are run by volunteers without financial compensation for the many hours dedicated to assure our communication tools are updated and working well.

Heidi Malizia answering questions about whales during an outreach event

Experiential field programs and research projects are designed to support the local economy. Administrators actively seek collaborators in under-served areas or research projects that will benefit financially from MCERC participation. Chartering small vessels, renting accommodation, purchasing supplies from local small businesses are examples of how MCERC field programs bring revenue into remote communities. Outreach events are an exciting part of the activities and a chance to create ambassadors for conservation initiatives, including small changes at home.

Citizen scientists are recognized for their potential to add valuable scientific data to research projects with limited resources or staff. MCERC has three citizen science projects; the Puerto Rico Humpback Whale Citizen Science Project, the Turks and Caicos Islands Citizen Science Project, and the MCERC Manatee Citizen Science Project. These collaborations with people working, living, and visiting in areas where our science teams conduct research are contributing data and infusing enthusiasm for marine natural resources. The excitement of learning about daily sightings of marine megafauna is contagious and the participants are growing at a rate exceeding staff expectations!

An intern is recording observations during the Coral Reef Ecology field intensive program.

Professional development goals include providing fledgling scientists and university students with courses that often earn credit hours through independent study at their university. MCERC faculty serve as supervisors during field intensive programs and report back to interns academic advisors on campus. University of Alaska Southeast (UASE) collaborates with MCERC via the Tropical Marine and Coastal Ecology field intensive program taught in Puerto Rico, USA, with a session dedicated to the UASE students and offered through their course catalog.

Funding for field science and education programs are a constant challenge for the MCERC team. Professionals often make many sacrifices to attend programs that are required to gain experience in marine science and related fields in order to be able to compete for employment and graduate school positions. MCERC is launching a web store that will offer photographs, artwork, clothing, and many other options for providing options to secure financial support for programs and activities. Please consider visiting the web store and making a donation, “adopting” one of the MCERC critters, or making a purchase so that our team can continue to support conservation and sustainable marine and coastal ecosystems through research and education programs.