Project Leader

Frances Kinney

Frances Kinney

Who I am

Being outside in nature has always been a big part of my life. At first it didn’t occur to me that not every kid catches fish, snakes and bats in their backyard. Going to the beach, camping, fishing and visiting zoos and aquariums were all a regular part of growing up for me. When I moved to the city to kick-start my career after college, I noticed that many children do not have access to coastal adventures, animal encounters and outdoor excursions like I had. If future generations are to care about and respect our environment, they need a chance to experience and discover it first hand. They need to build a personal connection.

I was fortunate to begin my career working with incredible mentors and role models in non-profit management and sea turtle conservation, and they encouraged me to pursue my new-found passion for environmental education. I try to carry on that tradition of mentoring and offering guidance to students and aspiring conservationists. It feels like I am making a difference, one young mind at a time, by sharing with others the marvels and mysteries of the natural world found right in our own ‘backyard’, the Pacific Ocean.

Where I work

I created Ocean Connectors to spread awareness about how we can all play a role in helping to conserve wildlife. The mission of Ocean Connectors is to educate, inspire and connect under-served young people in Pacific coastal communities through the study of migratory marine life. Ocean Connectors builds a bridge between scientific experts and urban youth in San Diego, California. This unique mentorship opportunity inspires the next generation of conservation leaders.

We focus on three easy and tangible ways to help the environment:

  • Reduce, Re-use, Recycle: avoid single-use products like straws and plastic bags; use a re-usable water bottle; and recycle at home and work.
  • Choose Sustainable Seafood: buy local seafood and make sure you are informed so that you do not contribute to sea turtles, dolphins and sharks being taken as by-catch.
  • Protect Natural Habitats: choose native and drought-tolerant plants for your yard; use earth-friendly products; and pick up litter in your neighbourhood.

What I do

Ocean Connectors offers free youth education programmes and public eco-tours that focus on migratory marine species, including sea turtles, whales and birds. Participating students receive continuous year-to-year marine science programmes during a critical formative time in their childhood, when they are developing core opinions and lifelong values. With support from the Save Our Seas Foundation, we are developing a new shark education programme for middle school students. Major threats to sharks include direct exploitation for their fins and meat and being taken as by-catch in gill nets and on long lines.

Children are naturally curious about the ocean and they are motivated to take action. They are also excellent messengers for their family, friends and pen pals. Ocean Connectors provides ‘knowledge exchanges’, which consist of scientific communications between students in San Diego and Mexico, using artwork, letters and videos to construct a peer-to-peer dialogue in English and Spanish about protecting migratory marine life.

Working with the students in our Ocean Connectors programmes is one of the most fulfilling assignments in the world. It is wonderful to hear the sound of children’s laughter and squeals as they see a wild whale for the first time, a rescued sea turtle or a flock of birds migrating south. They use microscopes, binoculars and video cameras to build real scientific skills. Each child has a chance to identify and pursue his or her own unique interests while forming a baseline understanding of marine science and conservation that will last a lifetime.

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