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What is the OCS Mentorship Program?

Students showing a strong interest in earth science, environmental law, public policy or related fields are selected by their schools or advisors to undergo a comprehensive, OCS Conservation Mentorship Training program designed to give them an introduction to marine mammal field research and a foundation in environmental conservation. The training includes comprehensive field data collection techniques, project development, marine biology & oceanography, on the water safety and boat handling, cetacean ecology, and principles of habitat conservation and environmental protection. Special emphasis is placed on learning how to be effective and focused on making measurable impacts on environmental problems.

Who is the Program Designed For?

This program has been conducted successfully at middle school, high school and university levels. The curriculum is designed to be flexible and adaptable to the respective level of the students.

Student orientation on the OCS boat

In-Depth Orientation and On-the-Water Dolphin Surveys

After an initial one-day orientation and in-depth training session conducted in port aboard the Los Angeles Dolphin Project research boat, students join an LADP research team on five dolphin survey outings, learning about observation techniques, collection of behavioral data, photo-id, video recording, etc. Groups are accompanied and supervised by LA Dolphin Project researchers who assist students in on-the-water training. The on-the-water structure of the program is such that participants work on a 1:2 ratio with instructors. All students receive a comprehensive Project Manual and Research Protocol at the outset as well as a Certificate of Completion at the end of the program. This educational program is conducted under the NOAA Southwest Region Marine Mammal Viewing Guidelines.

Students gain first-hand knowledge of dolphin research
and observation techniques




Primary Goals of the Mentorship Program

  • Give students a participatory exposure to marine biology field research, oceanography and related skills
  • Instill a strong foundation for "conservation consciousness"
  • Provide a valid and memorable experience
  • Cultivate interest in seeking a career in an environmental field
  • Provide experience useful to academic or career advancement

The Philosophy Behind OCS Mentorships

OCS entered the field of educational programs primarily as a means to raise public awareness of the threats facing the marine environment and the urgent need for active protection of our oceans. After creating and implementing various curriculum materials and in-service presentations, it quickly became evident that we needed a means of making a practical connection between academic and activist approaches.

Through the Mentorship Program we hope to give students with a passion for nature an opportunity to bring their aspirations to life, perhaps helping them early on, to gain the confidence that will help to make them the next generation of environmental scientists, policy-makers and activists.

We passionately protect the things we love. At OCS, we firmly believe that by helping students to develop a love and respect for the ocean and its inhabitants, we are making an important contribution to the future well-being of our planet.

Pacific white-sided dolphins are some of
the marine mammals students may observe during the program




Effective coverage of the materials and concepts presented in the program requires a minimum of six meetings aboard the Los Angeles Dolphin Project research boat in Marina del Rey, the first of which is a one-day, comprehensive training and safety orientation meeting where the boat remains in port and participants become familiar with basic boat handling, research equipment, methodology and project outline. A separate lab session covering data preparation and analysis is conducted at an alternate location.

The LADP research staff accompanies participants on all outings. Research crews usually number between 4 and 7, and Conservation Mentorship group sizes are limited to a maximum of 6 participants. Outings commence at 7:30 AM to maximize the possibility of favorable oceanic conditions, and should conclude in the early afternoon if sightings and weather permit. Surveys may be cancelled at the last minute due to weather and it is always necessary to confirm outings the evening prior. A “lab” segment of the program may be substituted for a cancelled survey outing.

Students learn seamanship
Students learn seamanship



Program participants may produce, with the help of OCS, presentations or reports that may be given to their class, grade or community on the status and workings of the program and/or on the program content. Students at all levels will be asked to design a practical research and/or community outreach project. In one of our pilot programs, participants produced a presentation to the Culver City Educational Foundation promoting continuing conservation education and acted as docents on OCS field trips.  In another, participants organized a community outreach program to promote sustainable practices.

Students learn field data collection



We believe that value of this program will become evident over time in the percentage of “environmentally conscious” program graduates that continue on to follow marine science/environmental careers or studies.
Please contact OCS for details on program cost and to discuss possible collaboration on grant submissions to cover educational fees.

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