A national not-for-profit group is working to get young students interested in the oceanic ecosystem through its research projects.
OCEARCH catches, tags, and studies white sharks all over the world with the help of Caterpillar funding. Its next move is to form a curriculum around its expeditions and make it available to teachers and students for free.
The team’s founder and the captain of the vessel are in Peoria this week teaching students about their work at Cat’s Visitors Center and the Peoria Riverfront Museum. OCEARCH Captain Brett McBride says the group’s main message is that a declining shark population will throw off the balance of the ocean.
"The best way to educate people is start them young. The kids, they get it. You know, it's only after they reach a certain age and they've been afraid of them so long or had people tell them horror stories about sharks that it's hard to get them to change their opinion. But if you encourage them to learn more about sharks at a young age and pay attention then you will change their whole path in life on how they perceive the ocean."
McBride says OCEARCH’s work allows scientists to better track how sharks mate, live, and travel. He says the group plans to launch its online curriculum in August. The group's website is www.OCEARCH.org