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Marine Educators Turn Attention To Next-Generation Personnel

While the industry concentrates on creating more efficient technology and increasing profit margins with environmental and safety concerns also creeping to the crowded forefront — recruitment of future mariners, scientists, engineers and executives has fallen by the wayside. This shortage of maritime personnel is a serious matter, since companies seem unwilling to turn leadership over to non-maritime management, as evidenced by the industry's failure to embrace the idea of outside management audits under the International Maritime Organization's (IMO's) International Safety Management (ISM) Code. Helmut Sohmen, chairman of World-Wide Shipping Agency Ltd., emphasized the need to recruit personnel in his address at Shipping '96. "What the shipping industry needs in the short term ... are good communicators with political connections ... So if we want to experience a new era in shipping, let us search for and employ these miracle men and women," urged Dr. Sohmen.

Educational institutions being a reasonable place to begin the search for young leaders capable of taking on the challenges posed by the modern maritime world, MR/EN has ventured inside one program dedicated to introducing marine disciplines to young people and preparing university students for careers in maritime-related disciplines. Los Angeles, Calif.-based Occidental College has developed a program designed to act as an operational seagoing classroom for the youth of Southern California, focused on providing students of all ages with practical working experience at sea and an opportunity to investigate indigenous marine life, with an overall emphasis on environmental monitoring.

Considering the location of the school and the fact that the term "occidental" traces its meaning back to a description of western culture, this account was selected as the focus for MR/ENs annual West Coast Ma ritime Review. Fishing For Interested Parties In 1969, Gilbert Van Camp of the Van Camo tuna enterprise donated his private fishing vessel, built in 1962 at Ditmar & Donaldson in Costa Mesa, Calif., to Occidental College for use as a teaching resource. With a National Science Foundation grant, the vessel was promptly converted for oceanographic use and named Van tuna in honor of its donor. As explained by Vantuna Program Coordinator Janice Grancich, the vessel is used by Occidental students, as well as is rented out, at very low cost, to other schools and institutions in the area.

"It's meant first and foremost as an educational outreach for schools who don't have a boat and would like that opportunity," said the Occidental official.

She said that many of the participants come from inner city Los Angeles and ha ve never been out on the ocean before. In addition to voyages conducted by the vessel owners, this year 18 voyages have been booked by four-year colleges, 71 have been booked by two-year colleges, and grammar schools and high schools combined account for 30 reservations. Government institutions and private industry also reserve voyages for exploration of the Southern California Bight, which evidences the high quality of resources available onboard the vessel.

With a full-time captain and engineer assigned to Vantuna, a lot of attention is paid to vessel maintenance, particularly the propulsion system of the 34-year-old ship. The program coordinator said that while the vessel s CAT engines are old, they still wDrk very well, and pointed out thai; keeping Vantuna in good working condition is a major priority. "Every year it gets drydocked for a month. It's maintained very well," said Ms.

Grancich.

Netting Next-Generation Leaders In addition to Vantuna's hectic chartering schedule, every year for the past 22 years, five weeks of the vessel's time has been devoted to Occidental's summer oceanology program, an intensive program directed at encouraging top-grade high school seniors to explore the possibility of committing to marine science studies at the university level. This year, a group of 30 has gathered from all reaches of the country, coming to the West Coast from as far away as New York and Michigan, to study the general principles of scientific classification, chemical and physical oceanography, marine ecology and the effects of pollution. The course includes lectures, lab work and hands-on field work, involving animal and fish dissection, shark and dolphin observation, and other activities focused on getting to know the organisms in the Pacific area layout. One of the main acknowledgements of the program is that both the fishing and shipping industries can be adversely affected by the deterioration of the environment, and that the disposal of society's wastes is a major consideration in the planning and maintenance of beach and boating facilities. According to Gary Martin, professor of biology and director of the program, students are often surprised that life exists at all in the Los Angeles waters that are known to be polluted. He teaches them that in these areas "a different assemblage of organisms is found because of pollution," and challenges them to assess the effects of pollution by asking the question, "How can you prove it's polluted — how would you test it?" Applying Scientific Principles To Industrial Processes As part of the program's objective to teach students to monitor the environment, several experiments are conducted during the fiveweek course, including sampling fish from the world's largest known DDT zone, treating sea urchin gametes with suspect pollutants and observing the fertilization rate, and looking at stress proteins produced in response to heavy metal or pesticide presence in ocean waters. Sea urchins, bacteria, cocopods and fish with high-level pollutants all serve as commonly collected specimens.

But beyond experiments and studies of scientific principles, another objective of Occidental's program is to demonstrate how these skills translate into professional life.

"We try to pull in a speaker a week to talk to the students about their area of expertise," said Dr. Martin.

Past speakers have included a toxicologist who worked on the Valdez oil spill, a salmon fishery employee, a water treatment plant employee, a DNA expert who demonstrated how to remove the substance from fish, and an individual skilled in following fish populations with satellite technology.

While most of the speakers are those in the industry "just passing through the area," Dr. Martin and other program officials like Dan Pondella, director of the Vantuna Research Program, reportedly make an effort to enlist speakers who can capitalize on specific student interests.

This summer, participants will hear an expert speak about the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

 
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