Spring Break Guardians of the Gulf Camp

Spring Break Guardians of the Gulf Camp

March 13, 14, 17, 2023

We ran a three-day camp over Spring Break for 25 Guardians from the Royal Theater Boys & Girls Club facility in South St. Petersburg. One day was held at the Royal Theater, and two days were held at the waterfront Clam Bayou Marine Education Center that is managed by the USF CMS. The Guardians earned badges for completing several tasks, including:

  • Executed a seine net tow to see what fish live in our coastal waterways
  • Learned about the difference between green infrastructure, like mangroves and seagrasses, and gray infrastructure, such as seawalls
  • Collected data like real scientists about weather, wildlife, waste, and more
  • Performed a coastal clean-up that included ridding the environment of invasive species
  • Painted a rain barrel that will be used to help keep the garden at the Royal Theater healthy while recycling rainwater
  • Explored and tested the prototype of an augmented reality app
NOAA BWET Workshop

NOAA BWET Workshop

March 11, 2023

This program was part of a larger program by our outreach team called NOAA Bay Watershed Education & Training (BWET). It is a professional development program for teachers including field-based meaningful watershed educational experiences (MWEEs) and watershed activities for use in the classroom. Young scholars (grades 4-5) engage in related activities and environmental monitoring on school grounds, then explore a watershed at the Clam Bayou Preserve. The Guardians part was to adapt these experiences and learning tools for use in informal after-school settings, such as Boys & Girls Clubs. Our workshop on March 11th involved two leaders from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast, Ashley Martin and Sarah Bailey.

St. Petersburg Science Festival

St. Petersburg Science Festival

February 18, 2023

Guardians of the Gulf sponsored a booth at the annual St. Petersburg Science Festival, which drew more than 10,000 spectators and participants. Our display made it fun for youth to understand the differences between green and gray infrastructure. We also sent youth on a short scavenger hunt for which they were awarded a prize.

Guardians of the Gulf was a recipient of the 2020/2021 Bay Mini-Grant cycle.

Completed prototype of a gamified augmented reality (AR) app

Summer 2022

We completed this project, funded by a USF Creative Scholarship Award, with colleagues in the USF Access 3D Lab and the USF Advanced Visualization Center. The app features three Guardians challenges that take place on Egmont Key in Tampa Bay, which is at risk from coastal erosion. The experiences incorporate 3D scan datasets and AR to make it fun for Guardians to save a sea turtle nest from storms and predators and to identify the best ways to safeguard Egmont Key. They are rewarded with digital badges for each challenge completed. This project involved development of an introductory video featuring Marley the Manatee, who takes youth on this digital journey via the app experience.

First presentation given at the Gulf of Mexico Conference (GOMCON)

First presentation given at the Gulf of Mexico Conference (GOMCON)

April 26, 2022

In a first for Guardians, program co-lead, Sarah Grasty, presented the program to several other outreach and education personnel from the wider Gulf of Mexico region. Her presentation gave an overview of the Guardians program and also highlighted the program elements that she, Kristen Kusek, and their partners have been hard at work developing.

Guardians of the Gulf was a recipient of the 2020/2021 Bay Mini-Grant cycle.

Guardians is a hit at the St. Pete Innovation District’s Smart City Showcase, March 22, 2022

March 22, 2022

During a nice spring morning in March, Guardians of the Gulf was one of three projects highlighted as part of St. Petersburg’s Smart City Initiative. Program leaders, Kristen Kusek and Sarah Grasty, had the opportunity to engage with several members of local government and leadership (including Mayer Ken Welch!) and demonstrate some of the elements of the program. Kusek was also invited to be part of a panel discussion, led my Mayor Welch, about the future of these Smart City projects and how they best benefit our community.

Guardians of the Gulf was a recipient of the 2020/2021 Bay Mini-Grant cycle.

TBEP Invites Guardians for Presentation to Community Advisory Committee

January 26, 2022

Guardians of the Gulf was a recipient of the 2020/2021 Bay Mini-Grant cycle, a funding opportunity offered by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP). These funds were used to develop the activity booklets which supplemented our July 2021 mini-camp, and are also available for download on our website. In January 2022, Guardians Leaders, Sarah Grasty and Kristen Kusek, were invited to present at the TBEP Community Advisory Committee’s meeting to share more about the Guardians program and discuss the development of the activity booklets.

First pilot mini-camp held

First pilot mini-camp held

July 27-29, 2021

Over three days in late July 2021, 25 participants from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast (BGCS) learned though experience about their connections to the coastal environment –and how their voices, knowledge and ideas are integral to solutions to coastal and climate changes. The first day’s events took place at the Royal Theater in South St. Petersburg where our Guardians enjoyed a variety of activities underscoring the importance of being resilient. On their second day, the Guardians visited the Florida Aquarium, and the week was capped off with a packed outdoor education experience at our Clam Bayou Marine Education Center. The camp was generously funded by the Duke Energy Foundation.

View the YouTube video here!

Guardians Highlighted at the Smart City Showcase

Guardians Highlighted at the Smart City Showcase

March 4, 2021

On March 3, 2021, the St. Petersburg Innovation District hosted the Smart City Showcase in which Guardians of the Gulf was one of four pilot projects highlighted in a virtual gathering of community members and leaders, including St. Petersburg mayor, Rick Kriseman, who kicked off the event.

From the Innovation’s website, “The city of St. Petersburg, led by the Innovation District, was selected to join US Ignite’s Smart Gigabyte Communities in early 2019. The Smart Communities program brings together cities around the country to share lessons learned while exploring how technology can be used to solve community challenges. Over the last two years, the Innovation District and community partners have worked on four pilot projects. Join us on March 3rd to learn about the goals of these projects and our progress so far.”

View the showcase presentation here!

The Guardians of the Gulf highlight is at 00:40:00-00:56:45.

You can also read a recap of the Showcase from the St. Pete Catalyst.

St. Pete Science Festival 2020

Guardians of the Gulf at the 2020 St. Pete Science Festival

October 17, 2020

Though it was virtual in 2020, the St. Pete Science Festival wasn’t any less fun! Guardians Program Manager, Sarah Grasty, had the pleasure of virtually connecting with classrooms throughout the region to talk about how we’re all connected to the oceans.

Guardians Wins a Smart Cities Award!

Guardians Wins a Smart Cities Award!

March 9, 2020

Guardians of the Gulf, a St. Petersburg-based program for disadvantaged youth to learn about marine science, is among the 13 national winners of the IDC Smart Cities North America awards. Read the full article here.

Making Science Fun for Kids

Guardians Featured in ‘BurgLife Magazine

June 1, 2019

The St. Petersburg, FL community magazine highlighted our project in their Summer 2019 issue. The article starts on page 16.