Cultivating Marine Researchers

Zen4Blue, a newly launched nonprofit with a focus on marine education and ocean conservation, recently joined the environmental research community with their anticipated Zen4Blue Marine Science Center.

With the state of the ocean a topic of global concern, the urgency to take action to preserve and restore one of the Earth’s most vital resources appears to be at the forefront of environmental policy and conservation advocacy groups but has somehow felt out of reach for future generations.

The goal of the Zen4Blue Marine Science Center is to offer a place where aspiring marine biologists and ocean environmentalists can conduct aquatic projects to gain hands-on research experience and develop scientific, technical writing skills for an opportunity to be published in the organization’s Zen4Blue Scientific Journal.

While the need to save our oceans seems obvious, how to save the ocean does not always seem to be as clear. Young people have great ideas and vast ambitions. They want to make an impact in the effort to save the planet but don’t always have the path to pursue it. Zen4Blue created that pathway.

Building a Foundation

To offer a clear pathway for marine research opportunities, Zen4Blue has developed a Post High School Marine Experience (PHME) program, which mirrors the application process of a research fellowship allowing candidates to highlight career goals, state the hypothesis of their proposed project, and what they wish to gain by participating in the program.

The PHME program is a unique marine vocational experience. It brings aspiring marine scientists together to collaborate on their own aquatic projects and learn technical skills to launch their careers. Our hope is to bring their vision to life and help them share in our common goal of saving marine life and restoring our ocean resources for future generations.

Industrious marine biologist Ed Ricketts —creator of Pacific Biological Laboratories in 1923—was the inspiration behind the Zen4Blue Marine Science Center, with the grand opening slated for 2023 in honor of 100 years of marine science research.

Inspired By Science

Ed Ricketts’ sidekick was none other than the famous John Steinbeck, the author who put Cannery Row in Monterey, CA, on the proverbial map with his illustrative literature and affinity for the Pacific Coast. Steinbeck joined Ricketts on a few of his aquatic expeditions, including one notably dictated in Ricketts and Steinbeck’s co-authored book, Sea of Cortez (1941), which chronicled the intertidal ecology of invertebrates one of many research projects Ricketts was conducting. Ricketts dabbled in and out of academia but fully immersed himself in his aquatic research due to a lack of interest in continuing at university in pursuit of simpler family life.

Much like Ricketts, Beverly Williams, Founder and CEO of Zen4Blue, studied various sciences in academia before being persuaded by her passion for marine sciences. She started in forensics, then branched out as a chemist for the petrochemical industry prior to transitioning into an environmental consultant role monitoring sea mammal activity and joining a project management team. As Beverly expanded in her marine science career, she realized future generations did not have access to marine field experience outside of academia and wanted to share her passion.

Creating a New Legacy

Zen4Blue strongly believes that anyone with a passion for the ocean environment and the right amount of dedication can become a marine research scientist. The organization has made it its mission to make marine education accessible to everyone, especially those who wish to pursue a career in ocean sciences outside a traditional academic regimen and may not have the time, interest, or financial means to pursue advanced degrees.


The Zen4Blue Marine Science Center offers a place where aspiring marine biologists and ocean environmentalists can conduct aquatic projects to gain hands-on research experience. (Image credit: Beverly Williams)

All contributions to the organization go directly toward the plans to implement the future Zen4Blue Marine Science Center. The vision is to construct a facility that encompasses a small laboratory, an aquatic husbandry area, a research library, technical writers' conference room, and a visitors’ center with a gift shop to invite the community to get involved and encourage future generations to study marine sciences. Our research library will house marine science research materials and literature along with modern technology to conduct multimedia presentations of findings and collaborate with other ocean science researchers across the industry.

Zen4Blue also invites candidates to apply to work on aquatic projects already established at the Zen4Blue Marine Science Center. The proposed range of projects includes those related to causes of algal blooms, bivalve filtration studies, ocean chemistry, and coral reef and kelp forest restoration.

Nurturing Talent

At Zen4Blue, there is something for everyone. For those who wish to test theories, hone their writing skills, share their voice through public speaking at events, study the future of environmental policy, or even just gain volunteer experience for their future university applications.

To propel the PHME aquatic research projects, Zen4Blue plans to gather an expert panel of volunteer specialists in the field of ocean sciences to mentor the progress and guide the research either within the Zen4Blue Marine Science Center or remotely. Technical writing education will also be offered with the help of a team of dedicated volunteer professional writers who will lead the program participants through the process of drafting formal reports, essays, and scientific journal articles.

Successful PHME program researchers will have an opportunity to share their aquatic projects on public platforms by presenting their findings at seminars and conferences, community events, and interviews on “Balance 4 Blue” the organization’s podcast, which covers topics such as blue carbon, blue foods, and blue equity.

Zen4Blue Marine Science Center will also host their Ocean Explorers membership activities, environmental awareness community events, offer docent tours of the facility to promote the mission, and support other Zen4Blue campaigns, including their Fishery Outreach Initiative.

To discover more about Zen4Blue's mission and campaigns, visit: www.zen4blue.org

This feature appeared in Environment, Coastal & Offshore (ECO) Magazine's 2023 Deep Dive II special edition Marine Environmental Research, to read more access the magazine here.

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