Chance encounter with a whale shark

The Vermilion Sea Field Station, located on the Sea of Cortez in Bahía de los Ángeles, has been a hub for scientific research and education in the area since 1960. We are fortunate to be situated in one of the most biologically diverse places in the Sea of Cortez, considered a priority area for natural resource management, a popular ecotourism destination, and a nationally recognized biosphere reserve . However, in this unique, vital, and close-knit community, children in the area do not have the same opportunities to experience native wildlife as visiting ecotourists do. Over the last several years, we have formalized our efforts to involve local youth in our activities in a project we call Aventureros (formerly Estrellas al Mar). Its goal is to educate and empower Bahía’s next generation of conservation leaders. Aventureros is designed to help local youth and teens to discover Bahía’s marine and terrestrial ecosystems, how humans impact these ecosystems, and the importance of balancing human needs while working toward solutions to conservation problems. We invite young people living in Bahía to participate in programs concurrently with visiting citizen scientist volunteers, participate in data collection, and help design educational activities. Local students are introduced to another side of ecotourism while having the chance to improve their English language skills. Simultaneously, visitors are able to develop deeper connections to the community and learn how to apply conservation leadership action in their own communities.

A goal of the Aventureros program is to foster a connection to marine and desert ecosystems while developing the knowledge and skills to be future stewards of their local marine reserve.

Despite growing up on the sea, local children rarely have boat access. Our programs provide boat access to explore nearby islands and marine ecology lessons.

Surprisingly, many local children growing up steps from the sea are unable to swim. We provide snorkeling and swimming lessons, providing the tools to explore the ocean in their front yard.

Fishing is a major industry in the Sea of Cortez. Providing an opportunity for local children to develop fishing skills, combined with knowledge of marine ecology could foster sustainable fishing practices in the future.