MERITO Site-Based Ocean Outreach Program
In order to inspire conservation and stewardship of our watersheds and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, MERITO helps engage our diverse community in appreciation of coastal resources through community events and field experiences. Through our Site-Based Outreach Program, MERITO collaborates with other natural resource management agencies to:
- Increase Hispanic visitation to MBNMS beaches and partner sites
- Identify needs and provide bilingual translations for materials to support Hispanic visitors utilizing the sites
- Increase stewardship and protection for coastal and ocean ecosystems
MERITO Site-Based Outreach programs include:
MERITO Family Field Experiences
MERITO works with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (ESNERR), local School Districts and Monterey Bay Kayaks among other partners to lead a series of Spanish-bilingual family field experiences each year. The goal of this program is to reach an audience that may not otherwise have watershed or marine-related outdoor hands-on experiences and provide an opportunity for families to engage in meaningful experiences with nature. The objectives of the MERITO Field Experiences are:
- To provide a positive experience to first time kayakers and visitors to the seashore
- To encourage participants to learn watershed protection messages through activities
- To impart wildlife disturbance messages about the animals living in the slough and the sanctuary
Adult students and their families from the MERITO Adult Education Program are invited to field experiences as part of a follow up to the watershed and ocean presentations.
MERITO Tidepool Day: This Spanish bilingual field experience focuses on natural history and conservation of tidepool ecosystems and wildlife viewing guidelines of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary at Point Pinos.
MERITO Kayak Day: In this Spanish bilingual field experience, families paddle along the waters of Elkhorn Slough while learning wildlife viewing guidelines, natural history and conservation of the Elkhorn Slough and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary waters.
MERITO Elkhorn Slough Hike Day: During this Spanish bilingual field experience, families hike the trails of the Elkhorn Slough while learning about its natural history, conservation and its connection to the MBNMS.
MERITO Family Field Experiences were created in response to survey data collected during MERITO’s initial needs assessment in 2000. The results indicated adults and families where interested in exploring nature through guided experiences. These experiential trips have proven highly successful in connecting the community with their ocean and coastal resources. We’ve also found the Latino community to be highly receptive to conservation messaging and practices.
“This experience inspires me to go home and teach others how to conserve our natural places, the earth, the ocean, all that we are given, to leave something for our children, our future. We are exhausting everything and we need to learn more from people like you who are teaching the importance of protection.” (MERITO participant)
MERITO Partnerships with Community Supported Events
MERITO works with partner agencies during annual community events to encourage more active participation by Hispanic communities in local programming and education events. MERITO participates in existing community events such as, the California Coastal Cleanup Day, Día del Niño/Day of the Child, Earth Day, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Dia del Niño, and Elkhorn Slough’s Mother’s Day, among others.
MERITO Partnership with California State Parks, Monterey District
California State Parks is interested in expanding their outreach to more diverse audiences. Park and MERITO staff have identified Coastal Cleanup Day as a potential venue to increase Hispanic family involvement and visitation to State Beach sites. California Coastal Clean-Up Dayis run in collaboration with the MBNMS, California Coastal Commission, the Ocean Conservancy, and Monterey Dunes National History Association. MERITO staff work with Parks to promote a bilingual beach site at Salinas River State Beach through radio PSA’s, bilingual flyers posted throughout local communities and direct recruitment through MERITO Ocean Outreach Programs.
Since 2003, over 400 volunteers have participated at the Salinas River State Beach Coastal Cleanup site with 60% representing the Latino community.
MERITO staff participates as Spanish bilingual beach captains in an effort to increase Latino community participation.
Volunteers are encouraged to participate at locations, such as Salinas River State Beach in Moss Landing, to help pick up trash and debris along the California coastline.
MERITO Partnership with Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
Like the MBNMS, the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (ESNERR) recognizes the need to reach their diverse constituents. ESNERR is a field trip site for many school groups and hosts approximately 10,000 students annually. Even with diverse student visitation, it is apparent from demographic visitation surveys that students are not returning on the weekends with their families and that the Hispanic adult visitors are limited.
ESNERR and MBNMS represent the only adjacent Reserve and Sanctuary in the nation.
Watershed Academy after-school program students participate in a restoration project at the Elkhorn Slough
MERITO works with the ESNERR to encourage visitation by the Hispanic community. Increasing visitation to such coastal sites provides an opportunity for the Hispanic community to better understand the land to sea connection. MERITO provides bilingual support during the Slough’s school group visits, such as the Watershed Academy After-school Program, family weekend tours, and Elkhorn Slough’s events, such as Mother’s Day.
Elkhorn Slough’s Mother’s Day draws over 300 people. Festivities include kid's activities involving mother's day cards and protection of the environment, guided slough hikes, music, dancing, and free food all provided by the ESNERR, the Elkhorn Slough Foundation, Watsonville Parks and Community Services and the MBNMS. MERITO assists during event planning, provides bilingual hikes and bilingual materials, and promotes Latino attendance.
MERITO demonstrate pollution during Mother's Day at Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve.
MERITO assists Elkhorn Slough staff in leading a bilingual hikes
MERITO Partnership with City of Watsonville during Day of the Child / Earth Day
Environmental organizations and agencies such as the MBNMS, Watsonville Wetlands Watch, Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, Save Our Shores and others youth health and conservation organizations, provide a special "Earth Day" component to the City of Watsonville's annual Día del Niño/Day of the Child celebration. Festivities include kid's activities involving protection of the environment, access to the Wetlands Nature Center, music, dancing and free food. This festival brings in over 3,000 children and parents.
MERITO staff participates in City of Watsonville's Día del Niño/Day of the Child
During these events, community members engage in conservation activities and learn about environmental protection. Through these events, MERITO informs the community about the sanctuary and provides bilingual marine and watershed conservation messages. These outdoor events serve as a platform for building awareness about local water quality issues affecting sanctuary health and informing the Hispanic community about other sanctuary issues such as fishing, marine reserves and ways to become more involved in marine conservation.