In addition to the sailing, sportfishing, chartering, rowing, paddleboarding, outrigger paddling and recreational powerboating that’s constantly happening in Marina del Rey, there is always a great deal of research being done in Santa Monica Bay as well.

While The Baykeeper and Heal the Bay are watching over water cleanliness, among other issues, the Ocean Conservation Society is studying marine mammal activity and, up in Palos Verdes, the American Cetacean Society dutifully counts the gray whale population year in and year out.

The 65-foot Sea World UCLA, parked on the end tie of Burton Chace Park, is another contributor to the wealth of valuable research being done in the local area. The 1976 sportfisher turned “r/v” (research vessel) hosts a myriad of different research groups and classrooms that typically voyage out into the bay to extract and study water samples and/or the marine environment in general.

Essentially Sea World UCLA is a charter boat rented by groups that have received grants for a particular area of research, but it is also used for educational trips of classes from fourth grade on up to the college level, where any number of studies are performed.

“We do water sampling, weather measurements, water clarity and some fish counting and things like that as well,” said Captain Willie McCarthy, who is in charge of operating, maintaining and booking the vessel and has been Sea World’s captain for the last 11 years.

“Kids might be studying a certain subject in one of their classes and this experience actually puts them in the there-and-now,” said McCarthy of the benefits often yielded in a normal field trip. “It shows them [in a real life scenario] how the lesson works out.”

Typically the boat runs about a 100 to 120 days a year and sustains itself mostly on funded research projects, but balances its time with this public outreach and community education through the local school systems.

The boat acts as a conduit that brings the lessons of physical oceanography, ocean chemistry, marine organisms, etc. to life for the benefit of students.

“These trips reinforce many scientific terms and concepts introduced in class and provide students with a first-hand experience of their local marine ecosystem,” Sea World’s Web site states.

It’s during the spring and fall that Sea World is busy working with the schools, acting as a floating lab with what they call the “Cruising Classroom,” which during a normal year sees about 2,000 students.

For these groups, Sea World has a volunteer program in place, where members of the community can become involved with kids while they enjoy a day in the salt air aboard the vessel.

“We usually have a couple of volunteers come and help us for the classroom stuff,” said McCarthy. “For people who like to be out on the water and enjoy helping kids, we have the volunteer program that helps us out.”

The boat was donated to UCLA by famed marine conservationist Milton Shedd, cofounder of the Hubbs-Seaworld Research Institute and an alumnus of the university.

It was on this boat that Shedd spent some 3,500 days at sea conducting what many consider world-renowned groundbreaking research.

For more information on booking Sea World for a research trip or for volunteering information, log onto www.ioe.ucla.edu/seaworld or call (310) 433-5008.

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