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OECI Ocean Explorers

Charting a path for an inclusive ocean exploration workforce!

Ocean Explorers Program

The Ocean Explorers program is an initiative aimed to diversify the Ocean Exploration workforce. We aim to increase awareness and access to ocean science for students attending minority serving institutions (MSI) through experiential research and OE Intern Measuring Sharknetworking opportunities in blue economy careers. In this program, we define program stakeholders to include students, mentors, MSI partners, ocean exploration workforce, and program staff

Mission Statement - The Ocean Explorers program charts a path for an inclusive ocean exploration workforce through: 

  • Equipping all stakeholders with skills to meet the current and future demands of the ocean exploration workforce, including but not limited to investing in student training and mentor resources on diversity, equity, and inclusion in ocean science. 
  • Creating a holistic experience for students through implementing programs that prioritize inclusion and belonging, aiming to improve the prospect of a long career in the ocean sciences. 

Programming includes:

  • Ocean Exploration Club: Provides students with ocean science opportunities throughout the academic year.
  • Ocean Explorers internship: 10-week paid summer research intensive.

Diversity and Inclusion in Ocean Science

The ocean science field has and continues to under invest in a diverse workforce. Transforming ocean sciences to be more inclusive is crucial to ensure that all communities have a voice in coastal and marine decision-making, and amplifying differing perspectives is essential to find innovative solutions to address the complex challenges of the 21st century. 

The Ocean Explorers program recognizes that diversity is a choice, and it is one we are committed to making. Interpreting diversity in its broadest definition, we strive to foster an OE Intern Pipetting in the Labinclusive environment for all, viewing our unique differences not as a barrier, but as a necessity for progress toward our shared goals of exploration and discovery. We seek to involve students from underrepresented and historically excluded groups in ocean exploration, including Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Hispanic or Latino, female, first-generation college students, veterans, and students with disabilities. Ocean Explorers welcomes students of all sexual and gender identities, students who have experienced educational or economic disadvantages, and/or have circumstances that may complicate their professional development progress. To ensure the sustainability of this commitment, we accept and value feedback from all stakeholders and apply it to ongoing efforts to make the Ocean Explorers Program a model of excellence for diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Program Implementation and Leadership

The Ocean Explorers Program is funded by NOAA Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute (OECI). The NOAA Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute (OECI) is a consortium of oceanographic institutions – several graduate degree-granting institutions, an ocean exploration non-profit, and task-specific partners, including the University of Rhode Island, the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of New Hampshire, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and Ocean Exploration Trust. Intern deploys deep-sea ocean technologyThe Ocean Explorers Program supports OECI’s mission and advances commitments to national strategic plans by fulfilling the calls to train the next generation of ocean explorers. As we progress toward a new era of exploration priorities, this program addresses the call in the 2020 National Strategy for Mapping, Exploring, and Characterizing the United States Exclusive Economic Zone to “empower students from underrepresented groups to get involved in/exposed to ocean science.” Contribution to the development of a forward-thinking and adaptable ocean-literate workforce is the definition of this program’s success. The Ocean Explorers program integrates the 2023-2027 NOAA Ocean Exploration Strategic Plan objectives throughout all aspects of program implementation.

Central to this program is the partnership between OECI partners, the University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Marine Education Center (MEC), and minority serving institutions, including Tuskegee University (TU). The MEC and TU co-facilitate activities with the Ocean Exploration Club at Tuskegee throughout the academic year and coordinate the paid Ocean Explorers internship program over the summer. In 2023, the Ocean Explores program welcomed the addition of Jackson State University (JSU) as a partner.  These partnerships create space for consistent collaboration with faculty, staff, students, and communities that are systemically excluded from ocean exploration and research and allow for growth and feedback to continually improve programming. The Ocean Explorers program team includes:

USM Marine Education Center Personnel:

  • Jessica Kastler, PhD OE Intern Examining Stingray
  • Jessica Woodall, MSc

Tuskegee University Personnel:

  • Souleymane Fall, PhD
  • Sheritta Fagbodun, PhD
  • Osagie Idehen, PhD

Jackson State University Personnel:

  • Brent Thoma, PhD
  • Andria Miller, MSc


If you’re interested in learning more about our programming, please check out our Ocean Explorers internship webpage. Tuskegee University's Ocean Exploration Club webpage is coming soon! 


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Marine Education Center
101 Sweet Bay Drive
Ocean Springs, MS 39564

GCRL - Cedar Point

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