MacDonald is 1 of 30 students worldwide to participate in Ocean for Life program

ALPENA Alpena High School senior Hannah MacDonald has been chosen as one of 15 students in the United States to participate in the 2013 Ocean for Life program held at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary from June 22-July 4.

MacDonald applied for the program by writing a series of essays on her interest in participating and the importance of ocean stewardship, along with her extra-curricular activities and two adult references. Her interest in the marine sciences started with the Shipwreck Alley course at Alpena High School, where she gained experience in research and learned from underwater archaeologists about photography, videography and cultural conservation.

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary Education Specialist Harriet Smith helped MacDonald with her application and informed her of the Ocean for Life program while MacDonald was volunteering at the sanctuary.

“The program was created in the wake of 9-11. It’s a partnership between the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, and the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program,” Smith said. “They bring students from different backgrounds and communities together and emphasize the connection they have through the oceans.”

The program is designed around three main themes: a sense of place, interconnectedness, and ocean conservation and stewardship, and mixes Middle Eastern and North American high school students of different cultures to study marine science, helping to break down stereotypes and strengthen global relationships. The premise for the program is that people are all connected by the ocean, and by studying the ocean, they can learn about improving stewardship of the planet and themselves: one world, one ocean.

Thirty students, including 15 from the greater Middle East, were selected for the program out of nearly 400 applications through a highly competitive process. The American students are from all over the U.S., including Hawaii. The 15 students from the greater Middle East represent Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman.

“One highlight of the program is underwater photography and videography,” Smith said. “The students have to produce a multimedia presentation or video to take home and share with their community. The program is fully funded by the partner organizations.”

The lead sponsor for the field study is the Qatar Foundation International with additional funding from Khalid bin Sultan’s Living Oceans Foundation and The Ettinger Foundation, along with public and private contributions by facilities and instructors.

MacDonald will be participating in ocean science and exploration, cultural exchanges, stewardship activities, beach clean-ups, youth media projects, and will be mentored by staff from Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society Media Camp and American University’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking.

When MacDonald returns, she will be scheduling a presentation about her studies to share her experience with the community.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.