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News and Media

News and Media

By Founder and President Kurt Lieber

As the seasons are starting to change, schools are back in swing, and education takes precedence over fun for a lot of young people. 

But, not necessarily for ALL young ones.

Motivated Students Inspire Us

On Sunday, September 29th, several Ocean Defenders Alliance (ODA) volunteers jumped at the chance to get to work with some students from the Clark Magnet School (CMS). 

Volunteer debris removal team

Each year since 2014, ODA has worked on projects with CMS teacher Dominique Bye-Evans. She is an incredibly motivating teacher, and actually gets some of her students (teenagers, mind you) to wake up early on a Sunday and head out to the oceans to test their skills at handling their ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle).

We met up around 10am in San Pedro, and after a short briefing on the do’s and don’ts on a boat, we pushed off and started looking for a place where they could deploy the RIB in the water and start looking for marine debris. 

A Special Greeting Party

Inside the harbor breakwall it was nice and flat, and the skies were bright blue.  As we started moving past Angels Gate, we saw a pod of coastal bottlenose dolphins.  I slowed the boat down to get a better look.  Turns out they were heading right for us!

So, I stopped the boat entirely and anxiously waited for them to get closer.  Sure enough, they came within about 50 feet and then started heading out of the harbor to the open ocean. 

Bottlenose dolphins

We slowly motored behind them at a safe distance and then they disappeared. 

Everyone’s cameras were on and all eyes were wide open.  It’s amazing how dolphins never cease to energize people, including this old salt.

Getting Down to Business

As we rounded the lighthouse and started to head to open water, we started feeling the swells. 

Ocean conservation expedition heads out

The waves weren’t particularly big, but it made for a bouncy ride.  This is usually when people who are not used to being on boats, start feeling queasy.  Sure enough, one of the students got seasick.  He was out of commission for the rest of the day.  No shame in it, it happens to the best of ‘em.

But we still had three other students pumped up and ready to see some ROV action: Adam, Anna, and Sophie.

We moved west along the breakwall looking for a spot to drop the anchor in, trying to find calm waters.  Couldn’t find anything there, so we kept moving and finally found a spot near Cabrillo Beach.

The ODA volunteers were: Dave Merrill, Sue StSure, and Geoff Walsh.  They dropped the anchor in 25 feet of water and made sure the boat wouldn’t be moved from the spot by the strong currents.

Next the students hooked up all the electronics to the ROV and threw it in the water.  After they got comfortable with the ROV controls, down it went. 

Students launch ROV

The ROV is an amazing tool for UW exploration.  It’s got a video camera with lights on it, and it has sonar imaging.  The sonar can sense rocks and solid objects that are in front of it, even metal pieces.  However, it cannot see plastics.  That’s where the camera comes in handy.

Plastic Bags Have Got to Go

When they viewed a plastic bag under the water, they maneuvered the ROV and then used another feature on the ROV to grab the bag. 

This turned out to be pretty hard to do because of the strong currents.  Sometimes the current can be stronger than the motors that propel the ROV, and the device gets pushed back rather than forward. 

But, never underestimate what a determined team can do.  Not only did they manage to grab the bag, they successfully drove the ROV back to our boat with the goody in hand. 

Kids with plastic debris

Nice job, team!

Practice Makes Perfect

We spent a few hours there, with each student taking turns at the different aspects of working with the unit.  One person handles the joystick that maneuvers the device, another sits at the computer and records the sonar or camera, and a 3rd person handles the 300-foot long tether, making sure it doesn’t get entangled in anything.  So, this is really a team effort.

Students at computer

It’s always a treat to get to work with the students at Clark.  They are motivated kids and Mrs. Bye-Evans is one of the best teachers around…the kind I wish that I had had growing up.

Teacher and Students at computer

Thanks Dave, Sue, and Geoff for giving up your Sunday to make sure these kids a chance to grow their skills.  The world needs more youth like this!

If you know of some ocean-loving kids who want to help out, be sure to look for events on our Facebook page or send an email to