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April 4, 2022

Unity College partners with international group to train staff in 'ocean justice'

COURTESY / LUKE’S LOBSTER Removal of ghost gear from the ocean’s bottom is one of the initiatives the Ocean Conservancy has pursued in Maine. Seen here is a passel of debris pulled out of the ocean in 2019 through a separate initiative conducted by the Tenants Harbor Fisherman's Co-op and funded by the Luke’s Lobster Keeper Fund.

Unity College in Cumberland County plans to teach "ocean justice" this spring to employees of a global conservation organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.

The small private college announced a partnership with Ocean Conservancy to provide micro-credentialing for personnel who might not be looking for degrees but are in need of training.

“This course gives employees at organizations and companies an opportunity to expand their knowledge base and add to growing skillsets concerning ocean justice,” Unity’s president, Melik Peter Khoury, said in a news release.

The course will focus on providing noncredit skills advancement for Ocean Conservancy employees.

Unity has historically focused primarily on degree-seeking students.  But the partnership builds on an initiative, launched by the college a year ago, to open a professional training school called the Technical Institute for Environmental Professions on a portion of Pineland Farms in New Gloucester. 

The institute is designed to supplement Unity’s other educational offerings and offer associate degrees, certificates and continuing professional education with a mix of in-person and online instruction. Subjects include environmental engineering, veterinary technology, the solar industry and other high-growth sectors.  

The initiatives come at a time when many students no longer want to spend the time and money it takes to complete a baccalaureate program but seek career training, Khoury has said.

The venture with Ocean Conservancy is expected to contribute to ongoing education in the organization’s work to advance equity and justice in conservation and sustainability, according to the release.

Within the micro-course, badge earners at Ocean Conservancy will view short films, read case studies, complete assessments, and reflect on their own experiences. 

Unity’s distance education director of partnership development, Douglass Studdiford, said the partnership “is really a unique opportunity to educate a large population with a timely, meaningful topic, ocean justice.”

The course will build on Ocean Conservancy’s work to focus on “the fair and equitable distribution of both the benefits of the ocean’s bounty and the responsibilities for its complex care,” said the organization’s director of ocean climate justice, Francisco Ollervides.

The goal is to provide students with a better understanding of how access to the ocean and its resources can be equitably distributed among all people, he added.

Founded n 1972, Ocean Conservancy is a nonprofit environmental advocacy group that helps formulate ocean policy at the federal and state government levels based on peer-reviewed science.

Recent Maine-based work has included the organization’s partnership with the Gulf of Maine Lobstermen’s Foundation in Portland to participate in the conservancy’s global "ghost gear" initiative. On a trip into Casco Bay last November, the organizations, using reports from local fishermen, as well as the use of side-scan sonar technology, removed more than 4,000 pounds of lost and abandoned fishing gear from the water

The retrieval was part of broader, long-term efforts in Maine. A few years ago, the conservancy helped retrieve a gear ball the size of a whale a from the Gulf of Maine. 

Around the world, the conservancy has partnered with 120 member organizations since 2015.

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