GCBR Micro Fund Grant: Oceans Research Foundation

Dec 4, 2020 | Micro Fund


Submitted 1st December 2020

Oceans Research Foundation received funds from the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve (GCBR) to support learners participating in the ‘Sea the Change’ education and work readiness program in 2020.

The GCBR contributed to the participation of 3.3 students in the ‘Sea the Change’ program this year.

Sea the Change

Skills development and environmental outreach program.

Inspiring future leaders to bring about environmental change and drive shared responsibility in their own community for waste management and ocean pollution.


A Youth Skills and Transformational Environmental Mentorship Program which aims to reach previously disadvantaged young adults from Mossel Bay (Western Cape) to encourage shared community responsibility for waste management and ocean pollution at source.


Over 5 years, 32 youth ambassadors from low income households will be chosen, equipped with accredited training and given exposure to industry and tourism. The learners will become environmentally aware and appreciative, developing communications skills at all levels through mentorship and work placements. A further aim is to reach as many people as possible through monthly coastal environmental and community waste awareness workshops, outreaches and road-shows.

Youth participation and employability are key to change the future of our planet. Each year the selected learners will become ocean’s ambassadors to influence, inspire and educate their communities, while gaining entry level marine employability skills.


Generate community awareness toward protection and sustainable use of marine resources and participation in plastic and waste recycling solutions.

Skills and certificates to be achieved by students:

✔ Marine awareness and community outreach mentorship

✔ Learning to swim

✔ Life-saving certificate

✔ First Aid certificate

✔ Marine Mammal Response certificate

✔ Boat seamanship – entry level

2020 Sea The Change activity report

  Hours Sessions Days People reached
Life guard 81 27 20 2
Marine Education 16 8 8 8
Research 14 4 3 4
Clean up 3 1 1 3
Outreach 15 3 5 141
Schools 36 20 25 1060
Swimming 32 10 10 2
Tutoring 24 6 9 8
Self-reflective classes 11 4 5 7
University applications 16 2 4 2
Total 248 85 90 1237


During the Lockdown period, due to the covid-19 pandemic we reached out and attempted to continue as much as we could online and support the learners academically.

We effectively lost five months of our calendar year. The scheduled “Sea The Change” program had to be condensed into a shorter period, without compromising the contents and essence of the program.

The students visibly struggled to work remotely, if indeed, they had access to technology, be it phones, laptops, and data. They sometimes failed to comprehend and complete curriculum tasks outside the classroom. To make up for the usual guidance and a teacher explaining things properly in the classroom, we facilitated one-on-one online sessions.

The learners understanding of English and instructions, was also a major challenge, as our students are either at Xhosa or Afrikaans speaking schools. However, through constant dialogue, we have built verbal and listening skills and kept the learners motivated.

The Covid-19 pandemic has left a fatigued spirit, but we have gathered momentum for the final push, which will be finished by end of Novemeber 2020.

Marine education

One of the core foundations we aim to build in the “Sea the change” programs is marine conservation awareness. This, combined with the practical learning, aims to maximize impact and understanding. This year, we were fortunately able to run some educational sessions with our students before the lockdown period started and able to enforce practicality learning according to what they learnt after the restricted lockdown.


Our 2020 student’s enthusiasm has been amazing. They quickly learned to swim to a point that the lifeguards could start training with them. They pushed and had so much fun in the water and because of that, they did not need many sessions learning to swim.

Tutoring /Mentorship

During the lockdown period, the learners experienced a lot of anxiety and frustration. We created a social platform, to encourage and tutor them and help them progress in their studies.

Long term it was very challenging as many learners struggled to study digitally. Where possible we contacted teachers and highlighting they needed to revisit foundation building block stages especially in mathematics. This helped learners grasp topics that are more complicated later in the year.

Self-reflective classes

The self-reflective classes were particularly relevant. They incorporated, planning, goal setting, time management, self-evaluation and study methods. The goal was to empower students with these tools so that they can use them every day to maximize their effectiveness.

Stress and time-management were essential skill to master, as many participants of the program have to manage their time effectively as they are working part-time after school, or assisting with household’s chores. They are expected to be performing in the program, whilst not neglecting, home and school work.


1. Lifeguard Course

The 2020 “Sea The Change” students are continuing their lifeguard training with the Southern Cape Life Saving Club situated at the De bakke beach, Mossel Bay. The club opened and students were able to start with training at the end of September. However, due to trial exams for September, learners missed 2 weeks of training at lifeguard.

The lifeguard mentors do however believe that one of the students, Chulumanco Gqiza, has definitely the potential to pass her examination because of her sheer grit and willpower to succeed. She is an inspiration to everyone she meet as she pushes herself and strives to be the best in everything she does.

2. 1st Aid Course

Umbono Training situated in George facilitated the “Sea The Change” level 1 first aid course. This will further equip the students in safety and increase their confidence to act if they find themselves in a medical situation. The first aid course is part of building strong skillsets and employable foundations.


The “Sea The Change” students participated to do an intertidal and land dolphin survey at the Point, Mossel Bay.

The aim of these surveys is to monitor the biodiversity and abundance of rocky shores and cetacean’s species in the Mossel Bay area.

It is so vital for the students to be part of these survey as it gets them to;

  • explore, learn and interact with nature
  • put the theory into practice
  • appreciate the marine environment and its inhabitants

Our key output in the “Sea the Change” programs is, to create ambassadors who develop their own personal experiences with the marine environment. It becomes an authentic deep connection, so that when they go out, they not only just share information, but they share passion and their own testimony with others, which carries more weight.

Beach clean up

The Mossel Bay Advertiser article published on 5  October 2020, raised an alarming concern about a nurdle spillage across the beaches in Mossel Bay calling for urgent action from the public. Therefore, the “Sea the change” regrouped and participated in a clean-up session.

According to Shen et al, 2020, the ocean is the biggest carbon pool and contributes largely in global climate change. Furthermore, phytoplankton and zooplankton plays a vital role as producers and consumers in the ocean. They believe however, that micro plastics are;

  • Disrupting the photosynthesis and growth of phytoplankton
  • Altering the development and reproduction of zooplankton because of plastic toxicity on them
  • Disturbing the oceans capability to store carbon

A nurdle is a small plastic pellet that can be the size of a lentil; used to manufacture other plastic contents (Schumann, MacKay & Strydom, 2019). This was another big spillage after the incident that happened 2017 in the coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal.

We targeted the beaches Santos and Debakke, situated only 3 minutes apart. The event also offered a practical demonstration of human impact and plastic waste management to our students.

concern about a nurdle spillage across the beaches in Mossel Bay


1. Thusong library center

STC had a Fun, informative conservation session with a group of students at the Thusong library center led by the STC students. They gave a lesson about the importance of the ocean and its role in regards of oxygen production and carbon dioxide sequestration.

2. National Marine Week – Career expedition

In celebration of National Marine week, we planned a small career expo with the grade 9’s of Sao Bras High school, which was a huge success. We decided to reach out to this group of students because they were at a point when they needed to choose future subjects that will help them in furthering their future careers.

We invited people that could talk about the different careers students can get into in relation to the ocean and ways to pursue these careers. Our big message was to share opportunities where they can get transferable skills from different platforms that are readily available in

Mossel bay. Thus we wanted to;

  • Get them acquainted with a working environment
  • Boost their CV, which will increase their chances of employability
  • Get them to experience different work avenues they might like to pursue

School outreach

In the year 2019, we targeted four different primary schools in the Mossel Bay area and in a period of a year reached 636 students just in those two schools.

In 2020, we targeted one school at a time so that we could maximize our impact and because of that technique, we were able to reach 1060 in the span of 2 months. This also played a vital role in strengthening our relationship with the principal, teachers and students. We specifically targeted grade 2 to 5, which included 17 classrooms. We put together six lesson series and managed to do it across the grades.

As much as 2020 disrupted our flow in outreach activity, providing basically only 6 month of possible work done, we are keen to see the possible impact we can have across the Sea The Change program given a full operational year.

Social Media Awareness

1. Facebook *Table indicates number of people reached for each category*

STC Posts Dates School posts Dates Outreach posts   Dates
883 10/02/2020 909 20/02/2020 1075 24/02/20


1306 02/03/2020 912 17/02/2020 531 08/10/20


522 03/03/2020 889 14/03/2020 2243 09/10/20


1410 03/04/2020
1105 09/04/2020
783 20/04/2020
757 28/04/2020
853 26/05/2020
1842 03/08/2020
1024 29/08/2020
875 05/10/2020
2441 07/10/2020
795 14/10/2020
1138 23/10/2020
690 27/10/2020
1960 29/10/2020
1593 02/11/2020

2. YouTube

In celebration for World Habitat Day, the Sea the change students and Sophumelela Qoma, the Oceans Research Foundation’s outreach coordinator, put together an marine awareness video which highlighted the important aspects of the ocean and ways the public can partner to keep our oceans as healthy as possible.

Compiled by Dr Enrico Gennari, CEO – Oceans Research Institute
Photos courtesy of Dr Enrico Gennari

Find out more about the GCBR Flexible Micro Fund here



  1. Schumann, E.H., MacKay, C.F. and Strydom, N.A. (2019). Nurdle drifters around South Africa as indicators of ocean structures and dispersion. South African Journal of Science, [online] 115(5–6), pp.1–9. Available at: http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0038-23532019000300013 [Accessed 23 Nov. 2020] http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S003823532019000300013
  2. Shen, M., Ye, S., Zeng, G., Zhang, Y., Xing, L., Tang, W., Wen, X. and Liu, S. (2020). Can micro plastics pose a threat to ocean carbon sequestration? Marine Pollution Bulletin, 150, p.110712 http://ee.hnu.edu.cn/__local/D/9C/B0/D7694F4450C4BAFC62FD9005611_A2D20018_8 272C.pdf  

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