Ever since 2002, the United Nations has proclaimed May 22 to be The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) in order to increase the understanding, as well as the awareness of biodiversity issues. 

The slogan for this year’s Biodiversity Day 2022 is ‘Building a shared future for all life’. Biodiversity is a term used to describe the immense variety and variability of life on Earth and according to the Convention on Biological Diversity, it remains the answer to many sustainable development challenges we all face. 

Adhering to this year’s slogan, the Italia-Malta Interreg SEA MARVEL project, a project running in collaboration with the University of Malta, through Prof. Adriana Vella and her experienced conservation research team, has been promoting the importance of biodiversity within schools of Malta and Gozo.

This work is focusing on helping youths, our future generation, understand the value and conservation needs of life around us. The enthusiasm shown by various Maltese schools, which welcomed this educational opportunity through the support of the Ministry for Education, as a valid associate partner of the project, expanded the provision of current scientific knowledge directly to youths.

Given that the Maltese Islands are surrounded by a changing and increasingly exploited sea, one of the main focuses of the SEA MARVEL project is to shed light on its essential marine biodiversity. The project’s scientists are raising further awareness of the risks and necessary mitigation against plastic pollution, exploitation of marine resources and the effects of climate change in order to maintain and reactivate the marine ecosystem and Natura 2000 protected sites. Encouraging more inquisitive, learned and scientifically prepared youths paves the way to finding more effective solutions and measures in the near future. 

Martina Busuttil, Sea Marvel scientific educator in school.Martina Busuttil, Sea Marvel scientific educator in school.

Flagship and indicator species such as marine turtles also feature in the World Turtle Day celebrated on May 23. National Dolphin Day has already been commemorated on April 14, which also sees SEA MARVEL contribute to sustain scientific long-term research in Maltese waters that has been ongoing since 1997 by local conservation biologist, Prof Vella. 

Though the COVID-19 pandemic forced an initial online format of the highly focused sessions delivered, the project’s scientists had the opportunity to meet with numerous classes of different age groups from different schools and interactively discuss our marine biodiversity, the threats faced and possible solutions too. In these sessions, the students were exposed to detailed examples of how our everyday quality of life highly depends on the quality of biodiversity that surrounds us, particularly our marine biodiversity! 

Students marvelled at the beautiful and curious creatures found in our seas: from tiny to gigantic; found in shallow waters to the greatest depths; from known to unknown species. SEA MARVEL allows youths to experience the passion for understanding marine life’s incredible potential and how to tackle both scientific and everyday measures to conserve the functions and services the sea provides. The students were also encouraged to reflect on their daily plastic consumption and to reduce it, while spreading the message learned.

Sea Marvel educational awareness in school.Sea Marvel educational awareness in school.

Albeit the sessions being online, they were greatly appreciated and found to be highly effective in engaging the youths’ attention as well as allowing them to discuss any queries linked to helping them build and maintain sustainable lifestyles through the acquired knowledge. They were also inspired to see science as a vehicle toward interesting knowledge-building on essential environmental matters for sustainable futures.

SEA MARVEL will continue expanding its efforts with other educational events in Maltese schools.

Similar efforts are expanding in the Italian partner schools through the contribution of SEA MARVEL campaigners therefore contributing to a region-wide effort in the central Mediterranean. This region in particularly impacted by various types of pollution from marine noise to plastics, endangering many marine species and our marine ecosystem services.

Different stakeholders are being involved to contribute to the various other activities this engaging and impressive Italia-Malta Interreg project has the opportunity to undertake.

For further information contact Prof Adriana Vella on adriana.vella@um.edu.mt

Martina Busuttil is a biologist at the Conservation Biology Research Group, Biology Department, University of Malta

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