NORFOLK (NNS) -- The U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC) sponsored 'Stewards of the Sea: Defending Freedom, Protecting the Environment' interactive exhibit at Nauticus in Norfolk, Virginia, marked its fifth year on display, March 13, 2019. The 1,000-square-foot dynamic exhibit, which is a partnership among the command, Nauticus, and the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, is an integral component of the U.S. Navy’s environmental outreach program.
“We wanted to create an educational and interactive exhibit for visitors of all ages,” said Liz Nashold, director, USFFC Fleet Installations and Environment. “This was a collaborative effort that was instrumental in bringing ideas together to create a highly interactive experience to show the Navy’s ongoing contributions as stewards of the sea.”
USFFC developed the program in 2013 to raise awareness of the Navy’s environmental policy and initiatives, and to increase support for its training and basing activities among public, scientific and regulatory communities. Since then, the program has expanded nationally, reaching hundreds of thousands of visitors through the permanent, portable and traveling exhibits.
“We subsequently built a portable and a traveling exhibit, which is just a smaller version of the Nauticus exhibit, that we were able to deploy up and down the Atlantic Coast where people are not as familiar with the Navy,” explained Tracy Riker, deputy director, USFFC Fleet Installations and Environment.
The portable exhibit has been showcased in both Fleet and Navy Weeks, including New York, Baltimore, Mobile, Alabama, Port Everglades, Florida and Cheyenne, Wyoming. During these events, the main focus has been the promotion and support of the public understanding of ongoing environmental planning and permitting actions for training and testing activities in the sea and airspace in the Atlantic Ocean, the eastern coast of North America, portions of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The exhibit has also been displayed at a variety of other community events, as well as at numerous professional environmental seminars.
“As we were moving forward with environmental permitting for the Navy’s testing and training activities, particularly at sea, it seemed as if we were starting from scratch in educating the regulators and the scientific community about what the Navy was doing from an environmental stewardship standpoint,” continued Riker.
From 2016 to the present, the traveling exhibit has been showcased at NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia, the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts, the Stennis Science Center in Mississippi, the battleship USS North Carolina (BB 55) in Wilmington, N.C., the Washington Navy Yard and the Pentagon. Starting in Spring 2019, the traveling exhibit will be at New Bedford Whaling Museum indefinitely.
“Over the next five years, we will build on the successes of the team that established this program and helped us reach the level of environmental outreach we are doing now,” said Mike Jones, the environmental outreach program manager. “We’ll continue to foster the partnerships that we have that developed through this experience and establish new partnerships in the future.”
Visitors to the exhibits can experience simulations, allowing them to scan the horizon through giant 'Big Eye' binoculars to look for whales, dolphins and turtles – just like a Sailor standing lookout duty would while underway. Other interactive displays enable visitors to listen to sounds that are present in the ocean, including natural sounds – such as those made by whales and other marine mammals. These interactive features are designed to demonstrate the challenges sonar technicians face when trying to detect ultra-quiet submarines. They can also learn how whales are tagged and tracked for research, and view scientific research equipment the Navy uses to better understand the ocean environment. There is also a display promoting Navy uniformed and civilian careers paths with an environmental focus.
"We live and work below, above and on the surface of the ocean, and if we want to be able to be out there training and testing national defense capabilities, we need to know our environment, we need to protect our environment and we need to conserve the resources that are in this environment,” concluded Jones. “National security and environmental compliance are mutually exclusive.”
The Stewards of the Sea outreach program works to educate key stakeholders on the Navy’s environmental stewardship efforts while maintaining military readiness. USFFC plans to expand the program to include all Navy environmental programs in future initiatives, and will continue to build upon its success by targeting high-tiered audiences through high-impact events each year.
To learn more on the Navy’s environmental programs, please visit https://www.public.navy.mil/usff/environmental
For more news from U.S. Fleet Forces Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/clf/.