UCSB’s Carsey-Wolf Center for Film, Television and New Media recently received $211,000 to launch a digital media and learning program about seafood.

The funds will allow the Carsey-Wolf Center to launch their pilot program “Digital Ocean: Sampling the Sea,” which aims to interactively educate the next generation of seafood consumers about the nuances of local fishing practices, wildlife maintenance and the future health of the marine environment. The program will be integrated into the curriculum of 200 high schools and middle schools worldwide with the help of online media outlets.

UCSB was one of only 14 institutions from across the globe to be awarded a Digital Media and Learning Innovation grant from the MacArthur Foundation for their media education proposal.

Ronald Rice, co-director of the Carsey-Wolf Center, said the pilot program draws on the university’s strengths in environmentalism and digital media.

“UCSB is really quite the leader in ocean environmental issues,” Rice said. “So we’re combining that expertise with the newest digital media technology.”

Cathy Boggs, associate director of the Carsey-Wolf Center, said she anticipates a greater sense of responsibility for the environment from the students involved in the trial networking site.

“We would like to have the students that participate in this gain awareness about how their choices, in this case in terms of seafood, actually have a larger effect on the planet,” Boggs said. “They’ll be learning about sustainable seafood and international customs. As they communicate with classrooms from other countries, they’ll find out about differences in seafood consumption based on culture.”

According to Boggs, the backbone of the program is the issue of sustainable food consumption. The plan, she said, also pushes for the organization of a new medium for environmental and social reform.

“Of course the content is an exciting innovation,” Boggs said. “Beyond that, though, we’re looking into how social networking technologies create new kinds of communities for social action.”

Boggs said the program will encourage proactive solutions to the problems facing the world’s ocean fish populations.

“Students will go out into their communities, they’ll gather information about what seafood people eat locally, and then they’ll upload it to the Internet,” Boggs said. “The data will be compiled together and they’ll be able to see feedback, comparing their results with classrooms from around the world. That information will also be valuable to scientists.”

Sarah Bennett, a third-year communication major, said the pilot program will offer students a better education on current threats to the marine environment.

“I remember learning about composting and stuff in middle school but not much about the global impact of fisheries,” Bennett said. “Having a better foundation in environmental education will help reduce apathy and promote change.”