Who is Fintegrity?
We are professional teachers and scientists who share a passion for the ocean. As uniquely experienced and skillful as we each strive to be, we know that as individuals none of us are as wise or as capable as the sum of our parts. So we work together to help teachers and students in the world's leading fish-catching and fish-eating nations understand the ocean's immense value. One student at a time we are creating a force of thoughtful people who can move themselves, their communities and their nations to restore the integrity of our planet's extraordinary marine ecosystems.
Joel Simonetti is a professional teacher and the co-founder of Fintegrity. Although he never saw saltwater until age 15, his childhood dreams were full of sharks, mantas and groupers that swallowed unsuspecting spear fishermen. Drawn to the lakes and streams of his Upstate New York boyhood home, Joel explored them with a bucket and fishing pole and pieced together his first visions of the sea reading and watching Jacques Cousteau. So, when adulthood arrived, Joel left for the coast. But on a 25-year journey, with stops in the Florida Keys, the Caribbean, Australia, Indonesia and Egypt’s Red Sea, Joel came to see that in most places the ocean's ecosystems are not as they're portrayed on television or in the pages of dive magazines. Instead they're shadows of a largely forgotten past. So, with his wife, fellow teacher and traveling companion Lisa Cook, Joel started Fintegrity, to help other educators inspire children to care about the sea. In school, few kids are taught about marine ecosystems or learn how unimaginably full of life the seas once were. Unless children are provided these learning opportunities, they won't come to know that a fish-filled ocean is their heritage, and they won't see how it’s possible to put it all back together again.
Lisa Cook is first and foremost a science teacher. She has spent her entire professional life striving to help her middle and high school students see the relevance of science. Inspired by writers like Mowatt, Kingsolver, McPhee, Safina, Carson and Leopold-who translate the work and vision of scientists for the greater public-it's been Lisa's dream to create similar books for teens and their teachers. Lisa has spent the past 22 years living, teaching and SCUBA diving in the Caribbean, Indonesia and Egypt. Over the coral reefs of these three regions she's taken hundreds of children snorkeling, striving to help them understand the marine ecosystems they see. In 2003 Lisa co-authored Why I Care About SHARKS a children's book that uses kids' curiosity about sharks to help teachers get students thinking critically about the ecological and social problems associated with overfishing. With support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Lisa has conducted numerous teacher training workshops and given away thousands of copies of SHARKS to international school educators at all over East Asia, North and South American and the Middle East. In 2009 she co-founded Fintegrity, an organization, dedicated to empowering educators to teach about marine ecosystems and inspire their students to take action as stewards of the ocean. Lisa and Joel’s second book Consuming Coral Reefs is due out in 2015.
Dr. Mark Erdmann is the Senior Advisor to Conservation International’s Indonesia Marine Program, with a primary focus on managing CI’s marine conservation initiatives in the Bird’s Head Seascape in West Papua. Mark is a coral reef ecologist (PhD University of California, Berkeley) who has lived and worked for the past 18 years in Indonesia. During this time he has logged nearly 10,000 SCUBA dives while surveying marine biodiversity throughout the region, discovering 16 new mantis shrimp species and 23 new coral reef fishes (including the Indonesian coelacanth). He has published 91 scientific articles and 2 books, as well as numerous popular articles in diving and nature magazines. Though his work is now largely focused on marine conservation and the management of marine protected areas, his continuing research interests include reef fish biodiversity, mantis shrimp ecology and systematics, genetic connectivity of MPA networks, and coral reef restoration techniques. Mark now lives with his wife and three children in New Zealand, while making frequent trips to Papua and elsewhere in Indonesia and SE Asia.
Dr. Julia Parrish is a researcher, teacher and conservationist who has devoted her life to discovering solutions to environmental problems that concern our ocean. In Seattle at the University of Washington, where she is a professor (PhD Duke University), Julia directs The Program for the Environment and is the Associate Director of the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. Her interests follow three major routes: behavior of organisms living in groups, seabird ecology, and marine conservation. Among the many innovative projects Julia’s initiated is a grass roots citizen science program called the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST). This network of over 500 adult volunteers, many senior citizens, monitor sea bird populations from northern California to the shores of the Chukchi Sea bordering Alaska and Russia. Using an innovative seabird identification guide Julia created, these volunteers actually identify birds by looking at their beachcast carcasses. The baseline data they collect about naturally occurring seabird deaths can be contrasted with mortality due to oil spills and other human-caused stresses to the ecosystem. But in addition to the collection of data, the program inspires and empowers people to care about the sea.
Steve Maday has for the last 20 years spent his professional life traveling the world teaching science to middle and high school students. A veteran of international schools in Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow, Vienna, Santo Domingo and Lima, Steve’s passion for the ocean has been an integral part of his teaching. Steve was one of the first educators to pilot Why I Care About SHARKS, integrating it into his school’s curriculum and collecting data used at subsequent educational conferences. An avid SCUBA diver, Steve has dived in the Galapagos Islands and Philippine archipelagos, swum with the great whites of South Africa and the whale sharks of Pulao Perhentian in Malaysia. With very little arm twisting he signed on as one of the original three board members for Fintegrity. He firmly believes that a grass-roots education centered around a series of well-made, highly-informative books such as Why I Care About SHARKS, has the potential to motivate an entire generation of internationally minded students to take control of their planet and protect, arguably, its greatest natural resource—our oceans.