Since its formation in 1970, Marine Science Institute (MSI) has put a premium on captivating students with the natural world to enrich their scientific understanding and get their hands dirty. Voyages immersing children in science on the San Francisco began with the Inland Seas, our 67-foot research vessel. MSI grew over the years, and so did our need for a larger boat. A new ship, the 90-foot R/V Robert G. Brownlee, was specifically designed for the unique conditions of the San Francisco Bay and for the educational needs of the youth we take on board to explore the estuary. Commissioned in 1998, the Robert G. Brownlee has been the focal point of MSI’s education programs and we are proud to celebrate the 20 years since its first voyage.
The Robert G. Brownlee brings many different groups together: students and teachers participating in a Discovery Voyage field trip, scientists from local institutes doing research, interns collecting fish population data, summer campers exploring their fascination with marine science, and older students and college graduates pursuing their marine science careers. No matter the focus or intentions for their time on the Robert G. Brownlee, every participant walks away from their Discovery Voyage with a greater appreciation for the San Francisco Bay and the life it contains.
An expedition aboard the Robert G. Brownlee is a four-hour long science adventure. Participants spend a half-day as scientists discovering the Bay’s marine ecosystem and discussing their own roles and connection to it. They explore the mud at the bottom of the Bay and the invertebrates that call it home. They collect and examine plankton, and test the water to dive into what makes the San Francisco Bay estuary unique, and they use an otter trawl net to catch a wide variety of fish species to examine and then release back into the water. With the Robert G. Brownlee as its backbone, MSI is the only organization in Northern California in which students can observe the Bay's life using real hands-on scientific collection methods.
Partway through the Robert G. Brownlee’s twentieth year of programs the unthinkable happened: we found that the vessel had a bent propeller shaft, an issue that could not have been prevented or predicted with visual inspections or routine maintenance. Programs halted immediately and the boat underwent emergency haul-out and repairs in April, MSI’s busiest month of programs. The ship was out of commission for a month and a half and we are so grateful that our staff and the schools that were supposed to have a Discovery Voyage during this time did everything they could to continue educating young scientists. All of the programs were able to be taught from shore or rescheduled. The ship returned mid-May to resume programs on the water after passing all inspections. MSI is so grateful to the generous people who contributed to the costs of repairs and to those who shared the plight of the Robert G. Brownlee emergency haul-out. If you are reading this, we thank you for your donation and for helping us to continue to provide marine science education programs.
Marine Science Institute has gone through many changes in its 48 year history but the commitment to its mission and staff has remained constant. With the knowledge that protection of the San Francisco Bay’s natural resources begins with education, MSI is proud of its past and present as a leader in enriching scientific understanding. The Robert G. Brownlee is a key element to the success of Marine Science Institute and we are proud to celebrate its twentieth birthday this year. We can’t wait to see what the ship has in store for the next 20 years and we hope you will be along for the ride!