In his younger days, Richard Hyman was a diver with explorer Captain Jacques Cousteau aboard his famed ship Calypso. He later wrote a book about his adventures, called Frogmen.
These days, he brings his passion to area teenagers. Future Frogmen is a 501(c)(3) organization — but don’t be put off by the name, which came from students themselves.
Future Frogmen welcomes everyone. In fact, most interns and volunteers are female. And not all are scuba divers.
The student-focused organization fosters ocean ambassadors and develops future leaders, through environmental education and action around climate change, plastic pollution and species survival.
“We work to improve ocean health by deepening the connection between people and nature,” Hyman says.
“That includes the Sound, the Saugatuck and more. All water is connected.”
There are also instructive blog stories on topics like Earth Day, fossil coral, the intersection of science and politics, microplastics, rising tides, and reports from Florida and Alaska.
Undergraduate, graduate and post-grad students from dozens of colleges and universities are involved in the Frogmen, plus high schools like Staples. Hyman says Advanced Placement teacher Bethann Camillo has been particularly supportive.
Her Environmental Club is engaged in many ways, including the Frogmen’s monthly coastal cleanups at Compo Beach and Sherwood Island. Cleanup findings are catalogued and submitted to the NOAA’s Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project.
The organization also has a strong relationship with Patagonia. Store manager Emily Geeza joined with the Frogmen and Save the Sound on a “Virtual Coastal Cleanup.”
From June 25 through July 2, participants from Maine to Florida will pick up trash in their communities, particularly from coastlines and inland waterways. They’ll post photos with a hashtag to Facebook and Instagram.
A public kickoff call is June 24 (7 p.m.). Westporters will join many others along the entire US coast and inland waterways. Long Island Soundkeeper Bill Lucey will talk about plastics, and the importance of keeping trash out of our waterways. Click here (and scroll to “Local Events”) to join the call.
The Future Frogmen also planning panel discussions for Patagonia and the Westport Library. They hope to record their “Blue Earth” podcast to the library’s studio.
They’d even like to bring back The Great Race — the fun, funky townwide event in which people ran through town, rowed or sailed or paddled out to Cockenoe Island, picked up a bag of trash and raced back.
Hyman — who did 2 races in the 1970s — envisions a new model, perhaps based on Cousteau’s Involvement Days. “Food, music, education and action,” he says. “Like Cousteau I’d welcome other related nonprofits to exhibit, free of charge, all for the greater good.”
The Frogmen are also involved in this week’s United Nations World Oceans Day. They’re hosting free virtual events tomorrow and Friday (June 11-12), as well as next Wednesday (June 17) on topics like sea level rise, the impact of climate change on marine species, and the “blue economy” (using Long Island Sound seaweed in a variety of products). Click here to register for any of the 12 p.m. web sessions.
Despite the COVID pandemic, students and schools are contacting him for internships for this summer, and the upcoming school year.
“As we grow to the next level, we want to ensure quality work and mentoring too,” he says. “That’s why we’re also seeking folks who may still be in their career, as well as retirees who can volunteer their expertise.”
Hyman also recognizes the current environment. He says:
In light of recent events underlying systemic racism in our country, and as a mentorship-driven conservation organization rooted in inclusivity, we at Future Frogmen feel the need to affirm that we are against injustices towards black people. Prejudice contradicts the mantra we so passionately strive for: harmony between humanity and nature.
From the beginning, the young people involved with Future Frogmen impressed upon me the need for us to communicate inclusiveness. We did! We do!
Even within our sphere, there is limited African American representation in natural science disciplines. This works to exclude Black people who have a love and passion for oceans and species conservation.
We strongly believe that Black Lives Matter!
(For more information, email email@example.com, or call 203-456-4271. Donations for projects and scholarships can be made by clicking here, or by mail to PO Box 55, Westport, CT 06880.)