Beautiful Nation Project | Virgin Islands to Turks

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Jan 17th – 25th, 2015

Depart: Westend, British Virgin Islands
Arrive: Providenciales, Turks and Caicos (via Dominican Republic)
Length: 9 days (8 nights)
Focus: Creating ocean education content


[divider] [tabs] [tab title=”Overview”]How do we travel and explore responsibly? Vacation with a purpose and help bring the beauty of the world into the classroom!  The Beautiful Nation Project connects classrooms around the world with educators, scientists, artists and explorers on global expeditions to help teach core science, math and social studies curriculum in a fun and meaningful way. As crew aboard s/v Sea Dragon, you will get to actively participate in producing the content for the classrooms by partaking in our explorations at sea and on land!

The first stop on your voyage will be to Norman Island, made famous by the pirates who stashed their booty in its plentiful sea-level caves. Then, you will take a sailing trip to the island of Hispaniola to visit the highest mountain in the Caribbean, Pico Duarte in the Dominican Republic. Your last port of call will be in the pristine islands of the Turks and Caicos to explore its beautiful coral reefs.

On each leg of the voyage, your adventures will help the crew create and curate digital media stories about life from the vantage point of the sea. You will also learn about sustainable global tourism and what it means to be a good global citizen in a ‘flat world’, and how educators work to cultivate curiosity, respect and empathy in the classroom using today’s communication tools. Visiting STEMxperts Bonnie Montelone, of the Plastic Ocean Project, Jenny Buccos of Project Explorer will also be aboard the ship to share their expertise.

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Tonia Lovejoy – Mission Leader

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Tonia Lovejoy has managed Reach the World’s programming for five years, winning international, national and state grants for the organization, including a Hewlett Packard Fellowship for Innovation in Education, Prior to Reach the World, Tonia managed the production of GeoGames, a National Geographic award-winning educational game. She was member of Makulu’s 2005-7 voyage from Australia to New York City. Tonia has a B.A. in English Literature from The College of Charleston and served in the U.S. Peace Corps from 2002-2004. Famous for her Halloween costumes of deep sea creatures, Tonia is a likely candidate for Carnival.

Bonnie Monteleone 

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Director of Science, Research and Academic Partnerships (Wilmington,NC)

Bonnie Monteleone
 is a prominent Plastics Ocean Researcher. She currently leads a team of students at UNC Wilmington that focuses specifically on collecting and characterizing plastic samples from the North Atlantic Subtropical gyre. These samples are measured by weight, typed using IR, and are tested for persistent organic pollutants or POPs using Mass Spectrometry. Bonnie is also studying the relationship of plastics in the ocean with the formation and location of ocean eddies.

Bonnie has taken scientific expeditions to 3 of the 5 ocean gyres collecting plastics.  Monteleone’s collaborative efforts are with Charles Moore, founder of the  Algalita Marine Research Foundation (AMRF), Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins, co-founders of 5 Gyres Institute, Dr. William J. Cooper, University of California Irvine (UCI), and Dr. Maureen Conte, Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science (BIOS).​

Bonnie’s Master thesis, titled “The Plastic Ocean Project”, looked at the compromised environment for the convenience of plastics. A major thrust of this study addressed the question “If the North Pacific gyre is inundated with plastics, are the other gyres?” Monteleone completed her first field study exploration in the North Atlantic Gyre in July 2009 in collaboration with Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science. In the fall of 2009, Monteleone accompanied Algalita Marine Research Foundation’s 10-year resampling of the North Pacific Gyre quantifying the rate of marine debris growth to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, sampling a transect of 3,460 nautical miles (nm). In 2010, she continued her North Atlantic study resampling the same region in the North Atlantic. In fall of 2010, she joined 5 Gyres Institute in a first ever South Atlantic transect sampling for pelagic marine debris traveling 4,270 nm from Brazil to South Africa. In 2012, Monteleone was the lead researcher in sampling the South Pacific near Fiji and completed her third set of samples in the North Atlantic in July that same year. A total of 204 surface samples were collected from all four oceans.

Bonnie is also an accomplished artist, turning some of the plastic she collects on her  voyages into modern artistic masterpieces

Jenny Buccos

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Jenny M. Buccos began her professional career with Credit Suisse First Boston managing global media projects in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and New York.

In 2003, before the existence of YouTube or mainstream online video, she founded, a free video-based website designed educate primary and secondary school students about global cultures and histories.

Over the last decade, she has directed/produced nearly 500 short films for working with leaders, visionaries, and world-renowned organizations including Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The British Museum, The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action, to name but a few.

Under her direction,’s viewership grew by over 600% between 2006 and 2010, and now reaches a global audience of over 6 million.

John Hishmeh, Special Projects Officer for the U.S. Department of State, said of Jenny’s work:

 she takes the time to properly research what is needed to capture environments without bias and gains access to areas that provide a rich landscape for learning… is a positive voice in a sea of global misunderstanding.

In addition to her work with, Jenny has directed and produced video content for the Four Seasons Hotel brand, Project Medishare (Haiti), The Bushcamps Company (Zambia), and Bombardier, Inc.

Jenny is the two-time recipient of a GOLD Parents’ Choice Award for Excellence in Educational Programming. She is a 2010 recipient of a National Award for Citizen Diplomacy; honored alongside Academy Award winner Robert Redford for her work as a citizen diplomat.

In July 2012, she was recognized by the Obama Administration as a White House Champion of Change. In March 2013, she was selected one of the National School Board Association’s 20 to Watch in the EDTech community. In October 2013, she was named Top 40 Innovator in Education by the Center for Digital Education.

She has spoken at TEDx conferences in New York, Cincinnati, and Soweto, South Africa, and regularly lectures on the importance of global competencies in primary and secondary education. She is considered a brand ambassador for several of the countries in which she has worked.

Debbie Winterbauer

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Background & Expertise
Business background – Interior Decorator and Artist
Operated a painting and restoration/renovation business for 15 years.

Expedition Goals
Personally I have a deep reverence for nature, the planet we are gifted, trying to preserve it for generations to come, and soaking up all the joys it provides.
I’m hoping for good weather and a healthy back. I am looking forward to meeting everyone aboard and learning and helping with the projects selected.

Jess Lee

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Background & Expertise
Sailing, education, international development

Expedition Goals
Support the BNP!

Katie Hovermale

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Background & Expertise
Bachelors degree in recreation administration. Keen interest in gardening, natural environment, coastal issues and waste recycling. Area of expertise is aquatics and swimming.

Expedition Goals
To support the objectives of the Beautiful Nation Project. Have fun.

Lauren Ries

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Background & Expertise
Certified diver.

Expedition Goals
Help out wherever I can.

Olivia Ries

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Background & Expertise
I specialize in teaching students about Plastic Pollution

Expedition Goals
To help out as much as I can and to learn from the team along the way. I want to be able to use this experience as we continue to teach everyone about such environmental issues as plastic pollution

Shannon Hagen

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Background & Expertise
Working as sailor, explorer and journalist for The Beautiful Nation Project, I am lucky to pair my sailing experience with my experience as a marine biology researcher, teacher and naturalist and use the whole to educate children about the world’s marine resources. I researched and wrote articles about the wonders of the Sargasso Sea, the role of coral reefs in Hurricane protection, and (coming soon) the engineering wonders of the Panama Canal.

I have a B.S. in restoration ecology and have conducted marine fisheries and littoral zone surveys for the U.S. National Park system, the state Fish and Wildlife service, and the U.S. Native Tribes. I am also a professional ski patroller and emergency care giver. The patrol job has allowed me to treat traumatic injuries in adverse conditions, experiences that I draw upon as an educator for the Wilderness Medicine Institute. I have a Wilderness-EMT certification, have been medical officer on board several boats and have been fortunate to avoid and deter serious ship-board medical emergencies thus far. I have treated jellyfish stings in St. Vincent, a manta ray sting on the Pacific coast of Mexico and a tick bite in Senegal, West Africa.

I have honed my gregarious, open, and wacky sense of humor through long watches, rotten weather, and irregular showering regimes common on boats. In spite of these, or probably because of them, I have an infectious enthusiasm for sailing and the marine environment.

Expedition Goals
While sailing on Makulu (Reach the World’s 43′ Ketch), we had two basic dive set-ups on board and when I wasn’t using them to scrape the bottom of our boat, myself and the crew were exploring the amazing riches below the sea near Tobago, St. Vincent, Dominica, St. Kitts, Tortola, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Many times we were lucky to view abundance, sometimes our dives revealed huge swaths of bare and plowed up ocean bottom. The most impacted ground was often revealed in my inspection of our anchors and holding ground. It was a sad introduction to a harbor.. crystal blue water revealing tin cans, toilet tissue, and trash of all varieties.
I am most excited to learn and someday teach coral reef surveys to citizen scientists around the world.

Tricia Monteleone

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Background & Expertise
My background is in education and outreach for Plastic Ocean Project, Inc., I coordinate activities with community based initiatives to stop the overuse of single-use plastics. I have fairly extensive travel experience that has aided my ability to relate to people of different cultures.

Expedition Goals
I am excited to team up with other great non-profits in research and outreach, I think it will be a great learning experience for all of us. I also can’t wait to meet people who live on the islands to understand their view of plastics, how they handle it and what expectations are for the future. Hopefully making an impact on educating toward a future without overuse of plastics and their destructive nature to our oceans.

Jennifer Palmer

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Background & Expertise
Jennifer is a conservation scientist, nature enthusiast and world explorer. With 20 year’s experience and a master’s degree in International Ecology and Conservation, she has a true fascination with the connection between humans and nature. Devoted to conservation, women’s empowerment and youth empowerment she has been instrumental in supporting a variety of powerful and impactful projects including the Emmy-award winning film Chasing Ice and the youth-led nonprofit One More Generation (OMG). Through international projects and expeditions, she is continually inspired to learn, grow and teach through a fusion of science, art, communication, culture, education, nature and adventure. Thus far, she has researched and explored over 35 countries, including scientific and education expeditions in Africa, SE Asia, Central America, Europe, Oceania and the Middle East.As an esteemed Kinship Conservation Fellow, founder of Women for Wildlife, and World Minded Ambassador, she deeply believes that no matter what your passion may be, there is always a way to create positive change.

Expedition Goals
To connect with powerful women and youth ambassadors through adventure, exploration and discovery. To be able to contribute whole heartedly to the Beautiful Nation Project and support our collective passion for ocean awareness and youth empowerment. To embrace each moment of being on the sea and looking out over so many shades of blue. To smile and bring hugs and love to all members of the crew as we support one another in mind, body and soul. To laugh each day, grow stronger and feel full of inspiration and purpose. To remember (and relearn) how to sail and be one with the ocean! 🙂

Alex Severino

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Background & Expertise
I have had the opportunity to work on the waterways of New York City since I was 15 years old. During that time I was able to learn how to sail, row, canoe, kayak and receive my certification in power boating. I became a citizen scientist along with my friends and learned how to sample water quality as well as river restoration.

Expedition Goals
I am excited to see the aquatic organisms and film some amazing experiences on my GoPro! I am also anxious to meet the students that I will be talking to in the Dominican Republic, which is the country my family is from.



Jack Pincus – Skipper

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Born in Colorado, Jack moved with his family at an early age and enjoyed an international upbringing in South America. He returned to Colorado to study Economics at Fort Lewis College, graduating with a B.Sc. Since graduating he has led sailing expeditions in the Caribbean, the Inside Passage, the Great Bear Rainforest, and the San Juan Islands. He holds MCA and USCG licenses as well as medical and diving certifications.


Jesse Horton – First Mate

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Background & Expertise
Sailor, artist, surfer, diver, cameraman, all around mischief organizer.

Expedition Goals
To get everyone on the boat safe, have an amazing trip, share some stories and experience, and make sure everyone gets to Sweden safe!


Cayley Coulbourn – Deckhand

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Cayley’s love for the ocean probably stems from where she calls home – Vancouver, British Columbia. While obtaining her degree from the University of British Columbia (Geography & Asian Studies), she was also lucky enough to obtain a job as a marine naturalist aboard a local whale watching vessel, which inflated her passion for the marine world. Since then, she’s been adventuring the world as a PADI scuba instructor and crewing aboard sail education programs, hoping to inspire that same love for the environment in others.


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January 17: Crew arrive on board Sea Dragon at noon for a Welcome Briefing, stow gear, safety briefing.

January 18: Crew will sail Sea Dragon to the Caves/Indians and go snorkelling, day of sail training

January 19: Sunrise hike at Norman Island. Crew will snorkel/swim morning, sail back to west end, clear customs Depart for Dominican Republic PM

January 20: Underway to Dominican Republic

January 21: The crew will arrive in Samana, in the Dominican Republic – after clearing customs will have the day to explore

January 22: Day to explore, clear customs in PM and depart for Turks & Caicos in evening

January 23: Underway to Turks & Caicos

January 24: Arrive Turks & Caicos Providenciales in mid-morning, clear customs.

January 25: Crew is free to depart by noon

*Itinerary subject to change based on weather [/tab] [tab title=”More Information”] Travel documents: Crew will require a passport from their home country that will allow them to travel to British Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos.

Contribution Includes:

  • 8 nights accommodation on board Sea Dragon
  • All meals, snacks and drinks on board
  • Sailing instruction
  • Safety equipment and foul weather gear
  • All workshops, personal development and one-on-one sessions

Payment does not include:

  • Transportation to British Virgin Islands and home from Turks & Caicos
  • Transportation to and from the dock
  • Personal expenses while in port

Kit List

Please see our Travel Kit List.

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