Summer means longer days, shorter nights, and another excuse to get yourself off the couch and into South Florida's miles of open waters. Because one of the 305's favorite pastimes is hanging oceanside, an afternoon on the sand is often accompanied by cold beer, floaties, and thumping tunes. WPBT2's Changing Seas, a production from South Florida's public television station, dives deeper, exploring what's beyond Miami's crisp ocean surface and the challenges it faces.
"We hope viewers walk away with a greater appreciation for the oceans," series producer Alexa Elliott says, "and the threats they are facing from human activities."
Tonight Changing Seas will debut four new episodes covering topics ranging from manatees to Riviera Beach's Blue Heron Bridge. Narrated by voice actor Craig Sechler, the episodes will take viewers on an adventure through water, following explorers and scientists as they uncover information that could lead to scientific breakthroughs.
"Topics are chosen in a variety of ways," Elliott says, "and I keep in close touch with the marine science community to find opportunities to film cutting-edge field research as it happens."
As Changing Seas begins its eighth season, viewers can expect to see ctenophores, also known as comb jellies, which are now believed to surpass sponges as the first animals to branch off the “Animal Tree of Life,” a kind of family tree for all living and extinct animals on Earth. Other topics include the hundreds of manatees migrating to Crystal River in the wintertime; hydrothermal vents near coral reefs; and marine life beneath the Blue Heron Bridge in Riviera Beach, which is considered one of the best shore dives in the nation.
Changing Seas has become a staple on WPBT2. The series debuted about nine years ago, Olsak says, when Elliott was asked to develop an environmentally focused multiyear series.
"It started shortly after two separate commissions on the oceans had come out with reports that focused on the serious environmental impacts that humans were having on the world’s oceans," Elliott adds. "Knowing this, and given Florida’s large marine science community, we felt it important to share these developing ocean stories with our audience."
Funded by the Batchelor Foundation, each episode takes about three months to produce and presents its own unique challenges.
"Some episodes involve complicated travel logistics to remote locales," Elliott says. "Other times, details such as lunar cycles, tides, and spawning seasons need to be considered for filming to get the appropriate footage."
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Elliott says she can't choose one single episode as her favorite.
"There’s still so much new information being discovered about the oceans every day," Elliott says. "Tune in to be inspired by the oceans’ beauty and explore their mysteries."
Episode 1, Season 8 premieres Wednesday, June 22, at 8 p.m., with Episode 2 following at 8:30. Episodes 3 and 4 will air June 29 at 8 p.m. All episodes run 30 minutes and show on WPBT Channel 2, South Florida's public television station serving Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. Visit wpbt2.org.