THE ISSUE: Marine science educator honored by Florida Marine Science Educators Association.

OUR OPINION: Earnie Olsen opens Citrus student eyes to world of natural exploration.

From the wonders of the Gulf to the coastal hammocks that shape the inland landscape, Citrus County is a treasure trove of natural beauty waiting to be discovered.

Marine science educator Earnie Olsen, supervisor of the Marine Science Station in Crystal River, enraptures young student minds on spirited trips out on the Gulf of Mexico and connects them to the nature of Citrus, molding the next generation of environmental stewards along the way.

Olsen was recently recognized for excellence as an educator by the board of the Florida Marine Science Educators Association (FMSEA), and was awarded the 2019-20 John Booker Service Award during a virtual conference in May 2020, an elite honor that not too many earn.

Olsen is a supremely dedicated educator in the Citrus County School District, and annually showcases the Nature Coast to 2,500 to 3,000 elementary, middle and high schoolers on daily field trips to the Marine Science Station. He has created a lasting legacy in the school system and has touched the lives of countless students, enriching their knowledge of the local ecosystem on Gulf trips that many never forget.

In his spare time, he has volunteered for FMSEA, a national network of 450-500 marine science educators, training other instructors like him to help obtain their certificate from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to capture aquatic species for educational purposes.

A FMSEA member since 2008, Olsen has climbed the ranks of leadership; in 2016, he was elected to serve three years on FMSEA’s Presidents chain, acting as president-elect, president and past-president. He was also responsible for organizing the annual FMSEA conference in 2019, bringing around 130 attendees to the event in Crystal River, titled “Spring into the Gulf- Explore the Nature Coast.”

Olsen’s outstanding service and environmentally astute nature has led him to be one of the top leaders in marine science education in Florida. He is a decent, hard-working guy with a passion for the environment that is truly contagious.

The district, and Citrus youths are blessed to have him as a teacher and mentor. He is a champion educator who leads students to a better appreciation for what we have in our coastal environment and instills an appreciation for the natural heritage of Florida.