On this Father's Day

My daughter Dee Dee was born on Fathers Day at Marineland, a marine park in Florida. As a marine biologist this was a special Father’s Day gift for me, and an auspicious beginning for her.

For the past twenty-five years, I enjoyed learning about, exploring and loving this precious planet with my daughter, committed to passing along to her and any of her friends who joined our adventures an appreciation for our oceans, our environment, and our natural resources. I guess I made an impact, because she has continued to work in the environmental field in her own career.

I remember waking a groggy Dee Dee before dawn to go surfing, an activity from my childhood that sparked my love of the ocean. Waiting for the next wave, we’d watch the sun come up, the colors of the sky and the crashing of the waves .... Then we'd be shocked out of our reverence for nature by a piece of debris floating by or a dead fish on the shore tangled in fishing line.  Each time, I explained to my small daughter how man's irresponsibility caused these dangers, and we’d have an animated discussion about respecting the environment we love so much.

Then there was the time a teenage Dee Dee asked for a dissolved oxygen meter for Christmas.  Not your usual teenage request, I realize. She was probably the only teenager to use this uncommon tool for a science fair project (looking at the impacts of nutrients on water quality). So, having a father who is a marine biologist may have given Dee Dee unique opportunities to commune with nature. 

I hope all fathers find their own way, especially this Father’s Day, to explore and appreciate – and pass down a respect for -- the wonders of our environment with their kids. Just ask Dee Dee how fun it is.

I remember rolling my eyes each time my dad asked me to make sure I had turned off all the lights in the house that weren’t being used, or being slightly embarrassed when he would lecture my friends about the importance of the slimy algae on the stairs of our dock. Or, being exasperated when we would be late for a movie because he was picking up that extra piece of trash in the parking lot.

Now, I find myself making that extra trip across the street to pick up the plastic bag on the street and I try to only have one light on in my apartment at a time. Looking back on those “lectures”… well, they’re what made my dad so cool. I am so grateful my dad taught me to protect and appreciate the earth, even if I did roll my eyes at the time.  

At the end of the day, we all take a part of our fathers with us wherever we go.

This Father’s Day, take time to thank the father figures in your life that gave you the tools to make conscious decisions toward a better future. Thanks, Dad.

Fathers, thank you for instilling values in the young people around you that help them make good decisions, and that make the world a better place.

Dr. Dave Vaughan is Executive Director of the Mote Tropical Research Lab, Florida Keys and former board member of EarthEcho International. EarthEcho International is a nonprofit organization founded by Alexandra and Philippe Cousteau.Dee Dee Vaughan is the Executive Assistant at Earth Day Network.