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Mucarsel-Powell Invites 16-Year-Old Coral Researcher And Scientific Diver In-Training To State Of The Union

Key West Is One Of Nation’s Most Environmentally Vulnerable Cities, And Rep. Mucarsel-Powell’s Guest Will Highlight The Need To Take Climate Action Now And To Protect Clean Water Across The Nation

Washington, January 31, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26) announced that her guest at Tuesday’s Presidential State of the Union Address will be 16-year-old student researcher and scientific diver in-training from Key West, Marsella Munoz. Mucarsel-Powell, Vice Chair of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, has made defending clean water, corals, and Florida’s Everglades a top priority in the 116th Congress. Munoz has been SCUBA diving in South Florida and researching corals and water quality since she was 13 years old.

“I am thrilled to have Marsella, an environmentally-conscious 11th grader from Key West, as my guest to this historic event,” said Mucarsel-Powell. “Young environmental advocates like Marsella are our present and our future. She is a reminder that there is hope, and that we must listen to our children and take action now to protect our environment and address climate change. Every year in South Florida we see toxins leaking into our water, disrupting not just our tourism industry, but also wrecking our fishing economy and creating a serious public health concern. Working with young researchers like Marsella and community leaders, I know that we can find comprehensive solutions to save our water and coral, and keep South Florida healthy.”

“I am honored to have been selected as Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell’s special guest at the 2020 State of the Union Address,” said Munoz. “My goal is to share my experiences as a science student and advocate for the protection and preservation of the continental United States’ only coral reef ecosystem. In the four short years that I have been SCUBA diving, I have observed a rapid decline in the health of the reef and am here to ask for your help protecting this critical natural resource.”

Last year, Mucarsel-Powell introduced bipartisan legislation with Rep. Francis Rooney (FL-19) to ban the human use of oxybenzone and octinoxate – two of the most common ingredients in chemical sunscreens – near coral reefs in the National Marine Sanctuary System, including the Great Florida Reef found off the coast of the Florida Keys. She also was a leader in securing $200 million for Everglades Restoration in FY 2020, and continues to advocate for safe, resilient infrastructure to replace leaky and dangerous septic tanks that are polluting South Florida water systems. Mucarsel-Powell and Munoz are both certified SCUBA divers in South Florida who agree that water quality issues must be a national concern.

“I strongly urge President Trump to discuss the importance of clean water and taking action on the climate crisis during his address. I am hopeful that seeing the younger generation of climate leaders, like Marsella, at this historic event will highlight the need to take climate action now and to protect clean water across the nation,” said Mucarsel-Powell. 

Marsella Munoz’s Bio is below:

Munoz is an eleventh-grade Honors student at Key West High School in Key West, Florida where she takes a full load of Advanced Placement courses. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, National BETA Club, Zonta International, Mote Marine Laboratory’s Research-Based After-School Program for Students (RAPS), and Keys To Be The Change. Marsella dedicates time each week to mentor local children in reading and comprehension skills. As the senior member of DiveN2Life’s STEM Enrichment Program, she is training as a Scientific Diver.

At age 13, she was the first SSI SCUBA Schools International Jr. Master Diver in the world. At 15, Marsella joined DiveN2Life’s leadership team as its youngest Dive Master Candidate and teaching assistant. She serves as President of DiveN2Life’s Youth Leadership Council and is instrumental in the program’s development of materials and diving activities.

Munoz is conducting a long-term research study on the rate of progression of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease in the lower Florida Keys. Her study won her school’s STEM Fair and advanced to the district competition, and later the state competition where she received a recognition for her research.

Upon graduation in 2021, Munoz plans to study bio-chemistry, chemistry, and environmental science at the University of Florida or Duke University.  She hopes to work in the fields of advocacy and policy for global environmental issues.