At Jacksonville University’s Marine Science Research Institute (MSRI), summer camp is on – virtually.
“There are lots of people looking for something educationally stimulating for their children to do this summer,” says Assistant Professor of Marine Science Dr. Melinda Simmons, who is managing the camp for students 8-18 that runs daily from July 20-24. “We’ll have content appropriate for all ages from little kids to their parents.”
The free camp is a partnership between MSRI, the University’s video program “The Science Of …,” OCEARCH, the St. John’s Riverkeeper, Shark Con, Sharks 4 Kids, and Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens with financial support from Crowley and JAXPORT.
Typically each summer, University marine science faculty and students participate in several in-person summer camps designed to allow campers to investigate marine environments, collect, identify and enumerate fish and invertebrate species and gain hands-on experience with standard marine science collection and monitoring equipment and laboratory analysis methods, including working with OCEARCH.
While current circumstances prevented an in-person camp this year, MSRI and OCEARCH worked together to find an alternative way to deliver similar information to a potentially broader audience. That’s how the partners developed this year’s virtual camp, which is designed to make marine sciences inclusive and accessible to youth from around the globe to foster curiosity, encourage learning, understand pathways to careers in marine science, and learn about the current work being done to conserve our planet by participating organizations.
“Each session will be highly interactive,” Dr. Simmons says. “We’ll have video content from ‘The Science Of …,’ presenters who will answer questions that campers submit as comments, instant camper polls, and experiments from our media lab using common household objects that campers can also do at home.”
Although this year’s camp includes several new partners and presenters, many University faculty, alumni, and graduate and undergraduate students have critical roles as well. Marine Science graduate students Jackson Hooten and Christina LoBuglio will join shark researcher Dr. Bryan Franks to talk about their work with OCEARCH. Manatee expert Dr. Gerry Pinto, marine scientist Dr. Jeremy Stalker and alumnus and Jacksonville Zoo Conservation Program Officer Lucas Meers also will share their expertise during the camp. Dr. Lena Schulze, a Physical Oceanographer, will answer questions about careers in marine science and talk about her expedition to Antarctica. Dan McCarthy, Professor of Biology and Marine Science, will discuss his research on coral reef ecology and restoration as well as sing a mid-19th century oceanography sea shanty and play guitar. Dr. Simmons and St. Johns Riverkeeper Education Director Emily Floore will conduct experiments that campers can replicate at home.
Those presenters will be supplemented by experts from OCEARCH, which works to help scientists collect previously unattainable data in the ocean while open sourcing its research and explorations; Shark Con, which is typically an in-person event dedicated to raising awareness about shark and ocean conservation; and Sharks 4 Kids, an organization that hopes to create a new generation of shark advocates through access to a dynamic range of educational materials.
Campers will learn about ocean drifters, sharks, manatees, and sea turtles as well as discuss topics including minorities in marine science, why students are the future stewards of the ocean, and careers in marine science, including at Crowley and JAXPORT.
Camp content will live stream at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. each day. It will also remain available for future viewing.
“We’ll keep the content up after the fact so that schoolteachers a year from now can still use these videos,” Dr. Simmons says. Current student Alexandria Wilson, who is a dual major in Marine Science and Education, is supporting that effort by developing lesson plans that teachers can use in tandem with the camp video.
To learn more about the camp or to register to attend, please visit MSRI Summer Camp.