Discovery Voyages during Marine Science Camp

Marine Science Camp offers an action-packed week of hands-on marine science lessons. Included in this week are exciting field trips in which campers and staff venture off-site to extend their learning and experience science in action. On these excursions campers get to explore local marine habitats, investigate ecology of the area and get a chance to see what it takes to be marine biologists! These experiences will help them to better understand how adaptations enable the organisms to survive by seeing their habitat.

A major highlight of the week is a day spent aboard our 90-foot research vessel, the R/V Robert G. Brownlee. During this exciting trip campers catch fish, invertebrates and plankton using real scientific collection equipment. Questions the campers will be able to answer by the end of the voyage include: What type of habitat is the San Francisco Bay? Why is the Bay a special habitat? What kinds of animals live here, and how are they adapted to live in the Bay? A goal for this voyage is for campers to apply the biology and ecology knowledge they gained throughout the week to bring their experience to life aboard a working research vessel.

  • At the Fish station, campers help to deploy and pull in an otter trawl which is towed behind the research vessel. Once the catch is on board, campers can observe and touch live animals they helped to pull in! Topics discussed include fish identification, adaptations, life strategies, food webs, and human impact.

  • At the Invertebrate station campers learn about the benthos, or bottom, of the Bay. They help to control a Peterson Mud Grab which collects mud to be brought up to the deck of the ship. Campers can get their hands muddy as they go through the mud and search for invertebrates, discuss native and non-native invertebrates, and learn about the mud as a habitat. They also join the Mud Club, a tradition in Marine Science Camp!

  • The Plankton station includes a discussion of what makes a plankton a plankton, and an opportunity to catch plankton using a small net that is towed alongside the ship. Campers then take the sample to the microscope to see the plankton closer. They discuss different types of plankton - phytoplankton and zooplankton - and practice identifying them. They also learn the importance of plankton in creating oxygen and their role at the base of the food web.

All camps will use the scientific equipment mentioned above and touch live animals, but there are a few modifications for certain camps. The Wetland Explorers and Ocean Explorers (2nd-5th grades) will do the activities outlined above plus they will learn about nautical navigation and even have a chance to drive the ship during the Knots and Navigation station. Naturalists (4th-5th grade return campers) will put together the information learned during the fish, invertebrate and plankton stations for the Create a Bay Creature station, in which they create and "discover" a new Bay species with inspiration from actual Bay organism adaptations. Underwater Investigators (6th-8th grades) will spend two full days and sleep overnight on the research vessel. They will take the ship underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and keep their eyes peeled for breaching whales and porpoises! During this two-day trip, the Underwater Investigators will work on projects and test different methods of studying the marine environment. In addition to fishing, towing for plankton and searching for invertebrates, Project Discovery (9th-12 grades) campers will also deploy crab traps and test water quality in the Bay.

There is so much activity and adventure packed into the Discovery Voyage day! We can't wait to see what organisms the campers catch and learn about from the San Francisco Bay this summer!

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