provided to The SantivaChronicle.com
Sanibel Sea School partnered with the Lee County School District and Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) to offer a week-long STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) spring break camp for girls. Funded by the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the STEM camp was targeted to high school girls interested in pursuing a career in the sciences.
“We hope that after this camp, these young women are inspired to pursue a collegiate-level STEM education,” said Finnicum. “Our goal is to show them a few different fields of study so that they can get a better idea of what they might like to pursue in the future.” Encouraging young students to think about their future careers is the goal of the regional Workforce Now initiative, which is spearheaded by the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.
Sanibel Sea School educators partnered with FGCU professors to create a curriculum that gave participants field and laboratory experience in the marine science field. The educators discussed forming research questions, tools, techniques, and methodologies for conducting hands-on fieldwork in the water.
Sanibel Sea School educators taught sessions on sand dollar population dynamics and seagrass ecology to share common research techniques used in marine science. Participants learned how to measure sand dollars around Sanibel using quadrats and transects, which are tools to measure how many sand dollars are in a grid area and where they are distributed.
They also conducted a study to determine coverage and biodiversity in the seagrass beds adjacent to causeway islands. Participants used quadrats to estimate the amount of seagrass in designated areas in two different site locations. Seine nets were used to sample the creatures living in the seagrass and to create a catalog of all the species observed or documented at those two sites. At the end of their study, they concluded that there was more biodiversity along Causeway Island B, but a higher coverage of seagrass on the seafloor along Causeway Island A.
FGCU professors Jo Muller, Ph.D., and Molly Nation, Ph.D., offered lessons on geomorphology and water quality. Participants spent a full day out on San Carlos Bay collecting sediment cores and water samples via boat to later analyze in the lab.
Muller discussed the importance of collecting sediment cores and how scientists can gain insight on past hurricanes to forecast future events and how climate change can affect the size and strength of hurricanes.
Camp participants analyzed water samples from the bay for microplastics, in a process that Nation directed, by running the water through filtration paper that separates the plastics from the water. Microplastics were found in almost every sample. Microplastics are consumed by fish, mollusks, and crustaceans, and eventually, in humans from consumption of seafood products.
At the end of the week, participants analyzed data collected from one of the research topics and presented their work at the Bailey Homestead.
This partnership with FGCU and Lee County public schools was made possible by the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, and we are grateful for being given the time to develop this awesome camp experience.
Part of the SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation) Family, Sanibel Sea School’s mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time.