Camp introduces high school students to marine science

Participating in the cleanup of a Baltimore marsh taught participants in TIDE Camp 2010 a memorable lesson about where human debris can end up when not disposed of properly: the fragile coastal environment.

Short for Taking an Interest in Delaware’s Estuary, the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment’s (CEOE’s) TIDE Camp is a residential program that introduces students to the scientific processes that occur along the coast by offering them lectures and hands-on activities. Seventeen high school students from Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and Massachusetts comprised this year’s group and attended the third annual camp, held July 24-Aug. 6.

Taking part in a wetlands restoration project with the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the campers filled more than 20 trash bags with plastic bottles, cups, and any other debris they came across in the marsh adjacent to the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. The experience made an impression on the students, including Tim Alston, a senior from Germantown, Md.

“We didn’t get half the trash that was there,” he said. “I learned that you have to be grateful for what we have and not take advantage of this area.”

In addition to providing an appreciation for the coastal environment, the camp showed students what it’s like to be a marine scientist and helped them understand the many different academic disciplines that interact during the scientific process.

“A lot of the students begin the program with some understanding of general concepts in marine biology, but they leave with an appreciation for the many other disciplines important to ocean science,” said CEOE Assistant Dean Frank Newton, who organized TIDE Camp jointly with research faculty member Dana Veron.

Over the camp’s two weeks — spent on both UD’s Newark campus and its Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes — more than nine CEOE faculty and staff and eight graduate students worked with the students.

The campers heard lectures about ocean currents and physics, tides, and human impacts on the environment. They also built and tested their own underwater research vehicles, toured a Lewes marsh, learned how to take water samples and test for water quality, experienced a bald cypress ecosystem on a kayaking trip, and participated in Delaware Bay larval fish sampling for a CEOE research project.

The group also took advantage of the college’s research facilities. They visited the site of UD’s 2-megawatt coastal wind turbine, toured the university’s 146-foot research vessel Hugh R. Sharp, trawled for ocean critters aboard UD’s 30-foot research vessel Donna M., and studied the site of a centuries-old shipwreck using an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).

“Our researchers use equipment from buckets and shovels to more sophisticated and expensive equipment like the AUV and the R/V Sharp” Newton said. “The students saw and experienced it all and in an interactive way that members of the public don’t usually get to do.”

Such an up-close experience with marine science proved influential for UD student Emily Baumbach from Hockessin. Baumbach was a rising high school senior when she took part in TIDE 2008, and later applied and came to UD as an environmental science major. She returned to TIDE Camp this year, but this time she served as a camp counselor.

“After my junior year in high school I had no idea what I wanted to do and TIDE got me a lot of hands-on experience,” she said. “It really opened my mind to what’s out there in the college and all the environmental issues and marine issues that are going on.”

Her advice for this year’s campers?

“If this is what you want to do, UD offers a great program,” she said. “I told them if they’re interested in the marine aspects, the biology aspects, even environmental science and studies, definitely pursue it.”

The camp is also supported by the Delaware Sea Grant College Program. To learn about Sea Grant, visit www.deseagrant.org. For more on CEOE, visit www.ceoe.udel.edu.

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Page Updated on August 31, 2010