Creating a Connection to the Ocean

The BIOS summer Ocean Science Camp, now in its second year, gives students aged 12-15 the opportunity to learn about Bermuda’s marine environments and gain experience in the fundamentals of conducting scientific research both in the field and the laboratory. Part of the weeklong camp entailed collecting, studying, and caring for a variety of marine invertebrates, including sea urchins and nudibranchs (or “sea slugs”).

After a successful debut in the summer of 2018, BIOS again included the Ocean Science Camp in its lineup of summer education programs. The weeklong camp, held this year from July 8 to 12, is geared toward students aged 12-15 who are interested in the ocean, but have yet to participate in rigorous studies. 

Running from 9am through 4:30pm each day, the camp offered a broad range of experiences to participants, including research-based field trips, snorkel training, and laboratory investigations designed to provide a strong foundation in scientific inquiry.

“The BIOS Ocean Science Camp was designed based on feedback from colleagues at Columbia University’s Center for Technology and School Change,” said Kaitlin Noyes, director of BIOS’s Ocean Academy and lead instructor for the camp. “We modeled our activities on the guiding principles used in their programs to help excite children about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions.”

BIOS ocean science camp

The camp also offered students a “Discover SCUBA” experience that combined classroom instruction in the skills, science, and equipment of SCUBA diving with the chance to wear and use a basic SCUBA setup. For campers, some of which had just begun snorkeling, this was a unique opportunity to breathe underwater and gain insight into the role that SCUBA diving plays in ocean science research.

Each day included a field excursion that introduced campers to Bermuda’s diverse marine and coastal ecosystems. Students went snorkeling off South Shore and at Eastern Blue Cut to catalog marine organisms; conducted a plankton tow to collect and identify microscopic plants and animals; explored the cave and mangrove ecosystems in Tom Moore’s Jungle; and observed corals and reef fish at North Rock. 

This year, camp instructors also focused on Bermuda’s beaches as a gateway for students to explore the ocean and communicate information to peers and family members. Aydin Arouzi, 13, a student at Clearwater Middle School, was particularly excited about being able to share his newfound knowledge. “I’d like to spend more time at the beach with my family to teach them all of the things I learned during camp,” he said. 

When not in the field, students worked in groups on a research project investigating which species of local marine sponge was the preferred food of the zebra nudibranch, a marine invertebrate also called a “sea slug.” Within their respective groups, students had to develop a hypothesis, plan the experiment, collect marine organisms in the field, record data, and conduct a final data analysis. These collaborative projects gave students insight into the process of conducting scientific research, as well as the opportunity to use real-world scientific tools and technologies while taking ownership over the experimental process as a whole.

ocean science camp

Throughout the weeklong course, students took field trips to a variety of locations around the island, including North Rock, Tom Moore’s Jungle, and the waters off South Shore. These excursions helped build their confidence using snorkeling skills in the water while conducting research tasks, such as identifying reef fish or cataloging coral species.

On the last day of camp, students took a trip to the sheltered waters of Whalebone Bay for a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) “Discover SCUBA” experience. This in-water activity provided an introduction to the skills, science, and equipment of SCUBA diving, culminating in the chance to put on a basic SCUBA setup and take a few breaths underwater—a novel experience for most of the students. 

In the post-camp evaluations, a majority of students indicated a desire to conduct similar scientific investigations at school, and most felt more confident in their snorkeling skills, knowledge of Bermuda’s marine life, and ability to use scientific tools such as species identification guides. For some participants, like Lindsay Scherer, 14, a Bermuda home school student, the camp opened a door to future studies in ocean science. “The camp was amazing and really solidified my dreams of wanting to become a marine biologist,” she said. 

For Noyes and her co-instructors, the camp was equally rewarding. “The most positive experience was watching this group, with ages ranging 11 to 16 years old, all share their experiences, spur each other on, and have a chance to reflect on their time together,” Noyes said.