Marine Science Afloat

I’m taking Marine Biology at my homeschool co-op this year. My teacher, Mrs. H, took us on a field trip on a boating program called Marine Science Afloat. Basically, we went on a boat, and we learned about the plants and animals living in the specific area. They also taught us about pollution and how to help lower it. My Marine Bio class is very small; there are only six of us. But Mrs. H also chaperoned some other kids she taught. There were about ten of us total, including Mrs. H, in our group. Another couple of classes were there, mostly fifth graders, so the boat was full, but not overwhelmingly so.

First, they taught us what phytoplankton, planktonic plants, need to grow healthily. Then, they told us how they get it and what times of the year are best for primary production. After that, we split into large groups (about ten or fifteen in each) and spent maybe fifteen minutes at each station around the ship. The first station my class went to was learning how to take samples from the sea. There are two main models of water sampling tubes: Nansen and Niskin. They were both named after the guys who invented them. It’s kind of funny that they sound so similar. Niskin is the newer, more efficient model made of . . . can you guess? . . . Plastic! I’m sorry, I didn’t get any pictures of the bottles, there were quite a few fifth graders in front of me. Nansen is heavy and made of iron, so it’s really expensive.

Plankton-filled water

Plankton water

Next, we learned how to catch plankton. It was a lot of fun because we all got to participate. My friend, R, and I teamed up and chose to catch phytoplankton with the finer mesh net. Some of our other classmates chose the wider mesh and caught copepods, small bug-like plankton that eat phytoplankton, and jellyfish. I threw the net into the water and then we worked together to pull it back slowly. We had to do it slowly because not a lot of water can get through the holes and the water would be pushed out if we pulled it quickly. With the wider mesh, the others didn’t have that problem. Here is a picture of the water we pulled up. It’s pretty nasty-looking.

Jellyfish on a slide


We also got to look at this plankton under the microscope at the next station. I’m sorry, I don’t have a picture of the organisms close-up. It’s kind of hard to take a picture with my phone through an eyepiece. But, I do have this one. It’s a jellyfish on a slide. The jellyfish is clear, but we could see it’s brown tentacles.

Then, they taught us about SCUBA diving. SCUBA stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Ha! I remembered that without looking it up! That’s called progress. We learned about wet suits and dry suits. I’ve never actually been snorkeling or diving, but I think it would be fun.

Some divers actually did go down, though, and they had a video camera. We were all able to watch the live feed during lunch. It was SO cool to watch the sea animals in their natural habitat. The divers transferred starfish closer to a sea cucumber to see what it would do. It was funny because while the sea cucumber was getting away, they played Stayin’ Alive for us to listen to. They also put a starfish next to a cockle and that was REALLY neat. The cockle let out its foot, which had to have been close to a foot long, and it used it as leverage and literally bounded away! It was awesome! The divers even brought up some of the animals for us to look at.

Star fish

Star fish

Monday was actually a pretty hard day weather-wise. Storms on and off all day with tons of wind. It looked like mini tornados crashed the place. Unfortunately, the first time I go boating was also the first day of lightning storms out here. Yeah, out there on the boat we went through a storm. The boat was lurching and wind and rain were pounding the vinyl windows. It was really fun! Except one kid, of course, did the obvious and said that we were going to sink. That made another little kid start crying. At least his mother was on board so it turned out all right. Plus, on the bright side, we didn’t go Titanic. Also, the time the storm hit us just so happened to be when every group on the boat was standing up, holding live sea animals. Oh, joy! One girl dropped a sea cucumber on the table, but it was okay.

The one in the middle there is a rose star. I think it’s really pretty. The spindly-looking one is called a blood star and one of the boys in my class said something about its color looking like blood, but the lady who was showing us the star fish thought he had said something about it drinking blood and being a vampire. That got a few good laughs out of all of us.



After the storm and the ooohhing and aahhing of the marine animals, we learned about pollution in the sea and what causes it. Tons of stuff is being dumped down storm drains, and it ALL leads there. Gross! There’s more we all could do to save the oceans.

When we left the boat, I was grinning so much that my dad bought me a t-shirt. How sweet! I had a GREAT time on that trip and Mrs. H will have to invite me to it again if she does it next year. 🙂 It was especially fun because I was with friends and my teacher is one of the sweetest and funniest women I know. They even let her take home some of the plankton water to look at under her new microscopes. It was a lot of fun and I totally recommend boating . . . you know, when it isn’t storming. 😛


My new T-shirt (the color is called OCEAN :))

Lightning in Seattle


One thought on “Marine Science Afloat

  1. Pingback: Tide Pool Field Trip | Books and Things

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