Learning From the Denizens of the Deep

Jul 1, 2015

Kids of all ages seem to be endlessly fascinated with the creatures of the deep.  Now Panacea’s Gulf Specimen Marine Lab is offering a special program to make those creatures and the world they live in more interesting than ever.

Credit Gulf Specimen Marine Lab

Katie Chandler, the lab’s environmental education coordinator, came up with the concept and the execution.

“Well what I’ve actually put together is an educational outreach program called ‘Science of the Sea,’ Chandler said.  “And what it does on the weekend – Saturday and Sunday for an hour – there’s an educational lesson that the general public is welcome to come in and listen to and it’s free with general admissions.”

Chandler said the aquarium’s vast collection of live sea creatures forms much of the basis for the lessons.

“We want to keep them interesting and so we kind of hit every animal that we have at the aquarium, and so the lessons change each week based on certain scientific characteristics of those animals that have a lot of deeper underlying meanings, trophic cascades and different problems that are going on in the environment and how we can help those problems.  But we also focus on the animals themselves, which is really fun for the kids.”

Among the featured sea creatures, Chandler said, is one of the most loved denizens of the deep.

“During the summer it’s our big sea turtle rehabilitation time so we have a bunch of different sea turtles coming in that have been caught off docks or are seen floating on the ocean and so they’re constantly coming in and we’re checking them out making sure they have a clean bill of health and if they don’t they stay and they’re rehabilitated and then we let them go.”

Chandler added there were also many varieties of crabs, including a recent arrival that has its own special sense of style.

“A spider crab is what it’s called and what they like to do is pick different pieces of sponges and sort of Velcro them onto their backs to camouflage in with the surroundings.  And we found one that was just covered in different types of sponge and it was a larger one and we’ve always seen the babies because they’re smaller and they want to protect themselves, but to see one that big covered with sponge, it was something I’ve never seen before, so it was pretty interesting.”

The Gulf Specimen Marine Lab lessons, Chandler said, are a unique way to foster an appreciation for the vastness and mystery of earth’s last great frontier.

“We know less than 5-percent about our world’s oceans and so if you can build up that connection and instill this sense of curiosity with this next generation as they grow older they’re going to be able to – or at least want – to keep our oceans around, to find out more and touch the touchable outer space.”

And Chandler suggested some ways to know before you go.

“On the Facebook page, we post every single event, every single subject that we’re doing the week before so they can look in and see what we’re doing and what lessons will be taught that week.  It’s also on our web site to see what the time is for Saturday and Sunday at one o’clock and there’s also an educational video on our web site as well.”

That web site is: gulfspecimen.org.