Science Saturday introduces local kids to the world of marine science

November 16, 2023

What is it like to be a scientist? To find out, 23 students, ages 5 to 17, visited the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s (UMCES) Horn Point Laboratory on November 4 to participate in a day camp, Science Saturday.

Students received their own dichotomous keys for identifying common reef animals and sketched their favorites in field notebooks.

Designed to encourage interest in marine science careers via discovery activities, the day was organized and run by the local chapter of the Society for Women in Marine Science (SWMS) and received funding from Maryland Sea Grant. The Horn Point Laboratory SWMS chapter is largely comprised of UMCES graduate students but also includes faculty, research staff, and some members from other Eastern Shore-based laboratories and environmental organizations.

Science Saturday focused on engaging local students with some of the tools, environments, and concepts scientists work with every day. Students flew small drones and learned how to take aerial photographs similar to how Horn Point Laboratory scientists use these tools to monitor local restoration efforts, such as living shorelines, and develop new methods for monitoring oyster populations. A nature walk and journaling activity encouraged students to engage their senses in the field and keep a notebook as a scientist would when conducting fieldwork. Students explored oyster reefs in a laboratory setting, identifying local critters using dichotomous keys – a tool used to identify different organisms based on their observable traits – and looking at microorganisms in the water using a microscope. An ecology games activity helped students understand concepts like predator-prey interactions and resource availability through fun and active yard games.

The Horn Point Laboratory, located on 800+ acres near the Choptank River on Maryland's Eastern Shore, is widely respected for its interdisciplinary programs in oceanography, water quality, restoration of seagrasses, marshes and shellfish, and for expertise in ecosystem modeling, holds ongoing research programs spanning from the estuarine waters of the Chesapeake Bay to the open waters of the world's oceans.

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