Local teen embarks on new voyage


The Dauphin Island Sea Lab is exploring the depths of hands-on learning by adding a brand-new program to their arsenal of summer camps.

Now introducing Bay Voyager, a six-day residential camp for students entering grades 9-11. Bay Voyager is one of the Sea Lab’s most action-packed summer programs so far, and it offers an exciting transition for students who have previously attended their middle school camp, Gulf Island Journey, but have yet to fit the requirements for the high school marine science course.

This summer, the inaugural year for the program, 19 students enrolled in the camp, 11 of whom had prior experience attending one of DISL’s other summer programs. This camp allows more freedom and independent investigation than its predecessors due to the age of the campers, and is perfect for high school students still in the process of exploring their options and interests. This year’s participants included Brenna Cohen of Fayetteville, a student at Georgia Cyber Academy.

The students in this program are given the opportunity to learn about marine science from an insider’s perspective, gathering research and samples the same way marine scientists do in the field every day. For these young researchers, “the field” included a soggy salt marsh, an ocean channel explored via kayak, a ship in open waters, a secluded island and dives into the waters around it, and a shoreline restoration project.

In addition to days spent in snorkel gear and kayaks, campers continued their aquatic voyage aboard the Sea Lab’s research vessel, the Alabama Discovery, where they examined the inhabitants of the ocean floor captured by a trawl net and identified by the professional educators from DISL. While out over open waters, they also got to go deep sea fishing for red snapper and spadefish, sighting occasional barracuda and sharks in the clear blue water beside the ship.

Back at the Sea Lab, students built and competed with remote-operated vehicles, took an exclusive tour of the Estuarium, designed t-shirts, and engaged in nocturnal explorations of the nearby beaches. Needless to say, this camp is anything but dull, and every moment is packed with enough educational, hands-on activity to make this camp the experience of a lifetime.

This immersive trek into the world of marine science, guided by environmental science experts from the Sea lab, offered students a new depth of learning that can only be reached through personal interaction. The students in this camp were able to discover oceanic ecosystems by delving into them personally; whether on a kayak, island, ship, or in a laboratory, they saw and learned about topics that most people only read about. DISL hopes to continue this program annually, giving more teens the opportunity to take part in the beautiful world of marine biology taking place unexamined around them every day.

Students interested in marine biology or ecology cannot afford to miss this opportunity and the benefits it offers. By the time campers leave Bay Voyager, they are prepared to dive into marine research in a way that few teenagers can—with firsthand experience.