May 25, 2019  

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Gulf Coast Research Lab Summer Camps Equal Educational Vacations

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Adult campers learn to seine during a recent trip to Horn Island, part of GCRL’s new Explore a Seashore program. (Photo: Chris Snyder, GCRL)

Fun-learning in both the field and lab is what makes summer camp at Southern Miss’ Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) equivalent to an educational vacation.

“We are expanding our educational offerings in an attempt to reach as broad an audience as possible,” said Chris Snyder, director of GCRL’s Marine Education Center. “We’ve introduced two new programs, Explore a Seashore for adults and Shark Fest for teenagers, in addition to our continued offering of Sea Camp for the younger children.”

New, too, this summer is an increase in the amount of scholarships available to qualified applicants thanks to special funding from the Department of Marine Resources and monies donated by GCRL employees and faculty members.    

“The most exciting change this year has been the success of our scholarship programs,” said Snyder. “This summer we’ve offered more than $7,000 in scholarships for our summer programs. A significant portion of these scholarships comes from donations by our staff and faculty at GCRL. They’re dedicated to sharing coastal sciences with youth who otherwise may not have the opportunity to attend programs like Shark Fest and Sea Camp.”

Shark Fest for Youth:

An exciting new program for middle and high school students debuts this summer with such excitement and demand that a third week-long session had to be added. Shark Fest 2011 promises to captivate, educate and entertain.

Students age 12-18 will work with GCRL scientists on board research vessels as they catch, tag and release sharks. In the lab students will learn about sharks, skates and rays, as well as contribute to ongoing GCRL research projects.  

“Shark fishing, shark dissections, shark tooth hunting, and shark research are only a few of the exciting activities. The data collected by these students will be used in an actual GCRL research project,” said Leah Gaines, program coordinator. We’re excited to have all three weeks of the camp at capacity. If you miss this summer’s Shark Fest, please plan to join us next year.”

Sea Camp for Children:

Now in its 24th consecutive year, this popular marine science day camp for ages 6-13 is nearing capacity, so parents and grandparents are encouraged to register their campers as soon as possible.

The focus of this year’s camp is threatened and endangered marine species. “Every year we add an aspect of current GCRL research to camp,” said camp coordinator Summer Rohe. “This year we’re highlighting the value of threatened and endangered species like Gulf Sturgeon.”  

Campers will also learn to fish, crab, seine and sieve. Six Sea Camp sessions will be offered:  June 6-10, June 13-17, June 20-24, June 27-July 1, July 11-15 and July 18-22. Sessions for ages 6-9 are available all of those weeks. Sessions for ages 10-11 are available all weeks except the week of June 27. Sessions for ages 12-13 include kayaking and are available the weeks of June 13, 20 and 27.

Cost per week is $210 for ages 6-7, $235 for ages 8-11, and $275 for ages 12-13. Fees include camp t-shirt, individual and group photos, all instructional costs and materials, admission fees, as well as field trips and art supplies. The five-day sessions run 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

Field trips will take campers into beach and saltmarsh habitats. All campers visit Deer Island aboard the R/V Sea Explorer. Additionally, campers ages 8-13 spend a day at Ship Island. Tweens and teens also kayak through the maritime forests of Davis Bayou in the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

For more information, call (228) 818-8833 or email Registration forms are available online at

Explore-a-Seashore for Adults:

For years, parents of Sea Campers have asked for an older-age version of the camp. After all, why should children have all the fun?  So, in response to their queries, GCRL is introducing Explore a Seashore for adults.  

 “We are excited to introduce this innovative and interactive program,” said Becca Mathias, program coordinator.  “It has much to offer -- a trip to Horn Island aboard a GCRL research vessel, trawling, sorting and identifying species, educational beach combing and scientific sampling in both the Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.” 

The day-trip cost is $125 and includes transportation to the island, instruction, lunch and a field notebook. For more information, contact Becca Mathias at Rebecca.Mathias@usm.eduor228.818.8889. A $25 deposit is required.

“We would like the opportunity to educate people of all ages about the importance of the marine ecosystem and how it relates to our daily lives," added Mathias.  

 GCRL’s Marine Education Center is the lab’s public education and outreach arm.

Located on the Gulf of Mexico, GCRL focuses on sustainable coastal and marine resources, development of new marine technologies and the education of future scientists and citizens. The GCRL is home to the Department of Coastal Sciences, the Marine Education Center, the Center for Fisheries Research and Development and the Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center. More information can be found at