University of South Florida

USF College of Marine Science


OCG Shellebration!

Campers Jocelyn, Alana, and Lauren help fill in their group’s mermazing creation.

Campers Jocelyn, Alana, and Lauren help fill in their group’s mermazing creation.

Written by, Heidi Souder, Science Mentor

Campers had a blast during the “Shell Key” field trip this year! Shell Key Preserve is an undeveloped barrier island just south of Pass-a-Grille beach. Although the initial plan was to park outside of Fort De Soto and kayak over to Shell Key, Hurricane Elsa simply wouldn’t let us go. We decided to switch things up this year for our kayaking and shell identification activities, and all went off without a hitch! Well, except the kayak hitch of course.

We began with a morning scavenger hunt tandem kayaking around the Clam Bayou Preserve mangroves, looking for different kinds of birds, plants, and/or human pollution. Included in the hunt was finding our cooler of snacks placed on one of the docks to stop for a quick food break on the water (check out a video of our snack distribution technique). We concluded the hunt with a friendly kayaking race before returning to Clam Bayou. Some bumper boats emerged during the races, but every camper crossed the finish line and returned in one piece (though perhaps a little more soaked than before).

Post-lunch, we loaded into the vans for a field trip to Pass-a-Grille Beach to learn about the different kinds of shells washed ashore. We wrapped up with one of my favorite activities, the beach museum, whereby a circle is drawn in the sand and campers take turns educating the rest of the group about the shells they found, placing them inside the circle as they do so. Our campers are now experts at identifying bivalves and gastropods! The beauty of this field trip is that it’s like a snowflake—it’s never the same twice, from day to day or year to year. This year, the girls were tasked with collecting all sorts of things from the beach to make art within the circle. One camper sketched out a picture in the sand with a red mangrove propagule, and then all of the campers incorporated their beach treasures into the picture. The three field trip groups came up with their own unique creations - a mermaid, an octopus, and a sea turtle! Truly, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” I was so amazed by the talent and friendship the girls exhibited, and will remember their laughs and looks of wonder as they learned new things in the field.

View the slideshow below.

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Our blue planet faces a suite of challenges and opportunities for understanding and innovation. Our mission is to advance understanding of the interconnectivity of ocean systems and human-ocean interactions using a cross-disciplinary approach, to empower the next workforce of the blue economy with a world-class education experience, and to share our passion for a healthy environment and science-informed decision-making with community audiences near and far.