Sea lab summer session entices students

By Katherine Klingseis, katherine.klingseis@iowastatedaily.com

Students travel from all over the country this summer to participate in the first summer session at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama.

“The Dauphin Island Sea Lab is basically the marine environment home Estuarium, which is comprised of 21 colleges and universities throughout Alabama that make up the Dauphin Island Sea Lab,” said Sally Brennan, university programs registrar at DISL.

The Estuarium is DISL’s public aquarium. The facility is used to teach the public about four key habitats in Alabama: Mobile Tensaw River Delta, Mobile Bay, the Barrier Islands and the Northern Gulf of Mexico.

Graduate and undergraduate students also take advantage of the Estuarium.

“During the academic year, graduate education takes place, and during the summer, undergraduate education is offered as well as graduate programs,” Brennan said. “Kids from the 21 schools can come here in the summer and take courses, and then during the academic year, graduate students, faculty, post docs conduct their research, and the graduate students participate in classes.”

The facility allows students to participate in one of three sessions. The midterm session lasts for two weeks, and offers students five different two-hour courses. The first and second summer session both last for five weeks, and enable students to take a four-hour course and a two-hour course.

The facility offers summer courses in coastal wetland ecology, marine invertebrate zoology, marine biology, coastal zone management and intro to oceanology. Although students spent some of their time in a classroom, the real advantage of studying at DISL is the hands-on experience the facility has to offer.

“[Students] get to work with faculty that are world-renowned marine scientists and have expertise in areas that not too many people know about,” Brennan said. “That’s why the sea lab was formed: Because our faculty are so specialized and, at the sea lab, the kids have the opportunity to learn from these professors that they normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to interact with.”

During the summer, students can dissect marine specimens, collect marine samples from Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, travel in hip-deep sea marsh and go on a snorkeling adventure at St. Andrews State Park in Panama City, Fla.

“You are learning from some of the best professors in the marine science world,” Brennan said. “Once you get here, you never want to leave.”

Students can begin to apply for the summer sessions in December. The applications are on a first come, first serve basis.

“The slots go fast,” Brennan said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

(Posted originally on Iowastatedaily.com on Aug. 4, 2010)

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