FSW Students Gain Hands-On Marine Science Experience
In early March, students from Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW) gained experiential knowledge of the ecology of our marine environment through a collaborative environmental education outreach program offered by SCCF and Captiva Cruises. Students from the college’s environmental science class and Environmental Club and Sustainability Club boarded Captiva Cruises’ motor catamaran vessel The Playtime with SCCF’s Sanibel Sea School Marine Science Educators Joey Garofano and Brianna Machuga and Captiva Cruises Educator Richard Finkel for a day of exploration and discovery.
The cultural and natural history of Pine Island Sound was discussed on the cruise with special emphasis given to its importance as an estuary, the mangrove- and seagrass-based food webs, and SCCF’s Marine Lab and Coastal Watch efforts to monitor and restore these vital habitats. Students explored the shoreline and surf zone of Cayo Costa State Park, which encompasses ninety percent of La Costa Island, a barrier island approximately nine miles long and bordered by Captiva Pass to the south and Boca Grande Pass on its northern end.
Garofano and Machuga led the students along the beach for a close-up look at life along the coast. “The field trip was a delightful, enlightening experience,” one student remarked. “The educators were extremely informative and I was astounded by the animals I saw.” Another student called the Cayo Costa visit “an enriching experience. I have never learned so much about Florida nature and ocean life on a single day at the beach. Amazing!”
While enroute back to McCarthy’s Marina on Captiva, Finkel facilitated the use of a trawling net, which has been permitted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission by Captiva Cruises for scientific and educational observations. Students were fascinated with the marine life they were able to observe before releasing sea creatures back in the shallow waters. Animals documented included striped burr puffer fish, southern puffer fish, trigger fish, pin fish, spider crabs and blue crabs.
FSW student Emily Paraboschi summed up the field trip by saying, “This was a great opportunity that I learned a lot from and got to do things I have never done before. When we pulled up creatures from the seabed, I got to see animals that I have ever seen—my favorite being the striped burr fish because puffer fish are amazing creatures. This trip was a remarkable experience I couldn’t be more grateful for!”
This environmental education outreach program also goes by the moniker “No Child Left on Shore.” It was initiated in 2010 by Paul McCarthy, founder of Captiva Cruises, and Finkel. Today, it is an educational partnership between SCCF and Captiva Cruises to enable local youth to form a deeper connection to their coastal surroundings and to spark their curiosity.
If you are interested in learning more about this outreach project or if you would like to sponsor a field trip, contact Richard Finkel at Captiva Cruises at 239-472-5300 or email@example.com.