2023 Marine Biology Updates: Days 1-4

Greetings from Florida! I am trying something different this year and publishing some updates from our adventures in Marine Biology. I hope this diary of sorts can help more people see what this trip is about and join us for the next tour in 2024 (by the way you can sign up right now!). I am also recording our evening Bible study sessions that you will be able to listen to on the podcast and YouTube channels. Stay tuned for more updates!

Day 1: Florida Keys arrival and first lecture

Our team of staff and volunteers who arrived the previous night set-up the property to welcome our students. We cook all our meals on site and run the classrooms outdoors so there is always a lot to organize. We received news from the airport crew that everyone arrived safely with their luggage. The students arrived just before dinner time to settle in and get ready for their first lecture.

Day 2: First Marine Biology Excursions!

A couple of students are up early enjoying the sunrise and calmness of the seashore. The morning officially begins with chefs Ethan & Denise firing up the grill and serving up pancakes to order. Soon after the morning lecture begins. At 11 AM the students disperse to their habitat groups and prepare to head out to their first habitat excursions. One group heads off to a rocky coast where animals and plants can be found under rocks. Some animals can only be observed at the coast as they are protected. Others are brought back in buckets and then transferred to aquariums for students to classify later.

Generally, every specimen is a “dolphin” until the students can classify it. One of the skills learned on this trip is how to properly classify an organism by observing its characteristics and its habitat. The students essentially create their own reference books by doing this exercise and become more aware, observant, and analytical of the world around them. So there are a lot of questions asked on the first day. This is also why you need gloves on this trip to pick up all the things that might be squishy, spiky, or stingy.

Our other group explored the grass flat habitat and came back with some interesting finds. Some were a challenge to catch! There was a lot of excitement over two “dolphins” in the large pool. The tanks are starting to fill up with a lot of things to classify!

When the day’s work is done, there’s a little bit of time to wash-up before suppertime. After a good meal it’s time for worship under the palm trees and a Bible study. Michael develops a new Bible study each year for this program. This year he has titled it “What is going on?”. It is a series aimed at young adults to think about how to make sense of the world, who God is, and why that matters. This series is being recorded and will be available on our website, podcast, and YouTube channels later this week.

The evening ends with a friendly game of volleyball. To the average onlooker, this would be closer to a game of “try to hit the ball back once” than volleyball. But coach Ethan is very determined to get a game going and very encouraging to this squad of beginners. Our assistant Ryan who felt his team needed a boost, recruited his sister in a scheme to score more points. There is plenty of laughter throughout the evening.

Day 3: Getting in the groove and first labs

Today is very similar to the previous. Breakfast, lecture, and then off to habitat groups! Today a group explores the grass flats and mangrove habitats. Captain Ethan (as you will find Ethan is a man of many trades) pointed out turtles swimming around as we made our way to our diving area by boat. The low tide made it a little easier to collect “dolphins”. It is also a very clear and sunny day in the water.

Suddenly, Teacher Michaela spotted a particular fish. There is no net nearby to catch it. Photographer Charlotte took off after the fish as a spotter. Student Thomas tried to catch up to Charlotte with his net to assist. Unfortunately, when Thomas caught up, he was unable to spot the fish and it bolted into the haze of the sea. It was a very exciting 60 seconds. Two nurse sharks were spotted in the mangrove habitat. They are very quick! We then took our haul back to base camp and students continued to study and classify.

After supper Michael spoke on evidence for the crucifixion of Jesus as part of the “What’s going on?” Bible study series we are doing this week. It was a more in depth and detailed look at the crucifixion. After session we took a smores break and with a little more classwork to be done, students headed off to the classroom again. A couple of lab experiences are required for credit for this course. We recently purchased a new microscope that would accommodate more viewers at one time. The students got to observe several microscopic organisms and add them to their lab book.

Day 4: He is Risen!

It’s Easter Sunday! We got to sleep in this morning and enjoy a hearty breakfast of bacon, hashbrowns, eggs, and cinnamon-sugar toast. We held Easter service under the palm trees where Michael taught about evidence of Jesus’ resurrection (a similar lesson is currently available on the website). After service students got to enjoy some time off and played Marco-Polo in the pool until class time.

Both groups went out on excursions. One to the grass flats where they spotted a sea turtle and barracuda, and the other went to the rocky coast. As with the previous two days, we took our finds to base camp and started to classify, classify, and classify… Until Easter dinner where Denise prepared ham, mashed potatoes, and corn.

Weather is constantly changing so we had to adjust our schedule with it. Instead of Bible study tonight, students are working through the most difficult lecture of the week. The reward for hard studying is frybread treats!

That’s all for now!

That was a lot packed in four days! We will be checking back in a couple of days with more updates. As a reminder if you would like to join us on the next trip, you can sign up right now!

See you again soon!

Creative & Technical Director