2023 Marine Biology Updates: Days 5-7

Greetings from Florida!

We are officially over halfway through our trip. There have been a couple more adventures and I may just beat my final photo count from last year. Although it’s not the quantity that counts, but the memories made, and lessons learned along the way. Here is what we have been up to for the last three days…

Day 5: The Coral Reef!

Weather moved our coral reef snorkel adventure to the morning schedule. It’s an early wake up call. Photographer Charlotte was up at 5:00 AM to open her snorkel-proof braid shop for the long-hair club. A breakfast of bread and bagels was held at 6:45 AM with many reminders to take sea-sickness medication. We arrived at Captain Hook’s on time and set off for the Coral Reef. Our students get geared up for snorkeling while our scuba certified instructors prepare for their dive. The first reef we reach is a sanctuary called Coffin Patch. The fish are extremely friendly and swim right up to us. A couple even photobomb the underwater group photo. Students take turns showing off their diving skills and enjoy swimming alongside the colorful fish.

We then make our way to a second area called “The Donut.” The fish are a little more timid and the visibility is not as clear, but there is still a lot of sea life to see. The scuba divers are spotted and now it’s a competition to see who can give Assistant Gabe a high five. Three snorkelers rise up to the challenge. After looking at the fish for a while, the snorkelers play in the divers’ bubbles. They are very fun to pop. It’s then time to head back into shore.

After lunch, there’s more group class and study time. Lecture is held in the evening under the porch to get away from the rain. Part of the class requires labs. We bought a new microscope with a digital screen that allows more students to see at once as they need to draw what they observe in their lab books. It is soon time for bed.

Day 6: Aquarium Encounters

It is another early wake-up call as today’s lecture and class is temporarily relocating to a facility called Aquarium Encounters. The Executive Director of Aquarium Encounters, April, let’s us hold our morning lecture before the aquarium opens. Aquarium Encounters staff have been a blessing to our program in helping us make this day memorable and packed with great learning experiences. Having access to both large aquarium tanks make for a very practical class. Lecture ends a little after the aquarium opens and our students are off into their small groups. One group goes for a dive in the coral reef tank to feed the stingrays and fish, and maybe the sharks through a glass window (the sharks were not very hungry today). The other group gets a private tour of the aquarium. The groups switch places after an hour.

When instruction is done, it’s time to classify all the new things they have seen. They get to use the aquarium informational panels to help classify in their lab books. Those who finish early get some time to feed and pet the stingrays and do some souvenir shopping. We return to home base in the late afternoon for dinner, worship, Bible study, and always more studying.

Day 7: The Reefers take a stand!

On these trips we separate students into small groups called habitat groups. They live, eat, and study in these small groups. They also all get assigned a name based on a habitat we study. This year we had the Rocky Coast group and the Coral Reef group (or “Reefers” for short). The mealtime rule is whichever groups members show up first get to go first in line. It just so happens that Rocky Coast has beat the Reefers at every single meal thus far. Grill Master Ethan declared in jest the previous night that if the Reefers did not make it first to the next breakfast, they would never be first in line to eat for the rest of the trip. The Reefers decided to take a stand on the matter and showed up at 7:30 AM for 8:00 AM breakfast and even made a flag to mark their first place territory. Needless to say the Reefers celebrated their victory by going first in line.

Then comes time for morning lecture. Instead of starting lecture, Teacher Michael decides to start with a tutorial on how to make orange juice. Students are responsible for bringing dishes and drinks to mealtimes. The breakfast OJ has been very watery. This was a point of concern for Michael as he very much enjoys orange juice with breakfast and ruining the orange juice can no longer be forgiven by Day 7. For those wondering, the perfect ratio of water to frozen orange juice is 1 can frozen orange juice to 3 cans of water. The rain caught us during lecture, and we had to run under the porch for cover.

As the final test is approaching, today consisted mostly of learning in small class groups after the morning lecture. After all we are trying to squeeze an entire semester course in 9 days! We did one last excursion to a rocky coast habitat. The tide was a little high but students did manage to find a few things to wrap-up the field work portion of the course. After dinner we had our last worship night, Bible study with a Q&A session and some smores before returning to evening lab work. It is a tradition to sing “Days of Elijah” on the last worship night and as the resident spectator and paparazzi, I have to say it was very lively. As I am finishing writing this I am told the exhaustion is starting to set-in and laughter is very hearty down at the lab station. Let’s pray that everyone gets a good night’s rest tonight!

Michael and Denise Lane watch the sunset together (as Daughter Michaela and Photographer Charlotte sneak pictures)

That’s all for now!

My next update will be the last about the trip. If this trip sounds like fun, you can join us for the 2024 trip by registering today. I have been asked questions about pricing and there are still some details we are working on before making that announcement (one of those being finishing the 2023 trip!). But if your register before June 30th, you will get $100 discount on the 2024 program fees. In the meantime, enjoy the new batch of photos and we’ll see you again soon!

Creative & Technical Director