The students participating in the 2019 Marine Science High School Course with Discovery Hall Programs bring you along in their daily journeys. The students arrived on June 16 and will wrap up the amazing 4-week residential hands-on experience on July 12. 


July 10, 2019
Dauphin Island Alabama

Today was the date of the third test, and although it was tough, my classmates and I are glad to be through with lectures. In the afternoon we cleaned the lab and put everything back where it was supposed to go after the chaos of all of our projects. We were lucky enough to be treated to seafood like squid, jellyfish, and seaweed that we caught, they were prepared in methods from various different cultures which provided an interesting window into something new for all of us. My personal favorite was a drink made from pennywort, a common plant here on Dauphin Island. The rest of the evening is dedicated to last-minute project changes and frenzied work on our power points.


If you asked most of my family what I usually do when I see food they would say “She just eats it even if she doesn’t know what it is." And that is something I do. Today made me regret that policy of mine.

After cleaning the lab up from our time being here we had a small seafood feast with some things we caught. And few select others.

I tried every single thing. The seaweed strips, the stuffed squid, the seaweed salad, the fried thing, the other fried thing, the pennywort drink, and the fish taco, and the jellyfish.

It was a whole plate of regrets, I only liked the jellyfish and the taco. But it was altogether fun. I’ve learned so much while I’ve been here, and it makes me value the ocean all the more. 

July 9, 2019
Dauphin Island, Alabama

This Tuesday morning we started off in class talking about fisheries and aquatics! This was by far my favorite topic we have discussed! We talked about the difference between renewable and sustainable fisheries, the three parts of fisheries, and we played two different games. The two games that we played really got everyone’s attention and it really made some of us think hard. A little bit before lunch, we toured the Auburn University Shellfish Lab and got the inside scoop of oyster farming. Even though it was hot outside, it was really neat getting to look at all the equipment that they use. After we finished the tour there, everyone ate lunch, and then we went and toured all the research labs. When we first got there, we got to see a very rare occurrence of a beaked whale that had washed up on shore! The scientists told us that the last beaked whale that washed on shore was around the 1980s, so this was very exciting for everyone. After everyone finished looking at the beaked whale, the educators split us into different groups, and we toured several other labs. The first lab that my group went to, the scientist put a dummy tracker into a small fish and showed us how an actual real tracker works and what it looks like on a map. After we got finished visiting all the different types of labs and getting background information, a couple of us had to get one last look at the whale! Overall, this has been an amazing day and one that most of us will never forget! To end our day, we will be working on our presentations and getting ready for Friday!

-Hannah Dewey

July 8, 2019
Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Alabama

Dr. Miller-way taught our class today on climate change. We did two experiments to get a better grasp of climate change and how it works. Our first activity involved a lamp, two thermal test strips, and a picture with ice and dark water below the ice printed on it. We made sure the two thermal test strips were the same temperature, so the experiment would work correctly. The two strips were placed in two different spots under the lamp. One strip was placed under the dark ocean and the other was placed under the lighter ice. We set a timer for five minutes so the paper would have time to take in heat. After the five minutes, we took the strips out from under the paper and looked at the results. My group concluded that the area around the dark ocean absorbed more heat from the lamp than the light ice. We then did another experiment. This experiment modeled the increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the water. The set up was my group was given was two separate empty big cups and a smaller cups inside of them were filled halfway with water. In the bottom of the big cups, we poured club soda. On one top of the cup, we covered the top with another cup to trap the carbonation. We put in a liquid that changes color in different pH levels. The water in the stacked cups changed colors faster than the cup that was not covered. 

July 7, 2019
Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Alabama
Today we got time to work on our projects all day in order to finish collecting our data before tonight. Justin was working on his fish project and Jordan was able to get one of his hermit crabs to remove the clay from its shell on video! It was really cool and will be useful in his presentation. The catfish pictured is a male Hardhead catfish that was mouthbrooding. When Audrey did her dissection she showed us the babies inside! I took a picture because it was cool. I had finished my project so I spent the rest of the day working on my powerpoint and labs in the computer lab. It feels good to be finished with most of my work and to finally get some downtime. I cannot believe that we will be going home soon but I had a great time and made lots of new friends and learned new things. 

July 6, 2019
Dauphin Island, Alabama

On this fine Saturday, we got up-close and personal with my favorite topic of the course: waves and hurricanes! In the morning, we listened to a lecture from Chris about currents, tides, and waves, then we went out into the field to measure the waves for ourselves. We measured the height and frequency of waves hitting the Sea Lab beach (Gulf side of Dauphin Island) – good thing we had waterproof paper for our data! After lunch, we headed to the computer lab to interactively learn about hurricanes, what they are, where they’ve been, and the influence of hurricanes on where we live at home and on Dauphin Island. To end the Saturday, we’ll be enjoying a well-deserved night out at the movies and a much-needed trip to Walmart. The end of camp is approaching – get excited for the end-of-course presentations that the students have been working so hard on!
– Amelia

July 5, 2019
Mobile Bay, Alabama

This morning, we went on our last boat trip on the Alabama Discovery. We sailed up Mobile Bay to explore and learn about the animals that make this area their home.

The YSI provided us with measurements of dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity, and depth. We also used a Peterson grab to check the sediment at the bottom. We definitely got messy and muddy!

Afterward, we dropped a trawl. Some of the animals we caught were white shrimp, croakers, hardhead catfish, white trout, and look downs. Some of the students were able to collect fish for their research projects.

July 3, 2019
Petit Bois Island, Mississippi

Today we took a boat ride out to Petit Bois Island in Mississippi. It was a 2-hour ride to and from the island. On the way there we went under the Dauphin Island bridge and entered the Mississippi Sound. We also saw Katrina Cut while going toward the West end of the island. Once we arrived at Petit Bois Island we did 3 activities with JoAnn, Chris, and Lauren. All of the activities were fun and amazing learning experience. Later we had lunch and played football in the water which was fun. Before we left to get on the boat we did a group beach walk and cleaned up the trash. This trip was an amazing experience and I'm glad I get to participate in this program. 

July 2, 2019
Dauphin Island, Alabama
Today we took a kayaking trip, and it was so much fun! Before getting in the water, Chris thought it was necessary to do “Kayaking Yoga”. After the “warm-up” we grabbed a partner of our choice and we were off. We started off playing a game for us to practice our paddling techniques. Sadly, some of the campers got flipped over, but the instructors helped them get back in safely. As we paddled through the marsh areas we saw periwinkle snails, great blue herons, ducks, and fish jumping out of the water to catch insects. Marty was feeling extra sweet today and had doughnuts waiting on us when we got all the equipment put away. I think it’s fair to say everyone enjoyed this trip. I personally would love to do it again!

Today we took an adventurous kayak trip down by the Heron Bayou Park. Before we started to begin paddling we played a game with a toy water ball to try and learn how to paddle correctly. While playing two people fell out of the kayak and had to climb back in. Once we started paddling down the Heron Bayou we saw different areas that were eroded because of high energy in the area. We also saw some Blue Herons and a Red Wing Black Bird. We paddled around the grassy areas. My roommate Allie and I got stuck in the grasses (multiple times...). Two of the other students found some chairs in the water and carried them on their kayak with them. They insisted on bringing them back to the dorms (which they did). Overall it was a pretty amazing experience, and I’d love to do it again.

July 1, 2019
Dauphin Island, Alabama 
Today we started off by taking two exams over invertebrates and planktonic life. As it goes, some were more happy about it than others. Then after lunch, we began our talk about marine chemistry. We participated in different activities that illustrated the different water properties. Unfortunately, I didn’t break any records in the Water Olympics, but I did get to watch my friend match with Marty’s record (64 drops on a penny). Afterwards, we got to cool down by getting soaked in fun water activities. Who knew frozen t-shirts wouldn’t thaw well with just our body heat? 

June 29, 2019 
Dauphin Island, Alabama 
We went out to the pier with plankton nets to catch plankton and other microorganisms. We then went into the classroom lab, drained out any remaining residue, then looked under the microscope to identify all the plankton that resided on the slide. We, as a whole class, went to the pier with our roommate to use the plankton net. The purpose of this activity was to physically catch some plankton and be able to identify all the different species. 

June 28, 2019
Panama City, Florida

Waking up bright and early, we ate a light breakfast of donuts, milk, and cereal outside by the pool. When 8 o’clock rolled around, we said a bittersweet goodbye to our beloved 1-night motel and headed out to St. Andrews for another day of snorkeling. This time, we went first to the seagrass beds. Walking into the cold water and floating mats of grass, there were many wary faces among students. Nonetheless, we secured our gear and went in headfirst to see what was hidden beneath. Immediately, we saw a large crab hiding under the cover of rocky coral. The floor quickly turned from sand to a thick carpet of seagrass swaying passively in the current. Rays of sunlight broke through the water, touching the blades and giving the water a golden tinge. Small groups of fish darted by as we swam through flat on our stomachs, trying not to disturb the grainy bottom below us. Several students collected the shells of snails and oysters, and others found a few sea urchins for us to hold. At around 11:30 we dried off and returned to our picnic tables by the jetties for lunch. Following the events of yesterday, we created a food-making assembly line of sandwiches, fruit, and cookies under the tent and ate happily—until the first tell-tale rumble of thunder sounded. Knowing all-to-well what was about to happen, we huddled together and braced ourselves for the arriving downpour of rain. Of course, we didn’t let it spoil our lunch and continued eating as it subsided. Unfortunately, lightning was sighted (despite Chris’s refusal to acknowledge it) and we had to pack up to leave. On the drive home, we took a short excursion to Alvin’s Island for some souvenir shopping, and another at Chick fil A for dinner. Even with the rain, Panama City was a very fun, unforgettable experience; one that gave us the chance to see animals we’ve been learning about up close and in their natural habitat of the Gulf of Mexico.

June 26, 2019
Dauphin Island, Alabama

On our boat trip today, we took samples of the seafloor in both the bay and the gulf so we could compare the different sediment compositions and the different life living within the sediment. Also, we pulled nets in both places so we could compare the different marine organisms living in their respective areas. In the offshore net, we caught many interesting things like sea stars and smooth puffer fish. After the boat trip, we went to the classroom to learn about different types of marine worms and how they burrow in different types of sediment from a guest speaker, Dr. Kelly Dorgan.

June 25, 2019
Dauphin Island, Alabama

Today we learned more about Invertebrates from our previous class (in particular Arthropoda, Mollusca, and Echinodermata) and learned the essential functions of each phylum. After, we went down to the local coast to sift, shovel, and sieve for the invertebrates we just learned about from one of our instructors, Tina Miller-Way.

We observed many Olive Snails, Water Hyacinth (which is a freshwater plant found in saltwater- most likely from drifting from a local freshwater outlet), juvenile Mole Crabs, and a lot more!

Next, we’re having a snorkel workshop in preparation for our Panama City trip on Thursday! After that the plan is to have some time to work on our projects and start library researching. Finally, we will get a preview of our vessel trip which takes place tomorrow. It’s going to be/has been a busy day, but it’s pretty fascinating!!


June 23, 2019
Dauphin Island, Alabama

With maps due, our first exam, and the start of invertebrates tomorrow, today was actually a very busy day! We had all day for study time! After studying for a while, we decided to take a nice walk to Ship and Shore for some snacks! Today was a good day to relax and prepare for tomorrow.

June 22, 2019
Dauphin Island, Alabama

Today we were in the classroom for the whole day. We spent the morning learning about Vertebrates from Chris. After note-taking we had our first activity of the day…shark dissection! An Atlantic Sharpnose shark sat on each table while we learned about the external anatomy, and then we cut.

After we fished around for a little bit we started to take out the organs one by one so we could get a real idea of what was inside them. We were able to take out all the organs and explore them, but they really smelled! It was especially cool to open up the stomach and see what your shark had recently eaten. The shark on my table had remains of a squid, including the beak, pen and eye lens. We cleaned up the shark leftovers but before we could leave Chris pulled out a Baby Shark Parody for us all. Thanks, Chris!

Although it smelled, it was really interesting and fun to do with our friends. This was definitely one of the coolest experiences we’ve had in this camp so far!


June 21, 2019
New Orleans, Louisiana

Today we went to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans, Louisiana. We went to learn about what goes on behind the scenes to run a big aquarium.

The first thing we did was go and look at the engines that filtered just one of their big tanks. Then we went above the Gulf tank and saw how they feed the animals.

I really liked seeing the tanks from above and being able to go around the aquarium. It was a really fun day!

Today our class went to the Audubon Nature Institute to walk the nature trails in New Orleans, Louisiana. Our guide was Erin. We saw Texas hibiscus, ornamental hibiscus, and pepper vine. We also saw many insects such as butterflies, dragonflies, and cicadas. Some of the insects came so close that we were even able to hold them! This trip was so much fun, and I really enjoyed being able to see a swamp environment firsthand.

June 20, 2019
Dauphin Island, Alabama

Today we went on a relaxing but pretty exhausting stroll through the Maritime Forest. The purpose of our walk was to observe and collect samples of the forest and its relationships between the various plants and animals inhabiting it. We viewed several plants including, Button Bushes, Popcorn Trees, Muscadine Vines, Palmettos, and many more. We were excited to see different species of turtles and even an Alligator! We also observed a few Great Blue Herons gliding over the pond in the forest. There are many unique characteristics of the various plants, like the Popcorn Tree produces seed pods that bust and dispense the seeds along the ground to reproduce. The Muscadine Vines produce fruit that is edible and made into wines and jellies. The Palmettos use a unique way of spreading across the ground, they use rhizomes to reproduce and spread along the forest floor. So far the Botany portion of this experience has been my favorite and I look forward to further exploring the forest and other parts of the island.

June 19, 2019
Mobile Bay, Alabama

Today we went out on our first vessel trip and it was really fun and interesting. Although it was hot, there was a cool breeze that made it more comfortable. We went out on the vessel trip to see the biodiversity of Mobile Bay, tag and release sharks, and get fin samples from stingrays and sharks.

We went fishing in three different ways: by using a trawl, longline, and regular fishing poles. The trawl caught the most fish, but most of them were small fish like anchovies and scaled sardines; although, there were one small shark and a few small stingrays. When we used the longline we caught larger fish such as blacktip sharks, sharpnose sharks, large stingrays, and red drum. A few of us got to help tag and release the sharks, but even though I didn't get to tag or release one, I still thought it was very interesting and fun to watch. The most interesting thing that we saw happen was a double depredation. A sharp nose was depredated by a blacktip, which was depredated by something else that we weren't able to identify. The last thing we used, the fishing rods, were not nearly as successful. Only one or two people caught anything. I didn't catch anything, just like most people, but I didn't really expect to since I never have any luck when it comes to catching fish. Overall, this experience was really interesting and I learned a lot about sharks, stingrays, and other fish. It was really fun to actually see people catch sharks, tag them and release them. 

June 18, 2019
Dauphin Island, Alabama

Today went almost entirely NOT according to plan. Thunderstorms started in the morning, which hampered with some of our beach plans, but we were still able to go outside a little bit later. During the morning class, JoAnn gave a lecture about beaches and barrier islands, which is important because Dauphin Island is a barrier island for Alabama! We learned that barrier islands play an important role in protecting the mainland from big storms, and we looked at Google Earth images of how the landscape of Dauphin Island has changed over time. We then went out to the beach during a break in the storm to use seining nets and dip-nets to catch leatherjackets, anchovies, comb jellies, pipefish, and others. The purpose of this activity was to observe and learn about the species living just off the beach here on the island, and we did this with JoAnn. After lunch, we went on a beach walk and collected any interesting things that we saw, like seashells and rocks. We took a detour through the dunes and the maritime forest to observe different plants and sand-dunes life. JoAnn also led this tour. Overall, today was really fun, and we all learned many valuable things with JoAnn. 

June 17, 2019 
Dauphin Island, AL
Today we did a lot. After breakfast, we met with Chris at Discovery Hall and got an introduction to DISL, took a tour of the campus, and went over the requirements and course orientation. Later we got into classwork. Today we covered the History of Ocean Exploration, Estuaries, Mobile Bay, and Salt Marshes. Finally to wrap the day up we went and experienced the salt marsh with Mrs. JoAnn. While we were there we looked for many species of animals in the marsh such as Fiddler Crab and Periwinkle Snails and to wrap up the salt marsh adventure we seine fished and caught an abundance of fish from Atlantic Rays to Brown Shrimp. After the first day, I'm having a great time and this is a once in a lifetime experience.