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Campers Explore Marine Sciences

[Reprinted from Carteret County News-Times, Cheryl Burke. Pictured, Dr. Vicky Thayer with the Marine Mammal Stranding Network teaches students how to assemble dolphin vertebrae Monday during the Brad Sneeden Marine Science Academy. (Cheryl Burke photo)]

MOREHEAD CITY — Beaufort Middle School rising seventh-grader Jacob Wright wants to become a marine biologist. So does rising Broad Creek Middle School eighth-grader Daysha Martin.

The two are among 30 county middle and high school school students immersed in marine sciences this week during the ninth annual Brad Sneeden Marine Science Academy.

From studying proper ways to catch and prepare local fresh shrimp to learning about whales, dolphins and sea turtles, the academy is exposing campers to a variety of hands-on marine science activities at various laboratories, on barrier islands and in other learning environments across the county. The camp started Monday and will continue through Friday.

It’s named after the former school superintendent who created the venture. Mr. Sneeden started the camp in 2008 and died later that year. But the effort has continued, with his widow Carolyn assisting with the camp each year.

A memorial scholarship fund was created in Mr. Sneeden’s honor to assist students to attend the camp. A second memorial scholarship fund was established to award former campers who go on to pursue college degrees in a science-related field.
Mrs. Sneeden said Monday she was touched so many students are still participating in her husband’s dream for a camp.

“I’m happy that Brad’s legacy has continued after nine years and allows these students to continue learning about all these wonderful marine science opportunities in this area.”

Students in the marine science academy this year have so far studied proper seafood handling and research in the N.C. State University Seafood Laboratory; assisted with a necropsy on two sea turtles at the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology building with N.C. State University marine animals veterinarian Dr. Craig Harms; studied the skeletal systems of dolphins and whales with Dr. Vicky Thayer, the Marine Mammal Stranding Network coordinator for the county; attended an ecology and geology program at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences; and took a trip to Cape Lookout that included a variety of science-related activities, as well as the opportunity to climb the lighthouse.

Today through Friday students are expected to see demonstrations of drones supporting marine sciences at Duke Marine Lab; do macro invertebrates work in a pond at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum; tour Quality Seafood House on Cedar Island; trawl aboard a Duke University research vessel; conduct field work on Carrot Island; construct remotely operated vehicles for underwater work; work with animals at the N.C. Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores; dissect a squid; do barrier island exploration; and get a behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium.

The week will end with an informal presentation about the academy on Friday for families, friends and sponsors at the aquarium.
For Jacob, the camp reaffirms his interest in marine biology.

“I’d love to be a marine biologist when I grow up. My stepdad is a shrimper, and I love doing anything with science. I just think it’s so cool that we know about all this life that lives in the ocean, and we really have only learned about a small percentage of the animals that are down there.”

Daysha, too, said the camp sparked a desire to pursue marine biology.

“I really like science. My brother had been to this camp and told me it was really fun. I really want to do marine biology because I really like animals,” she said.

Sheila Moore, a Croatan High School earth and environmental science and marine science teacher, one of the camp instructors, said the camp allows students to experience the rich marine resources of the county and interact with scientists working in various fields.

“They get to enjoy the marine science that’s in our backyard with all of our labs and outreach programs. Unfortunately, not all of our kids will be able to take marine science in high school because of school scheduling conflicts,” she said.

The camp is made possible thanks to sponsorships from corporations, civic groups and private individuals. Some of the major sponsors include the Sunshine Lady Foundation, the Brad Sneeden Memorial Fund, N.C. Seafood Festival, the N.C. Biotechnology Center, Beaufort Ole Towne Rotary Club, Carteret-Craven Electric Membership Foundation and the County Public School Foundation.

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