Can you tell me how old a fish is just by looking at a slice of bone? That’s one question youth will learn how to answer in the Manatee Marine Explorers Day Camp created by two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension agents.
“There is so much more to the ocean than what you can see on the surface,” says Angela Collins, a UF/IFAS Extension Manatee County agent and co-organizer of the camp.
She and fellow Manatee County UF/IFAS Extension agent Michelle Atkinson will introduce attendees to the diversity of marine life that may be less familiar than dolphins or sea turtles. “We plan to have more hands on activities for the kids this year. We will be discovering how to throw a cast net, seine netting, and conducting a virtual underwater fish survey.” Atkinson stated.
These young scientists will also discover the otolith, a tiny bone in the fish’s head that can tell a scientist how old the fish is—just as a tree gets more tree rings as it ages, the otolith likewise develops rings as a fish grows older. Attendees will practice looking at a thin slice of the otolith under a microscope to find out a fish’s age.
Scuba Quest will be demonstrating underwater breathing with the kids. Campers ages 10 and older will have an opportunity to breath from a tank and be introduced to the concepts of scuba diving.
Chasten Whitfield will be teaching the kids how to throw a cast net. Chasten, who started Chastenation, is a 17 year old local fisherman whose mission is to help kids of all ages, especially girls, become comfortable anglers while teaching positive life skills, thoughtfulness, doing what’s right for the right reasons, and choosing to stay active outdoors.
Both Collins and Atkinson ultimately want to encourage curiosity and show how fun science can be. With the camp being held at Emerson Point this year, campers will be seine and dip netting to see what lives in our sea grasses.
Registration is capped at 25 participants and will close August 4th. Activities will be held at Emerson Point on August 8th. The camp fee is $15. For registration and more information, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/manatee-marine-explorers-day-camp-tickets-35787271693