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Published:January 15th, 2010 11:00 EST
Judyth Piazza and The Bay of Kids

Judyth Piazza and The Bay of Kids

By Judyth Piazza CEO (Editor)

As the sun slowly rises over No Name Key, Florida early one April morning in 1961, CIA operatives prepared for what was to go down in history as one of America`s most infamous military blunders, the Bay of Pigs.

Now forty-four years later as the sun once again rises over the Florida Keys at the site where CIA agents prepared to overthrow the Government of Fidel Castro preparation is once again taking place. Boats are being gassed up, sunscreen is being applied and scuba gear is made ready, but not for the Bay of Pigs sequel but rather for the Bay of Kids and leading that invasion is Dr. Sabine Alshuth.

Dr. Sabine Alshuth, Professor of Oceanography at Indian River Community College offers her students a unique learning experience. She brings the topics in her courses to life by offering her students the unique opportunity to experience the ocean and its diverse creatures up close and first hand.

Twice a year, Dr. Alshuth takes a group of students from Indian River Community College on a field trip to New Found Harbor Marine Institute, which is located in Big Pine Key in the heart of the lush and unspoiled vegetation of the Florida Keys.

"The beauty of coming to New Found Harbor is that students get to experience things they just don`t get the opportunity to in a traditional classroom," Dr. Alshuth said.

Dr Alshuth is nationally recognized as one of the top professionals in her field. She specializes in the study of deep-sea crustations and has worked with famed ocean adventurist, Jacques Cousteau, as well as traveling to the deepest depths of the ocean aboard the Harbor Branch Research submersible Johnson Sea-Link, which is stationed aboard the Harbor Branch Research Vessel, the RV Seward Johnson. 

"Not only was Jacques my mentor but he was my hero and friend, I miss him dearly," said Dr. Alshuth.

Founded in 1966, Sea camp has been offering marine science education through summer camp experiences including scuba, sailing, boardsailing, canoeing, kayaking, laboratory experiments, and arts and crafts to students from eight years old to college level. They have a full staff living on site and a full management team. They also offer four dormitories, a dining hall, as well as a fleet of floating classrooms called flat tops. Erik Jordan, 20 a student at Indian River Community College said, "at sea camp the fun and learning doesn`t stop when the sun goes down. They allow you to see education in a different light. They make learning fun, we got to go night wading and touch and feel a variety of the nocturnal creatures."

"I enjoyed the Algae Lab the most. It is unbelievable how many little creatures live in algae," said Jordan.

Sea Camp also boasts of having the world`s largest underwater classroom at Looe Key reef where you are able to go out in the field and experience it first hand. According to http://graystrokes.com/looe.htm, "Looe Key is named after the H.M.S. Looe which ran aground and sank on the reef in 1742; Looe Key was designated as a National Marine Sanctuary in 1981. Located approximately 10 NM southwest of Bahia Honda state park, Looe Key is a must see dive site. With depth ranging from zero to 40 feet, this area offers attractions from Queen Conch strewn grass flats to 15-foot high fingers of coral. Spear fishing is prohibited on this reef, and the area is alive with hundreds of varieties of sea life. The wreckage of many ships has been claimed by the living coral, but close observation will reward a diver with glimpses of history."

Boat captains regularly take students out on one of the flat tops to nearby reefs and mangrove islands to experience the most vibrant colors and the reefs diverse creatures that you would ever see underwater.

New Found Harbor Marine Institute designed rigorous training programs for their instructors and counselors focusing not only on marine biology and ecology but also emphasizing the development of teaching techniques, water safety, first aid, and boat operation skills.  

The Institute counselors hold marine life collecting certificates from the Florida Department of Marine Science Education Association and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

"You have to have a Bachelor`s degree in a science related field or intern with us for at least 8 months to work here," said Jack Seubert, a counselor at sea camp.

Jason Dwinell, employee of the Harbor Branch Marine Institute, 22, said that the field trip was an experience of a lifetime.

"I work with marine life on a daily basis; however, it`s in a somewhat benign atmosphere. But here at Sea Camp I am able to observe and interact amongst the creatures themselves, whether it`s here at one of the reefs or in the underwater roots along the mangrove islands. This is great." Dwinell is also a student at Indian River Community College majoring in underwater ecology.

If you or your classmates have been on an exciting fieldtrip or outdoor adventure, I would like to here about it. Email me at judythpiazza@gmail.com.