Marine Camp 2016: Underwater Investigator Sneak Peak

The Underwater Investigator camp for entering 6th-8th graders is a week-long program that is sure to inspire curiosity about the various fields within marine science. This summer campers will explore a different marine science field each day, including marine ecology and conservation, biodiversity, physical and biological oceanography, biomimicry, and will even learn what it takes to be an aquarist. They will practice scientific data collection on land by using real scientific equipment and they will also create their own quadrat, a research tool used to collect data to survey the biodiversity and health of a habitat. Campers will also spend a fun day canoeing to nearby Bair Island where they will investigate mud-dwelling invertebrates, examine the hydrology of the slough, and check out native and non-native plants that make this wetland such a unique habitat.

Their camp week culminates in a fun 2-day-long trip aboard our research vessel, and campers and staff even sleep aboard the boat! Campers will board the boat at 9am on the Thursday of their camp week and participate in various marine science studies as they venture to Sausalito for field trip activities. They will then have free time playing games and exploring the area while we barbecue dinner. Campers will then board the boat and watch a movie as we head to the Marina Bay Yacht Harbor for the overnight portion. On Friday campers will use scientific equipment to sample fish from the Bay, examine invertebrates from the mud, and study plankton underneath a microscope. This fun-filled week is packed with action!

Currently all of the Underwater Investigator sessions are full but campers can still be registered for the waitlists.


June 20-24

July 11-15

July 25-29



NEW Programs for the Classroom, a BayLines Original Article

The Marine Science Institute provides students with structured opportunities to discover the Bay with both land-based and marine-focused programs. It gives students a chance to use scientific methods to discover the natural environment and learn teamwork and critical thinking skills.

Marine Science Institute is always working on bridging the gab between environmental concerns and education in the San Francisco Bay area. Working on new curricula allows us to develop programs that are tailored to the resident students of San Francisco Bay and the surrounding watershed.

We are proud to offer 3 new programs this season that allow students to dive deeper into their local aquatic habitats while offering a scientific experience built on California standards-based activities.

Wonders of Watersheds

Explore local watersheds and discover how humans depend on, and influence their health with the Wonders of Watersheds. This inquiry-driven program includes a series of three experiences combining in-class learning with hands-on experimentation and discovery to build a deeper understanding of watersheds. The first in-class “Inland Voyage” program will introduce concepts using experimentation with a watershed model. The second experience brings students into the field with a Creek Study. During this field trip students will take data about the water (including physical and chemical properties) that they will use to discuss the health of the watershed. This program culminates with a “Canoes in Sloughs” program that takes students out on the water where they explore another part of the watershed. Through this series students gain an in-depth appreciation for what a watershed is and for their connection to the environment.

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Biomimicry is the practice of taking inspiration from nature to create solutions to meet human needs in a sustainable way. MSI offers 2 programs that introduce this concept and encourage students to apply it in critical thinking, problem solving, and design. Through hands-on observation of live animals, students learn how to identify and analyze adaptations that can be mimicked to solve human challenges. The Discovery Voyage Biomimicry Program includes an in-class introductory visit with live animals, followed by a 4 hour voyage during which students find inspiration by studying the plankton, invertebrates and fish in the San Francisco Bay. The Inland Voyage Biomimicry Program takes place entirely in the classroom, where students will examine live animals and learn about their adaptations. The culmination of both of these programs is a final design challenge that requires students to apply their knowledge of adaptation to creating sustainable solutions for an imaginary research station that requires elements such as mobility, data collection and habitat for the scientists.

Habitat Combination Program

The Habitat Combination Program is a multiple-exposure program that combines an in-class visit featuring live animals with a field trip to deepen students’ experiences and create opportunities for cross-cutting between concepts. There are four options that introduce students to different animals and their habitats.

  • The “Beach Combo” features animals adapted to survive above and below the sand, which students will look during their field trip to Pescadero Beach and its adjoining marsh.
  • The “Marsh Combo” focuses on the birds, fish, and invertebrates commonly found in marshes and mudflats which students visit in Pescadero.
  • During “Rocky Shore Combo” students will study creatures both in their class and as they discover them in the tide pools of Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay.
  • For the “Coastal Water Combo” students will compare ocean animals brought to the classroom to the wildlife they will discover during a visit to MSI’s bayside facility.


To learn more about these programs and other programs offered by Marine Science Institute visit our webpage at or contact our scheduling coordinator at 650-364-2760 X10 or




This article is featured in our BayLines Winter Edition 2014-2015.

BayLines Winter Edition 14'-15'

BayLines Winter Edition 14′-15′

Ocean Views Project: Watershed Adventures

ca msi bwet

Canoeing through sloughs! A Discovery Voyage aboard our ship! Shoreside programs in our learning aquarium! Kennedy and Peascadero students are having a blast discovering their local watersheds with our Ocean Views program.

For many students canoeing is a brand new adventure and learning how to paddle is one of the hardest tasks. Students work as a team to maneuver the canoes from MSI to BairIsland. BairIsland is a local marsh habitat which houses endangered California clapper rails and salt marsh harvest mice. The students travel through Smith Slough, observing the habitat, spotting animals and taking water samples. Throughout the year, these students will take water samples from their local streams and in the San Francisco Bay Estuary to observe the health of the water.

Check out this video of students exploring on canoes

Pescadero students get to learn all about an urban watershed which differs from their rural watershed where the Pescadero students reside. Click here for more background information on the watersheds that these students are studying. These students used a seine net to collect fish right off the beach at the Marine Science Institute and ventured into exploring the wonders of invertebrates.

Let us see what these students are experiencing through their eyes

For this program, Kennedy students venture into the San Francisco Bay Estuary aboard the R/V Robert G. Brownlee to see where their watershed spills out. Aboard the Brownlee, these students explore plankton, test the water’s health, dig through the mud, and catch some fish.

Take a closer look at their experience here!

Join us for our next adventure, all about Snowy Plovers!

Ocean Views: Watershed Adventures Issue #1

The students are off to a great start learning all about their local watersheds. Kennedy Middle is studying the Redwood Creek watershed, which is an urban watershed.

Microsoft Word - Rewoodcreek flow map.doc

An urban watershed includes city neighborhoods, streets and paved areas, which increases the speed of water runoff into the stream. Redwood Creek watershed mostly flows underground.

Microsoft Word - Pescadero creek Flow map.doc

This differs from the Pescadero Creek watershed, an undeveloped coastal watershed, which Pescadero Middle School students are studying. 

Students learned the basics about watersheds right in their classroom. We used an Enviroscape to model pollution traveling through a watershed, which introduced the students to a lot of new vocabulary. The students were eager to learn these new concepts, and were especially fascinated by how their field journals were made of waterproof paper. They are excited to put new skills into practice as they interview each other for short films.

Canoeing is a great way to get a closer look at marshes and sloughs. A slough is a meandering channel through a marsh. These students were able to smell, hear and taste their surroundings. Most of the Kennedy Middle students had never been canoeing, and some were a little scared at first. But once they learned how to work as a team they began to feel more comfortable. The student learned all about hydrology, and conducted water quality tests while in their canoes. They gathered information about temperature, density, salinity, dissolved oxygen, phosphates, and turbidity.

ca msi bwet

Come back again to see what these students will be exploring next.

Marine Camp Sneak Peek #2

Underwater Investigators

Our Underwater Investigators camp is for 6th-8th graders. This summer I am excited to present a new take on this popular camp, with a biomimicry theme tying each day together.

Biomimicry is an innovative, interdisciplinary movement in science and design. Biomimicry draws inspiration from nature to create more efficient and sustainable solutions to human challenges. Our Underwater Investigators will spend a week learning about biomimicry, studying organisms, and using what they’ve learned to invent their own products.

UI canoes in sloughs

This camp features two days at our site, which will be spent closely examining bay and ocean organisms and systems. The culmination of these two days will be a “warm up” project for which our campers will design, build, and test a solution to our Top Secret Challenge using biomimicry as inspiration. Campers will also experience a day of canoeing through sloughs; they will learn more about Bay ecosystems and organisms while rowing as a team, enjoying the sunshine, and having fun out on the water.

The capstone of this fantastic week of science is our overnight trip on the Robert G. Brownlee. Campers will board our ship and set off for Angel Island. Along the way they will fish, take benthic (bottom) samples, and examine plankton under a microscope. Every organism that the campers catch is a part of their research for their final biomimicry challenge! At Angel Island campers will have time to relax on the beach and picnic before boarding the ship again for evening activities and a fun sleepover with their new camp friends. As they head back for MSI the next day, Underwater Investigators will come up with their own challenge and use biomimicry to design and build a model for the next big thing in science!

I can’t wait to see what our future innovators come up with!

Registration is open, sign up now!

~Felicia Van Stolk, Marine Camp Manager

To learn more about biomimicry, visit the Biomimicry Institute’s website.

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