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



Marine Camp 2016: Naturalist Sneak Peak

Our Naturalist program is for entering 4th and 5th graders who have attended an Explorers camp. The Naturalist campers will dive deeper into life and processes of the San Francisco Bay and Pacific coast, learn research methods and discuss current issues in our world’s marine ecosystems. By learning how to be naturalists, these devoted marine scientists will become familiar with the skills and passion needed to be a life scientist during their fast-paced camp week.

Naturalists have an amazing and fun week ahead of them. Activities include:

  • Preserved sea star dissection to examine the water vascular system.
  • Creating a quadrat, a tool used to quantify the number of species and amount of new species within a designated area. This tool is essential for studying biodiversity and the health of an area. Campers will keep the quadrat they create!
  • Learning how to take fish data by identifying and taking measurements on the fish caught. This data goes into a database which other organizations have access to.
  • Examining Phyla and the features of different groups of animals which made scientists group them together.

… and much more!

All Naturalist camps (except for the shortened July 5th camp week) have:

  • 2 days at our site to study live animals from our aquarium and to engage in other science projects both indoors and outside
  • 2 field trips (reached by school bus) that feature different habitats (shortened July 5th week has 1 field trip)
  • 1 day aboard our ship that includes fishing, studying plankton, sampling mud, and learning about nautical navigation
  • 2 staff plus a volunteer for every 15 campers
  • Flexible curriculum that engages multiple learning styles

Naturalist campers will be visiting two field trip sites: the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center and the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve. On both of these excursions campers will learn about the habitats, perform experiments to better understand the conditions of each location, and examine animal life.

There are 4 weeks of Naturalist camp available during the summer. If your entering 4th or 5th grade camper has attended an Explorer camp during a previous summer we encourage them to join this fast-paced program. Campers also have the option of being in an Explorer camp earlier in the summer and signing up for Naturalists later on to compound the information and dive deeper into marine science.

Join us for this awesome experience as campers dive into marine science and explore our local marine habitats. Camps run Monday through Friday, 8:30am-3pm with extended care available until 5:30pm.


July 5-8 *special overnight opportunity available

July 18-22

August 1-5

August 8-12

*We have a special option for the shortened 4th of July camp week of Naturalists: an optional overnight is available on the Thursday (July 7th) of camp for an additional $50. Campers will bring their overnight materials (clothes, sleeping bags, etc) and we will camp in the MSC. Food will be provided. Campers will watch a marine science themed video TBD, tow for night plankton and examine under a microscope, learn how scientists navigated using the stars, and more!


Creature Feature: Beluga Whale

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Scientific Name: Delphinapterus leucas

Size – 13 to 20 feet, 2000 to 3000 pounds

Life span – 35 to 50 years

Diet – Fish, crustaceans, and worms


Beluga whales are born to stand out—with their unusual white color, they are easy to spot and recognize. They aren’t always this color though. Baby Belugas are born gray or brown, and then fade to white as they mature sexually.

Compared to most whales, Belugas are small, ranging from 13-20 feet in length. They are also unique because they lack a dorsal fin, something most fish and marine mammals have. There are several other things that make Belugas special. They have a more complex way of communicating with one another, utilizing clicks, whistles and clangs, along with other sounds that they sometimes mimic.

Beluga whales can be found in the coastal waters of the Arctic Ocean, and in subarctic waters as well. Belugas almost always live and travel in small groups call Pods. They migrate south when the ocean begins to freeze over and have to move quickly, otherwise they could be trapped under the ice and suffocate—or become an easy target for predators, like Polar Bears.

You might wonder why Beluga whales live in such a frigid environment. They have a thick layer of blubber (which can be as thick as 5 inches!) to help keep them insulated and warm. They also have a hard dorsal ridge along their back and a tough forehead, which helps them to swim through the icy sea water.

Beluga whales are truly amazing and beautiful creatures. Should you ever be near arctic waters, take some time and see if you can spot these fantastic white whales! They are worth the wait.


Written by: Kari Shirley, intern

Creature Feature: Spinner Dolphin

Common Facts:

Scientific name – Stenella longirostris

Diet – Small fish and squid

Size – 6-7 feet, 130-170 pounds

Lifespan – up to 20 years

Most of us are familiar with dolphins—the fun and playful porpoises that can often be seen leaping out of the water to socialize with each other and with humans. One type of dolphin that you may not be as familiar with is the Spinner Dolphin.

Spinner dolphins are named after their above the water theatrics—they love to leap out of the water and spin a few times on their body axis while doing so. Some can spin as many as four times around in one leap.

These dolphins love to stay together and are usually found in huge groups. They do their hunting at night, feeding mainly on mid-water fishes and deep-water squid, and then they rest during the day time.

Spinner dolphins can been found all over the world, mainly in tropical and subtropical oceans. For some reason, Spinners tend to follow groups of Yellowfin Tuna around. Because of this, fishermen seeking Tuna will often track the dolphins in order to get to them. Oftentimes, the dolphins are caught in the nets with the tuna, and because of this, their population is decreasing.

Thankfully, “Fishing methods for tuna imported into the U.S. under the Dophin-Safe program do not allow fishing practices, such as setting on dolphins.” The Spinner Dolphin population is at a stable number right now.

So if you are ever in a warm and tropical area, close to the ocean, stay alert to see if you can see any Spinner Dolphins. If you do, you are in for a show!

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Written by: Kari Shirley, intern

Creature Feature: Sunfish


Common Facts:

Diet – Jellyfish, small fish, zooplankton and algae

Size – Up to 14 feet

Weight – Up to 5,000 pounds

Habitat – Open Waters

Sunfish, also known as Mola, are one of the largest fishes to be found in the ocean. Out of all the bony fish, they are heaviest. The largest Sunfish have been known to reach 14 feet vertically and 10 feet horizontally and can weigh up to 5,000 pounds. Which is a little shocking for a fish that looks so much like a pancake.

“Sunfish, or mola, develop their truncated, bullet-like shape because the back fin which they are born with simply never grows. Instead, it folds into itself as the enormous creature matures, creating a rounded rudder called a clavus.” Their odd shape makes them awkward swimmers. They use their dorsal and anal fins to move and steer with their clavus.

Sunfish can be found in the warm and tropical oceans around the world. They love to rest just below the surface of the water, so that they can bask in the sun, hench the name Sunfish. Sometimes, when one of their big fins sticks up out of the water, people mistake them for sharks. But don’t be alarmed, Sunfish are not a threat to humans.

Oftentimes, Sunfish become infested with skin parasites. When this happens, they allow small fish and sometimes even birds to peck at their skin and get the parasites out.

Sunfish love to eat jellyfish, it is their main source of nutrients. Unfortunately, at times, they mistake plastic bags floating in the ocean as jellyfish, and have been known to choke on the bags. So be aware of your surroundings when you are at the beach! If you see trash, pick it up! You may be saving one of these beautiful, gentle creatures.

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Written by: Kari Shirley, intern


Intern Update: Using Skillsets

Summit Public Schools is a high performing charter school organization with seven schools in the Bay Area, including two high schools in Redwood City, Everest and Summit Prep, and two in San Jose, Tahoma and Rainier.  Internships are a part of their unique Expeditions program and take place during the school year and school day. They provide an invaluable opportunity for students to get some adult work world experience, explore a possible career, develop confidence and strengthen their communication skills.


During internships students are required to submit journal entries weekly to their advisors. This week I would like to share Danielle’s journal entry.


Journal Question #2: Talk about something new that you have learned at your internship. Describe what you learned, how you learned it, and what it helped you understand or do at your internship.  Will you be able to use this new knowledge or skill in the future?


Danielle: While interning at the Marine Science Institute, I have learned a lot about what being a marine scientist might be like, and what goes on behind the scenes of the programs. When I did a trip out on the boat as a data collector, I learned how marine scientists figure out how many of a species are in a given area. When the kids in the class brought in a trawl, I counted and measured the fish, then recorded it in a data base. I also learned more about the life in the bay as I shadowed the classes that happen on shore. I shared the kids enthusiasm toward the marine life and was happy to help the kids learn to identify the different types of fish and invertebrates that they brought up. I am learning to identify the fish too, so I love to practice. I also learn about setup and cleanup, which is how to take out and put away the fish, and clean the buckets we put them in.

I also learned what the office work looks like. The first intern session I had I spent a lot of my time in the office cutting pamphlets and newsletters, and getting gifts ready to send to volunteers. That taught me more about how a nonprofit is run, and how much they are thankful for their volunteers. I also go the chance to see how the data that is collected in the bay is sorted and cleaned of unusable data.

I find that knowing these skills can be very useful. Right now I am working on a project for my school program that is allowing me to be at MSI as an intern. For the project, I am analyzing data from four years leading up to the El Nino, and comparing it to the last one. I realized that this can be important because the El Nino affects more than the weather.Learning the trends helps us understand more about these phenomenons.

Volunteer and internship opportunities are available year round.
Please visit our webpage at to find your next volunteer position! 


Marine Science Institute is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) not for profit organization
©2016. All Rights Reserved

Marine Camp 2016: Summer Camp Scholarship Fund

Boat GG bridge

Fun foggy day on the Bay with our middle school campers

The experience of summer camp offers profound positive effects that last for years. It is a special type of community where kids come together to have fun and develop a level of independence resulting from exploring adventures away from home. They make new friends, learn away from the classroom and keep their minds and bodies active while being engrossed in outside activities. At the Marine Science Institute’s Marine Camp, campers are engaged and challenged to explore the natural world and consider their connection to it.

Throughout the year MSI provides marine science education to inspire students and the public to explore the largest Pacific estuary in North and South America, as well as our nearby Pacific coast. We are dedicated to providing funding for these school programs year-round, and we attest to the importance of continuing access to these opportunities in the summer. Every child deserves an opportunity to go to summer camp and we recognize that some families might require a little help.

Our Marine Camp Scholarship Fund offers support for children from families who would otherwise not be able to afford camp. Every child deserves an opportunity to go to camp and we recognize that some families might require a little help. The Marine Camp Scholarship Fund is supported entirely by the charitable donations of our community. Please consider donating to our Marine Camp Scholarship Fund to invest in the future of young marine scientists. Thank you for your consideration.

blue DONATE fish

Marine Science Institute is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) not for profit organization
©2016. All Rights Reserved.

Marine Camp 2016: Splash Into Summer

MSI sand

Summer planning is in full swing! It is that time of year to begin thinking about your family’s summer activities. Summer camps of all kinds hold a myriad of opportunities for growth, making new friends, learning and fun. At the Marine Science Institute’s Marine Camp in Redwood City, CA, countless marine science themed activities await campers. Our knowledgeable staff are full-time educators and marine biologists with a genuine passion for sharing the wonders of nature with others. Whether your camper is learning about coastal California or the San Francisco Bay marine life, they will be amazed by the variety of creatures found in our own backyard! Marine Camp has several camps to choose from over the duration of the summer:

Plankton Pioneers is for our youngest campers (entering grades K-1st), and their week is full of exciting activities that introduce campers to different aspects of marine science. Each day at our site is themed with hands-on activities, animal touching and a fun craft that is related to the theme of the day. During one camp day, campers are true marine biologists aboard our Research Vessel and practice animal collecting from the bay!

Entering grades 2nd-5th have two options of Explorers camps: Wetland Explorers and Ocean Explorers. These camps are similar in structure but delve into two different habitats. They were designed so that our dedicated marine scientists could attend 2 weeks of camp without much repetition in curriculum. While Wetland Explorers focuses on the San Francisco Bay’s animals and habitats including marshes, sloughs and mudflats, the Ocean Explorers camp focuses on coastal California and the world ocean. Both camps explore how we are connected to those habitats and how we have a direct impact on their health. The Explorer camps both have 2 days at our site, 2 different field trips, and a day aboard our Research Vessel.

Our Naturalist program (entering 4th-5th grade) is for campers who have previously attended one of the Explorers camps and are ready to dive a little deeper into marine science and research methods. Campers will learn how to be naturalists and will focus on aspects within both the wetland and oceanic habitats. This fast-paced camp has 2 days at our site, 2 field trips and a trip aboard our Research Vessel to take students behind the scenes as marine biologists.

Underwater Investigators is for campers entering 6th-8th grades and involves much scientific investigation. Campers explore the varied fields within marine science including marine ecology, biodiversity, biological oceanography and more by using scientific data collection and analysis on land, boat and canoe. Our middle school age camp even has an overnight aboard the Research Vessel!

Our final camp option occurs just one week of the summer. The Project Discovery campers (entering 9th-12th grades) have an action packed week starting with animal sampling and data collection aboard the Research Vessel, followed by 4 days of camping along the coastline. This camp is geared towards high school students who want to study marine biology in the field.

Join us this summer for new field trips, activities, and friends! Week-long sessions are available June 13 – August 12. Registration begins Monday February 1 at 8 am.




(all camps run Mon-Fri – camp is closed for July 4th holiday, and that week will be prorated)

Plankton Pioneers $415 K-1 June 13, June 27, July 5, August 1, August 8
Wetland Explorers $500 2-5 June 13, June 20, June 27, July 11, July 18, July 25
Ocean Explorers $500 2-5 June 13, June 20, June 27, July 5, July 11, July 18, July 25, August 1, August 8
Naturalists $550 4-5

(for returning campers only)

July 5, July 18, August 1, August 8
Underwater Investigators $650 6-8 June 20, July 11, July 25
Project Discovery $1300 9-12 July 18


Summer Marine Science Camp is just around the corner. To learn more please visit our webpage at or contact Alex, the Marine Camp Manager at 650-364-2760 x19 or e-mail

Share this article, and the opportunity to register with your friends and family.


Marine Science Institute is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) not for profit organization
©2016. All Rights Reserved

Fishing for Teachers, a BayLines Original Article

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In September, Marine Science Institute (MSI) hosted its sixth annual teacher event, “From Ship to Shore, All You Need to Know and More!” This year’s event focused on MSI’s program alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which were adopted by California in 2013. Through mini workshops, an information table full of resources and conversations with dedicated staff, teachers learned about their options for providing NGSS-aligned, hands-on programs for their students.

Along with mapping out precise alignment with NGSS, MSI has been busy creating a whole new selection of thematic field trip and classroom program bundles, an approach we call “multiple-exposure programming.” Multiple-exposure programs provide a benefit for students; students are able to assimilate new knowledge over time by connecting to prior learning and activities. One of the programs highlighted at the teacher event was MSI’s Scientific Method Combination – Marsh and Beach Exploration for grades 4 and higher. Teachers were able to participate in program activities, including collecting data from a mock wrack line–a line of debris (both natural and human-made) left on the beach after high tide. During the Scientific Method Combination – Marsh and Beach Exploration program, students collect and catalogue debris found at the beach, and then create a graph to display the data. The activities incorporate many scientific practices, including asking questions, carrying out investigations, and collecting and analyzing data.

Another new multiple-exposure opportunity presented at the teacher event was our Biomimicry Program. The NGSS emphasize engineering design as an essential part of science education for all grade levels. MSI’s Biomimicry programs target engineering requirements for grades 3-12. Teachers at the event used different senses as they walked blindfolded, identifying functions and possible adaptations of things found in nature. This activity exemplified the first step of the biomimetic design process through which students learn how to observe and interpret lessons from the natural world. These activities were adapted from

The fun continued as teachers enjoyed delicious appetizers by the Bay with a glass of wine in hand, asking questions and test driving MSI’s new website. In 2016, MSI will launch a new and improved website through which teachers can search programs by grades, easily locate classroom activities and browse printable guides that show MSI program alignment with the NGSS

We hope that the teachers who attended our event enjoyed learning about our programs and walked away with new ideas and resources. It was a pleasure to host them. We’d like to thank Russian Ridge Winery for the wonderful wine donation; Jackie Siminitus, Dragon Productions, Go To Chocolate, Applebee’s and Aqui’sCalMex for some really great raffle prizes; MSI Board Members Jim Crawford, Sean Caplice and Michael Odai for funding the event; and,Oracle for the amazing volunteers!Finally, thank you, teachers, for your hard work all year-round.


If you are a teacher who is interested in adding marine science into your classroom
please contact our office at 650-364-2760 or by email at


This article was featured in our BayLines Winter Edition 2015-2016.

Marine Science Institute is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) not for profit organization
©2015. All Rights Reserved

New Hands on Deck, a BayLines Original Article

Jodi Stewart: School Programs Coordinator

Jodi received her B.S. in Biology from University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, and a B.S. Honours in Environmental Sciences from Deakin University, Australia. She joined MSI as an instructor in 2013. Jodi was drawn to MSI’s broad reach of students in the Bay Area and the educational programs aboard the R/V Robert G. Brownlee. She is the primary contact for teachers, schedules MSI programs, and updates and maintains our database.

Melanie Kimbel: Advancement Director

Melanie has built long career in the nonprofit world working primarily for environmental initiatives at organizations including San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, San Jose Conservation Corps, Sempervirens Fund, Our City Forest and the Girl Scouts of Northern California, as well as for the office of Congressman Don Edwards.  Melanie has a B.S. in Public Relations from San Jose State University. As Advancement Director at MSI, Melanie is responsible for the management and oversight of all fundraising activities.

Carlie Cooney: Land Program Manager

Carlie earned her B.S. in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in marine biology from the University of California, Davis. Before coming to MSI, Carlie worked as a Science Instructor at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point. She joined the Marine Science Institute in February 2013 as a Marine Educator. Carlie now manages MSI’s land-based programs and promotes stewardship and education in the San Francisco Bay Area.

To learn more about employment opportunities please visit our webpage at


This article was featured in our BayLines Autumn Edition 2015.

Marine Science Institute is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) not for profit organization
©2015. All Rights Reserved

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