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: Plankton Pioneers Sneak Peak

Campers entering Kindergarten through 1st grade have an exhilarating week ahead of them as Plankton Pioneers!

This camp introduces your budding biologist to the wonders of our amazing local marine life, both in the San Francisco Bay and in our world’s ocean. They will experience the animals and habitats first hand through a variety of fun-filled interactive activities. Campers will learn about and touch live animals in a safe and exciting environment, and participate in themed crafts, games, songs and stories. These activities spark excitement about nature and will inspire campers to appreciate our local life!

Each day of camp has a different theme, enabling campers to explore different aspects of marine science. Plankton Pioneers will also create fun crafts, including decorating their own reusable tote bag with marine animal designs and creating their own jelly to play with. They will also spend a day on board our 90’ research vessel, surveying animals from the San Francisco Bay! This ship was designed specifically for teaching programs in the San Francisco Bay. Join us as we go fishing, survey mud and invertebrates, study plankton, sharks, and so much more!

Camps run Monday through Friday select weeks from 8:30am-1pm. Extended care is available until 5:30pm.

Camp availability:

June 13-17 – FULL

June 27-July 1 – AVAILABLE

July 5-8 – AVAILABLE

August 1-5 – FULL

August 8-12 – FULL

Space is available – join the Plankton Pioneers today!


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 Sneak Peek: Welcome to Camp!

What to Expect? Get ready to explore!

As summer approaches, we’re getting ready for another season of science, discovery and excitement. Marine Science Camp offers a magical opportunity for young biologists to explore science in the field, interact with live animals and get their hands wet as they are immersed in a fun outdoor learning environment. Learning outdoors is hard and rewarding work, and campers go home each day having exercised both their minds and bodies with interactive science-focused activities.

What adventures await your camper? What lessons? What fun? When you pull up in the morning, don’t be surprised to be greeted by an instructor in costume, with music blasting to get everyone excited for the day. When you pick up your camper in the afternoon, you’ll see the same costumes and faces smeared with smiles, mud and, possibly, fish scales! During the time in between, campers will enjoy diving into different areas of marine science, habitats and animals.

Interspersed with educational games, songs, stories and crafts, campers will learn about the natural world. They will use scientific equipment to make discoveries and observations. Days spent at our shoreside facility may include explorations in our teaching aquarium, science center or touch tanks. They’ll spend time outdoors, searching for creatures under the docks and in the mud during low tide. On field trips, including one day aboard our 90-foot research vessel, campers will head out into nature to learn how scientists study in the field. At the beach or in the marsh, they will learn to observe their surroundings and find life all around them.

Nothing excites the MSI staff more than to see campers arrive prepared for adventure. Well-prepared campers come ready to get dirty and wet (with closed-toed shoes!), and have thought-provoking questions to stump our staff of marine scientists. They bring trash-free lunches and reusable water bottles. Most of all, our campers arrive curious and eager to learn. They’ll leave with new excitement about science and as stewards of the environment.

Marine Camp Sneak Peek: Keeping Current

Summer after summer we are excited to welcome new faces to the Marine Science Camp community. In the past few years we have also been happy to see familiar faces returning to learn more and to share their knowledge. It is important that we keep our curriculum fresh and exciting while preserving time-tested favorites such as studying our sharks and fish.

Returning campers entering 4th and 5th grade have the option to join our “Naturalist” camps. These camps are specifically for campers with prior MSI experience—this shared experience will be the basis for their team-building and also the scaffolding of knowledge on which the camps will build. We are excited to have our Naturalists diving deeper into marine science with us, and doing even more science throughout the week.

No matter what grade, all of our camps will feature new and re-imagined curriculum that will engage even our most experienced campers. Current events, new research, and topics of emerging interest and importance influence our curriculum development. Our student stewards will learn about the drought and our watershed. They will explore the world ocean gyres and currents that carry animals (and trash) around the globe. They will be on the cutting edge with science technology.

Space is still available in these awesome camps!

Click Here to SIGN UP TODAY.  

Stewardship Monday: What is Citizen Science?

Campers take data on debris collected near Chrissy Field.

Campers take data on debris collected near Chrissy Field.

Citizen Science is research that is conducted entirely, or in part by non-professional scientists, and is an increasingly important way that science is conducted. Anyone can be a scientist! Many research institutes and universities now take advantage of that fact and encourage citizens to contribute to data collection, analysis, and communicating important results.

There are many ways to become a citizen scientist based on your interests, skills, and the level of participation you hope to put in. Smart phone applications, such as iNaturalist and Litterati are ways that you can be a citizen scientist daily—simply take a picture and upload it to their maps, and you have contributed! Other programs require training or special skills, such as ReefCheck for SCUBA divers.

All of these programs have in common that they empower non-professional scientists to contribute to science that makes a difference. It is a great way to dive into a topic that you care about, to learn, and often, to protect.

Interns take fish data

Interns take fish data

At Marine Science Institute, our students and our volunteers are all citizen scientists. In particular, they contribute to our Fish Data Program, through which we have collected data on the fish in the San Francisco Bay for over 40 years. Through this program, volunteers can collect, analyze, and share our data—and have opportunities to learn more about marine science, and to become a part of the science community. Last Saturday, some of our citizen science volunteers shared their work at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Currents Symposium about citizen science.

You can join our fantastic corps of volunteers too! This is a wonderful opportunity for those who are interested in gaining valuable hands-on experience with data collection in the field, community service hours, or to acquire knowledge of the animals in the Bay. The opportunity to analyze the data is great for those interested in analysis, trends, and patters that emerge from long term observations. Click here to learn more about the program and to see some results!

Marine Camp Sneak Peek: Plankton Pioneers, Small but Mighty

Our Plankton Pioneers (campers entering kindergarten thru 1st grade) are in for an exciting week. Just like real plankton, our Plankton Pioneers are small but important, and are beginning a hopefully long journey with MSI. We have had some MSI stars that started as Plankton and have swam their way through all the camps to become volunteers and even counselors!

Touching a leopard shark

Touching a leopard shark

A week of Plankton Pioneer camp opens campers’ eyes to the magic and wonder of marine life. Learning about and touching live animals in a safe and exciting environment inspires excitement about science, and an awe of nature. Campers won’t even realize that they are learning as they play, dance, and sing about the animals and habitats that they are experiencing first-hand.

Some favorite games include the “Plankton Game” and “Marine Yoga”. These simple activities get bodies moving and imaginations flowing—and they reinforce concepts about the animals campers have seen! In the “Plankton Game” our Plankton Pioneers act like (what else?) Plankton, and “drift” with their leader “the water” through whirlpools, waves and changing tides! For “Marine Yoga” our Plankton stretch their imaginations to pose and act like their favorite animals—they reach with their tentacles like an anemone, walk like a crab and jump like a shrimp. We love to see smiling faces and hear giggles and laughter as our campers remember all of the different animals that they have touched.

Each day of camp has a special theme that introduces campers to different aspects of marine science, plus, of course, Boat Day! The games, songs and animals that campers see each day pertain to these themes. Each of the days spent on land also feature a fun craft! Your camper will come home with a colorful creation related to what they learned about every day—a perfect souvenir and conversation starter.

Space is still available for your budding biologist, sign up today!

Stewardship Monday: Plankton Soup

“How fast can the fastest plankton move? How short-lived is the shortest-lived, and how long-lived is the longest-lived plankton?” Plankton has always captured the interest and imaginations of our students, and they are more popular than ever thanks to certain under-the-sea television characters. And well it should be, plankton is extremely important to life both in the ocean and on land. Though most plankton is microscopic, it is responsible for producing a majority of Earth’s oxygen, capturing CO2, and being the base of the oceanic food web.

The first question is, “What is plankton?” Plankton is a category of living things that live in any natural body of water and cannot move or swim against a prevailing current (although they can move). This group of drifters in incredibly diverse, including bacteria, single-celled plants, tiny animals, and even giant jellies! Because this group is so diverse, determining the life-span is difficult. Life-spans may range from a couple of days to several years, to possibly infinity (check out the “immortal jellyfish”)!

The “fastest” plankton, is actually the fastest animal on the planet! With consideration given to its size, the fastest animal is the copepod. “If it were the size of a cheetah, it would be able to run at 2,000 miles per hour” ( The copepod is the model for the famous Plankton character, and our students are always excited to see it here in the San Francisco Bay. 

Plankton don’t have to be racers like the copepod to move quickly. Copepods move in small bursts of speed, but like all other plankton, they also drift with the currents. The fastest currents include the Florida Current flowing into the Gulf Stream from the Carribean to the North Atlantic, and the Agulhas Current from Mozambique down the south east coast of South Africa. Both of these currents have pak speeds of about 2m/s.

These currents carry plankton quickly around the ocean. They also carry other things in the water, dispersing them far and wide. Trash, especially plastic, can move in currents just like plankton.

Stewardship action: let the plankton ride the currents, not the plastic! Reduce your plastic use, and make sure plastic ends up in the recycling, not the trash or on the ground!

MSI’s Discovery Lab

The mission of the Marine Science Institute (MSI), founded in 1970 as a 501(c) 3 non-profit, is to cultivate a responsibility for the San Francisco Bay Area’s natural environment through high quality interdisciplinary science education programs. Our programs are developed by MSI instructors in partnership with teachers and professional marine biologists, and updated regularly to meet State educational standards. MSI offerings build foundational scientific skills and knowledge, including elements of those of physics, geology, biology, microbiology, and chemistry.  We facilitate active learning, observation and critical thinking through a variety of programs, most of which involve safe, supervised contact with local marine animals.

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The Discovery Lab is a central feature of our shore side facilities–the homebase for our operations, and the site where we host thousands of students each year. The 2,000 square-foot aquarium is the temporary home for live marine animals from the nearby Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay. Providing a healthy and safe environment for more than 70 animals in our 2,600 gallon Bay system and 1,800 gallon Ocean system is crucial to our work in engaging students of all ages toward an interest in marine science. MSI instructors not only teach students through interaction with the animals at our facility in Redwood City, but also transport these animals in a specially designed aquarium trailer towed behind MSI vans or trucks to schools across the nine counties we serve in the Bay Area.

Stewardship Monday: Sea Lions on Shore

We have been hearing a lot about sea lion pups washing up on shore looking underfed, and often get asked, “What is happening to the Sea Lions?” It is certainly hard to see baby animals in distress, and the amount of animals washing ashore has been alarming, so we went to the experts at the Marine Mammal Center to get an answer.

Here is what Frances Gulland of the Marine Mammal Center has to say:

“…there is some talk of [the sea lion] population having recovered after MMPA protection in 1972, and having reached carrying capacity. Carrying capacity is the population level the environment can support. Mammal populations are essentially controlled by natural factors that kick in when at “carrying capacity”.

Thus, when talking about sea lion mortality, we should be clear that

  1. Mortality is of pups that are of an age when they should be on the rookery suckling from mothers
  2. Pups are emaciated but do not have obvious disease
  3. Problem must be with lack of mother’s milk, and hence mothers food supply, but we don’t have much direct hard evidence of this
  4. If mothers food supply limited, it could be for several reasons
  5. Fish moved away from the Channel Islands, or deeper, from where mothers feed, due to oceanographic changes such as El Nino
  6. Overfishing of forage fish in southern California
  7. Large sea lion population has eaten all forage fish in the area

We do what we do for animal welfare reasons, and try to glean as much science as we can, and do as much education as we can over marine mammal conservation.”

If you see a stranded marine mammal, make sure you keep your distance, make careful observations, and report it to a rescue center! Click here for more information.

Remember! The Marine Mammal Protection Act requires that humans stay 50 yards away from seals and sea lions. Under this protection, human activity should not influence the animal’s behavior. Click here to learn more.

Many thanks to our friends at the Marine Mammal Center for this information and for hosting our guests for a behind-the-scenes tour!

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