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Dive into Summer at the Marine Education Center

Dive into Summer at the Marine Education Center
By Ashley Schafer Karcher

This summer, kids on the coast can get involved in something fishy: ocean-themed summer camps at the Marine Education Center. With more than 80 miles of coastal beaches, marshes and islands, it’s no surprise that Mississippi houses one of the premier marine research facilities in the nation: The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL).

The Marine Education Center (MEC) is the education and outreach arm of Gulf Coast Research Laboratory and strives to produce well-informed and knowledgeable stewards of Mississippi’s coastal ecosystems. The waterfront location offers direct access to coastal bayous and beaches, including Davis Bayou, Biloxi Bay, Mississippi Sound, Horn Island, Ship Island, Cat Island, Petit Bois Island and the Gulf of Mexico.

The MEC’s Coastal Science Camp program began in 1989 and provides campers with hands-on experience focused on dynamic coastal habitats, marine plants and animals, and current research at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

“Parents know when they bring their students to the MEC for summer camps that the experience can have a profound impact,” Education Marketing Specialist Anita Arguelles said. “The event can change the course of a young person’s life, awakening an interest in a STEM career and giving them the confidence to pursue their future.”

The MEC is offering the following camps this summer:

Sea Camp

Summer 2019 marks the 32nd year for the MEC’s popular Sea Camp. Marine educators provide students with a rich educational experience through games and hands-on activities that include live animal encounters and opportunities to fish, crab, seine and sieve. Students will participate in field trips appropriate for their ages, such as exploring beach habitats or a day at Ship Island.

Shaggy’s Angler’s Camp

During the week-long camp, young anglers will learn how to throw a net to catch bait, tag and release fish, and how to target speckled trout, redfish and flounder. Participants will also explore fish biology and behavior and how weather, wind, moon and tides affect fishing.

Sharkheads Shark Fest

Campers spend a week learning about one of the ocean’s top predators, and will participate in catching, tagging and releasing sharks.

Ocean Science and Technology

This new camp for high school students is a career-focused look at ocean science. Arguelles said the students are being included in a real-time deep-sea exploration of two shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The shipwrecks have been located, but this is the first time that anyone will see them and take samples. USM scientist Dr. Leila Hamdan is lead on the expedition. Students will meet the engineers and designers of ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) Odysseus. All participants will build and test ROVs and visit NOAA Data Buoy Center and the USM Department of Marine Science at John C. Stennis Space Center site,” she said.

Scholarships are available for the camps and are primarily awarded based on of financial need. For camp dates, prices and scholarship information, please visit the website:


Ashley Schafer Karcher lives in Ocean Springs with her husband and four children, all of whom have enjoyed various camps at the MEC.

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