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Doc Bruce Visits the Captiva Yacht Club

 Dr. Bruce Neill led a beach walk for members of the Captiva Yacht Club. Photo courtesy of Captiva Yacht Club. 

Dr. Bruce Neill led a beach walk for members of the Captiva Yacht Club. Photo courtesy of Captiva Yacht Club. 

Sanibel Sea School’s Executive Director, Dr. Bruce Neill, led a beach walk for members of the Captiva Yacht Club in mid-April. The event has become a post-Easter tradition, and has been organized for the past four years. 

 Photo courtesy of Captiva Yacht Club. 

Photo courtesy of Captiva Yacht Club. 

“We take a walk along the beach and discuss any interesting objects or creatures we find,” said Neill. “This year, we talked about seasonal changes in the ocean and fish migration, which felt appropriate for spring,” he added. Participants were also invited to use a seine net, and children were able to gently hold a pufferfish before releasing it back into the sea. 

 Photo courtesy of Captiva Yacht Club. 

Photo courtesy of Captiva Yacht Club. 

“Many of our Yacht Club families have come to Sanibel Sea School for years, and I enjoy watching the kids learn and grow, and be able to identify creatures. Many are summer campers, so it’s a nice opportunity to touch in with them mid-year,” said Neill. He also explained the value of building partnerships between different organizations in the community, and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to explore the ocean with club members each year. 

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org.

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A Young Student Educates Restaurant Management About Plastic Straws

 Alina met with the vice president of a popular restaurant to discuss disposable plastic straws.  

Alina met with the vice president of a popular restaurant to discuss disposable plastic straws.  

A young ocean advocate named Alina has inspired all of us here at Sanibel Sea School! After attending Coastal Keepers' screening of STRAWS, an educational film about plastic straw pollution, she wrote a letter to the vice president of a well-known restaurant in Washington, DC requesting to meet and discuss the restaurant’s use of disposable plastic straws. He agreed to meet with her, and her message was well-received. From now on, the restaurant will only provide straws upon request, cutting consumption by about half.

Alina’s efforts did not stop there. She broached the topic at her school and provided reusable, stainless-steel straws to her principal and some of her teachers. Alina was then recognized at her school’s assembly, and a group of older children are now starting a similar effort based on her success.

We interviewed Alina about her experience, and why keeping plastic out of the ocean is so important to her. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How old are you, where are you from, what are your hobbies?
I am eight years old. I am from Russia, but I live in Washington, DC. I was adopted when I was just about three. I lived in Sanibel for almost two years and visit every year to go to Sea School. My hobbies are drawing, taking care of animals, playing the piano, horseback riding, biking, scootering, and reading. I am on a swim team too. I joined my very first swim team on Sanibel, SWAT, when I was 5. 

What's your favorite sea creature?
I don't have a favorite sea creature. I love them all.

Where did you learn about the impacts of straws on animals and the environment? 
My mother first taught me not to use plastic straws and plastic bags when I came from Russia. I saw photos in the newspaper and at Sea School this year, I watched a documentary about how straws are bad for the planet. Divers hated seeing straws down in the sea. A turtle was found by divers. It had something in its nose. The divers tried to pull it out and it broke. One of the divers bit on it and it was plastic. The turtle was bleeding and I cried. 

Why did you choose to work with this restaurant? 
I noticed a lot, a lot of straws at this restaurant when I ate there.

Tell us about meeting with the vice president of the restaurant - were you nervous? What did you tell him? How did he respond? 
I wasn't nervous - well, I was when I first saw him, but he turned out to be a really nice man. Once we sat down, I wasn't nervous anymore. I told him that straws are not good for the planet at all and animals get them stuck in their bodies, and I showed him pictures. I told him that he could use bamboo straws. I told him that people don't need straws for water and that the restaurant should wait for people to ask before giving them a straw. He said he feels the same way. He is going to stop putting straws in water automatically, which he said will cut the number of straws used in half. He said I should do this at other restaurants too. 

How does it feel to know that you are making a difference? 
I feel really good because I know I am helping animals. They need help. And I'm helping the ocean. 

What advice would you give other kids who want to stand up for something that is important to them? 
You have to let people know what you feel. You can't hide it. You don't have to be worried. If you meet an adult to talk about something, they will never be mean. Stand up for what you believe in. If nobody ever stood up, we wouldn't be able to make the world a better place. 

Thank you so much, Alina! 

 

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Sanibel Sea School Summer Camp Registration Open Now

 Surfing is a popular activity among Sanibel Sea School campers. 

Surfing is a popular activity among Sanibel Sea School campers. 

Registration for Sanibel Sea School’s summer camp programs is open now, and space is still available for a number of weeks. Camp runs from June 4th to August 24th at three locations – Sanibel Sea School’s Flagship Campus, Sundial Beach Resort, and Canterbury School in Fort Myers. There are programs planned for campers ages 4-18. 

The nonprofit’s summer camps offer a chance for participants to learn about marine biology in a fun setting, while also practicing waterman skills, making art, and spending time with friends. “Favorite camp activities include surfing, snorkeling, crafts, and any sort of dissection,” said Camp Coordinator Nicole Finnicum. “We have a surfing competition at the end of each week, which campers always look forward to, and we also take so many great field trips to explore the ocean,” she added.

Currently, there is space available in Pea-Sized Pufferfish Week, a program specifically for 4-6 year olds, a coral reef expedition to the Florida Keys for 11-12 year olds, an expedition to Belize for teens ages 15-18, as well as a variety of camps for 6-13 year olds, each with its own ocean-related theme. 

For details and registration information, please visit sanibelseaschool.org/sanibel-camps or call (239) 472-8585. Scholarships are available upon request. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time.

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Sanibel Sea School Partners With Child Care of Southwest Florida

 Char Cadow used a seine net with CCSWFL students. 

Char Cadow used a seine net with CCSWFL students. 

Sanibel Sea School has partnered with Child Care of Southwest Florida (CCSWFL) to provide meaningful ocean learning opportunities for landlocked children in our region. Kids in CCSWFL’s after school programs will interact with the Sea School’s marine science educators twice each month, once in their classroom and once during a field-based experience at the beach. The group enjoyed its first visit to Causeway Islands Park in mid-March.

During the field trip, participants had a chance to swim and practice using a seine net. They caught and released pinfish, Atlantic silversides, and comb jellies. “I’ve never seen a group so excited to try the net,” said educator Char Cadow. “These kids would have seined all day, if time allowed,” she added. The students have already started a countdown to the date of their next visit.

This partnership is made possible by Sanibel Sea School’s donor-supported scholarship fund, which also funds partnerships with the Gladiolus Center for Learning and Development, the Heights Foundation, the Pine Manor Improvement Association, the PACE Center for Girls, Lee and Hendry County Schools, and others. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. Learn more at sanibelseaschool.org. CCSWFL’s mission is to strengthen and enhance the lives of children and their families by providing affordable and exceptional childhood education and nutrition. More information is available at ccswfl.org.

 

 

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After School Surfing Returns in April

 Kids can learn to surf at Sanibel Sea School. 

Kids can learn to surf at Sanibel Sea School. 

On Wednesday afternoons in April from 3:30 to 5:30, Sanibel Sea School will offer surfing lessons for students ages 6-13. Participants will have an opportunity to learn how to surf for the first time, or to improve their existing skills. 

“In this program, we will teach proper paddling techniques, how to maneuver the surfboard through the water, and how to pop up and catch a wave,” said Director of Education Nicole Finnicum. “Surfing is a great way to connect with the ocean in an active way, and we think every Florida kid should know how to do it,” she added. 

Pick up and drop off for this program will be at Sanibel Sea School’s Flagship Campus, located at 455 Periwinkle Way. The cost is $36 per child per session. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more and register, visit sanibelseaschool.org or call (239) 472-8585. 

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Staff Spotlight: Kalli Unthank

Help us welcome Kalli Unthank, the newest member of our education team. Kalli is an enthusiastic science educator who will be managing our Sundial campus. Learn more about her below. 


 Kalli Unthank

Kalli Unthank

Where are you from?
I'm from Louisville, KY, sometimes called "the Portland, OR of the south." We're pretty hip.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I studied marine science at Jacksonville University, then I went to Florida International University and earned my M.S. in Geosciences. 

Is there something about working at Sanibel Sea School that you are looking most forward to? 
I'm really looking forward to creating fun and exciting relationships with everyone. I love meeting new people and getting them excited about the ocean and science in general!

What do you like to do during your time off?
I love doing anything outside, especially if it involves the water! 

Favorite sea creature?
Peacock flounders. Their eyes are so funky and I love watching them change colors as they move through the ocean.

What's the best music for a weekend at the beach?
Any upbeat music that gets you moving!

If you could visit any marine ecosystem on the planet, where would you go?
I would go to The Blue Hole in Belize, or anywhere else with Elkhorn Coral. It's so beautiful but so endangered now. 

Is there anything else you'd like to share about yourself?
I've spent most of my time on the east coast of Florida, so I'm looking forward to exploring the west coast.

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Sanibel Sea School’s Octifest Raises Funds to Support Ocean Education

 Guests at Octifest 2018 enjoyed sunset views. 

Guests at Octifest 2018 enjoyed sunset views. 

Sanibel Sea School’s annual fundraiser, Octifest, was held Sunday, March 11th in a big top tent on Causeway Island A. The event was attended by nearly 200 guests, and raised funds that will support ocean outreach programs, provide scholarships to students in need, and help the organization purchase needed supplies for its field-based classes and camps.

“We are very grateful to have the support of the Sanibel community,” said the Sea School’s Development Director, Chrissy Basturk. “We are surrounded by people who understand the importance of sharing meaningful ocean experiences with students.” All fundraising goals were exceeded during this year’s event, which will make it possible for Sanibel Sea School to grant more scholarships than ever before in 2018. 

“We partner with many schools and partner organizations throughout the year to bring landlocked kids to Sanibel to learn about the ocean, often at no cost to them,” said Basturk. “The money raised at Octifest means we are always able to say yes when we receive scholarship and outreach program requests from individual families and teachers.” Sanibel Sea School will add a new, scholarship-funded outreach program with Child Care of Southwest Florida to its schedule beginning this month.

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org. 

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Free Community Seminars at Sanibel Sea School 

Sanibel Sea School will offer two Community Seminars in March. The first, Fracking Explained, will be taught by geologist Connie Jump, and will be held on March 15th at 4 PM. The second seminar is titled Making Better Nature Photos, and will be led by photographer Cliff Beittel on March 22nd at 4 PM. Both are free opportunities for community members to learn about a new topic or skill. 

 
 Connie Jump

Connie Jump

 

Fracking Explained will cover the history of fracking, as well as why, how, and where it is carried out today. While fracking is a controversial topic, this event is intended as a technical information session only, and will not be formatted as a debate. Jump is retired after more than 30 years of experience in the oil industry, and wants to support people in becoming more knowledgeable and informed about the environmental issues they care about. 

 
 Cliff Beittel (photo by James Craner)

Cliff Beittel (photo by James Craner)

 

Cliff Beittel is an acclaimed bird photographer, and will offer participants tips to capture the best possible nature photos with the equipment they have available. Topics will include how to choose a camera, the basics of capturing a good photo, lighting, timing, subjects, and more. This is a perfect seminar for anyone who would like to improve their photography skills. 

All Community Seminars will be held at Sanibel Sea School, located at 455 Periwinkle Way. No reservations are necessary. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org or call (239) 472-8585.  

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Sanibel Sea School to Offer Free Guided Beach Walk in March

 Sanibel Sea School offers a free guided beach walk for community members each month. 

Sanibel Sea School offers a free guided beach walk for community members each month. 

On Saturday, March 10th, Sanibel Sea School will offer a free community beach walk. The walk will be guided by Walter Cheatham, a marine educator who is also the organization's outdoor education coordinator. This event will provide an opportunity for participants to learn about some of the items that commonly wash ashore on our beaches. 

"I love guiding beach walks, because you never know what the ocean has in store. We find something new and different every time," said Cheatham. "I also like to challenge people to find things I can't identify, and I encourage everyone to ask lots of questions," he added. 

To join the walk, meet at Sanibel Sea School's Flagship Campus (455 Periwinkle Way) at 9 AM. The event will last approximately 2 hours, but you are welcome to come and go at your leisure. All ages are welcome, but children must be accompanied by an adult. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean's future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org

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Sanibel Sea School Offers Day Camps for Little Ones

 Young children can explore the ocean during Sanibel Sea School's Sea Squirts Day Camps.

Young children can explore the ocean during Sanibel Sea School's Sea Squirts Day Camps.

Beginning in February, Sanibel Sea School will add seasonal classes for 4-6 year olds to the organization’s schedule of field-based marine science learning opportunities. The program will be called Sea Squirts, and will be offered through mid-April.

Like the nonprofit’s classes for 6-13 year olds, Sea Squirts Day Camps will cover a different topic each week, and activities will include crabbing, rock flipping, mud walks, and more. Led by enthusiastic and knowledgeable instructors, each class will be two hours long. "The idea is to help our youngest students feel comfortable in the water, so they will be ready for things like snorkeling and surfing by the time they turn six and can sign up for our other programs," said Nicole Finnicum, Sanibel Sea School's Director of Education.

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more about Sea Squirts and register, please visit sanibelseaschool.org or call (239) 472-8585.  

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Hendry County Students Visit Sanibel Sea School

 Emmett Horvath observed a live shell with Hendry County students. 

Emmett Horvath observed a live shell with Hendry County students. 

Sanibel Sea School continued its long-term partnership with Hendry County Schools when a group of students visited the nonprofit on February 8th for a day of ocean learning and exploration. Participants from multiple grades and schools spent the morning at Bunche Beach, where they learned about mangrove ecology and searched for marine creatures in the shallow tide pools. 

Emmett Horvath, a marine educator for the Sea School, pointed out sea hares, horseshoe crabs, and live lightning whelks, explaining the role that each species plays in the ecosystem. “These kids were so excited about their field trip,” he said. “They had already learned about mangroves in the classroom, so they were ready to experience the habitat for themselves and came prepared with many great questions.”

The ongoing partnership is supported by Sanibel Sea School’s scholarship fund, which ensures that cost never prevents individuals from learning about the ocean. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org.

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Sanibel Sea School’s Octifest Supports Ocean Outreach

 Students from the Heights Foundation enjoyed a scholarship-supported educational outing with Sanibel Sea School. 

Students from the Heights Foundation enjoyed a scholarship-supported educational outing with Sanibel Sea School. 

Octifest on the Beach, Sanibel Sea School’s annual ocean celebration and fundraiser, will once again be held bayside on Causeway Island A. The event will take place on Sunday, March 11th at 6:30 PM, and will support the many outreach programs offered by the nonprofit organization, including scholarships for local children to attend ocean summer camps and day programs.  

“There is a remarkable need for high-quality experiential ocean education in our region,” said Dr. Bruce Neill, executive director and co-founder of the organization. “Each year, we receive many scholarship requests from teachers and individuals who want to give their children a meaningful learning opportunity. We hold Octifest to ensure that we can always say yes.” Sanibel Sea School provided more than 2,000 scholarships in 2017, and has never allowed financial circumstances to prevent a student from participating.

Over the past decade, Sanibel Sea School has forged strong partnerships with fellow non-profits including the Heights Foundation, Pine Manor Improvement Association, Gladiolus Center for Learning and Development, and the PACE Center for Girls, bringing hundreds of at-risk kids to experience Sanibel’s waters each year. They also work with numerous schools in Lee and Hendry Counties. “We call these our landlocked kids,” said Neill. “They live near the coast, but many have never set foot on the beach. Showing these kids a jellyfish or teaching them to surf for the first time is an incredible thing. It opens their minds, helps them build confidence, and enhances their classroom success.”

It is thanks to support from the local community that Sanibel Sea School is able to provide these outreach programs, which are funded by donors. Octifest is the single largest source of funds for the organization each year. “We hope you will join us for sunset views, a delicious and sustainable meal, and a few opportunities to support a very good cause,” said Neill. 

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more about Octifest or to purchase tickets, visit octifest.org or call 239-472-8585.

 

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Kids Can Fish or Surf After School at Sea School

 Sanibel Sea School will offer after school fishing and surfing lessons in March and April. 

Sanibel Sea School will offer after school fishing and surfing lessons in March and April. 

Sanibel Sea School will once again offer After School Programs for local students in March and April. Activities will include fishing and surfing, and participants will have a chance to learn a new sport or improve their existing skills.

Fishing classes are open to children ages 8-13 and will cover topics such as cast netting, knot tying, and fish finding. Students will have a chance to practice what they learn in a field-based setting. Surfing lessons are open to participants ages 6-13, and instructors will demonstrate how to paddle, turn, “pop-up”, and catch a wave. Each student will receive individual attention and instruction.

“It’s easy to get caught in the cycle of homework, evening routines, and television, but we think it’s important for Florida kids to make time to explore the ocean that is right in their backyard,” said Nicole Finnicum, the organization’s Director of Education. “Our After School Programs are designed to give students the basic skills they will need to enjoy a lifetime of fun in the water,” she added.

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. Fishing will be held on Wednesdays in March, and Surfing will be held on Wednesdays in April from 3:30 to 5:30 PM at Sanibel Sea School’s Flagship Campus (455 Periwinkle Way). Cost is $36 per student per session. To learn more and register, visit sanibelseaschool.org/afterschool or call (239) 472-8585. 

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Sanibel Sea School Offers River Class for Adults

 A series of classes about rivers at Sanibel Sea School will look at how these bodies of water shape our world. 

A series of classes about rivers at Sanibel Sea School will look at how these bodies of water shape our world. 

Sanibel Sea School’s series of Winter Workshops for adults continues in February with Rivers: The Great Connectors. Led by the organization’s executive director, marine biologist Dr. Bruce Neill, the classroom-based, four-part course will examine how rivers near and far connect and shape ecosystems and human communities.  

“Rivers form the connection between so many things in our world,” said Neill. “They connect lakes to oceans, people to water, and inland habitats to coastal communities. It is fascinating to think about the biological, social, and political impacts they have had in Florida and around the world.” 

Session topics will include how rivers evolve over time and geography, how climate affects river ecosystems, how humans are changing rivers, and the important role that rivers have played in civilization throughout history. 

Sessions will be held 2/21, 2/28, 3/7, and 3/14 from 9 AM – 12 PM at Sanibel Sea School’s Flagship Campus (455 Periwinkle Way). The cost is $75 per session. Students are invited to sign up for individual topics, or to register for the entire series. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org/sanibel-adult-programs or call (239) 472-8585. 

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time.

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Pine Manor Students Visit Sanibel Sea School

 Participants prepared for a stand up paddleboarding lesson. 

Participants prepared for a stand up paddleboarding lesson. 

Students from the Pine Manor Improvement Association visited Sanibel Sea School on a windy Saturday morning to learn about marine science and enjoy a day at the beach.

Activities included using a seine net to catch fish, swimming, and stand up paddling lessons. “Many of our Pine Manor students rarely have an opportunity to visit the coast, despite living right over the bridge in Fort Myers,” said educator Johnny Rader. “It’s always fun to see how excited they are to learn new ocean facts and skills,” he added.

Some participants learned how to use a stand up paddleboard for the first time, and each received one-on-one guidance from Sanibel Sea School’s instructors. By the end of the day, every child successfully paddled a course, despite heavy winds and rough waters. Other highlights included catching shrimp, jellyfish, tonguefish, and other unique creatures in the seagrass, and a picnic lunch at the Sea School.

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This and other outreach programs are made possible by Sanibel Sea School’s donor-supported scholarship fund, which ensures that no individual is turned away from ocean learning due to cost.

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Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. The Pine Manor Improvement Association is a private non-profit agency that provides services to approximately 3,000 children and families that are at risk in the Pine Manor area of Fort Myers. Learn more at sanibelseaschool.org. 

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Staff Spotlight: Char Cadow and Emmett Horvath

Sanibel Sea School is growing, and we are happy to welcome two new marine science educators to our team. Char Cadow hails from Norwich, VT and loves avocados. Emmett Horvath is our first former Sanibel Sea School student to join us as a full time, year-round employee! Learn more about Char and Emmett below...


Char Cadow, Marine Science Educator

Where are you from?
I’m from the wee little town of Norwich, VT, known for King Arthur Flour, Dan and Whits General Store, and the Saturday Farmer’s Market.

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Where did you go to school and what did you study? 
I studied Environmental Science at Colorado College. CC is a small liberal arts school situated at the base of Pikes Peak, Colorado.

Is there something about working at Sanibel Sea School that you are looking most forward to?
There is so much to learn about marine ecosystems, and I am super jazzed to share the ongoing discovery process with kids, adults, and the groovy team at Sx3. 

What do you like to do during your time off? 
I love to run, bike, longboard, explore, hike, paddleboard, read, practice yoga, journal, watercolor, play the guitar, and cook! Sometimes I sleep, too.

Favorite sea creature: 
Dwarf seahorse because: 1) They have prehensile tails; 2) They’re defying gender norms; 3) They look like horses; 4) We can find them in the seagrass just down the road! 

What's the best music for a weekend at the beach? 
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

If you could visit any marine ecosystem on the planet, where would you go? 
I would go to Alaska, but there’s almost 34,000 miles of shoreline in Alaska, so I’d logically have to visit the fjords, mudflats, rocky intertidal, and the lagoons. 

Is there anything else you'd like to share about yourself? 
My favorite food (also my spirit fruit) is avocado with olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon.


Emmett Horvath, Marine Science Educator

Where are you from?
Hanover, New Hampshire... Live Free or Die!

Where did you go to school and what did you study? 
I attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where I majored in marine biology, minored in studio art, and ran cross country.

Is there something about working at Sanibel Sea School that you are looking most forward to?I'm looking forward to being part of a tribe where every day is an adventure in the great outdoors!

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What do you like to do during your time off? 
I like to run, longboard, canoe, hike, adventure, and explore!

Favorite sea creature: 
Definitely the osprey, my spirit animal, though sharks, specifically lemon and whale sharks, are close runners-up!

What's the best music for a weekend at the beach? 
Bluegrass (look up Trampled By Turtles), and jazz (check out the Dirty Dozen Brass Band).

If you could visit any marine ecosystem on the planet, where would you go? 
I haven't spent very much time on the Pacific side of the continent, so the Pacific Northwest is definitely high up on my list!

Is there anything else you'd like to share about yourself? 
Part of my heritage is Swedish and my ancestors were Vikings; the sea is in my blood. 

Thank you, Char and Emmett! 

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Donors Help Sanibel Sea School Purchase New Transportation

 Sanibel Sea School staff members Char Cadow, Christina Gould, Sam Lucas, Shannon Stainken, Emmett Horvath, Nicole Finnicum, Johnny Rader, and Bruce Neill pose for a photo with one of the organization's new vans.

Sanibel Sea School staff members Char Cadow, Christina Gould, Sam Lucas, Shannon Stainken, Emmett Horvath, Nicole Finnicum, Johnny Rader, and Bruce Neill pose for a photo with one of the organization's new vans.

Thanks to the Szymanczyk Family and a group of supporters who call themselves The Sanibel Sea School Friends, Sanibel Sea School was able to purchase three gently-used vans for use in the organization’s educational programs and camps. 

Sanibel Sea School’s teaching staff members, who often drive students to locations around the island for field-based ocean learning programs, explained that the aging buses previously used by the school were beginning to require frequent and costly maintenance, and were a source of stress for drivers. 

"Over the summer, I was so nervous that the bus would break down every time I led a field trip," said educator Nicole Finnicum. "It is such a relief to have newer vehicles that work properly, so I can stay completely focused on giving our students a great ocean experience," she added. 

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org.

 

 

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Sanibel Sea School Hosts First Community Camp Day

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Sanibel Sea School Hosts First Community Camp Day

 During an echolocation relay race, blindfolded campers had to run through an obstacle course guided by their partner's voice. 

During an echolocation relay race, blindfolded campers had to run through an obstacle course guided by their partner's voice. 

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Sanibel Sea School hosted local students for the organization’s first ever Community Camp Day, a free day of ocean fun and learning for children ages 6-13. The theme of the program was dolphins, and participants enjoyed a variety of related games and activities. 

“The idea to offer free educational camp days to kids in our community on school holidays stemmed from the Hurricane Camp we hosted after Irma,” said the nonprofit’s Director of Education, Nicole Finnicum. “Working parents expressed how difficult it can be to find reliable, affordable childcare for just one day. We saw it as an opportunity to help our neighbors solve an ongoing challenge.” 

Fun was had by all as students seined for fish, tested their taste buds during a fun experiment, swam like dolphins using a monofin, and ran through an echolocation obstacle course. They also had a chance to surf, and many braved the cold Gulf waters to catch a wave or two. 

Sanibel Sea School’s Community Camp Days are made possible by a donor-supported scholarship fund, which ensures that cost does not prevent children from participating in ocean education. Upcoming Community Camp Days will be announced via the organization’s Facebook and Instagram pages, and will also be shared with email list subscribers. To be added, please email your request to info@sanibelseaschool.org.

Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. More information is available at sanibelseaschool.org

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When the Ocean Gets Cold

 Nine-armed sea stars were heavily impacted by cold temperatures on Sanibel this week. 

Nine-armed sea stars were heavily impacted by cold temperatures on Sanibel this week. 

With high temperatures in the 50s and lows in the low 40s this week, we are currently experiencing a cold spell in Southwest Florida. It may sound like no big deal, especially compared to the “bomb cyclone” affecting much of the northeastern United States, but we’re used to highs in the 70s in January, and we Floridians are known for our low cold tolerance. As we bundle up in our winter layers, it turns out some of our local creatures are feeling the chill as well. We sat down with Doc Bruce to learn more about how unusually cold temperatures can impact the sea and its residents.

How unusual is it for Southwest Florida to experience cold spells in the winter? How cold is "cold", in Southwest Florida terms? 

I think that cold is cold when it gets close to, or below, the 40°F mark. It seems like at about that point, we tend to find more stressed animals, both in the sea and on land. The last significant cold spell was about 10 years ago. If I recall correctly, temperatures reached the high 30s, and there was a significant snook die-off.

How fast does the water temperature change, in relation to the air temperature?

Much more slowly. Water absorbs (and loses) heat relatively slowly. Right now, the Gulf temperatures are in the low 60s to high 50s. The change is more profound for all of our embayments, where the water is much shallower and temperature changes occur much more rapidly. 

Is wind or cold worse for sea creatures? What role do tides play?

It’s hard to say if one is worse than the other, and they are often found together. The cold fronts almost always come with wind. Wind produces waves, and the creatures in the shallows, especially those that live attached to the bottom, are less able to hold on in the cold to begin with. The combination of waves and low temperatures means they can become detached from the bottom, which leaves them prone to being blown into unfavorable environments – many are washed up on the beach.

Which creatures are impacted the most by cold temperatures? 

Almost all of them, in our region. Manatees are very cold intolerant, which is why they migrate out of the ocean to rivers in the winter. Sand dollars and sea stars are commonly dislodged from the bottom and are blown or rolled onto the beaches. Some fish are much less tolerant than others. Snook are especially susceptible. 

Are there things we don't know, but are trying to learn, about how cold weather impacts marine life in subtropical regions? 

I think that most of us forget that the natural ranges of animals (and plants too) are not static lines on maps. They are created by tolerance to certain environmental variables, like cold. We are at the very northern range of many species, and it is episodic cold intrusions that kill many individuals and restrict the species from being able to live in more northern locations.

Does unusually cold weather mean global warming isn't happening?

No, and this is why we don't refer to it a global warming any more. We call it climate change. Although the overall global surface temperatures are increasing, the most immediate effect is climate change and variability. We find cold in warm places, warm in cold places, increasingly frequent large storm events, and more intense storm events. The variation in local climate factors is increasing, and that will produce more extremes on both sides.

Is there anything else we should know about temperature changes in the ocean? 

During winter storm events, the times that are the worst for our sea creatures are when we have extremely low tides. The animals are exposed to air, which is 20 degrees colder than the water, and most of these creatures are cold-blooded. This means their metabolic pathways slow down significantly, and they are less able to fend for themselves and do the things they normally do. In many cases, when they are exposed to cold air, they are faced with an additional challenge if it is raining. They are very highly adapted to life in salt water and being immersed (or rinsed) in fresh water is a real challenge. The systems they have in place to help tolerate those changes isn't working very well because they are cold. 

Thank you, Doc Bruce!

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Sanibel Sea School Partners with MANG Apparel

 MANG Apparel is now available at Sanibel Sea School. 

MANG Apparel is now available at Sanibel Sea School. 

Sanibel Sea School has been selected as one of the first brick and mortar retailers for MANG, an outdoor apparel company that plants a mangrove tree for every item sold. The nonprofit organization will carry a variety of quality, UV-protective fishing shirts for men, women, and youth in its retail space, Ocean Tribe Outfitters.

Founded by FGCU graduate Kyle Rossin, along with his brother, Keith, MANG is on a mission to help everyone in Florida understand the importance of mangrove ecosystems and how to protect them. “We see each shirt sold as an opportunity to give back to the environment,” said Rossin, who majored in environmental science during college. “Our Buy One, Plant One initiative has made it possible for us to work with both public and private landowners to collect, propagate, and plant mangroves in a variety of coastal areas,” he added. The company also provides educational outreach programs for students, and recently visited Heights Elementary School in Fort Myers.

“When a mutual friend introduced me to Kyle, we started talking and realized how closely our goals are aligned,” said Dr. Bruce Neill, Sanibel Sea School’s executive director. “We are excited for this opportunity to support MANG, and I think our customers will value their products and their business approach.” Both Neill and Rossin envision growing their partnership in the future to include educational initiatives and coastal restoration projects.

Ocean Tribe Outfitters is located at 455 Periwinkle Way, and is open from 9 AM to 4 PM Monday through Friday. Sanibel Sea School is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. To learn more, visit sanibelseaschool.org. More information about MANG is available at manggear.com.

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