Ocean Discoveries for Grown Ups

We will announce our 2018-2019 adult learning opportunities in the fall - please check back then for updates. In the meantime, you can browse last year's offerings below. 

Throughout the year, Sanibel Sea School offers a variety of classroom and field-based learning opportunities for adults. Join us for a boat trip, learn to cast a net, or hold a tiny sea horse in the palm of your hands. No matter which course you choose, you're sure to experience Sanibel in a whole new way!

Adult courses are open to students ages 18 and up. Students who are 15 and older may register if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian over the age of 18. 

We also offer customizable programs for groups and families of all ages!

2018 Winter Workshops for Adults: Continuing Education for the Ocean Curious

Beginning in January, Sanibel Sea School will offer two four-week workshops for adults. Similar to an upper level college course, these series are designed to provide an in-depth examination of the subject matter in a relaxed academic setting. Students are encouraged to engage in discussion and critical thinking with instructors and peers as we build our knowledge together. Each session will include classroom and field-based components. It is possible to enroll in individual sessions, but we encourage participants to take full advantage of this learning opportunity by registering for the full series. 

Open to students ages 18 and up. Individuals ages 15 and up may attend if they are accompanied by an adult. There are no prerequisites, but students should have a strong interest in the topic. 

Cost: $75 per session or $300 per series
(Please note: To register for the full series, you must add each individual session to your cart.)

Birds of the Beach

Instructors: Nicole Finnicum, M.S. and Johnny Rader
Dates: 1/24, 1/31, 2/7, 2/14
9 AM - 12 PM

Sanibel's shorelines are home to numerous species of birds that can often be observed darting in and out of the surf or perched in the mangroves. Many of these species are similar in appearance, and some tend to congregate in mixed groups. Certain species also experience multiple plumage phases throughout the year – all factors that can make proper identification a challenge. During this course, we will learn key identification skills, examine the biological reasons for specific bird behaviors, and investigate avian migration patterns. Each session will focus on one bird category – woodland birds, waders and divers, shorebirds, and gulls and terns. Upon completion of this workshop, participants will be able to identify most of the birds we encounter here on Sanibel, and will have considerable knowledge of each species’ biology and habits. Join us for four weeks of fun, intensive ornithology! 

About the Instructors:

Nicole Finnicum, M.Sc. earned her master’s degree in environmental studies after conducting research on the effects of urbanization on avian species diversity in Scotland. She is an avid birder and naturalist with years of field-based teaching experience in Southwest Florida. Johnny Rader has a bachelor’s degree in wildlife conservation biology from Ohio University. He is an experienced environmental educator with a passion for birding, and has taught numerous birdwatching courses in Florida and the Bahamas.

Activity Level: Moderate
Approximately one hour will be spent in the classroom, followed by two hours in the field. Participants will walk along roads and/or beaches at a relaxed pace.

January 24th: Common Woodland Birds

Example species: Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler

When we think of birds on Sanibel, those species associated with the ocean are usually the first to come to mind. However, there is a high diversity of woodland perching birds that breed, nest, and forage on the island. During this course, we will focus on identifying these often hard to see birds and learn how they utilize our island environment as their habitat.

January 31st: Waders and Divers

Example species: Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Green Heron, Brown Pelican, Osprey

Wading and diving birds provide an excellent opportunity to discuss how different species utilize very different strategies to catch prey. This class will focus on carnivorous birds that engage in visual hunting and tactile hunting. We’ll discuss how some species have adaptations to avoid getting wet when hunting, and others dive talon-first into the water. We’ll focus on birds in the egret and heron family, as well as osprey and pelicans.

February 7th: Shorebirds

Example species: Ruddy Turnstone, Willet, Snowy Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Sanderling

Commonly known as peeps, shorebirds can be difficult to identify because of their very similar shapes and coloration. This course will summarize the most common shorebird species we find on Sanibel, and we will hone in on seasonal plumage changes, camouflage strategies, and migration.

February 14th: Gulls and Terns

Example species: Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern

Gulls and terns are different species, but are often confused with one another. We will discuss their contrasting feeding strategies, what behaviors they have in common, and their distribution. Many gulls and terns are colonial nesters, so we’ll talk about the advantages of this adaptation and some special strategies they use to ensure the survival of their offspring. 

2018 Community Seminars at Sanibel Sea School

Our Community Seminars are designed to give you a quick and thorough introduction to a variety of interesting topics and skills. We have invited experts to share their knowledge with you during a relaxed presentation. Following each presentation, there will be an opportunity for questions and discussion. 

No registration necessary, walk-ins welcome. 

Thursday, March 15th: Fracking Explained
4 PM at Sanibel Sea School (455 Periwinkle Way)
Presented by Connie Jump

The first recorded “frack” jobs in the US were performed in the 1860’s in NW Pennsylvania using black powder dynamite, and later nitroglycerine, dropped down shallow oil wells — sometimes with disastrous results. Since those early days, the petroleum industry has greatly modified the technique of stimulating wells to increase their rate of hydrocarbon production. 

Hydraulic fracturing in fundamentally its current technology was developed in the late 1940’s and was a routine oilfield completion procedure by the 1970’s. Through research and trial-and-error, the technique evolved to apply to horizontal shale wells, but its technology and goal are the same: use high pressure to pump a slurry of water, sand, and chemicals downhole to create a complex fracture network in petroleum-bearing tight rocks that previously would not produce at economic rates.

Here’s your chance to add to your already-informed position about fracking from someone who’s actually been there. Please join us to hear more about the why, how, and where of the hydraulic fracturing technique. 

Please note: While fracking can be a controversial subject, this is a technical information session only and will not be a debate. This presentation is meant to help you become more knowledgable and informed.

About Connie:
Connie Jump is a retired petroleum geologist living in Fort Myers, Florida. Her 36-year career was an exciting accumulation of experience with major and small independent oil companies, service companies, and consulting firms evaluating, exploring, and developing hydrocarbon plays in 10 states, offshore Gulf of Mexico, and overseas. Her experience ranges from wildcat exploration, seismic interpretation, reserve assessments, public and government relations, and of course drilling and fracking. As Connie has learned, “The answers are in the rocks.”


Thursday, March 22nd: Making Better Nature Photos
4 PM at Sanibel Sea School (455 Periwinkle Way)
Presented by Cliff Beittel

Today's cameras (even inexpensive ones) can make great photos. In this seminar, you will learn how to capture the best photo possible with the equipment you have available. The presentation will be illustrated with photos from Southwest Florida and beyond.

Session highlights will include:

  • The advantages of phones, mirrorless cameras, and traditional DSLRs, and which features to look for when choosing your camera.
  • Lens choices and other crucial accessories.
  • Photo basics, including how to get the right exposure, autofocus versus manual, where to focus, minimizing noise, RAW files versus JPEGs, and more.
  • Good light and bad - our eyes ignore bad light, but cameras do not. 
  • Learning to see like your camera.
  • Shooting during the golden hours, and when midday is better. Front light, sidelight, backlight, silhouettes, sunrises and sunsets. 
  • Subjects - good subjects are everywhere, but easy to miss. How to see them, how to get close, composing the shot, planning ahead.
  • Fun with long exposures, graduated filters, high-dynamic-range images, tilt-shift lenses, and more.  

About Cliff Beittel:
Almost from his first photo sales in 1995, Cliff was recognized as one of the best bird photographers in the U.S. In 1998, he won the world's richest wildlife photo contest (total purse $100,000) with a portfolio of birds, mammals, and reptiles shot in sweltering South Texas during the four months of the contest. Twenty years later, and now a Sanibel resident shooting mostly in Southwest Florida, Cliff’s thousands of photo credits include the Audubon, Sierra Club, and Inner Reflections calendars, and scores of book, calendar, and magazine covers.

2018 Free Guided Beach Walks

Join us for a casual guided beach walk to explore what's washed ashore. Let's talk about some of the more mysterious objects we find on the beach, look for interesting creatures, and learn a little bit of shell biology. Our marine science educators will be happy to answer any questions you might have along the way.

All ages are welcome, but children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. 

All Beach Walks meet at Sanibel Sea School's Flagship Campus, located at 455 Periwinkle Way on Sanibel. 

Activity Level: Moderate (1-2 hours of slow walking on the beach)

January Free Community Beach Walk
Saturday, January 13th, 2018, 9 AM

February Free Community Beach Walk
Saturday, February 10th, 2018, 9 AM

March Free Community Beach Walk
Saturday, March 10th, 2018, 9 AM

April Free Community Beach Walk
Saturday, April 7th, 2018, 9 AM

Fall 2017 Boat-Based Learning Opportunities for Adults

Climb aboard and take an in-depth, scientific look at our local ecosystems and creatures with Sanibel Sea School’s Executive Director, marine biologist Dr. Bruce Neill. This year, our boat-based courses will take place from the comfort of a large pontoon boat, which provides comfortable seating for a group of adults.

Each topic will be offered twice, on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Activity Level: Low

Participants will board the boat from the Sanibel Causeway, which requires one big step up (approximately 2’), and will remain seated on our vessel for the duration of the trip.