A free, first-time Manatee Marine Explorers Day Camp allowed about two dozen children to touch, see, and learn about sea life Friday at the Manatee County Extension Office in Palmetto.
Puffer fish, tiny shrimp and hermit crabs were some of the specimens Marshall Atkinson collected at Emerson Point for children to learn about in touch tanks.
Atkinson is the son of county extension agent Michelle Atkinson, who created the course with sea grant agent Angela Collins.
“It was a really popular program, and we had a lot of people sign up for it,” said Samantha Kennedy, county extension director.
The program quickly reached capacity, guaranteeing it will be repeated again in the future.
We are just trying to teach them a little about the marine environment and how important all of the actions that we take in our daily lives are to our oceans and the health of our waterways.
Angela Collins, sea grant agent
“We are just trying to teach them a little about the marine environment and how important all of the actions that we take in our daily lives are to our oceans and the health of our waterways. So we are talking a little bit about rainfall and runoff and the organisms that live in the oceans and local waters,” Collins said.
The program focus was not on dolphins and turtles, the usual stars of marine programs, but the less familiar diversity of marine life.
During a fish dissection, Collins showed what makes fish different from humans, namely gills, but also similarities such as the heart, stomach and intestines.
They also learned scientists use a technique similar to counting the rings of a tree to tell the age of a fish. The otolith, a tiny bone in the fish’s head, develops rings as the fish ages. Scientists count the rings in the otolith to determine the age of the fish.
For more information about programs at the Manatee County Extension Office, visit manatee.ifas.ufl.edu/ or call 941-722-4524.