The Central Campus Marine Biology and Aquarium Science programs are highly regarded across the country and internationally as premier U.S. high school education opportunities. The team proved it again as Dr. Gregory Barord led an expedition of 40 students (9 sophomores, 15 juniors, and 16 seniors) to the East Coast where they engaged in nine days of intensive learning. Dr. Barord and his students are sharing their collective journal with us in this guest blog.

Each year, Marine Biology and Aquarium Science students go on an expedition to a coastal destination to experience everything (yes everything) that the marine science field has to offer. This year, 40 students headed to the East Coast, traveling within New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts – with a short stop in Illinois. The major goals are to directly network with professionals in the field, learn about innovative ideas and perspectives from aquariums and universities, engage with the local history and culture, and work through adversity as a team and individually. Below are snapshots of the expedition from the students’ points of view of each day.

Day 1 – March 28th, 2024

4:30 am was the start of our day. Feeling more alive than ever, we boarded the plane to New York! The jitters were just getting started and when we landed the anticipation grew even more. We all piled into our charter bus and went to our first stop, The New York Aquarium! When we arrived, we were shown around the incredible exhibits by our lovely tour guide Hans Walters (fun fact, he was part of a hair metal band called “Z TOYZ”). We were shown the culture, quarantine, and how the aquarium was run. As the first aquarium, it started our trip off with a bang! After this, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at the ferry station before boarding a ferry from St. George to Staten Island. Along the way, we got a glimpse at the beautiful and very famous landmark, The Statue of Liberty. After we arrived at Staten Island, we headed straight for the 9/11 memorial to learn a little bit more about the important history of our country. The sight was absolutely breathtaking! After the memorial, we walked across one of the most famous bridges in America, the Brooklyn Bridge. After a little over the mile walk across the bridge and through one of the five boroughs of New York City, we were picked up by our bus and we headed straight for Coney Island. When we arrived, we walked to the beach before we all headed for bed for a new and fun-filled day!

– Drew Carter, Quinton Johnson, Caden Slaughter

Day 2 – March 29th, 2024

First, we woke up and went on a morning run to Coney Island. Then we talked about the shells on the beach. We then broke the shells to help calcium carbonate return to the ocean. We also talked about breakwaters and how they play a role in combatting erosion. After this we went back to the hotel and headed to Brooklyn College. They gave us a tour of their labs and facilities. Then we headed to Columbia University to see the labs and their future goals. Then we went to the American Museum of Natural History. Dinner came after this, and we got street food. Lastly, we ended the day with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

– Nathan Warmack, Will Anderson, Nolan Gee, Klay Day

Day 3 – March 30th, 2024

We started the day by visiting Andrew Sandler’s house, the owner of Polo Reef. He showed off his fish tank, speakers, coy pond, as well as providing us with both bagels and coffee. We then gave Andrew a presentation, one slide for each person talking about the lab. Next up was Long Island Aquarium. Upon arrival, we met up with Joe Yaiullo, the curator of Long Island Aquarium, and went to see the sea lion show and the coral tanks. The trainers then explained to us how training provides enrichment and stimulation for the animals. We networked with Joe for a bit longer before leaving for Stony Brook University. Our guide at Stony Brook answered many questions that we had and was a great resource for us to learn more about aqua culturing oysters. Next, we went outside to the “portable classroom,” their boat, and we observed the native Harbor Seals on a sand bank. Once we all got back to our hotel, we walked down to the beach to do a night beach walk before heading off to bed.

– Emily Merfeld, Anna DeLange, Addy Brody, Becky Johnson

Day 4 – March 31st, 2024

Kayaking was a good time but difficult if you haven’t done it before. Going to the aquarium again was nice since we were able to see things that we weren’t on our first visit, like their bug section. The Museum of Jewish Heritage was a good time, we learned a lot and have a new respect for what the Jewish have been put through. The subway was stressful at first since none of us wanted to make a mistake, but once we all got on it, it was fun. Times Square looked like capitalism and smelled like communism. The walk to Chelsea market was both fun and miserable (to everyone but a couple). Chelsea market was a good place to visit and was fun kind of on the pricey side though. The group’s consensus is that day 4 was the favorite day, after all we went kayaking and got ice cream.

– Michael Gerety, Kail Hopkins-Randall, Jamisen Field, Michael Barnes

Day 5 – April 1st, 2024

On April 1, we went to Maritime Aquarium, where we went behind the scenes and learned about the ways they do LSS ran by Eric Holmberg where he taught Barrett about how to get into the field. We also went to the Marine Science Magnet High School which is a similar program to ours. Eric Litvinoff talked to Ian about mangrove trees, which helped him understand them a lot more. We also went to the New England Science and Sailing Foundation, where they taught us about plankton and took us to the local tidepools to explore, Nina Quaratella is the Director of Programs at NESS. We also went down to a local brackish water area and with the help of Mystic Aquarium tested water quality and learned about salt marshes. For dinner we went to Samuri Noodle Bar and Grill.

– Ian Alonzo, Jayson Gronstal, Aidan Dow, Barrett Weispfenning

Day 6 – April 2nd, 2024

Day 6 started with a group yoga session and morning run at 6 am before breakfast, which was mostly groggy but interesting. We headed down to the Mystic aquarium, where we got to see California sea lions and talk to a marine mammal trainer there about her work with the sea lions and taking care of the other species. Then we visited Rodger Willams University where we observed their Artemis culturing and algae culturing in their lab. Our aquarium science lab assistants also presented their projects to Rodger Williams staff, students, and teachers. We spent an hour at the whaling museum where we saw a blue whale skeleton and learned about whaling history. Finally, we went on the freedom trail tour where we followed the steps of Paul Revere through Boston and saw revolutionary war historic sites!

– Mikaela Treptow, Mars Bailey, Claire Riesberg, Shea Buchmeier

Day 7 – April 3rd, 2024

Wednesday, April 3rd, was the 7th day of our trip. We started out the morning with a quick breakfast at the Hyatt in Boston, then boarded the bus to Woods Hole. At the college, we listened to a lecture about cephalopods, given to us by Brett Grasse. After the lecture, we headed down to one of the many labs on campus. In the lab, we were encouraged to connect with many different animals, including lobsters, crabs, horseshoe crabs, various bivalves, and even urchins. Next, we climbed up to the main lab, and learned more about cephalopods.

Afterwards, we walked down the street to the public NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric) aquarium and learned about the riveting history behind the foundation. After a quick lunch of sandwiches, we walked back down to the NOAA facility for a lecture about potential future careers with NOAA.

We were then supposed to go to Martha’s Vineyard, but due to poor weather conditions, we opted to go to Plymouth instead. In Plymouth, we split into dinner groups and ate in different restaurants around town. After an hour, we met back on the bus, and drove back to the hotel. At the hotel, we split into our roommate groups to learn about different Marine biologists, then presented them to the rest of the class. After the seminar, we went up to our rooms, and went to sleep. Thus ended the 7th day of our trip.

– Adriahna Hartmann, Sydney Van Alstine, Bri Huisman, Lexi Harrington

Day 8 – April 4th, 2024

On Day 8 of our trip, we started our day off strong by going to the Harvard Zoology Museum. We toured the gallery to start, and later did tours showing their invertebrate and mollusk specimen collections. Next, we went to the Long Island Aquariums offsite quarantine facility. Where we learned about their fish cultures, why they keep some fish in holding, and parasite treatments for both vertebrates and invertebrates. Laura was our tour guide for this, and she also talked to us about their Aquatic Collections Sustainability Community. ACSC is a program where a bunch of aquariums send fish back and forth if they have a surplus of a fish or don’t have any of a fish.

After we toured this facility, we went to a NOAA facility near the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary where we met Pete. Pete talked to us about underwater national parks and how important they are. Then he talked to us about Salt the whale and how they enforce and create speed zones to protect whales like her. At the end of the day, we had a seminar where each group presented different scientific research papers and answered questions on them. It was a very academically rigorous day but still incredibly fun and fascinating!

– Meadow Dahlhauser, Thomas Lehman, Catherine Nixon, Audrey Naumann, Donnie Wren

Day 9 – April 5th, 2024

It’s our final day on the East Coast Trip, and we woke up bright and early, around four AM, to be ready downstairs in the lobby. Our group arrived just in time to greet everyone, and there was a mix of emotions seen on everyone’s face. Most looked exhausted, but everyone overall seemed as if they were ready to have an amazing last day. We arrived at Boston Logan International Airport around six AM and headed through security which took most of our time since there were so many of us. The waiting time for boarding did not feel long since most of us were occupied with finding food and conservating, trying to figure out who was sitting next to who. The plane ride to Chicago was packed, and we sat for three hours excitedly anticipating our next aquarium visit.

As we arrived at Shedd, we were greeted by Noel Heinsohn, Curator of Shedd Aquarium, who took us downstairs to meet with our first Aquarist, Rachel Zak. Rachel spoke to us about the jellyfish at Shedd, and how they pulse with the help of water movement/flow. Next, we spoke with Anna Byczynski, who explained the importance of their conservation project with shark eggs, and how they were being sent to Indonesia to be raised and released into the wild. Finally, we spoke with Brendan Wylie, who focuses on corals at Shedd. He spoke about how fragging was an important way to produce more corals for their new exhibits coming up, and how it is the best way to prevent recessive genes from forming.

We left Shedd preparing for a long drive home, excited for the next truck stop that was the biggest one in the world. Our drive consisted of laughter, sleep, videogames, storytelling, and embracing the suck. We arrived at Central Campus around 8:30, we hugged our parents, said our goodbyes, and collected our whale posters. It was a great way to end our trip.

– Vianney Lopez, Dakota Callahan, Scarlett Bomhoff, Ella Walsh

Dr. Barord’s Conclusions

Every student (and teacher and chaperones) fought through some type of adversity throughout the 9 days, whether it was waking up on time, finding ways to focus on lectures when tired, or getting out of your comfort zone for morning yoga sessions. We visited eight aquariums, six research facilities, five museums, five universities, one high school (like ours), performed field methods, and went kayaking, among other things. We toured the oldest aquarium (Woods Hole Aquarium) and the oldest marine laboratory (Marine Biological Laboratory) in the United States! We ran, we walked, we skipped, we yelled, we laughed, we cried. We came. We saw. We engaged!

The next opportunity for the Marine Science Field Studies Expedition will be the 2025 Spring Semester. Location to be determined but think WARM! Students enrolled in either the Marine Biology, Aquarium Science, or as Laboratory Assistants in either program are eligible to participate in the expedition.

To learn more about Central Campus and these top ranked programs in the Environmental and Agricultural Sciences Academy, click here.

To listen to a podcast about the adventures of Dr. Barord and his Central Campus students, click here to listen to The Become Here Project, episode 8.

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