The Shedd Aquarium provides numerous volunteer and educational programs for students interested in marine biology.
Makenna Andersen, a senior at St. Charles East High School, spent a week aboard a Shedd research boat near Bimini Island in the Bahamas. Andersen and nine other high-schoolers spent hours snorkeling, collecting data and understanding what marine biologists do.
Sadie Norwick, the manager of learning programs at the Shedd Aquarium, said the mission of the trip is to connect the students to animals in the natural world. She said before the students go, they have a one-week crash course in marine biology, and after the trip the students share their data and findings in the form of posters and presentations at the Shedd Aquarium.
Andersen said that her experience as a physical education leader at school provided her previous swimming experience, and the constant diving did not trouble her.
Part of the research involved using beach seines, which involved dragging nets through the sand to temporarily catch and record data about marine animals. Andersen said the best part of the trip was seeing unusual wildlife, such as the four manta rays that visited their boat.
Apart from the flora and fauna, Andersen said the chef on the boat sometimes cooked local cuisine and gave the students Caribbean meals, including Bimini bread and lionfish. She also said that Bimini had undergone heavy construction to deepen the bay and construct a golf course at the expense of the marine wildlife.
Andersen said while she was still thinking about her college choices, the trip had definitely solidified her interest and pursuit in marine biology.
To learn more about a petition related to what is happening in Bimini, visit www.change.org and search for “Bimini.”