A person sitting on a boat in the water - Car
A cleanup at Tarpon Basin. CONTRIBUTED

In the Keys, life revolves around the ocean, the animals that live there, and the life it supports. MarineLab knows the ocean and wants to help locals get to know the blue playground in a whole new way.

“In the Florida Keys, we live right next to an amazing marine environment. Most people know this,” says Rachel Carlson, outreach coordinator at MarineLab. “But, maybe they don’t know why it’s so amazing or how it came to be this way.” 

Enter MarineLab with their newest program, Shore to Sea: marine education by locals for locals about what’s happening right here in our backyard.

The Shore to Sea program is perfect for teens and adults who want to experience first hand all of our unique Florida Keys habitats with a marine biologist guide. There are five different courses that complement each other but that can be taken standalone. They focus on everything from shoreline ecology to tiny macro life to marine debris. Each program has been extensively researched, includes both a land-based laboratory and an optional snorkeling exploration, and ends with tailored tips and guidelines about how to protect these habitats that sustain our livelihoods here in the Keys.

Allie Ciaramella took the entire July Shore to Sea program with her husband. Raving about experience, she says, “We looked forward to it every week and were sad when it ended!”

 “The ocean snorkel was by far the best I’ve ever done,” she continued. “They took us to a patch reef area where the commercial boats don’t typically go. From a playful younger sea turtle who wouldn’t leave us alone, to finger coral polyps being active during the day, to a hogfish refusing to give up on eating a sea urchin that, in turn, refused to be eaten, our amazing Florida Reef Tract was in full form.”

 A group of people in looking into microscope

In the plastic pollution lab, Ciaramella was shocked to learn about some plastics that are rarely mentioned, like cheap clothing made with microfibers. She loved learning about solutions she could enact, like opting not to buy these clothes or using a laundry ball to catch these fibers before they get into our waterways. This is the format for all the Shore to Sea programs — an intimate view of some aspect of our unique ecology with ways that we all can help save them for the future.

“The Florida Keys marine ecosystems are definitely something to be proud of,” says Sarah Egner, Director of MarineLab. “But in order to protect these habitats, we need to understand them.”

Join the next Shore to Sea program this Saturday, Oct. 5 at 9 a.m. Sign-up at www.marinelab.org and click on “what we do,” community programs, teens and adults. Monroe County teachers get 50% off!

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