This Spring, Sanibel Sea School is excited to offer a series of 12 adult classes titled “The Twelve Big Questions.” On Wednesday afternoons beginning February 10th, we invite you to come find answers to twelve big ocean questions. We’ll spend time in the field, the lab, and the classroom studying timely marine topics. There will be class parties every four weeks to celebrate the ocean with friends new and old. You can attend just one class or all 12! Classes are $55 each, or $50 each for four or more.
“If rivers fill the oceans, why is the sea salty?” (Ocean Salinity) Feb. 10th
Where does all the salt come from? The ocean hasn’t always been as salty as it is today. We will spend an afternoon learning about the geological features of Earth that contribute to the ocean’s salinity over time. We will also study how water ends up in the ocean – the hydrologic cycle. We will climb aboard the Ke Ala, the Sea School’s boat, and sample water from selected sites around Sanibel to see how salinity varies and we will learn about how salinity patterns affect the world’s oceans.
“Am I smarter than a dolphin?” (Cetacean Intelligence) Feb. 17th
It’s common to hear stories about dolphins solving puzzles, retrieving military gear, and even rescuing humans. Scientists have observed complicated social and emotional behaviors in marine mammals, and some believe that whale communication is more complex than human languages. We’ll take a look at recent studies of cetacean intelligence and participate in activities that will help us draw our own conclusions about whether or not their brainpower matches ours. Who knows, we may even find a dolphin or two to experience first-hand.
“What’s inside a squid?” (Cephalopod Dissection) Feb. 24th
We’ve all seen footage of squid swimming rapidly, leaving clouds of black ink in their wake to fend off predators. Many of us have used squid as bait, and perhaps even more have dined on calamari, but have you ever really considered why a squid is built the way it is? We will get out our scalpels for a squid dissection, and we’ll study squid anatomy to figure out how squids move and where their ink comes from. We will discuss the characteristics of class Cephalopoda and review surprising recent discoveries about cephalopod intelligence.
“What’s in the ocean that I can’t see?” (Ocean Micro Lab) March 3rd
We all know that tiny organisms like parasites and plankton exist in the ocean, but they’re impossible to see without a microscope, which most of us don’t have access to at home. We invite you to come collect plankton samples, and look through our microscopes at a variety of microscopic organisms from the sea. We’ll learn about phytoplankton, zooplankton, and bacterioplankton, and you will see artistic wonders in a drop of water wilder than you could ever imagine.
“Why are there so many tubeworms on the beach?” (Rise of the Filter Feeders) March 10th
If you’re a frequent beachcomber, you’ve probably noticed that Sanibel’s beaches are often littered with thousands of dead parchment worms – those floppy white tubes that wash up with the shells. We’ll take a look at the creature that lives inside the white tubes, and we will talk about what they are, what they do, and how they got here. We will also discuss how filter feeders like tubeworms affect the lives of other species around them, and we will see how we are turning our marine world into a sea of filter feeders.
“Why is the ocean blue?” (Light in the Sea) March 17th
Have you ever wondered why the ocean is blue, or why coral is more colorful in shallow water than in deep water? Do you know what color you would bleed 90 feet underwater? We will talk about the behavior of light in water, ocean light zones, and light’s role in ocean ecosystems. We will also learn about marine organisms that live in the deepest parts of the ocean, and how they function without energy from the sun.
“What’s all the fuss about a little algae?” (Algal Blooms) March 24th
We will spend the first part of the afternoon collecting algae samples from Sanibel’s beaches, and we will bring our samples back to the lab for identification. We will talk about microalgae, macroalgae, and harmful algal blooms. We’ll also learn about factors that contribute to algal blooms and discuss the environmental, economic and social issues associated with algae in our oceans and on our beaches.
“How do our cars affect the ocean?” (Ocean pH) March 31st
Did you ever have chemistry 101? Let’s go back to those days and re-explore the world of acids and bases, and how they relate to our oceans – and our future. Ocean acidification has many direct and indirect effects on ocean inhabitants, especially organisms like corals, crustaceans, and mollusks. We will examine the carbon cycle to learn about how CO2 travels between the ocean and the air above it, and we will talk about how ocean pH affects sea creatures. Come join us in an exploration of how the atmosphere, humans, and the ocean are related.
What’s the point of a sponge?” (Sponge Science) April 7th
You’ve probably encountered sponges washed up on the beach, or maybe you have only come across them in luxury bath stores. Join us for an entirely new view of the simplest animals on the planet. Sponges are beautiful, but they just seem to sit there, prompting us to wonder what they do and why they exist. This course will offer a closer look at the Phylum Porifera. We will take a boat trip to look at sponges in their natural habitat, where you will have the opportunity to snorkel and see them first-hand, or if you prefer, you can wade with a glass-bottomed bucket to view sponges on the ocean floor. We’ll discuss the lifestyles and traits that characterize these surprisingly fascinating creatures, like what they eat, how they reproduce, and what they are made of. We will also learn about their important role in marine ecosystems. Join us and soak up all those creatures have to offer.
“What are the blobs I keep seeing on the beach?” (Tunicate Ecology) April 14th
Some of the most amazing and anatomically complex organisms we discover on our beaches appear as amorphous blobs commonly washed ashore during the winter months. Not only are these creatures interesting from a structural perspective, they also play an important role in stabilizing the quality of our near-shore waters. Come learn about the tunicates that commonly inhabit Sanibel’s shallow waters, and gain a new appreciation for the diversity of life in the wrack line.
“Why are there so many shells on Sanibel?” (Gastropods and Mollusks) April 21st
If you’re a Sanibel resident, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time doing the Sanibel Stoop – hunched over looking for rare and attractive shells – but you might not know very much about the creatures that build them. Come learn about gastropod and mollusk biology – how they reproduce, feed, and travel. We’ll explain where they fit into ocean ecosystems and how they form their beautiful exoskeletons that are so coveted by collectors. We will also learn why Sanibel is such a great shelling island, and why some beaches on Sanibel are better than others for finding that Junonia you’ve been looking for.
“So, what’s with all the jellies?” (Jellyfish) April 28th
Enter the world of the Schyphozoa. We have recently found jellyfish to be much more sophisticated than the floating blobs we long thought them to be. They are active predators that seek out specific prey, and they are becoming more common around our island and in many oceans throughout the world. If weather permits, we will take a boat ride offshore to collect and examine these magnificent creatures up close. We will learn about jellyfish throughout the world, and you will leave with a new appreciation for those slimy blobs washed up on the beach.
To register, e-mail Liz@sanibelseaschool.org or call (239) 472-8585.