Austin gets immersed in marine environment

Published 10:16 pm Thursday, July 29, 2010

For most college students, spending the summer behind a microscope does not sound like a picturesque summer vacation. For undergraduates enrolled in the University Program’s first summer session at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL), time behind the microscope is only part of the picture. Local University of South Alabama student, Kayla Austin of Clanton, joined other college students from around the country enrolled at the DISL to gain hands-on experience in the marine environment, as well as firsthand knowledge from professors who are passionate about the fields they teach.

Some of the marine-specialized courses offered during the first summer session were: Coastal Wetland Ecology; Marine Invertebrate Zoology; Marine Biology; Coastal Zone Management; and Intro to Oceanography, a particularly relevant and topical class in light of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While students spent hours in the classroom listening to lectures and in the laboratory dissecting marine specimens, a great deal of time was spent in the field, enhancing their educational experiences with hands-on learning. Students collected marine samples in Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico aboard the DISL’s research vessel, the Alabama Discovery. They also participated in extended field exercises that had them hip-deep in a salt marsh or on the sandy beaches of dune habitats. Many students also journeyed to St. Andrews State Park in Panama City, FL, to get an up-close look at a natural marine habit through a snorkeling adventure.

While the courses were challenging and the work-load was heavy, students experience an intensive marine program that introduced different aspects of field-work, laboratory instruction and classroom lecture. Not only are they able to return to the university with new knowledge and experiences, but they also will carry with them a summer of memories and friendships that they have made while at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.