What she did on her summer vacation

Friday, July 27, 2012
Photos submitted Caitlin Marino holds a shark that she and her classmates caught in the Gulf of Mexico.

From staff reports

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. - A month-long marine science course for high school students this summer included a Forrest High School student who dissected sharks at the Gulf of Mexico.

Rising senior Caitlin Marino, 17, daughter of Cathy and Gary Marino at Abigail Court, Chapel Hill, completed the four-week biology course on July 13, came home, turned around and took off for Band Camp at Monteagle, Tenn.

In many respects it might be said that Caitlin went to school with fish this summer, according to Sara Johnson, the registrar for the Dauphin Island Sea Lab that's an easy 40-45 minute, back-road drive south of Mobile, Ala.

"They handled fish while they were here," Johnson said of the students. "They seem to like the marine vertebrates and they went fishing from artificial reefs ... some formed around concrete made in shapes to trap sand, attract fish and other things to make land in water."

The students' studies included daylong boating trips.

Caitlin "wants to be a marine biologist," her mother said, recalling the biology class included shark dissection, so there's a good chance she was picking cartilage from a shark's brain.

"They lived in a dorm and did things on the weekend," Cathy Marino said while Caitlin was at Band Camp. "They went behind the aquarium in New Orleans" to see how it works and then they "went snorkeling in Panama City.

"They had three exams, a practical, and an experiment from which they wrote a paper to be read to parents during the last day of the course," Cathy Marino said.

Marine science and ecology instructors taught about marine vertebrates and invertebrates, plankton, marine chemistry, oceanography, and marine botany. The students were in more than 150 hours of supervised academic activity.

The summer program frequently results in credits toward a high school diploma, Johnson said.

"The Alabama State Board of Education reviewed and approved the program for high school credits," the program's registrar said. "It's not automatic even for the students in Alabama... Each student still needs to go through their own high school system for credit."

The Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) on Dauphin Island, Ala., is not accredited as a school because of the nature of the sea lab, Johnson said.

"But we have graduate students who come here for college course research," she said. "It's not easy and it's usually not a problem for students to get credit for a high school studies.

"They just need to go through the proper channels," Johnson said.

Dauphin Island Sea Lab has been operating there for 25 years. Previously, the property was a U.S. Air Force base.

While talking about Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Johnson explained that while there are dolphins at Dauphin Island, the island is named for the title of a French prince.