Studdard, a junior at Walker High School, took a course in marine science at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. She participated in more than 150 academic hours learning about oceanography, marine life and human interactions with the marine environment.
Studdard first heard about the program when one of the instructors visited with Walker students last year. She wanted to know more, even though she had never considered a career in marine science.
“I’m on the swim team and watch the Discovery Channel with my brother. Those kind of things interest me. So I thought, ‘Why not go and try to broaden what I want to do with my life?’” Studdard said.
Studdard applied and was surprised when she was accepted. The Kiwanis Club of Jasper and the family of a child she babysits helped her raise the $2,050 she needed for expenses.
Studdard arrived at Dauphin Island on June 6 and stayed through July 2. Her days were split between class work and field activities.
Studdard and her new friends helped rope off a wild sea turtle’s nest that contained over 100 eggs, had a mud fight in a salt marsh, went snorkeling in St. Andrews State Park in Panama City, Fla. and dissected a shark.
On Wednesdays, the group went out aboard the Sea Lab’s 65-foot research vessel, the Alabama Discovery.
On one sea voyage, the students went trawling for sharks and netted a Black Drum instead. During another fishing trip, they caught white trout, catfish and crabs.
The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico found its way into several experiments and class discussions.
“We made our own oil with vegetable oil and cocoa. We talked about how it rises to the surface and some of it sinks to the bottom. We talked for over an hour about the dispersant they were using and whether it was good or bad,” Studdard said.
Because the oil spill prevented them from getting in the ocean, the group had to study wave frequency by doing cannonballs in the pool.
On Career Day, Studdard learned about several different job opportunities that appealed to her.
“It really showed me how broad it could be. I think I’d like to pursue something in marine science,” Studdard said.
Other local students who attended programs at Dauphin Island this summer include Maddox Middle School students Andrew and Michael Wiginton, Sumiton Christian School teacher Jessica Moore and Walker High School teacher Lori Wiginton.