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Sea Campers Take a Bite Out of Shark Week    

August 2, 2022


Sharks & More campers pose for a quick photo during a shark dissection activity in a lab on the Galveston Campus.

By Andréa Bolt, Social Media & Communications Manager

The aprons are tied, goggles donned, and gloves are snapped on; it’s time to dissect sharks!  

Summer campers, ages 10 to 12, have been learning all about sharks and their stingray cousins in their week-long “Sharks & More” SeaCamp at the Texas A&M University at Galveston Campus

With nearly 20 different camp programs and formats to choose from—including day camps, overnight, those for younger children, up to teenagers aged 18—SeaCamp has been inspiring aspiring young marine biologists since 1986. 

SeaCamp Program Coordinator Lorena Elser ‘14 says dissection day is always popular during the shark-centric camp. 

Campers got the opportunity to dissect spiny dogfish sharks to learn all about the biology and physiology of the species.
Campers got the opportunity to dissect spiny dogfish sharks to learn all about the biology and physiology of the species.

“We really allow them to get hands-on in the marine environment, to fully immerse themselves in it,” she says of the vessel trips, fishing expeditions, marshland exploration, and more that campers get to experience. 

In the lab, two groups of campers gather around trays containing the carcasses of two spiny dogfish sharks. These bottom-dwelling sharks live along the Atlantic coast, often hunting smaller fish in packs, hence the dog-like comparison fishers used to name them. The compact species range from around 40-50 inches in length. 

One camper remarks on the dogfish’s long, pointy snout. Another wants to know if they can touch its eye. SeaCamp Instructor Stanzie Sesher ‘13 calls for attention to explain the various parts of the shark and how to begin dissection. 

Amid squeals of delight and a few potentially over-dramatized gasps, campers cut into their respective sharks. Sesher directs them to dissect along the animal’s midline, stopping them to inspect the dorsal fin, liver, heart, reproductive organs, and eyes. 

“This is the perfect place to grow their passion for the ocean. Learn, challenge, inspire, explore...we want them, we encourage them to be curious,” Elser says. 

Eleven-year-old Hunter from Pearland takes that curiosity to heart. As he turns the shark eye between his fingers, holding it up to the bright lab light, Sesher explains the lens is harder than a human eye. Unlike in humans, she says, sharks have muscles that move the lens part of the eye forward or backward to focus light, giving sharks great visual acuity. 

The hands-on lesson is one that multiple campers said they can’t wait to get home to tell their parents about. 

“Once I looked into the eyes of a dolphin, that was it for me,” Elser said of her lifelong love of the ocean. Perhaps this week will have laid the same foundation for the shark campers. 

“Can I take the eye home with me? Please!” one camper begs a counselor. 

“No, we’ve got to leave everything here,” she tells the camper, “But I’m glad you enjoyed it!” 

Thinking quickly, he takes out a cell phone and snaps a photo. 

“So cool,” he whispers, staring at the photo as the campers file out of the lab.

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Media contact:
Andréa Bolt
Social Media & Communications Manager
a_bolt@tamug.edu



Texas A&M University at Galveston is an ocean-oriented branch campus of Texas A&M University which educates nearly 2,300 undergraduate and graduate students in a unique blend of marine and maritime programs, including majors in science, business, engineering, liberal arts, and transportation. It is driving the development of the blue economy in the Gulf Coast Region and is a critical contributor to Texas A&M’s sea-grant portion of Texas A&M’s rare land-, sea-, space-grant mission with nearly $10 million in research expenditures.
 
Texas A&M-Galveston is also home to the Texas A&M Maritime Academy, one of seven in the U.S. and the only academy integrated into a Tier 1 academic institution, which trains over 400 cadets annually for maritime service and employment around the world. Texas A&M-Galveston is ideally located in Galveston, Texas on the Gulf Coast where is it surrounded by the industry, environment and programs essential to fulfilling its special-purpose mission. Aggies are known for their deep commitment to the success of each other and their strong desire to serve.

If you are interested in supporting this endeavor or research, please contact the Texas A&M University at Galveston Office of Development by email at GiveToSeaAggies@txamfoundation.com or by calling (409) 740-4481.