10 teens + 1 boat + 18 scuba tanks + 1 island in the Bahamas = SEA TURTLE?

Huh? Before you start wondering about my math skills, let me tell you about the New England Aquarium's new program called SEA TURTLE.

The turtle in SEA TURTLE stands for Teen Underwater, Research, Training and Learning Expedition. It's an exciting new opportunity for teens who are interested in marine biology, conservation, and scuba diving.

The R/V Coral Reef II docked during a full moon.

The idea for this program was born from my experience as a trip leader for the Bahamas collecting expeditions, and from the students themselves. I'm a scuba instructor and a diver in the Giant Ocean Tank and I can't tell you how many times teens have come by the Dive Office to ask, "How can I learn how to scuba dive? How do I get to dive in the GOT?"

It took some time and a lot of hard work but we came up with an answer--and the answer is SEA TURTLE! Here's how it's going to work:

Ten teens were selected from a strong pool of applicants from the Aquarium community (you'll learn more about them soon). They'll attend weekly classes at the Aquarium and a local pool. Students will practice basic scuba skills underwater and will learn more about scuba equipment and diving safety in the classroom. We'll also hear from really cool guest speakers (like a shark biologist and an underwater videographer). Stay tuned to hear what the students learn each week!

Now here's the REALLY fun part. During April school vacation, we'll fly down to Miami and jump onboard the R/V Coral Reef II (the boat we use for collecting trips). We'll travel down the Miami River and cross the Gulf Stream to the beautiful islands of Bimini, Bahamas. We'll spend a week learning about mangroves, coral reefs, invasive species, fishes and invertebrates. Students will also complete their open water dives to complete their scuba certification.

We'll also be having a lot of fun along the way. We hope you'll come along with us on the journey.

Here are some photos to get us started.

The beautiful waters of Bimini.

Kayaks lined up in Bimini.

Here are a few beautiful underwater scenes (courtesy of past collecting trip participant, Mark Rosenstein).

A gorgonian soft coral. (Photo: Mark Rosenstein)

A flamingo tongue on a sea fan. (Photo: Mark Rosenstein)

A school of snapper. (Photo: Mark Rosenstein)

A school of grunts. (Photo: Mark Rosenstein)

A barrel sponge spawning. (Photo: Mark Rosenstein)

- Sarah

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