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Each summer the USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center sponsors the University of South Florida (USF) Oceanography Camp for Girls, a three-week summer program developed in the 1990s to inspire and motivate young women entering high school to consider career opportunities in the sciences.

By: Kira Barrera

During the camp the young women go on a research cruise aboard the R/V Bellows, learn about fieldwork techniques and laboratory procedures, and collect field survey data for research projects. This summer marked the 17th year of USGS involvement with the camp and the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center took its support to new levels. 

Kira Barrera, a physical scientist and the center’s outreach and education coordinator, served as a science mentor for the camp and led two ocean acidification research projects. The projects were conducted at Clam Bayou, a local nature preserve on Boca Ciega Bay and the site of the USF College of Marine Science (CMS) Clam Bayou Education Center and the USF–CMS Coastal Ocean Monitoring and Prediction System (COMPS) station for the West Florida Shelf. Over four days, the campers explored how ocean acidification is affecting the world’s oceans, and is occurring at different rates locally due to many factors such as ecosystem structure and dynamics. The campers collected water temperature and salinity data from various environments at Clam Bayou, utilized narrow and broadband spectrophotometric and electrode analysis of pH, and analyzed and compared their data to the historical and diurnal data collected by the COMPS station. 

An annual highlight of the camp are the tours of the center, which took place over two days and allowed the young women to observe laboratory procedures and analysis as well as demonstrations with a variety of scientific instruments, equipment, and research vessels. The tour culminated with career interviews of scientists Alisha Ellis, Elsie McBride, Legna Torres, Chris Smith, Karen Morgan, R.C. Mickey, Ginger Range and Hilary Stockdon. 

The camp’s opening and closing ceremonies were held at the USGS. Campers and their families enjoyed the opportunity to visit the center. All the campers shared the results of their research projects through verbal and poster presentations at a closing ceremony. The posters were then displayed in the center lobby. 

Image shows a trifold with several camper-made research projects attached.
Research project posters created by Oceanography Camp for Girls campers were displayed in the USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center lobby.