Field research will be conducted from boats in the Gulf of Mexico dependent on weather and other conditions as determined by the Captain. The sole determination on continuing or cancelling a trip for the day lies with the Captain of the vessel. In the event of inclement weather, specimen dissections, lectures, and other activities will be conducted. In the event of inclement weather for 3 days or more during a single week, partial to full credit for additional weeks will be determined by the directors.
Weekly Itinerary - (Sunday through Saturday)
Research will be conducted from one of our boats every day of the program, weather permitting*.
Sunday - Arrive at the Tampa (TPA) or Clearwater/St. Petersburg (PIE) airport. Transportation from either airport to our classrooms and our housing is included. An orientation session will be held at 4:00pm on Sunday at our classrooms in Clearwater, FL. Please ensure to schedule flights to arrive in time to attend the 4:00pm mandatory orientation.
Monday through Friday - Conduct field research collecting sharks and stingrays. All animals will be sexed, measured, have pertinent data recorded, tagged, and released. Other animals may be brought on board for observation, photographic documentation, then released. Beach time will be available for study and observation of specimens along the beaches of Florida's Gulf coast. Attend brief lectures on our various local ecosystems and the animals we may encounter in those habitats prior to experiencing that ecosystem. Snorkeling over grass beds, in mangrove forests, and reef structures will be available throughout the week. SCUBA diving will be made available for SCUBA certified participants at an additional charge.
Lecture topics: Students who attend 4 weeks will hear all lectures seen here. Shark and ray anatomy, physiology, reproduction, feeding behavior, habitat utilization, identification, conservation concerns, and current research; basics of estuaries including seagrasses and mangroves; fisheries; aquaculture; ecotoxicology; sea turtle anatomy, physiology, reproduction, and conservation concerns; manatee anatomy, physiology, reproduction, and conservation concerns; artificial and natural reef habitats; scientific research and communication; aquariums and captivity; concept of species; and invasive species and how to deal with them.
Saturday - Return travel. Transportation to the Tampa or Clearwater/St. Petersburg airports is included.
Spring Break Classes also available
Students will be participating in field work out on boats Monday through Friday each week catching, tagging, collecting DNA samples and recording data on sharks and stingrays as well as participating in classroom lectures. Students perform all aspects of the field work from baiting hooks to setting longlines and nets and processing the animals. Students may sign up for as many weeks as you would like. Weeks do not have to be consecutive. Each week will be conducted similar to the example schedule shown below. Any student who chooses to attend multiple weeks will be given more responsibility on the boat each week. Students who attend multiple weeks will hear different lectures each week.
Students attending four weeks will be considered a chief scientist* on the research project.
*Chief Scientists will be acknowledged by name on any published papers resulting from this research. Since Chief Scientists spend more time with us we are better able to write detailed recommendation letters for these students. This option is not available for spring break classes.
Spring Break Classes
Spring break classes will focus on field research techniques and their application. Students will do the same research as the summer program, but the lectures will be specific to research techniques and data collection. Spring break classes are limited to seven participants each week and participants may only sign up for either week as noted in the program weeks available listed below.
Manatee Education / Manatee Kayaking Observation Trip
All students will receive the lecture portion of our manatee education program at no additional cost.
A manatee field observation trip will also be offered as an option for those participating in our summer program. The field observation trip will include transportation from our housing or the classrooms to the Weeki Wachee river. Participants will then be provided a double kayak and will be taken on a marine biologist guided tour of the river to observe manatees in their natural habitat. Participants will also be provided with a mask and snorkel to observe the manatees underwater. This optional trip will be conducted with a minimum of six participants and a maximum of twelve. Participants will be able to sign up for the trip once they arrive for their program weeks. This year there will also be a limited number of crystal kayaks available which are made of lexan and are completely see-through! This trip will cost only $34 per person for the clear kayaks.
"CMERA provides an extraordinary, high-impact educational experience that cannot be found anywhere else for the price. My students were out on the water every day setting the gear, catching and handling sharks and rays, and learning about marine ecosystems first hand. We had opportunities to see dolphins and sea turtles, swim with manatees, and dive artificial reefs. I think it fair to say my students learned more during our week at CMERA then they might have from a semester in the classroom. The students come back changed. They will remember their experience and what they learned for years to come.”
Professor Todd Wellnitz, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire
Professors - University / College Faculty - High School Educators
The above weeks are for individual students, however if you would like to bring your class or group either during the summer or in the spring or fall we can accommodate your specific needs. Our classrooms and boats handle groups up to 22 students.
Not only can our research program be tailored to meet your specific class needs, we can also provide a group rate which includes housing, in town transportation and meals.
Additionally, we provide special group trips for our Costa Rica/Nicaragua class which can accommodate 16 students or 14 students and two professors/chaperones. These trips can also be tailored to fit your class needs.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
See the below testimonial from Professor Todd Wellnitz who has brings classes annually from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire to our program
Scuba Certification will now be offered as an optional part of our program!
You can now receive an open water certification from SSI while you are attending our summer program for only $249! Requirements: You must be enrolled for a minimum of two weeks during the summer and provide your own mask, fins, snorkel, dive booties and surface marker buoy. Certification will be administered by Heroes Dive Shop in Dunedin, FL and all payments for certification will be made directly to them when the student takes the class. Students wishing to purchase the required equipment may do so at the dive shop for a package price of $199.
We are currently planning on tagging sharks and rays with identification tags as we have for the last six years. Additionally, we will be tagging a select group of sharks with satellite tags to determine their geographic distribution. We have been documenting the shark and ray species found in this part of Florida, determining population sizes, determining age structure within a population, determining sex ratio within a population, observing site fidelity of individuals, and any changes in population sizes that occur during this study. We are looking for possible interactions between the populations of different species. We work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on sea turtle monitoring in our area and share our data with FWC, NOAA, and the Florida Division of Parks and Recreation.
We are excited to announce that CMERA will be collaborating with NOVA Southeastern University, the Guy Harvey Research Institute headed by Dr. Mahmood Shivji on an elasmobranch DNA study. During our summer program 2018 we will be collecting DNA samples on great hammerhead sharks, tiger sharks, bonnethead sharks and southern stingrays to provide to Nova / GHRI for analysis. This is an amazing opportunity for CMERA participants to get hands on experience with this type of research project. See our summer program page for more information on our program and to sign up today !