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Campers Get Hands-On about Oil Spill

By Michelle Bliss

08-03-10 – In response to coverage of the Gulf oil spill, campers attending this week's Marine Quest program hosted by UNCW are learning about the effects of water pollution.

After hearing about the oil spill for months, campers are fishing and collecting samples to see how oil can stick to wetland grasses and form plumes underwater. Each camper will also snap on a snorkel mask and examine creatures living in the mud that would be affected by oil contamination, like clams and scallops.

Back in the classroom, the kids will actually be mapping out the burrow patterns of fiddler crabs to see how an oil spill would reroute them. Program Coordinator Jeremy Burnett says he's turning national issues into hands-on learning.

"Some of the biggest problems that we're concerned with is when the oil penetrates into the salt marshes. So, we have opportunities to explore the salt marsh; the kids learn how it's a fragile ecosystem and it acts as a nursery for a lot of juvenile fish species."

The kids will also visit the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Beach where they'll do a mock analysis of a sea turtle's stomach contents to see how pollutants like oil and plastic can affect the turtles.