GULF SHORES — While high school science lessons often involve dissection, Gulf Shores students find themselves busy juggling clubs, everyday life as a teenager and raising baby …
GULF SHORES — While high school science lessons often involve dissection, Gulf Shores students find themselves busy juggling clubs, everyday life as a teenager and raising baby oysters.
Students in the Alabama Gulf Coast school's environmental science class spend their year with the mollusks, collecting data to counteract over-fishing.
Krista Marcum, environmental science teacher, said she leads a group of around 90 students each year, guiding them through raising the oysters and maintaining a clean and safe water habitat at the school.
"The students are mainly taking growth samples and measurements throughout the cages," Marcum said. "They also take population estimates and use those numbers to evaluate how much the oysters are worth."
Marcum said the program works closely with Auburn University by purchasing cages from them and sending numbers and back throughout the year.
"Students start raising the oysters in June, and I have a few student interns that help over the summer," Marcum said. "It ends with us giving our big collection to Auburn, and they release the oysters in Mobile Bay."
Marcum said Auburn releases the oysters on closed reefs that can't be fished to help grow and sustain the reefs and keep the population thriving.
Marcum said the inspiration for the program came from her own personal interest in raising oysters. After contacting the Mississippi Alabama Sea Grant, she was given the green light to start leading the initiative through her environmental science classes.
"I really wanted to get our students excited and passionate about their local environment," Marcum said. "I spoke with Mayor Craft, and we talked about realizing how valuable the Gulf of Mexico is, especially after the oil spill in 2010."
Marcum said the purpose of the program is to not only get students passionate about protecting the environment, but also how to appeal to tourists.
"Oysters provide essential services to our ecosystem. They filter our water and provide habitat for local species," Marcum said.
Marcum said the success of the oyster program has led to the planning of other future projects.
"We have plans to start programs where students can monitor our water quality and take bacteria samples to see if water is safe to swim in," Marcum said. "It has been really cool to see students taking the initiative to educate their community on their own through the knowledge they learn in class."