The Tybee Island Marine Science Center has a number of interactive, educational and informative events and programs planned for this summer. While geared toward kids, they are equally enjoyable for all ages.
From a turtle talk to a marsh trek and more, there are plenty of ways to experience the natural wonder and beauty of Georgia’s coastal landscape and marine life. The programs are part of the center’s mission to educate the public and conserve the coastline’s natural ecosystem.
“Our mission is to create a responsible stewardship of coastal Georgia's natural resources through marine science-based education, conservation and research,” program director Beth Palmer said. “The more we are able to educate, the more people will make a connection and want to protect our coast.
“We offer programs both in the field and in our Coastal Georgia Gallery,” Palmer continued. “Our Coastal Georgia Gallery has native animals that can be found on the beach, in the marsh, in the maritime forest, and in the ocean. Most of our resident animals will stay for a short period and then be released back into the wild.
“We offer scheduled sea turtle feedings, behind-the-scenes tours and cart programs with various artifacts. Our walks, talks, and treks programs allow visitors to explore the beach and the marsh, search for animals that live beneath our sandy feet and in the ocean, and learn more about our marine ambassador loggerhead sea turtle.”
The Turtle Talk focuses on loggerheads, Kemp’s ridley, greens and leatherback sea turtles, which all nest along Georgia’s beaches. The program covers a broad range of topics, including anatomy to why sea turtles cry and Tybee Island’s conservation efforts.
“With the warm weather, it is the perfect time to visit the beach!” Palmer said. “However, our sea turtles also prefer the warm weather for nesting on our beaches. There are some simple rules we can follow when visiting the beaches during the summer.
“If you dig holes on the beach, make sure to fill the holes back in so baby sea turtles do not fall in them. Also, make sure to take everything you brought with you to the beach back with you, especially trash. Leave only your footprints!
"If you are on the beach at night, only use red-filtered lights so you do not disturb any sea turtle that may be nesting or going to the ocean. If you come across a sea turtle, keep your distance and do not interfere. Lastly, if you are staying at lodging on the beach, turn your outside lights off after 9 p.m. so the turtles will not confuse the light for the moon's light.”
The Sift ’N’ Seine program takes a look at the intertidal zone, where a plethora of sea life can be found. Using a 10-foot seine net, participants can catch and examine various animals like pompanos, silversides, mullets and crabs. Or you can take a walk through a marsh to discover fiddler crabs, snails and marsh birds on one of the center’s marsh treks. The center also hosts regular guided educational walks on the south and north ends of Tybee, which explore the different forces of nature that create the beach.
“Education is key to conservation,” Palmer said. “The more we know, the more we understand, the more we protect. Learning valuable information as kids can stay with us through our adult life.”