The University of Texas-Pan American in conjunction with Shell Oil Corporation and the U.S. Department of Energy hosted the Research Experience in Marine Ecology Summer Camp July 16-24 turning South Padre Island into a classroom.
"We want to help students understand more about marine life and how the eco system works in the Gulf of Mexico," said Alyssa Reyna, UTPA Shell Program Coordinator. "We also want to teach the students how to work with others in diversity and learn how to take charge."
The goal of this camp is to give students awareness on the changes and stresses exerted on the marine ecosystem so that they are able to evaluate environmental issues. It also focuses on teaching students more about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.
"It is important to expose students to science education. The earlier the better," said Hudson Deyoe, UTPA biology professor. "We don't want science to lose its place in this world."
The camp was open to high school students showing an interest in STEM subjects. Students had to write an essay, have a strong science and math background and have a recommendation from a high school teacher or counselor.
"We had an increase of students this year who participated. This means that little by little students are showing an interest in STEM subjects," Reyna said.
Science Academy student, Alejandro Acaro hopes to put to good use everything he learned.
"This camp was a great learning experience and everything was good preparation for my future," Acaro said. "All of the lessons learned will follow me and help me put my knowledge into good use, so I can make a difference."
Camp costs were covered by Shell Oil, the U.S Department of Energy and UTPA. This is the first year that everyone has come together to fund and coordinate the camp. The students were provided with supplies, equipment, transportation, meals, room and board.
Funding also covered the costs of the Katy Vessel. The vessel is rented from The University of Texas at Austin and is one of the main components used in the camp to transport students around the bay to collect samples and marine life.
"As part of Shell's Workforce Development Initiative the company supports programs that encourage students to pursue and develop skills important to technical careers," said Frazier Wilson, Program Manager at Shell Oil Company.
Daniella Diaz, a McAllen High School student, was very grateful to Shell for their sponsorship.
"Shell's sponsorship gave us a great opportunity and experience that we would have never had otherwise," Diaz said. "This was a great eye-opener; I am now considering marine biology as a career and I hope to pass along to others everything I've learned."
There are hopes that the program continues to inspire and encourage students into STEM careers.
"It is our expectation that the students will increase their knowledge and skills in mathematics and science while also being exposed to various technical career possibilities," Wilson said. "We will continue to encourage skill development and awareness."
Deyoe said sponsors are needed to improve next year's camp.
For more information on the Research Experience in Marine Ecology Summer Camp, contact Reyna at 956/381-3361.