Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve
CONTACT: Patrician Price, 904-823-4506

~Hands-on technology enhances campers' understanding of basic scientific and mathematical principals~

Summer campers test their constructed remotely operated underwater vehicle.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve's (GTM Research Reserve) education department launched its hands-on technological and engineering component at this year's "Adventures in the Estuary" summer camp program.

Summer campers ages 7-12 used remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs), a 3-D scanner or a research drone as part of their week-long camp experience.

"Our goal was to focus on the technology and engineering components of our STEM-based camps," said Kenneth Rainer, environmental education coordinator at the GTM Research Reserve. "We want to provide opportunities for students to work with research materials that are applicable today, because they are the future's innovators."

Adding ROVs as a teaching tool to the curriculum enhances students' understanding of basic scientific and mathematical principals and increases their environmental literacy and ability to make science-based decisions related to estuaries and coastal watersheds. This engineering and technological addition brings the GTM Research Reserve's education curriculum in line with a fully comprehensive STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program.

Campers also have the opportunity to identify and monitor the vegetation within the reserve's salt marshes. To reinforce the importance of estuarine conservation, students use a research drone to access areas of the salt marshes that are farther into the marshland. Marsh grasses, such as smooth cordgrass, play an important role in the estuary, acting as a buffer from storms and boat wakes and improve water quality, filtering out sediments and pollutants. 

Additionally, a 3-D scanner is used to discuss fish morphology. The campers create fish out of clay and talk about how a fish's shape affects its behavior. Their creations are then scanned, generating a digital file of the campers' fish handiwork. 

"The ROV project significantly raises environmental and engineering awareness relating to science, technology and math, while also providing the campers with actual work experience for their future career considerations," said Mike Shirley, director of the GTM Research Reserve. "Ideally, the students become aware of proactive tactics they can make to estuarine conservation, which will contribute to a resilient coastal community."

For more information about the "Adventures in the Estuary" summer camp program or educational opportunities at the GTM Research Reserve, contact Kenneth Rainer at 904-823-4500.
About the GTM Research Reserve
The GTM Research Reserve is one of 28 National Estuarine Research Reserves across the nation focused on researching, educating and protecting the natural biodiversity and cultural resources within the estuary. It is managed by Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Coastal Office, in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Environmental Education Center is located at 505 Guana River Road, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, 32082. For more information about the GTM Research Reserve, please call 904-823-4500 or visit our website at