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Catawba Marine Science Class to Take the Trip of a Lifetime

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Photo Credit: Left: Sophia Centeno, Right: Sydney Smith

Left: Sophia Centeno shows off her diving mask. Right: Sarah Wike, looking excellent in her fins.

Sydney Smith, Writer, Co-editor
October 1, 2012
Filed under Events, Student Life & News, Top Stories

After the last day of this semester’s upcoming finals, many Catawba students will return home for a month of relaxation and holiday celebrations. For a group of Catawba’s Marine Science students, however, this winter break will include much more than mom’s cooking and catching up with friends from home.

The Marine Science class will travel to Bonaire, a caribbean island located approximately 50 miles off the coast of Aruba. The students will depart on December 8th and return on December 15th.

During this excursion, the students will scuba dive in the ocean surrounding the island, learning and discovering more about the sea life there. Scuba diving here is a special treat for the Catawba divers — Bonaire’s reefs are protected areas, meaning the corals, creatures, and plants there are untouched by divers, unlike many other tropical reefs.

To prepare for scuba diving, the marine science students are learning extensively about their diving equipment in class. The students are also taking weekly diving lessons in Charlotte, which includes an extensive study concerning the safety factors of scuba. Marine Science student Sarah Wike explains about numerous precautions divers must take while in the water. “I was surprised there were so many and so serious,” said Wike.

After mastering the workings of the equipment, the students will study marine life, preparing them for what they may encounter in Bonaire’s waters. The students will learn to identify different fish species and other organisms they may see in the environment.

Dr. Mark Sabo is instructing the students about scuba diving and the equipment, while Dr. Constance Lowery is teaching about the marine life students can expect to encounter in Bonaire.

Marine Science student Sophia Centeno expresses her excitement about visiting Bonaire and seeing the wildlife there. “I have always loved the ocean, and it is going to be such a wonderful experience to be able to dive in such a beautiful place,” says Centeno.

Centeno, Wike, and their classmates will be residing in bungalow-style housing while in Bonaire. The students will be allowed to explore the land as well as the underwater scene.

Along with teaching about the wonders and beauty of tropical marine life, the Marine Science course also covers the deterioration of tropical reefs and the pollution of the Earth’s oceans. Not all tropical reef environments are protected like Bonaire’s. Sadly, many face ruin due to divers picking through them and disturbing their natural balances. Being able to see an undisturbed reef environment will provide a rare look at the natural underwater world for the student divers.

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