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A group of Terry Parker High School students got a little wet and muddy this week at Jacksonville University.

They got some coursework done, too, researching oyster reefs at the Marine Science Research Institute.

Yet, there were no complaints.

“It’s fun, really, very interesting – they’ve made it so that learning is fun,” Terry Parker junior Nick Farmer said after sorting through a container of oyster shells, extracting dozens of species ranging from mud crabs to worms.

The Marine Science Research Institute has a longstanding partnership with Terry Parker — located in Jacksonville’s Arlington area — to offer a career academy focused on marine environmental sciences. The collaboration enables the high-schoolers to get a taste of college life, enhanced knowledge of the ecosystem, and information about how to be environmental stewards, said Dan McCarthy, who directs JU’s undergraduate marine science program.

JU marine science students pitch in on the tutelage while doing research themselves. On Wednesday, Jan. 30, the Terry Parker and JU students continued their ongoing examination of two oyster reef-restoration techniques – one using prefabricated oyster homes called “reef balls”, and the other using mesh bags filled with oyster shells – along the Jacksonville University riverbank and near Fort Caroline. After recovering the makeshift reefs, the students plucked the organisms that had accumulated.

“They have carried out the project and are learning about the various organisms that are all part of the ecology of the river and the food chain, while gaining appreciation and understanding of the importance of enhancing aquatic habitats,” McCarthy said.

Dwayne Rogers, Terry Parker’s Academy of Coastal and Environmental Sciences’ lead teacher, said some valuable education is mixed in what are otherwise fun outings for his students.
 
“The kids are having real-world, hands-on experiences, seeing science in action under the direction instruction of college professors,” said Rogers, a 1994 JU marine science graduate. “It’s a great opportunity.”
 
(Cutline information: Terry Parker High School students (from left) BriAna Brugnolotti, Kaleen Seabrooks and Cayley Royce (standing) sort through and itemize organisms extracted from an oyster reef Wednesday, Jan. 30 at Jacksonville University’s Marine Science Research Institute. (Photo by Kevin Hogencamp/Jacksonville University)
 
(More photos are published here.)