Estuarine Bays

Group Programs

Bay County—State Park/ County/FSU campus access

Elementary, Middle, High school

The trip at this time is designed to be completed from shore. Future trips may allow use of boats for Gulf of Mexico and Dune Lake sampling/comparison.


This Adventure will center on exploring one or more of these specific habitats within either St. Andrew’s or Choctawhatchee Bays: seagrass beds, oyster reefs/hard bottom communities, living shoreline restoration locations, and soft bottom communities. If a trip is planned for Andrews State Park, sampling in the Gulf of Mexico along the jetties can also be arranged.

Within the habitat(s) selected, the adventure will focus on sampling, analysis/identification, and Q&A. Activities that can be chosen are: water quality; sampling and identification of marine life; identifying and discussion of exotics/nuisance species; taking the opportunity to look for and observe larger marine mammals, reptiles and fish; examining locations where living shorelines have been installed and comparing to other areas without; detailed look at the biology and behavior of sea scallops; a closer look at the critters that live on the habitat (epiphytes); trying your hand at fishing in the habitats to see who lives there; dissection of a squid or octopus; and looking for and discussing plastic and other pollution impacts in the habitat and the implications to the larger ecosystem. The focus will be for participants to be able to describe the major physical, biological and ecological features of each habitat visited during the field trip and discuss their solutions to man’s impacts. The discussion and salient points taught will be based on the grade level of the class. In most cases, one habitat will be all that can be visited in a trip. Multiple trips through the year can be arranged to cover all of the habitats.

St. Andrew’s/Choctawhatchee Bays offer a variety of habitats to explore: seagrass beds, oyster reefs, living shorelines, and hardbottom communities.


St. Andrew’s Bay is an economically and ecologically important focus of the region.  Not only does it drive a significant component of the economy, but it is also a critical ecosystem that supports a vast majority of the marine life in this part of the Florida panhandle.  Providing local students an opportunity to see, understand, and experience the animals and habitats firsthand will help build memorable experiences that can help teachers drive home key learnings and the students to develop an appreciation of the importance of the St. Andrew Bay ecosystem. 

Based on the habitat that is visited, students will carry out sampling activities, observations, and data collection to learn the basic structure of the habitat, how to identify the organisms, the interactions between species, and help them to understand species roles and adaptations to the habitat. Distinctions will be made to help students understand how organisms adapt to the habitat and the physical and biological factors that influence those habitats.

Sample Itineraries

Standard programs include our core curriculum of water quality, invertebrate ecology, marine specimen identification, seagrass ecology, oyster reef ecology, hard bottom ecology. Basic and advanced versions of the core curriculum are available; the advanced options incorporate data collection and are geared towards High School and STEM/STEAM participants. We have many options to customize the adventure by location depending on time available and age level of participants.

Half Day: For schools, these would start once the school buses can bring the students to the location. There would be two core activity stations the students would rotate through for the ½ day adventure. These are the water quality and explore the marsh activities.

Full Day: For schools, the start time again would be dictated by the bus availability and would entail the two core activities listed above plus the choice of two more activities: Blue Crab Observations (Staff will teach participants about the anatomy and behavior of the blue crab and its role in the salt marsh while trying to catch some!), Why Does the Mud Stink So Bad? (Using sediment cores, staff will reveal the layers of sediment in the marsh, why it stinks so bad, and why it is so important to the critters), Critters the Eye Can’t See (Using microscopes and large picture guides, participants will look at the critters caught in plankton nets by the staff to learn about these important critters), Funny Fiddlers (Fiddler facts will be observed both in specimens in aquaria and in the marshes), and Where Does the Water Go? (Using a miniature model of a watershed in the field, participants will examine what happens to pollutants and floods caused by increased surface runoff).

Group Sizes

Group Programs will be limited to no more than 40 students at a time. We would expect the school to provide the teachers who lead the class(es) to accompany the students and 1 chaperon per 9 students as well. E&FCA will set up the appropriate number of stations to rotate the students through so that there will be no more than 10 students per station and the associated staff to lead the activity.

How to Book

Choose your field adventure! Pick your date below on the calendar and register online!  You can also call 850-508-7306 Monday – Friday 8:30 AM to 5 PM to have your questions answered and book your trip.  Student’s costs will be covered by Grants and donations, but we will need a firm headcount for each trip.  For Field Adventures for the Community (residents and visitors), donations will be required to cover the costs of staff and equipment use and to support E&FCA’s efforts during the school year.  The costs will be calculated on a per person basis during booking.  Your donations will help science teachers hone their skills during the summer by leading adventures and will help bring more kids into the field during the school year!  We much appreciate your contributions!

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