Tracey Marcus, instructor for the marine camp, holds up a starfish. (Credit: Paul Squire)
Tracy Marcus, an instructor at the Suffolk County Marine Environmental Learning Center in Southold, points through the clear water in an open-topped tank, where a scallop about the size of a clenched fist lies on its side, revealing a ring of bright blue eyes. She reaches in to pick it up and fish and shrimp scurry away as the scallop snaps shut.
The “touch tank” is one of four at the Cedar Beach facility, operated by Cornell University. And this summer, during sessions of the Sea Adventures Marine Camp, the tanks — the center’s most popular attractions — will once again be open to North Fork children after nearly a decade in Babylon.
“We’ve been talking the past couple of years about doing a full-scale program,” said Kimberly Barbour, marine program outreach manager for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. “Back in its heyday, [the old] program was huge.”
The North Fork summer camp had run for several years, but in 2007 the extension chose to move it to Babylon. For the past few years, a smaller program, accommodating only nine children at a time, was set up in Southold. But when the Babylon location became unavailable last year, the larger summer camp program was able to move back to the East End.
The camp offers a variety of week-long courses, some of them offered multiple times over the summer. A main camp will include interactive exhibits, activities in the nearby salt marsh and marine-themed arts and crafts, Ms. Marcus said.
Campers will also get to explore the touch tank room and pick up starfish and hermit crabs. Nearby, tropical fish and even small sharks native to the area swim in larger tanks.
Programs are designed for campers in various age groups from 6 to 12 and include a special week devoted to marine mammals like whales, seals and dolphins, as well as the popular “shark week.”
Both of those week-long camps feature trips to the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead.
When they’re not out exploring, Ms. Marcus said, campers will be inside the Cedar Beach learning center, in a classroom with a digital microscope that can be streamed to a giant TV, Ms. Marcus said.
There’s also enough space in the center to hold camps for younger and older children at the same time, meaning parents with kids of different ages can enroll them all at once, she added.
The online registration period is now open at SeaAdventuresMarineCamp.com and will remain open until the camp programs begin in early July.