Maine State Aquarium interns learning, teaching about sea creatures

UMF students educating visitors about aquatic life around Hendricks Head
Posted:  Saturday, August 5, 2017 - 8:00am

Two Maine State Aquarium interns are imparting knowledge about sea creatures in and around Hendricks Beach this summer. University of Maine at Farmington students Ben Cloutier, 19, of Vassalboro and Molly Maurer, 19, of West Bath are leading a presentation called “Explore the Zone” which examines what organisms are found during an intertide search.

The project fits into both interns’ interests. Both are passionate about learning and teaching, and both majoring in education. Cloutier is matriculating toward becoming a high science teacher. Maurer plans on teaching elementary school math. So far, they have led two discussions on the aquatic life found around Hendricks Head. The 90-plus minute presentation begins with digging a round artificial tide pool, four feet in diameter. A tarp is placed into the pool and filled with water.

The interns lead their group in a beach scavenger hunt collecting various life forms within the intertidal zone. The group collects a variety of tiny lobsters, shrimps, crab and fish for 30 minutes and deposits them into the man-made tide pool. The group also uses intertidal seining in collecting samples from the sea. The method extracts various sea creatures from the water by using a big floating mat with floats attached to the top and weights on the bottom. Seining has accounted for collecting about 24 specimens in a session, according to the interns.

Once the sea creatures are placed into the artificial tidal pool, the interns spend the next hour discussing the various specimens found. The combination of exploring for aquatic creatures and disseminating information is a rewarding professional experience for the two future teachers. Cloutier, a summer volunteer last year, knew working at the Maine State Aquarium would be rewarding because it combined his passions for science and teaching.

“I knew this would be a great place to work because it deals with two things I love. I learn something knew every day which makes it both fun and interesting, ” he said.

Maurer, the future math teacher, ended up as a Maine State Aquarium intern based on her marine biology instructor’s recommendation.

“I love science, too! The oceans have always been a part of my life and I’m sure I will take other science courses and teach it at some point,” she said. “I was looking for something to do this summer interacting with kids and she recommended me for this internship.”

Cloutier’s and Maurer’s presentation isn’t their only summer duty. They work primarily as educators working at different stations throughout the aquarium. Their duties include operating the touch and shark tanks. They also each present a creature feature. Cloutier’s presentation is about moon snails. Maurer discusses sea stars.

The next “Explore the Zone” presentations will be at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 15 and 1 p.m. Aug. 17 at Hendricks Head Beach.