Marine Science at Acadia Institute of Oceanography

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A marine biologist in a scuba diving suit diving under the ocean and observing a fish with colorful fins

Marine Science at Acadia Institute of Oceanography

Are you fascinated by the mysteries hidden beneath the ocean? If so, the Acadia Institute of Oceanography (AIO) is what you need to kickstart your journey into marine science.

At AIO, young explorers like yourself get to dive headfirst into the fascinating realm of marine science. There are no complicated textbooks or boring lectures here—AIO makes learning hands-on and thrilling.

The curriculum at AIO is like a treasure map, leading you through the vast world of oceanography. You’ll unravel the secrets of biological, physical, and chemical oceanography, all while getting your hands wet with fieldwork, classroom sessions, offshore adventures, and lab experiments.

AIO offers a variety of options to suit your schedule and curiosity. There’s a 1-week introductory session for the eager beavers, two 2-week intermediate sessions for those ready to dive deeper, and two 2-week advanced sessions for the real oceanography enthusiasts. The best part? You don’t need any previous oceanographic experience to join the fun.

So, whether you’re a marine science rookie or a budding Jacques Cousteau, AIO welcomes you to explore, discover, and get your feet wet in the exciting world of oceanography.

The History and Mission

Founded in 1977, the Acadia Institute of Oceanography has been at the forefront of marine science education for over four decades. Its mission is to inspire the next generation of oceanographers and environmentalists through immersive and transformative educational experiences.

With a rich history of providing exceptional marine science education, the Acadia Institute has nurtured countless young minds, igniting their passion for the ocean and its conservation.

Over the years, the institute has developed a comprehensive curriculum combining theoretical knowledge with practical skills, ensuring students receive a well-rounded education. At Acadia Institute, students are not just observers; they become active participants in scientific research and exploration. Through hands-on activities, field trips, and laboratory work, they deeply understand the delicate marine ecosystems and the urgent need for their conservation.

Through its innovative programs, the institute aims to cultivate a sense of stewardship among its students, empowering them to become advocates for the ocean and its inhabitants.  The institute is shaping the future of marine science by instilling a love for the marine world and equipping students with the tools to make a difference.

A male marine biologist holding a clear container with a plant specimen

Marine Science Camps at Acadia Institute of Oceanography

AIO provides three summer programs in Maine, including Introductory, Intermediate, and Advanced sessions. Additionally, two winter programs in Florida and Belize are available exclusively to students who have completed a summer program.

1. Introductory Marine Science Camp Program

Program Dates: June 16-21, 2024

Age Group: Ages 10-12

Location: Seal Harbor, Maine

Costs: $1,600 for a one-week session

About This Program

Dive into a one-week environmental discovery and exploration session tailored for 10-12-year-olds curious about the ocean and the world. No experience needed—just enthusiasm for learning and exploring.

Engage in hands-on activities like:

  • Geology Hikes
  • Astronomy Lessons
  • Night Walks
  • Visits to Local Museums
  • Tidal Pool Discovery
  • Salt Marsh Exploration
  • Beach & Island Ecology
  • Boat Trips with Lobster Fishermen
  • Seal and Seabird Watches

What to Expect

This program is perfect for active learners seeking an exciting and educational introduction to Maine’s coastal wonders. Daily recreational activities, including swimming, hiking, and games, ensure there’s plenty of time for fun.

Program Schedule

The 2024 Introductory program runs from June 16-21, with students spending 6 days and 5 nights immersed in the program. Kick-off on Sunday after noon and wrap up on Friday morning. Families can join the cookout between 11:30 and 12:30 pm on the last day. Students will grasp essential ocean concepts like biodiversity, zonation, food chains, and more through beach trips, salt marsh exploration, tidal pool visits, and boat adventures.

a student carrying her notebooks

2. Intermediate Marine Science Camp Program

Program Dates: June 23-July 5 and August 4-16, 2024

Age Group: Ages 12-15

Location: Seal Harbor, Maine

Costs: $3,200 for a two-week session

About This Program

Tailored for 12-15-year-olds, the Intermediate sessions offer a robust natural history approach to oceanography. Dive into the basics of marine concepts and laboratory procedures during this engaging two-week course. Students often find themselves returning for an Advanced session after completing at least one year of high school.

  • Create a Saltwater Tank
  • Explore Beaches
  • Study Diversity And Zonation Of Tidal Pools
  • Compare Saltmarshes And Bogs
  • Fishing
  • Whale Watching
  • Explore Island Geology
  • Water Testing In Somes Sound
  • Visit A Bird Rehabilitation Center
  • Shopping In Bar Harbor

What to Expect

Upon arrival between noon and 4 pm on Sunday, students kick off by setting up their saltwater tank and delving into diverse marine environments on Mt. Desert Island.

Working in small groups, they explore oceanography’s chemical, physical, and biological aspects through beach trips, tidal pool excursions, salt marsh adventures, and bog investigations.

Water sampling, whale watching, and fishing boat trips excite the mornings and afternoons. Departure on the last Friday morning is followed by a family cookout starting at 11:30 am for those being picked up.

3. Advanced Marine Science Camp Program

Program Dates: July 7-19 and July 21-August 2, 2024

Age Group: Ages 15-19

Prerequisites: 1 year of high school science (preferably with a lab component)

Location: Seal Harbor, Maine

Costs: AIO base tuition is $3,200 for Advanced; $3,300 for Advanced for College Credit (additional cost for 4 credits in 2023 was $553, billed directly from UMM)

About This Program

Designed for students aged 15-19, the Advanced Sessions are pre-college courses tailored for those who have completed at least one year of high school science, particularly in biology or chemistry (although not mandatory).

These intensive two-week sessions delve into analytical aspects, requiring students to prepare laboratory reports and analyze their fieldwork.

Explore collegiate options with college tours and discussions about internships for high school and college-aged students. AIO students have a track record of success, with many gaining acceptance at research facilities nationwide and pursuing their scientific endeavors in marine science.

The caliber of the students is highly esteemed; College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, even extends $10,000/year scholarships to any AIO student (up to $40,000 for four years) accepted into their program with a recommendation from one of their program Directors.

  • Whale Watching
  • Explore Island Geology
  • Water Testing In Somes Sound
  • Dogfish Shark Dissection
  • College Tours
  • Create A Saltwater Tank
  • Explore Beaches And Understand Sand Movement
  • Study Diversity And Zonation Of Tidal Pools
  • Sanddollar Embryology
  • Fishing

Expectations and Schedule

Get ready for an exciting journey into marine science! Upon arrival between noon and 4 pm on Sunday, students kick off by setting up their saltwater tank and delving into the diverse marine environments on Mt. Desert Island.

Working in small groups, students explore oceanography’s chemical, physical, and biological aspects during trips to the beach, tidal pools, salt marsh, and bog.

Brace yourself for water-sampling adventures, whale-watching excursions, and fishing boat trips that round out the morning and afternoon activities.

Departure on the last Friday morning marks the end of the program, and families are welcome to join a cookout starting at 11:30 am for those being picked up.

three students in the walkway

4. Florida Marine Science Camp Program

Program Dates: November 22-27, 2024

Age Group: Ages 14-19

Prerequisites: Exemplary completion of Intermediate or Advanced session and 14 years of age by the start of the program. Registration is available only after attending an orientation meeting during the summer.

Location: Florida

Costs: $2150

About This Program

The Florida Exploration program sets its sights on the northwest coast of Florida—a rare spot in the country where you can swim alongside manatees in their natural habitat.

Get up close and personal with these gentle giants, interact with State Park Rangers in the field, navigate the unique Intercoastal waterway, and enjoy a sleepover at SeaWorld with a day at Discovery Cove.

This program is a biennial event, taking place during the week of Thanksgiving every other year—from a Friday to the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Students, aged at least 14 at the program’s commencement, with exemplary work and attitude, can apply to attend.

An informational meeting during the summer sessions provides details, and applications are accepted post-session.

What to Expect

Arrive at Orlando International Airport on Friday before 3 pm, where the group embarks on a sleepover at SeaWorld. Following a day at SeaWorld on Saturday, the journey continues to Homosassa, where the Plantation Inn and Golf Resort await for the program’s remainder.

The Dive Shop, linked to the Inn, provides transportation and equipment for snorkeling with manatees, exploring the Rainbow River, and visiting the Devil’s Den. The adventure is complete by beach trips, the Archaeological Park, Crystal River Wildlife Park, and Three Sisters State Park.

Return to Orlando on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving ensures timely departures for homeward-bound flights.

5. Tropical Marine Science Camp Program

Program Dates: November 18-26, 2023

Age Group: Ages 15-19

Prerequisites: AIO Advanced Program

Location: Belize

Costs: Available from the Director after the student attends an orientation meeting during the summer.

About This Program

For over 30 years, a special 9-day tropical marine ecology program has been offered every other winter to alumni of the Advanced sessions. Participants are accommodated at the Tropical Research and Education Center (TREC) facilities in San Pedro on Ambergis Caye.

Led by their skilled staff and TREC directors Dr. Ken Mattes and Maureen Mattes, students delve into daily snorkels and lectures, comparing tropical waters to the temperate waters of the Gulf of Maine.

Concluding the program, participants share their observations through short presentations. Students who have recently completed the Advanced program and demonstrated exemplary work are eligible to apply for the Tropical Program.

An informational meeting occurs during the summer sessions, and applications are accepted post-session.

Who Can Attend AIO?

A warm welcome is extended to students with a strong desire to learn and a demonstrated interest and aptitude in science, as evidenced by their teacher recommendation. However, due to the extensive fieldwork and activities on board boats, students facing severe emotional, physical, or learning challenges may find the program challenging.

While AIO has seen success with students having ADD, ADHD, and other mild learning disabilities, it lacks the capacity to address more severe issues. To ensure a positive and memorable academic and personal experience for all students, careful consideration of your child’s needs is encouraged before registering.

a marine biologist diving deep in the ocean examining a wall of corals

Living at AIO

Acadia Institute of Oceanography presently offers two on-site residential options. Overnight dorm space is available for individuals presenting and identifying as female, and dorm space is provided for those presenting and identifying as male.

Additionally, two shared bathrooms and shower facilities accommodate students presenting as either male or female. Exploring options for adding non-binary residential dorm and bathroom facilities is under consideration for the future.

Some students choose to attend the program as non-residential participants, living offsite. For these participants, AIO provides a designated space with a bed for rest, changing, and storing a limited amount of personal belongings on-site.

Non-residential students partake in the same meals, activities, and resources as their residential counterparts, with AIO tuition being uniform for both residential and non-residential participants.

Scholarships: College of the Atlantic

Alumni of Acadia Institute of Oceanography (AIO) can save up to $10,000 per year when accepted to the College of the Atlantic (COA).

COA proudly extends scholarships to AIO alumni. Any student with attendance at AIO and acceptance to COA is eligible for a $10,000 per year scholarship for up to four years. To apply, submit your admission application to COA, along with a letter of recommendation from a director at AIO.

Successful admission guarantees the scholarship for the first year at COA, with an additional $10,000 scholarship available for each of the next three years, provided satisfactory academic progress is maintained.

This scholarship is open to incoming first-year and transfer students, and there is potential eligibility for need-based financial aid.

College Credit Through AIO’s Advanced Session

Gain a head start on college credits by joining AIO and the University of Maine at Machias (UMM) partnership!

AIO collaborates with UMM to offer up to 23 rising juniors and seniors attending the advanced sessions the chance to earn four college credits through UMM’s Early College program.

This interdisciplinary course provides a hands-on introduction to oceanography, featuring field-based lessons, formal lectures, and laboratory exercises. Students explore coastal and nearshore ecosystems, employing various sampling techniques in biological, physical, and chemical oceanography.

Lecture topics cover biological, geological, physical, and chemical oceanography, while laboratory exercises focus on specific subjects such as shark anatomy and echinoderm development.

Credit-seeking students must complete additional coursework and a final exam. The course is graded, and generally, a C- or higher is transferable. Upon completion, transcripts can be requested from UMM.

What Are the Costs Associated With the College Credit Program?

The base tuition for this program is $3,300, including a $100 service fee payable to AIO. The fee for the four credits is additional to the AIO tuition.

In 2023, the cost for the four credits was $553 beyond the AIO tuition. The tuition for 2024 will be announced in the spring of 2024. After registering at AIO, set up an account at UMM, and the University will bill you before the summer begins. The link will be sent when available in early 2024.

How Do you Apply for the College Credit Program?

Select the Advanced session for credit at the AIO application/Active site. You will receive the link to create an account at the University of Maine Machias when the summer courses become available in the spring.

Final Thoughts

The institute is more than just a summer program; it’s a life-changing experience that shapes young minds to think critically about our relationship with the ocean. With its blend of top-tier education, hands-on experience, and a spectacular setting, Acadia Institute of Oceanography has cemented its reputation as a leading institution in marine science education.

By inspiring the ocean stewards of tomorrow, the institute plays a vital role in the global effort to understand and protect our most precious natural resources. So, if you’re a young, aspiring marine scientist, or simply someone who loves the ocean and wishes to learn more about it, the Acadia Institute of Oceanography should be at the top of your list.

Top view of an unrecognizable marine biologist writing data on a paper on a boat

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