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MarineQuest Summer Program for Teens

Fun meets academic enrichment with these three marine-science-focused sessions at UNC Wilmington
By Brooke Morton | Updated On January 25, 2023
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MarineQuest Summer Program for Teens

Teens smiling and waving in scuba gear on the surface of the water

MarineQuest is the official marine science outreach program for the University of North Carolina Wilmington

MarineQuest Summer Program

Come summer, there is no better place to be than in coastal Southeastern North Carolina. The University of North Carolina Wilmington’s MarineQuest program is the perfect addition to summer break for high school marine enthusiasts and the next generation of marine scientists. MarineQuest programs focus on field research and discovery in the terrestrial and aquatic realms, along with plenty of active, outdoor downtime in between. Three dive programs are offered, from the three-week Oceans-17 for rising seniors in high school to the one-week Dive Hawks session, which requires no previous dive certifications and is open to students ages 14 – 17.

The capstone program and most popular offering is Oceans-17, a three-week residential summer experience designed for students age 17 with an interest in pursuing marine science degrees or careers. For this program, students must already hold an Open Water dive certification in order to hit the ground running—conducting underwater REEF fish surveys and collecting samples of local algae and seaweed species for in-lab study. The program also includes workshops devoted to learning the flora and fauna of this marine environment, home to southern stingrays, queen angelfish, butterflyfish, barracuda and even the occasional manta ray. All the while, students are gaining confidence in the collegiate and lab setting. Students will participate in ongoing research studies led by UNCW faculty as well as undertake their own research on topics, such as invasive versus noninvasive species. Throughout the course, they are working their way toward earning a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification, completing three full days of diving that encompass a variety of underwater skills, from diving deep to learning underwater navigation.

Two female teen scuba divers in the water waving at the camera

MarineQuest is making waves in environmental education!

MarineQuest Summer Program

The Oceans-17 program also helps high school students gain a leg up in the college admission process of any university, and especially UNC Wilmington, home to professors and PhD students who are fellow graduates of the Oceans-17 program. Nearly 80 percent of the students who attend this summer program go on to become freshman at UNCW, walking onto campus with established connections with the faculty and research community.

The weeklong Scientific Diver course, another summer offering, prepares students who are already Open Water Divers ages 14 to 17 for underwater research. Students gain skills that a scientific diver needs, from underwater buoyancy control to more efficient air consumption, all while working toward two PADI specialties: Aware Fish ID certification and Peak Performance Buoyancy. The focus on ichthyology continues with a fish dissection in the UNCW Ichthyology Lab to better understand the biology of marine organisms.

No dive certifications are required for the weeklong Dive Hawks program, for high school students ages 14 to 17. This is the beginning SCUBA course of the entire MarineQuest program, allowing students to start building experience in the marine science world. During this course, students will work toward a PADI Open Water scuba certification (which requires that they complete an online learning portion prior to the start date). Once on campus, they will learn scuba skills in the UNCW pool facilities before going on to explore the ocean’s artificial reefs and historical shipwrecks. Students will also enjoy time at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher to learn more about fish identification and behavior. Throughout this summer session, teens gain confidence with SCUBA equipment, diving techniques, dive safety and underwater research techniques. This program also explores the variety of careers that rely upon underwater skills, such as underwater archeologist, media diver, scientific diver and more.

Three male scuba divers looking at the camera

MarineQuest provides young people with opportunities to explore, discover and value our marine habitats.

MarineQuest Summer Program

All three of the highlighted programs are residential, allowing students a chance to enjoy and become familiar with the UNC Wilmington campus. Downtime includes organized trips to Wrightsville Beach to swim, boogie board, kayak, snorkel and spend time with new friends. Summer evenings on campus include outdoor games such as volleyball, cornhole, lifesize Jenga and more.

It’s fun-meets-learning, with each session limited to 16 students to foster connectivity. These programs also ask students to leave cell phones at home to create an unplugged setting to allow for more engagement and in-the-moment living. It’s just one more way UNC Wilmington helps create an experience that’s more than diving and more than science—each summer session is a life-enriching getaway where teens make school and career connections as well as lifelong friends.

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