As the fish tanks aboard the Karma research vessel filled with creatures large and small, an apprehensive but curious Kaylie Felion slowly mustered the courage to touch a harmless jellyfish.
“I’m just kinda squeamish,” said Kaylie, 12.
Surrounded by fellow students of Texas State Aquarium’s weeklong summer camp, Kaylie and aquarium staff shoved off about 10 a.m. Friday for a short boat ride around Corpus Christi Bay to collect specimens for study at the aquarium’s SeaLab on Corpus Christi Beach.
The camp, which emphasizes conservation and study of native species of fish, crustaceans and jellyfish, brought a small group of six students on board, with the help of Captain Whitney Curry and her husband, Bryan.
“A lot of these kids come off this boat seriously considering marine biology,” Bryan Curry said.
After 15 years of ferrying birders, biologists and students around Corpus Christi Bay, the husband-and-wife team has seen its fair share of sea life around the Coastal Bend.
As Curry’s boat pulled a large net to catch a number of sea creatures, Bryan said programs like the aquarium’s summer camp have highlighted a bay where life slowly bounces back after years of overfishing, specifically from the shrimping industry.
“Getting rid of the shrimpers really brought productivity back to the bay,” he said. “There used to be 2,500 of them, but now there are maybe 250 along the coast.”
With more sea life in his nets now than in previous years, Curry said the kids on his boat, many who are not from the area, are able to understand the life of marine biologists and their efforts to conserve coastal habitat.
“We show them the fun things they get to do if they become a biologist,” he said. “We show them stuff they might otherwise never get to see.”
As the ship neared the Lawrence Street T-Head, Elizabeth Powers, 13, said she was excited to look at the creatures they caught more closely.
“We’re going back to the SeaLab to dissect some squid,” she said.
Kaylie said this summer’s camp was a welcomed reprieve from her position as captain of her volleyball team in Georgia.
“This is much better than volleyball drills,” she said.