Field Trip - Marine Science Institute

Sail aboard a research vessel and explore the living treasures of the San Francisco Bay. The Marine Science Institute (MSI) provides some of the best hands-on science and environmental education in the Bay Area. On the Discovery Voyage, students spend 4 hours learning about the San Francisco Bay ecosystem by examining water quality and collecting organisms at every level of the food web from microscopic plankton to mud dwellers to bat rays and fish. The diversity of life in the Bay is astounding and surprising to students who have spent their whole lives living by its water but never “diving in”.  If a half-day voyage isn’t for you, many other fantastic programs are available including Inland Voyages (where live marine organisms come to you), Ocean Lab (where students explore animals of the rocky coastal ecosystem in MSI’s Discovery Lab classrooms), and Tidepool Expeditions (where MSI naturalists provide a guided tour of the tidepool creatures at Pillar Point).

Can apply knowledge about the characteristics of life to the organisms living in the San Francisco Bay.
Can conduct a scientific investigation.
Can use a dichotomous key to identify animals.
Can recognize the extraordinary diversity of life in an ecosystem from single cells to sharks.

The Discovery Voyage lasts 4 hours.
Other programs range in length from 1-4 hours or programs may be combined for a full day adventure.

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Marine Science Institute - Planning Guide

Planning Guide
MSI has an extraordinary team of instructors that quickly engage students’ curiosity about the Bay. All of their adventures have students collecting, measuring, and studying marine organisms up close and personal. They offer a wide range of programs for every grade K-12, suitable for any budget and timeframe. See their School Programs page for details.

While the land-based programs are excellent, my recommendation is to go on the Discovery Voyage. Their 90 foot research vessel, the Robert G. Brownlee, sails out on 2 voyages virtually every day of the school year. It is one of the most fun-filled learning experiences I have ever had. They also provide an extensive Educator’s Guide that include a complete overview of the voyage as well as pre- and post-trip activities for the classroom (download it from the MSI website).

The trip begins with an overview of the geography of the San Francisco Bay and a rough sketch of the many organisms within its boundaries. From there students divide into groups to rotate through 4 stations.

  1. Hydrology – Students collect a water sample and measure the temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen content of the Bay’s water.
  2. Plankton – Students lower a plankton net and collect a rich sample of the various microscopic organisms populating the water column. Using a microscope hooked up to a projector, students can study and classify the many types of plankton from diatoms to copepods.
  3. Benthic invertebrates – Students lower a mud trap to bring up the fine, sticky mud lining the bottom of the Bay. There students discover worms, crabs, sea anemones, shrimp and more.
  4. Vertebrates – Students operate a trawl net and capture a wide variety of vertebrates including bug-eyed flounder, and maybe even a shark or bat ray.

The ship accommodates 42 students (up to 60 students may be accommodated with $200 extra fee) and costs between $1,000 – 1,600 depending on the level of sponsorship and the number of students (a very reasonable $25 - 40 per student for what you get). In addition to their home port in Redwood City, they sail from many other ports of call around the Bay including San Francisco, Richmond, and the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta.

To schedule a program, contact Gail Broderick at: 650-364-2760 ext. 10 or [email protected]