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Long Island programs for budding marine biologists

From whales to sea worms, finfish to shellfish, amphibians to sharks, a world of discovery awaits within a short drive of home.

A crab is on hand for a look-see

A crab is on hand for a look-see on Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai. Photo Credit: Marine Environmental Stewardship Center/Nicole Pocchiare

Have a kid who dreams of becoming a marine biologist? With nearly 1,200 miles of coastal shoreline, it makes sense that many Long Island youngsters fall in love with the sea. Lucky for them, plenty of programs and events are designed to foster enthusiasm about creatures of the sea. From whales and sharks to finfish, shellfish, amphibians, eel grass and even sea worms, a world of discovery awaits within a short drive of home. Here are several programs and upcoming events guaranteed to pique curiosity about the Island's fabulous coastal waters as budding marine biologists dip in their toes. 

Tag-a-Crab program

WHAT Kids (and adults) pitch in to help Cornell Cooperative Extension scientists and staff members tag up to 500 horseshoe crabs. The prehistoric-looking animals come into shallow water to spawn during the full moon in June. Stay out late, get dirty and enjoy this hands-on adventure that will help gather data on these amazing creatures.

WHEN | WHERE Tagging is tide-dependent, so check the website for times on June 13, 15, 26 and 29. Program may continue into July. Meet at West Meadow Beach, Trustees Road, Stony Brook. Find more than a dozen additional monitoring sites on the website.

INFO Younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Program is free, but you have to go the website to download a site-specific monitoring protocol and to fill out a volunteer waiver form. There are separate forms for adults and kids. Bring forms with you and show up 30 minutes before the listed start time. Dress in long pants, a long-sleeve shirt or sweatshirt. Bring boots or old sneakers, a flashlight or headlamp and bug spray. Contact site coordinators listed for each location on the website: nyhorseshoecrab.org

Shellfish Restoration Project 

WHAT Kids 12 and older come to the shellfish hatchery to help raise its current crop of oysters in this program presented by nonprofit Coastal Steward. Participants will sort, clean, size and monitor the oysters' growth. 

WHEN | WHERE  8 a.m. to noon starting Saturday, June 16, and every other weekend through October at the Town of Brookhaven Shellfish Hatchery, Harbor Beach Road at Cedar Beach, Mount Sinai

INFO Free; adult supervision required tor those younger than 14; reservations required; program is tide-dependent; 631-941-6528, coastalsteward.org.

Interactive salt marsh

WHAT Roll up your pants and take off your shoes to get an up-close look at Long Island’s marine life. Staff from the Long Island Aquarium will guide kids through a small, man-made marsh on the aquarium grounds while describing its many inhabitants, including horseshoe crabs, spider crabs and whelks.

WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Labor Day (weekends in September), at the Long Island Aquarium, 431 E. Main St., Riverhead

INFO Free with aquarium admission ($22.50, children 3-12; $29.50 adults 13-61; $25.50 seniors 62 and older; free for children 2 and younger); participants must be taller than 42.5 inches; 631-208-9200, ext. 426, longislandaquarium.com.

Marine Environmental Stewardship Center 

WHAT Virtually explore the waters of Long Island Sound in the new Submarine Room, and interact with local marine life in aquarium settings. Access to the beach and boardwalk is nearby.

WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday through Labor Day at the Marine Environmental Stewardship Center, 231 Harbor Beach Rd., Cedar Beach, Mount Sinai.

INFO Free; parking is free for Brookhaven Town residents with parking permit, $20 a day for nonresidents; 631-451-6639, coastalsteward.org

Atlantis Explorer tour boat

WHAT This 90-minute boat excursion takes children down the Peconic River and into Flanders Bay. Onboard educators discuss the local flora and fauna while promoting environmental awareness and education about the Peconic Estuary. You even stop at a private beach to seine for fish and look for local animals.

WHEN | WHERE  Noon and 2 p.m. weekends in June and September; noon, 2 and 4 p.m. in July and August at the Long Island Aquarium, 431 E. Main St., Riverhead

INFO $13 when added to aquarium admission, $20 without aquarium admission; 631-208-9200, ext. 426, longislandaquarium.com

Circle Beach nature walk

WHAT Children ages 6 and older take a guided nature walk through salt marshes, bay beaches and sand dunes while learning about the dominant species of plants and animals and how they've adapted to their environments. You also might see osprey nestlings and thousands of fiddler crabs.

WHEN | WHERE  9:30 a.m. Saturday, June 16, at the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center, 377 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Tpke., Bridgehampton (the center offers a wide variety of programs throughout the year, all of which will be listed on the website once they're scheduled).

INFO $10 children ages 6-12; $15 for adults (fee includes admission to museum); reservations required; 631-537-9735, sofo.org

The Science of Shark Research Program

WHAT Greg Metzger, chief field coordinator for the museum and nature center's shark program, will show the tags and electronic equipment used for research and explain why tags are used, how they are deployed and how data are recovered. Children 10 and older will learn why shark tagging is important, what kind of data are received from the tag and how tags can be used to track shark behavior.

WHEN | WHERE  2 p.m. Saturday, June 16, at the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center, 377 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Tpke., Bridgehampton

INFO $10 children ages 6-12; $15 for adults (fee includes admission to museum); reservations required; 631-537-9735, sofo.org

Nature paddle 

WHAT Join naturalist and author Mike Bottini to paddle the shorelines of Northwest Creek in search of native turtles, including the saltwater diamondback terrapin. Look for evidence of their nests on shore, and discuss current conservation efforts to protect this species. Also search for signs of river otters that moved into the creek in 2015. Rentals available, or bring your own kayak or stand-up paddleboard.

WHEN | WHERE  9 to 11 a.m. June 23 at the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center, 377 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Tpke., Bridgehampton

INFO $10 children ages 6-12; $15 for adults (fee includes admission to museum); reservations required; kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboard rentals available: $40 single kayak; $60 tandem kayaks and canoes; $50 paddleboard; life jackets included; 631-537-9735, sofo.org

'Shark Supersenses!'

WHAT Sharks are so cool when you get to know them. Touch a shark jaw, go on a shark scavenger hunt, and fashion a shark-tooth necklace.

WHEN | WHERE 11 a.m.-2 p.m. July 22 at The Whaling Museum & Education Center, 301 Main St., Cold Spring Harbor

INFO $12 kids, $5 accompanying adults; 631-367-3418, cshwhalingmuseum.org

'Summer of Science' program

WHAT Kids learn while having fun at a waterside laboratory in the heart of an 88-acre wetlands preserve during Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s “Summer of Science” programs. Guided by a marine scientist, older students conduct scientific research while monitoring birds, crabs and plants. They can discover and examine the biodiversity of the marsh, observe concepts such as zonation — the distribution of plants or animals into specific zones — and understand steps needed to protect the environment. Younger kids explore the shoreline and lab searching for clues to nature’s mysteries. Both classes discover marine science through hands-on experiences.

WHEN | WHERE "Salt Marsh Scientists" for ages 13-17 offered July 30-Aug. 3, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.; "Salt Marsh Detectives" for ages 10-12 offered Aug. 13-17, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., at the organization's Ernst Marine Conservation Center, 101-111 Trustees Rd., Stony Brook. (The scientific laboratory is on West Meadow Creek.)

INFO  $265 per child for the week; sibling rate is $240; reservations required; 631-751-2244, stonybrookvillage.com/press/summer-science-camp

Junior Marine Biologist

WHAT Increase knowledge about the marine environment through hands-on time with live marine animals, beach activities and crafts in this program for children ages 3 to 5 presented by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 19 at the Sport Fishing Education Center, Cedar Beach Marina, Babylon, and at Centerport Beach, at the end of Little Neck Road; Aug. 24 at Centerport Beach only

INFO Kids must be accompanied by an adult$25 per child plus one adult ($5 for an additional adult); reservations required; bring water shoes, sunblock, towels, water bottle and hat; 631-239-1800, seaexplorersmarinecamp.com

Note: Many nature centers and organizations on Long Island offer courses and programs aimed at introducing kids and families to marine life, aquatic biology, conservation and exploration. Check websites frequently for updates throughout the season.

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